A look into my rearview mirror provides a picture of what is behind me, what I’ve left behind, and what I can manage to maneuver around. This rear view means that I can more safely navigate the unsure and often dangerous roads of today, and so too does reflecting on history shed light as to my expectations of life as it extends beyond the driver’s seat.
By considering the view of what lies behind me, I can make more informed decisions based on facts and projections.
For example, in May 2014, the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provided a statistical projection that showed that an “estimated 32,850 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2013.” Furthermore, the same Traffic Safety Facts sheet (DOT HS 812 024) provides a report by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) that the vehicle miles traveled in the very same year increased by around 18.1 billion miles.
I know that by looking into the rearview mirror, and often, I stand to better protect myself from becoming a statistic in reports to come. So too can history help me to keep from repeating the failures of my past, and the past of those who’ve preceded me.
Echoing the words of Christopher Lasch, I have felt “trapped in a past not of [my] making.” As long as I can remember, I was raised by a single mother working hard yet struggling to bring up four children as best she could. While some years provided for more in the way of finances than others, we were always teetering on the edge of what would be considered middle class. As children, my siblings and I would do what we could not to let on that we were often hungry, and rarely provided with what many of today’s youth expect in the ways of school essentials. A continuous fluctuation in income would mean that we would see each other through more moves than I can remember, living in smaller quarters than I thought possible. Lucky for us, we found strength in our shared story, and as children will, proved to find joy and create memories of happiness along the way.
It came as no surprise to me that there would be no college fund, I wouldn’t be presented with a car on my 16th birthday, nor have the luxury of getting through high school without the need to take on a job in order to cover the cost of my school supplies.
As I grew up, I took with me an appreciation of life, and a drive to succeed in life through hard work, and a dedication to my education. I worked hard, never relying on others for support by working hard, and excelling in my career.
However that may be, the story of my past did not keep me from becoming a single mother at the age of 26, finding myself in the same struggle to provide the best life that I can for my two small children, and hoping to instill in them the values that became my lifeline. Still today, I know that my past has provided me the strength and determination to overcome, and I am enjoying each day along the way.
My now ex-husband had a similar childhood to my own, and although his family would go on to become financially successful, and he would be afforded with many of life’s luxuries and opportunities, he struggled with his past in a very different way.
Shamed by his past, my husband carried resentment and a sense of pride that would mean he would be unable to rest in our times of struggle. Contrary to his childhood experiences in making the most of the little his family had, he would go on to despise his situation.
The memories of his past, and struggle to overcome the pain that came with it would go on to become suffocating for him. In order to convince himself that he was not creating tradition of failure, he would instead spend all the