Controlling the Ripple Effect of Your Past

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ripple effect

Experiencing Change

About halfway through my sophomore year of high school, it was announced that my school, Monte Vista High, would be closing at the end of the school year.  I remember crying with friends about our impending loss, we loved our school.  I had played varsity water polo for two years and been on swim team, as well; I also played JV basketball.  I had developed a strong sense of school pride during those two short years and was devastated that our school was closing.  Worse was that half the students would soon attend one rival school on the far end of town, while the other half would go to the other rival school in the heights.

Because High School Needs to Be More Challenging

My best friend and I would be going to different schools; we had met in drama class and played water polo together for two years.  It was hard at the end of the school year, but we vowed to stay friends and keep in touch.  The one joy was getting our licenses and meeting each other at the mall or the movie theater.   Contact was soon limited, as our lives further separated and we became entrenched in our new schools.  We needed to adjust to the change – so we did.

And Yet, That Challenge Was Nothing

The next year, my parents announced a cross country family move to Indiana at the end of the school year, just in time to attend the last two weeks of school before a hot and humid Midwestern summer settled in.  In a cruel twist of fate, I started my senior year at a third high school.  <SIGH>  I didn’t want to start over again.  I carefully packed yearbooks from 7th through 11th grade, knowing I would re-visit them often over that summer.

With little fanfare, I said goodbye to friends I had known since third grade. “Think of all the new friends you will make.”  I wasn’t ready for that nor did I feel I could afford yet another investment in a new alma mater.  “You can never have too many friends.”  I said these words thirty years later to my own children when we moved away from their friends.  It never made me feel better, I suspect it had the same effect on them.   “You will survive.  It’s just one year of high school.”  Yes, but it was the most important year of high school, and I had just barely started to feel comfortable in my uncomfortable teenaged skin.  Oddly enough, I couldn’t even think of being away from my family and it never crossed my mind to stay behind in California for my senior year.

Life was hard that first year in a small Indiana town. I missed my California home, my friends, and the life I knew.  My mom used to say, “That which doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”  She, of course, was right.  And so was Nietzsche.  My circle did grow larger, but not until I finally let it, it took a few years.

A Quick Look

Three high schools.  Multiple life lessons.  Curve balls, swings, and misses.
The establishing of an adult life.  Sometimes, it sucked. And sometimes, it didn’t.

The past plays a major role in our present.

There are things that cannot be changed; the past is one of them. We live lives that are changed at every moment, by every action, by every word, and sometimes by every thought.

The Butterfly Effect

Several years ago, when I first started blogging, I created a regular feature called The Butterfly Effect.  I wrote regularly about this topic because I am a firm believer in the fact that in a flash, a life can be changed forever. The Butterfly Effect is based in the theory or maybe just a whimsical scientific thought that the flap of a butterfly’s wings on one side of the earth could alter or impact life on the other.  I don’t know about butterflies, but I do know that we each have opportunities or life lessons which change who we are, how we think, or how we react.

Case in point, when I moved to that small town in Indiana. It just so happens that to that same small town, four months prior to my move, a boy from my same high school in California also moved. Coincidence? Maybe. Butterfly wing flap? Maybe.  We became instant friends because we had a commonality; we were two kids from suburban LA transplanted into the same small Indiana town… transported into a place and time unfamiliar to us both.  Our relationship started because two people with similar backgrounds were thrust into an uncomfortable situation and they were drawn to each other. And for a long time, it was good.

A Ripple Effect

As what happened with ours, relationships sometimes turn sour when each person’s specific needs are not met. Result for us: the relationship became abusive. And that changed every future relationship I would ever have. The ripple effect is real. It may take a bit more than a butterfly wing flap to alter the course of a life, but not much more.  Ignoring your past doesn’t take it away, it just means you will trip over it at inopportune times because your eyes are closed. And while good, facing your past is not the same as getting past it.  Thinking it through and assigning it a place in your heart and brain does – it moves it out of the way. You have to pick up the log that blocks the road of your life and you either move it to the side of the road or you huck it as far away as possible. Either way, you are no longer tripping on it.

Controlling the Ripple

Confront, figure out what it means and what it changes, assign it to a place and put it there. Let it rest. Then you can deal with it and move on.  You can navigate your life knowing how you got here and seeing the future more clearly – the trees have been cleared.

This works.  It has for me, anyway.


by Rayanne Thorn


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  1. As someone who went to four high schools in four years boy, does this tale resonate with me. And so do the learnings. Thank you for a wonderful & meaningful write Rayanne

  2. Thanks so much, Christopher – I knew I wasn’t alone…
    It is what we make of it – the lessons are the best part and what has continuing meaning for me now. It’s actually helped me to recognize the daily life lessons I encounter.
    What I want most of all is to continue to life my life the best I know how and I guess the life lessons prove there is “Always a Better Way” – right?

    Thanks again for reading and the comment!


  3. You have to be able to let go. That’s what I said when I hired a coach to help me. You cn’t retain total control. This ie especially true of the past. Change comes when you are willing to change, not before.

    Henry Motyka |
  4. Definitely – the most important part of learning from the past is letting go of it!
    Thanks Henry!



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