Occasionally I like to take inventory of my life, where I am, where I’ve come from, and overall just be all introspective and shit.
One thing I’m struck by is the amount of bullshit in my past, none of which I will reproduce here (the savvy reader may be able to discern these events in my fiction). By ‘bullshit,’ I mean events, occurrences, people, etc., that tripped me up, made life difficult for a period of time, but which I eventually overcame.
The past and the effects it can have on our present and future is a recurring theme in my fiction, to some degree, as it has been in my life. If you live in the past, regretting decisions you made, being angry at certain people or events, you will poison your present.
Whenever I feel my OCD start to take my mind down the rabbit hole that is my past and the plentiful mistakes I made, I can usually bring myself back to a calm by thinking of The Great Gatsby.
I think most people, at least in my experience who are of my age, would say that Gatsby had an effect on their life, whether big or small.
Jay Gatsby is so relatable and the novel still so relevant now, more than 90 years after it was published, because Gatsby is one of us who yearns to replicate the sweet memories of the past in his present. Because he is utterly incapable of moving forward with his life, it surely destroys his present and future.
Certainly the memories of the past should not and cannot be completely forgotten. And most of us have pleasant memories, hopefully in more abundance than the negative, that we would rather not forget. And what’s also important is that we don’t rest on our laurels and believe our past achievements excuse us from accomplishing anything else moving forward.
We are constantly evading the clutches of the tentacles that try to trip us up and impede our progress, our improvement, of making new memories.
This is a fundamental truth of humanity in a modern culture: Our past and present selves are always battling, their prize, our future self.
Or as F. Scott Fitzgerald more eloquently put it, “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”