Kia whakatōmuri te haere whakamua
‘I walk backwards into the future with my eyes fixed on my past’
I fell in love with this Māori whakataukī (or proverb) when I first heard it at a conference. It refers to time as a kind of endless river, where the past, present, and future are all intertwined. As a linear white person I had always thought of the past as being behind me, a path already walked. The future was a fixed and definite point in front of me, the way that I imagined myself facing, and the place for all my goals and dreams.
While I still think that way for the day-to-day running of my business and creative practice and encourage others to be goal or future-focussed, I am still enchanted by this ancient way of understanding time. The past and present are the only things we can know for sure and are therefore right in front of our eyes; whereas the future cannot be seen, and so must be behind us. No matter how much I may wish it to be so, I am completely blind to what the future holds and can only see behind me, to what has already happened.
I don’t want to bastardise this concept (and if I do, apologies to any Māori readers), but my love of this saying is particularly relevant at this time of year. December is traditionally not just a time of festivities and hangovers, but also a time of reflection and evaluation. In that magical week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, once family responsibilities and feasting are completed, I finally have the time after a breakneck and breathtaking year to reflect. I will sit in the sunshine on my tiny balcony, sip my wine, and look backwards with clarity at my old year as I walk blindly into the new one. Let’s face it, the last couple of years have been doozies, and a bit of reflection will definitely be in order.
Maybe it’s the lack of control that I like about walking blindly backwards. I teeter on the rollercoaster of creative business at all times, both loving the thrill of the risky unknown and clenching my fists with the anxiety of irregularity. I have always felt this way, and while the terror of the dips and whirls is sometimes overwhelming, I will always prefer it compared to working for someone else. Give me unpredictability over regularity and white knuckle fear over boredom any day.
Looking backwards also gives me the rare chance to feel pride in myself, my work, and my business. I don’t take enough time to be grateful or honoured or proud. My relentless hurrying and busyness is good for work, but not so good for my soul. We have had a rollercoaster of a year, as most people have, at once benefitting from and being pummelled by the pandemic. We have helped people, we have hired people, we are cautiously optimistic and making plans for what could be a bumper upcoming year. We have also lived by the C+B motto, which is my perennial and unshakeable goal — I have been creative, made money, and I have definitely loved my work, trying though it can sometimes be.
When I imagine myself walking backwards into the future, blind and unsure, I do not stumble. My walk is careful but strong. I am not hunched and fumbling, twisting and turning to figure the way. I am blind, certainly, but I am walking backwards into the future with a steady gait. I can see perfectly into the past, and knowing that I will always be able to get back up again when I fall helps me walk backwards, proudly, into my new year with a smile on my face and hope in my heart.
I hope you can do the same, and I hope the trauma of the last two years does not burden you too heavily as you walk backwards into your future. All the best for the holidays and new year from all of us at Creative Plus Business, to all of you and yours.
(Kia whakatōmuri te haere whakamua: ‘I walk backwards into the future with my eyes fixed on my past’, by Lesley Rameka, University of Waikato, New Zealand https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/85165388.pdf)