Looking back, to look ahead


“Slip inside the eye of your mind
Don’t you know you might find
A better place to play
You said that you’d never been
But all the things that you’ve seen
Slowly fade away”
“Don’t Look Back in Anger” — Oasis

Brothers Liam and Noel Gallagher were the only stable members of the group Oasis, initially known as the Rain, that began in 1991. The group really hit big on its first studio album, “Definitely Maybe,” which released in 1994. The debut became the fastest a debut album reached the top spot in United Kingdom sales in history at the time.

Their second album, “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?,” was a huge international success, with multiple No. 1 singles and more than 22 million copies sold. “Don’t Look Back in Anger” was the fifth single on the album, reaching the top spot in UK charts, but topping out at No. 55 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Noel, who wrote the song, quipped about his thoughts behind the song, “It’s about looking forward rather than looking back. I hate people who look back on the past or talk about what might have been.”

While Noel may have been trying to encourage not looking back at the past at all, his lyrics actually paint a picture of a better way to look back - avoiding the anger and frustrated looks back at our past.

Instead, we can utilize the lessons of the past to move forward.

This past week, I was blessed to spend time with my parents, grandmother, and two of my three brothers to watch a long era in my family’s life come to an end.

To be clear, while I grew up on a farm, I had very little desire, from a very young age, to have a life centered around agriculture.

That said, it was my family’s life for generations before me and will be part of our livelihood within the family for generations to come, so I completely understood the importance of familiarizing myself with aspects of farm life, if just to have conversations with my grandfather, father, and other family members without sounding like a complete “city boy.”

Growing up on the farm was integral to the person that I’ve become.

The focus on making sure the farm and everyone on it were taken care of ahead of work or school or other obligations outside the home, brought me back to Huron after moving to the Twin Cities for school and my first few jobs after college.

It’s informed the way I work and the way I parent.

Lessons learned on the farm informed the way I played sports, the way I treated others, and created an eye toward quality work that I still have today.

“Whoa! No one’s winning a race building a fence,” my dad once chuckled as I worked to try to attach the wires to a steel post just as fast as he could without even thinking.

He took the time to educate me that doing the job right the first time is always going to be better than having to re-do the work over and over due to a hurried effort that left quality lacking.

Many hours were spent with a tamping rod, pounding dirt until ones arms were like Jell-O, so a cornerpost would stand for decades to come - and many still stand multiple decades after they were put into the ground.

Beyond quality work, completing the task at hand before moving to something else was also emphasized, and my wife and I joke that when I’m shoveling snow or doing another physical task, I may not be the fastest at getting the job done, but I don’t stop until it’s complete.

While farming simply wasn’t my passion, I’ll admit that figuring out how to instill the same sort of work ethic and care for quality has been difficult for me in my parenting journey, but it is the task at hand for sure.

Many of us yearn for days of long ago. Many presidential campaigns have been forged on exactly that thought, hinting back to a bygone era that was when “America was best.”

The problem? We tend to see the past through our own experiences.

Many of those who pontificate that we need to return to such an era often cite post-World War II America as that ideal.

To me, it’s odd when a woman would look back at that era with nostalgia. A woman did not have the right to her own bank account (without a male co-signer) in the 1950s, let alone a home mortgage or any sort of debt.

My children would all have been forced to utilize separate bathrooms and water fountains - and before that’s assumed to be something that only happened in the southern part of our country, historical research in North Dakota found multiple photographs of Bismarck businesses with separate water fountains, so yes, it did happen.

The financial security of our country and our world was in peril at the time, and America stuck its nose into conflicts all around the world while also claiming ownership of countries hundreds and even thousands of miles from the closest state in the union, granting those living in one of those territories United States citizenship, but giving them no hope of being able to have a voice in U.S. law through Congress or even an electoral vote for the President.

Sure, we try to avoid looking back with anger/frustration/resentment at the situations that were negative, but looking back to educate is wise to hopefully avoid the pitfalls of that “ideal” time in the country.

While I was learning those valuable life lessons on the farm, I had plenty of other things that I needed to learn that really required me moving into a life of my own - equipped with tools to handle what would come, but certainly with challenges never imagined when I was stapling wires to a fence post.

I wouldn’t want to go back to that time because I’ve learned so much since that I wouldn’t be the same person.

Attempting to pull forward an era that doesn’t account for all that was learned, individually and collectively, in the intervening decades serves absolutely no one.

Enjoy a smile looking back at those times in your life that seem to be farther and farther in the rearview and use the lessons to educate your next step, but while you shouldn’t look back with negative feelings, those feelings of trying to re-live the past are exactly what Noel was speaking against.