Gretchen Rubin

Connect with your past.

Connect with your past.

One of my newer happiness-project resolutions is to “Connect with my past.” I’ve been trying to reach out to people, and to visit places, that were important to me in previous incarnations.

The Big Man and I are the same—we tend to lose touch with our friends from the past. We have plenty of friends in the present, and we love seeing old friends, but we aren’t good about keeping in contact.

That’s one reason I love Facebook and other internet tools that make it easier not only to keep in touch with people, but to keep track of them. Now it’s so much easier to keep tabs on people as they move, switch jobs, etc.

A few months ago, to “Connect with my past,” I called one of my best friends from high school. It’s a long story, but I hadn’t talked to her for more than ten years. It took me a while to track her down, but thanks to a clue from a fellow Kansas Citian whom I ran into in an airport, and a lot of Google persistence, I found her. It was so much fun to talk to her—to awaken the part of my brain connected to her, and also to feel that I’d sewn up a dangling loose thread of a relationship.

Today, I went to a lunch given by my law school alumni association. Although I’d never attended one of these lunches before, my resolution to “Connect with my past” inspired me to go. The speaker was someone I knew from my clerkship past (she clerked for Justice Souter when I clerked for Justice O’Connor), so I saw a chance to “Connect with my past” in two ways: my law school past and my clerkship past.

My experiences in law school and as a lawyer were extremely intense, extremely happy, and extremely interesting—plus, the Big Man and I met in law school, so that puts a rosy glow over that period. But now that I’m a writer, and not a lawyer, I feel disconnected to the lawyerly part of my life.

Going to the lunch, seeing some people I knew, hearing news of other friends, hearing about what’s happening at the law school…it was very satisfying.

I’ve been surprised by how happy this kind of activity makes me. Is it because it boosts my sense of connection to other people—a key to happiness? Or because it heightens my sense of having a continuous self? Or because it brings back happy memories, which is an important contributor to happiness? Probably all of these.

Surprisingly, I haven’t seen any studies or scientific discussion of this aspect of happiness-building, and I haven’t read any advice of this nature in popular sources. Nevertheless, connecting with my past has really made me happier.

So, go to a reunion, attend an event, call or email an old friend, drive by a former haunt, look through a photo album, re-visit the restaurant you used to love, listen to some music that reminds you of a long-ago period of your life…or what else? What are some other ways to connect with our pasts?

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