Arts & Culture The Embracing Our Past Issue

To move forward, we’ve got to go back

Steve Jobs once said that ‘you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards’.
A journal entry by Maria Al Hinai. Courtesy.

As a person who annually sets a long list of New Year resolutions, it only means that come December, I analyse how many of them I managed to achieve during the year. During that process, I tend to focus on all of the negative details: the resolutions I have not achieved and the expectations I failed to meet. How has another year passed without me getting anywhere, I wonder? I end up forgetting about all my achievements, big and small.

And so, every December, I find myself dreading the days leading to the 1st of January yet wishing for it to arrive faster in order to forget everything that had happened and start afresh. This habit of annually reflecting on my progress often leads to the same question that continues to puzzle me year after year: how did I become the person I am today?

For the past two years, I have taken up journaling as a hobby. I have documented my daily life thoroughly, including the mundane day-to-day details, important milestones, my complex train of thoughts, and my feelings. While writing my daily entries, I could not appreciate their importance. However, I soon found myself using those entries as a way of understanding myself better and determining how I got where I am today.

Steve Jobs once said that ‘you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards’, and so this December, I got a chance to go back and connect the dots while rereading my journal entries. I was able to realise, for example, that I am self-driven to the extremes of success and failure. One year during my undergraduate degree studies in genetics, I was able to convince myself that I would never succeed in labs, and so I stayed away from them whenever I could for fear of failure. A year later, during my master’s degree studies, I made it a goal to prove to myself that I could both handle lab research and succeed in it. Journaling not only reminded me of certain events and achievements but allowed me to appreciate the journey that got me there as well.

A journal entry by Maria Al Hinai. Courtesy.

Have you ever sat with yourself or others, wondering how you landed your too-good-to-be-true job or achieved a certain goal? This habit of trying to wipe out the negative memories of a year often leads to the blurring of more important details when trying to figure out how you reached a certain point.

If you are like me and tend to focus on the downsides of each year, I highly recommend journaling. Each journal entry will be a dot, and to continue on Steve Jobs’ quote; ‘you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in the future’. It will be a way of reminding yourself of all your small achievements and through them understanding the tipping points to your more significant ones.

Maria Al Hinai is a storyteller from Oman.