Life as a Palimpsest

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Our lives and the world around us are in a constant state of motion, whether it be forward, backward or through cyclic patterns that form from our behaviours, past events, energy transfer and/or a greater power, God. The motion of time as we perceive it is rigid, whilst the way we feel it, and respond to it, is on a more fluid scale. This allows us to be affected by moments of both the past and the future within our current moment. We are composed of those fragments of time through our memory, behaviour and choices, as well as external events both within and outside of our time.

Changes that have already occurred outside of our control, have an impact on the environment, culture, social structure, demographic and expectations of which we are born into. Such events have a direct effect on our conditioning and influence how we respond to that conditioning. However, as much as the external conditions that we are placed in, such as the era in which we are born, have a significant impact on our lives, we have the freedom and responsibility to make choices that bring the most positive impact on ourselves and those around us.

“Be the change you wish to see in the world”
Mahatma Gandhi

In exposing ourselves to different environments, travelling to foreign lands and experiencing a variety of cultures, we are allowing ourselves to be more susceptible to influential change. What we do with it, as in how we respond and react to those things throughout our lifetime, is up to us. For instance, if we are given a canvas that has already been tainted, we can either feel defeated and discard it as worthless, we can leave it as it is and accept that it is damaged or we can choose to add to it, and make it something of great worth. If we are given a manuscript that is unfinished or needs refining, it is in the added layers of work that ends up producing a masterpiece.

Like a palimpsest, being a constantly evolving and overlaid manuscript, our lives too, are continuously impacted on and ever changing. The remnants of our past that stay with us, the choices that we make today and the paths that we follow into the future are all so intertwined in what make up who we are as individuals. This helps shape us as people, whilst providing us with the ability to adapt to the changing circumstances of our lives, as we continue to grow with our experiences. The people and places that affect us, the cultures and religions that are a part of us and the paths we choose to take in life, all impact on the palimpsest of our lives, whether evident physically or only mentally, seen by others or known only to ones self.

“Let’s unwrite these pages and replace them with our own words”
Swing Life Away, Rise Against

When I was seven years old, not much shorter or lighter than I am now at twenty-five, my family moved closer to Brisbane in search of a place to raise a family of six with good schools, sporting facilities and a variety of opportunities. This change in my families life, along with all the events that came before and all those that followed as a result of our move, as seemingly insignificant as it may be, stemmed change in many aspects of the course of our lives that influenced who we turned out to be. From the people we met, the friends we made, the schools we went to, the jobs that we took and the university degrees that we chose, these are all pieces of our palimpsest, ever changing and influenced by our surroundings and choices.

With three siblings, there was always something to do, a new game to play, imaginations to grow and silly pranks to pull, which often let to someone getting hurt, upset or in trouble, but there was always fun and good company to be shared. Some of my fondest memories as a child are playing tennis with family and friends, sharing after school snacks with my siblings, dressing up, playing mini olympics, making cubby houses out of old sheets in our garden and building lego towns. I would always imagine God watching over us as we watched over our lego people, giving them stories and purpose just as we have. I’d gaze into the sky watching aeroplanes fly overhead, dreaming of where they were going and the stories of the passengers. This strong desire for being active, creative and curious of the unknown, as well as seeing things from other perspectives, has always been a part of me, impacting the choices that I make and who I become.

The imagination and curiosity that sparks a child’s dreams and their belief in dreams becoming reality should never be lost or suppressed. This creative mindset with a desire to discover and explore is what equipped me with the skills to push myself through challenges that I faced. As I look back at my past, and each of my memories individually, I am able to accept them for what they are, the good and the bad, and appreciate that each of these memories have helped shape me into the person that I am now.

I have learnt that a positive outcome can usually be found even through negative experiences, with the right perspective and determination for a better future. Constantly adapting to new situations and learning to cope with life’s continuous lessons, whilst applying those from the past, I am reminded how incredibly beautiful and exciting life really is. When one door closes, others really do open. The beauty of the future is, that we don’t know what is to come, we just need to have faith. So, we should embrace the beauty of the unknown and look forward to living out our dreams. I have chosen to do exactly that.

No matter what you are going through, the palimpsest of your life still has pages to be written; it is never too late to break free from your circumstances and make it something beautiful. May each of our journeys lead us to love, peace and joy.

“Yesterday is but a memory of today and tomorrow is today’s dream”
Khalil Gibran

Practical Tips

Let the past give you strength, the present give you encouragement and the future give you hope.


Look beyond what you have been conditioned to see and reflect on your own personal life and direction, including the choices that lead you to where and who you are. Reflect on your external sources of influence, the current state of society and those around you, to truly understand their impact on your own life. This is the ‘what and why’ of how you have reached where and who you are today.

  • Step back, allow yourself to breathe and take time away from the environment you are accustomed to so that you can think more clearly without influence or distraction.
  • Question the validity and justness of what you are contemplating; ask ‘why’ more often. Is it reasonable, and is it just?
  • Do the people and things in your life make you happy and are they a good expenditure of your time and energy?
  • Extract lessons that you have gained from your experiences
  • Make lists by writing down the lessons you’ve learnt and what you feel is important to take away from your personal experiences or relationships. The act of writing these out, will help you visualise more clearly what you have learnt and consider them more deeply.


Consider those experiences or moments that had an impact on you and the life lessons you gained. Assess how you coped and reacted in those moments and how you would respond in hindsight. This will help expose to you how being proactive rather than reactive leads to more effective outcomes, personal growth and stronger relationships. You will also uncover the negative aspects, as a means of avoiding them in the future once you are equipped with the right mindset.

  • Consider another way or alternate route, asking ‘How?’ More often.
  • How did I get to where I am now? How did I respond in certain situations, to other people and to the choices I made?
  • How could I have responded differently?
  • How can I apply the lessons that I’ve learnt to my everyday life?
  • Where do I start and who can I talk to?


Your next course of direction or path in life can be altered with your conscious awareness and application of everyday choices. Just as external sources have an influence on you, you too are an external source of influence on others. So the lessons learnt about your own life should also be applied when dealing with others, as to have the most positive impact on those who you interact with, both directly and indirectly.

You’ve made a list of lessons you’ve learnt and considered how they can be applied to your every day life; now it is time to act on those lessons and take responsibility for the course of your life through your words, behaviours and choices.

  • Start with small steps to making every day changes in your life.
  • Listen, not with the intent to reply but to understand, learn and grow.
  • Give yourself the freedom to experience and explore new things.
  • Use this knowledge to guide you away from negative reactions towards yourself and/or others. Rather, be compassionate and treat others as you would like to be treated.
  • Surround yourself with positive, loving people who add value into your life rather than those who are toxic to your mental health, wellbeing and/or behaviours.
  • Be a positive example of change through courageously making honourable and admirable decisions.
  • Adjust your mainframe to a positive perspective to give you hope and gratitude for what you have and the opportunity to make change.
  • Be confident in yourself and your decisions, for strength and peace in ones self is greater than having blind faith in others decisions. True strength is not in numbers, it is in individual consciousness.
  • Do not use anger, resentment, envy or jealousy in moments of discomfort or disappointment; rather seek to find acceptance, tolerance, strength and opportunity for growth in redetermining a positive direction in life.
  • Don’t be stubborn, pushing life in one direction because you think that is the only option, rather allow options to be presented to you with a clear and open mind, taking opportunities that arise.