Ashwin Vaidya About
Originally published on 24th July 2022|Last Updated: 30 March 2024

Ghosts of Our Former Selfs

If I were to point at an object that is very precious to me, I'd have a hard time. Is it my jacket I bought from my very first salary as a Teaching Assistant in a new country. Not only did it signify a mark of independence but has also accompanied me through everything in my Master's. All the ESN events, Honours College, Summer school, the live band in our university library, coffee breaks, group projects, and a game of ping-pong during breaks from long study sessions. It kept me warm through the dark, cold, and rainy cycle ride home each day from the lectures. But now, it just hangs in the corner among many others I've collected over the past two years.

Or, is it my rented cycle which has traveled a lot of kilometers, stored in the rain, marked with stickers from all the sports associations I am no longer part of and the events I've attended; a reminder of all the people I've met. The day I hand in my cycle that's the day I also lose access to those stickers I'm never getting back and the associated memories.

But I still can't point to any object. I've never felt attached to anything. Maybe because I'm used to moving every few years and leaving people and things behind, or maybe I don't usually remember the past is such a detail to feel nostalgia. Sometimes I can't even tell what happened and what was part of a dream I saw.

When I look at my journal entries I see a very different person from who I think I am. I have achieved a lot of things. I feel I've grown a lot yet my journal reveals a person who is still the same. Who is easily distracted and is not always consistent. But maybe that's why it is in the journal. A recurring wishlist of things I want to improve; the part of me constant in his flaws. When I look back I am impressed that I went for runs early morning in the dark. Especially on days when it was sub-zero. With only one light on my armband indicating my presence to the rare eyes in the dark.

But a close look at the journals also reveals that I wasn't out every day. The streak rarely went beyond three days of stepping out before skipping a day. This makes me certain, our memories, our past achievements don't mean anything. They give us a sense of identity and continuity but we are not defined by them. They act like coloured glass lying to us about our true selves. Our overcoming of obstacles in the past does not mean we are immune to future challenges. Better prepared but not untouchable. A runner who does not run is called retired. A president who is not serving is called a former. It's the things we do every day that define us. And that too for a day. So we should be on guard and show up every day. Always! Because some days we are stronger than our ghosts but some days we are weaker. And if enough of those days accumulate we should be concerned. Maybe our past self should collect dust in a corner covered with marks of everything we've been through. Maybe it should be handed to time to erase its existence.