Hindsight is a remarkable thing — a moment of clarity that can only come from a different point of view.
This came to me while riding my bike along a wooded marsh trail along the East Coast. But the reference was not to choices in life, but rather how differently my eyes interpreted my surroundings backtracking along the same trail. Even though I was in the same state, same town and even the same GPS coordinates, my perceptions of my surroundings dramatically changed.
On one stretch, crossing a wooden bridge through a lush green marsh, a sun-bleached and decaying cypress tree lay fallen half in the water. As I approached, the silhouette gave the appearance of a bony, skeletal hand reaching upward out of the water. The light pouring from behind added an element of harsh starkness catapulting the image from all other surroundings. My bike wheels came to a stop to admire the emotive Mother Nature-created sculpture.
Ten minutes later, backtracking the same trail, the arresting image didn’t even catch my attention. Instead this time the sculpture faded into the background of trees draping Spanish Moss down into the grass below, colorful finches darting around branches, and long reeds of grass slowly dancing in unison in the coastal breeze.
Pausing again, I found myself realizing I had been there before — not the stretch of trail, but when reflecting on moments in life and seeing items and events in different ways.
Hindsight is not always about being right or wrong, but more about having the clarity to see the same objects or events from a different perspective.
I have crossed this figurative bridge many times in my life. Evolving goals, values and behaviors become fluid as we mature. As a teenager, an attention-getting car with a big V-8 motor and loud tailpipes consumed my brain time. But today, a car that starts each day, is safer than average in an accident, and I don’t need to worry about how much gas it consumes, represents my current values.
In life, I have seen the same arc of life play out. My younger self thought to have the right house, in the right neighborhood and the right clothes were the image a successful adult would project. But I was wrong. Today, I realize a successful adult lives a life of loving and respecting family and friends, does not fall trap to the material game of who-dies-with-the-most-toys-when-they-die game and can find time to read a good book now and then.
Along the way — or my trail of life — the sun moved across my shoulders and allows me to view the world from a different point of view. Not right or wrong, but simply different. Today, I see the world through a different set of eyes — as different as backtracking across the wooden bridge through the coastal marsh.
Truth is, life is an evolving experiment. And while we are naturally encouraged to always be moving forward, a little backtracking can prove both rewarding and revealing.