Mental HealthArts

Do Not Live In the Past

This creative story was inspired by the books The Perfect Girl and Dark Place. From those two crime books, I learned how psychology and trauma can play an important role in someone’s life. And how it’s hard for young people who have served time in prison to return to their normal lives. My short story tries to show the connection between the past and the present focusing on how negative experiences might affect the present.

“Do not live in the past.”

Jacob could not get rid of that voice.

Those were Susan’s words a month ago when he left the juvenile prison. Susan was a nice person, just like his mom. He said to himself in silence. She always talked with him to see how he had been doing. She was quiet but confident, bringing Jacob a sense of warmth and power. Jacob liked the way which she treated him – without sympathy, hatred or fear. She took him as just a normal sixteen-year-old boy.

On the day before his release, Susan came and left a few words. “Remember the past. But do not live in it.” He guessed that he understood partially but still felt confused. How could he do that? How could he think about what had happened without feeling depressed, ashamed and afraid? How could he pretend everything was OK while feeling so bad every day? But he kept silent and tried to drive these painful questions away from his brain.

Do Not Live In the Past

Jacob was on his way to his new school. It was not an appropriate time to figure things out. Maybe he would just follow Susan’s instructions.

He was living in a different place. He was going to a new school. He would meet lots of new people – none of them would know him and his stories. He had to be enthusiastic about everything that he would soon go through. It would be a whole new start. Nobody would call him a thief with disgust. Nobody would avoid meeting him as if he carried a disease. Nobody would stare at him with tears and sympathy. Today was the start of his second life.

Dad kissed his cheek and dropped him off at the school gate. “Don’t live in the past,” he reminded himself one last time before stepping into the school. The sun was shining and the wind blew gently, bringing the news of spring. Though new plants were still nowhere to see, the energy of new life has been expressing itself in all different ways.

Do Not Live In the Past

“Hi! You’re Jacob right? The boy who just transferred. Welcome! I am Mr. Thomas, the English teacher here. Come in and take a seat!”

He saw a man standing against the wall who looked kind and spoke in a friendly way. The man came forward to hug him, trying to give Jacob a warm welcome.

It was that moment when everything changed. Jacob recalled his old headmaster. He still remembered the day when a girl saw him stealing and told the headmaster Mr. Paterson. Mr. Paterson was so angry that he dragged Jacob into his office directly. He looked into Jacob’s eyes, standing in a controlling and arrogant position. He shouted at Jacob crazily and called him a thief. There were many times when he wanted to hit Jacob, but he threw away Jacob’s bag and broke his water bottle instead. When he finally calmed down, he slammed the door and left the room. He locked the door and told Jacob to wait for the police.

Jacob had a feeling that Mr. Thomas was going to do the exact same thing as Mr. Paterson. He was approaching and ready to start shouting. Jacob was so scared that he sat onto the ground and held his ears with his hands. The feeling of despair and coldness came again.

“Please. Leave me alone.” He almost screamed.

Mr. Thomas moved back quickly and stared at him, surprised and awkward. “Are you OK Jacob? You don’t like hugs? That’s OK! I hope I didn’t scare you.”

Jacob breathed heavily and his heart beat quickly. He slowly stood up and apologized.

“Do not live in the past. I need to move forward,” he murmured.

Sitting in the classroom, he tried to stop himself from thinking about anything. This is the best way to get rid of my past.

He looked out the window and found a few children playing in the playground. A woman in her thirties stood nearby and watched the children in harmony. She must be their mother. As soon as the word “mother” appeared in his mind, Jacob knew he made another mistake. “My mom also did that when I was in kindergarten. She always became anxious whenever I fell over. I missed her so much. I hope she is still with me.” And he couldn’t stop sobbing. “I did not mean to steal. I am sorry. I am sorry. I don’t know what to do. I am sorry. I need money. My mom needs money. She is dying. I am sorry. How could I ever not live in the past? I do not have a future. I am a criminal. I lost my mom. I lost everything.”

Do Not Live In the Past

He tried to stop the tears and hid his face from his new classmates. He did not want them to know his past. He could hear people discussing him in a low voice. I screwed everything up. Now everyone sees me differently, he thought.

He felt desperate again. It’s OK. Nobody knew you before. You were not a criminal, he told himself.
Repeating it to himself for a few times, he started to feel better.

And he came in. Yes, that is Tom, one of his old classmates who knows what he has done. Jacob could not believe his eyes. Why was he here? Did he move too? Oh my God. Jacob thought. He could not help tremble and cry. The new boy soon noticed him and his pupil enlarged. He pointed right at Jacob and screamed “The thief! The thief is here!”

Jacob passed out. When he was conscious, the only thing left in his head were Susan’s words.

Do not live in the past.

He woke up and saw his dad. “Hey Jacob, it’s OK. It’s OK now.” His dad tried to comfort him.

“Dad, please. Could I just stay at home? I don’t want to go to school anymore. I don’t want to give it another try. I just don’t.”

Do Not Live In the Past

Image Source: Pinterest


  • Tina Tian

    A high school student in Toronto. Love in reading and writing. Love in philosophy and all social sciences.

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