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This week I had the opportunity to see clients in the Western Sydney suburb of Emu Plains, the suburb where I spent my high school years and where my parents still live.

After finishing my work, I took the opportunity to walk home and spend a night with mum and dad. The walk was no more than two kilometres through a nature reserve and along roads with which I was very familiar.

As a teenager, my school mates and I would play cricket on those streets until it was so dark, we could barely see the ball. We’d play handball and ride our bikes along those streets as well. On the nature reserve, we’d practise our golf swings trying not to hit the ball into the creek at the end of my street.

All of this was over 30 years ago.

As I walked that familiar route, I noticed the trees had become taller, the bushland denser. Some houses were the same, others renovated or knocked down and rebuilt. The images of those high school years seemed clear to me.

I reflected on the good times and bad. On the whole, there were more positive memories. At one point, I thought how all those things that happened so long ago didn’t matter today. It was all in the past. A lot of those friends have moved on. We have all changed, grown and matured.

Then I thought about the stories that we tell ourselves. The events of our past form part of the narrative that shapes our identities. Those events do matter because we assign meaning to them, and that shapes how we relate to the world today.

And this is where our power lies. We have control of the meaning we assign to events. We get to write our own stories. We can, if we are conscious of how we do this, control our narrative.

In this way, we can allow our past to inform our future and not define it.