Feeling left behind is a sense of loss. It is a distance between you and someone or something that matters. You might feel alone, lost, and longing for who, where, or what once was.
This kind of loss may have you feeling like less. You might feel you weren’t worth it to keep around or not good enough to remain and maintain—you’re left in the dust. Or maybe you feel you couldn’t keep up, and you’re stuck watching everyone else grow and thrive. What is now the bygone days is a time and place smothered in rust like an old playground set.
You might wonder what mysterious and seemingly malevolent forces cause this creeping and crushing change. Is it time? Or some glitchy defective feature in this game called life?
The bittersweet expression that comes to mind is everything changes.
We live in a world of constant motion. Our lives keep cascading into the next year, and the next, farther away from what and where we once were, and even closer to whatever is next in life with or without what we feel should still be there.
Maybe a relationship is fading, and you don’t know why. People change, but you may still feel the same. Or you’ve grown and what you’ve known hasn’t caught up. Something is lost. Something is left behind. Was it you?
It seems all too cynically true: you can leave or be left behind. Sometimes this change is a choice, or it just happens. Whether it’s people, places, things, or simply a time you long to see again, some memories contain what is painfully out of reach. You can move on from the past or feel left in it—surpassed by that which you feel still belongs in our present.
It may be the friends that have moved on with their lives obtaining new jobs and families—you’ve simply grown apart. Maybe it’s a place that is unrecognizable from where you once felt at home. Perhaps someone has passed away. Everything keeps changing and maybe you feel you can’t keep up.
Move on they might tell you. Well, when everything is constantly changing in life, it can be hard to know which direction to take. We can drive down memory lane or future trip into an imaginary life that has not yet become. What is happening is the process of loss or the fear of it. It is a rough wrestling match with impermanence that has you aching all over.
While the big truths of life can be hard pills to swallow, there is an underlying essence of good that can be infused in our present lives that help us carry on without leaving behind time that could have been better spent. Change doesn’t have to be scary. It can be exciting. We can run and hide from change, but what if we pursued and welcomed it?
Here are 3 ideas for managing the times you feel like life, and all that is in it, is leaving you behind.
1. Define why the past or evolving present is important to you.
First of all, it is important to identify and define what past and present moving parts are drifting away from you. Get specific. Is it you? If so, what do you feel you are moving away from? Or, what is moving away from you?
Then, get even more specific.
What about these things are important to you? What is actually being lost? Name them. Is it a friend? What is this friendship—rather, what does it represent to you? What did it mean and fulfill in you?
If you miss your childhood, what about this time in your life was meaningful? What has replaced it? Maybe friends have moved on. Perhaps it is just that your paths diverged. Sometimes relationships meet meaningful crossroads. Do you feel uncomfortable with your direction? Or are you stuck? What’s keeping you there?
Maybe it is your old neighborhood, your spot, that place where memories were made. Perhaps it is a time in space, when life was a little rosier than it is now.
Wherever, whenever, and with whoever, define in its deepest essence what is being lost, and if you feel left behind, where is this place you remain? Because if you don’t like it there, it may be time to move on yourself.
Remember that nostalgic notions can whisk you away to places photoshopped by our brain’s rose-colored glasses. You can hate the present comparing it to what is a fantasy. And when you see people marching out of your life to places and things you feel unworthy of or not of your taste—it is prudent to remember this: your path is yours to own, and while change can be scary, it is also ripe of opportunity. Make sure to not leave yourself behind.
2. Express gratitude for the present and the ever-growing person you are.
It is easier to wonder what is missing than to marvel at what is wonderful now. When you recognize you aren’t present in the present, you might groan or roll your eyes since “living in the moment” may have begun to sound a little too cliché. While expressions like these may lose their meaning by their over-popular and now bland ubiquity, there is something personal in this simple statement for you to find.
Life is all too ephemeral. It is but a blink of an eye. Wouldn’t it be wise to pay attention? While you can rewatch movies or clips to find details you missed, you effectively pause your life consequently distracting you from what is happening now.
Look through the bramble bushes of your problems and pluck the sweet berries rather than get stuck by the thorns. What little pleasures or blessings are present right now? What lesson are you learning in life? What positive, life perspective can you glean from this little knowledge sliver of light?
Are you learning how to appreciate what you have while you have it? Or are you distracted by what you don’t have anymore? There is a time and place for such glum reflection. As for the things you now are missing—those memories were made by being present then and there. So, what memories are you making now? What moments could be made sweeter?
Structuring your time is often important, and when it comes to your thinking, it can be just as crucial. Scheduling gratitude exercises could be an amazing way to start your morning. A single minute expression of how you’re glad for another breath—for more time—for another opportunity to grow—there is much to show appreciation for instead of grieving the past or dreading the day ahead.
But you are allowed to feel frustrated and hurt. Yet when you relentlessly ruminate about what isn’t anymore or what will or cannot be, you might ruin your day, and have nothing to show for by the end of it. Instead, plan to reflect later, when you find yourself adrift, remind yourself that you have some scheduled time this evening to process your perseverations. Postpone it to a more proper time.
Lastly, consider this reflection to be more structured. What is its goal? Instead of venting and throwing negative fits during the day, maybe there is a more intentional, focused approach to letting your thoughts and emotions run rampant. What could be your go-to outlet of expression? All the while, consider your growth and what trajectory you are currently on in life. We live it, but less often work on living it—how can you improve your present? What goals can you set, and what stepping stones may lead to their completion?
Have some questions ready for when you plan to let what would’ve robbed the day of precious time, be channeled into more constructive and contemplative moments at a more appropriate time of day.
You aren’t leaving behind your trouble and worries; you are simply scheduling your own personal meeting with them.
3. Author your book of life: create memories by actively pursuing a fulfilling future.
In order to feel left behind, there must be some orientation and relativity to something else—consider the earth’s position to the sun. We know our place in space because of how far away from other celestial objects it is.
The same frame can apply to our own lives. What is the “sun” in our lives? What objects are we anchoring our sense of progress and placement to? For instance, if you are worried about a friend or relationship drifting apart, are you making this person or this situation the center of your galaxy?
While it may sound selfish to think the world revolves around you, there is an important book that is most precious and considerably your most prized possession—your life.
It is a unique story that only you can tell. You are the author, and your perspectives, attitude, and choices culminate much of your life experience with how you navigate what you were given. In a compelling story, there is conflict and struggle—and character development occurs because of it.
So, if you are worried about the passage of time and all that is gone and leaving you behind, take a moment to consider how you are part of a larger journey, and this pathway is a process full of adventure and ripe with potential growth. We can only carry so much in our backpacks along the way, and there are some people who may accompany us for a long time or just mere moments.
It is easy to feel like you should turn back on this path or fear what may be ahead.
But all the good and meaningful things in life are made memories, and there is no limit to how much of them you can fit into your pack. When you are excited about what more you can make, it makes for more meaningful moments that lead you into a fulfilling future. It is present oriented way of thinking, and this shift of thinking might help you accept that many things in life are temporal, but the present is a gift to the future and a memento for the past.
It is wise to create future trail marks that are goals, wants, and ambitions, but be ready for some bushwacking and off-the-beaten-path travel, and for times you may get lost. During times like these, try and rely on what is available and present to you—is there a place you call “home” to return to—is this place actually a “someone,” or is it the somewhere just beyond the horizon, and maybe you’re almost there.
If there is anything to leave behind, it is the extra weight of these heavy emotions of feeling left behind. And when you become comfortable leaving behind what has reached its bittersweet end, you might welcome the future of possibilities that make your life story one helluva read.