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Looking forward while looking back

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Copy Editor

JANUARY 27, 2023

When the clock strikes 12, fireworks muffle our celebratory toasts to the new year. Time persists, carrying us into an unpredictable yet exciting future. Refusing to fall victim to fear and anxiety, I force myself to pause, take a deep breath and reflect. The start of a new year is also the end of another.

Many fight the urge to move forward without reconciling what they left behind, stuck in a constant battle between the past and future. The present bridges these two warring forces, quelling the conflict of time. Yet, we neglect the present’s peace treaty, swept away by lofty expectations for what is to come.

Impatience pushes us into the new year before we are ready to enter it. Meanwhile, the simple remedy of a deep breath fades into the firework smoke. Before it fades, I embrace my loved ones and thank God for another year. I learned lessons too valuable to leave in the past. 

Lessons of love, empathy and compassion grace my mind. They stem from experiences I started last year and have yet to complete, most notably, my JusticeCorps service term. As a JusticeCorps legal intern, I assist litigants with issues in family law, consumer rights, housing, public benefits, domestic violence and more. Listening to hundreds of heart-wrenching stories, I learned to serve others for a purpose beyond myself. 

Stories of litigants fighting for justice and protecting their families exemplify endurance amid hardship. When I complete my service term this spring, the lessons I learned and the connections I made will propel me forward into new challenges. Though I approach the end, my character development persists. This growth occurs throughout the process, not the finale. 

As I help litigants navigate the justice system through tears and language barriers, I strive for patience and compassion. Even if I cannot personally relate to every story, I can aim for empathy. When I struggle to devote my full energy to each successive litigant, I remind myself of the end I envision. Whether it be the end of a year or the end of my service term, I want to know I put forth my best effort and helped others along the way. 

Instead of burying 2022 in the past, let the lessons you learned live on to empower you in 2023. Your previous challenges equip you for your current endeavors. Look forward to the future and set ambitious goals, but do not trap yourself in a war with the past. Do not neglect the present and its peace. 

Before you proceed, catch your breath. There is a difference between persevering and straining into the future. The former produces endurance, while the latter causes you to fall under your own weight. Heed your mental health prior to pursuing the next opportunity or quota. Without self-care, success is just an illusion of moving forward as you leave behind what truly matters. 

During the first half of my JusticeCorps experience, I discovered what matters to me. Connecting with others and working to close the justice gap introduced me to a world beyond my proximity. Prior to my service term, I studied the national issue of unequal access to adequate legal representation. Upon meeting the actual people suffering through the overburdened justice system, I realized my previous view was peripheral at best. 

Behind every case, a story remains untold and unheard until someone is willing to listen. Though I will never entirely understand the struggles of every litigant, I decided to listen. Despite the challenges of reform in a rigid legal system, I cannot leave this realization in 2022. As fireworks dissipate and calendars change, my passion for justice remains. 

A mere tick of the clock does not need to redefine your character. Even if the persistence of time and expectations scare you, do not sacrifice your passions. When you reach roadblocks in your journey, passion and purpose help you maneuver through the struggle. Rather than a separate journey, 2023 is a continuation of the strides you made in 2022. 

Venture toward new opportunities for growth, remembering to have grace with yourself. Though failure is inevitable, it tends to underestimate your resilience. With this in mind, I am excited for the end of my JusticeCorps service term, as well as the end of any future challenges. Anticipate ends not because of exhaustion or hardship, but because of the character development and growth they signify. 

In 2023, do not approach life as a race against others or yourself. Rather, approach it as a process, a series of experiences adding to your character through time and patience. Though these experiences alter your character, they never define you in totality. As a curator of your mind, you decide what significance to attach to each one. Demonstrate determination in pursuit of your goals. After all, a resolution is nothing without resolve.

Michael Temprano is the DEI chair. Contact him at [email protected].

JANUARY 27, 2023