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Reflecting on the Past in If I Stay

By , Randolph, NJ

Throughout one's life, people rely on moments from the past to help guide them in their future. This action has been occurring for many years, which has made our world   better as a whole. Dating back to history, as the world-modernized people had to learn and improve from past mistakes and actions to revolutionize the future for the better. The same is happening during modern times and the same will happen in the future in order to make things and even people better. Reflecting on the past is an ongoing cycle that will inevitably never stop because people rely on it to better their life and all aspects of the world in general. In the novel If I Stay by Gayle Forman, and modern sources, the authors explore how reflecting on the past can change one's future.


Throughout the source “Ever Feel Like an Outsider? You Are Not Alone.” by Devi Clark from The Huffington Post and If I Stay by Gayle Forman, both authors express how not fitting in with the people around you can cause change in your future life.  While Clark explains how society and its standards can affect people easily she states, “If you’ve ever felt like you are different from the people around you, chances are you’ve also been tempted to hide or minimize those differences to fit in” (Clark 1). As the world revolves, so does society. Society has expectations and when people do not meet them, they feel defeated and out of place. When this happens, people will do what society wants or expects rather than what they want or pursue what they are interested in because it may seem weird or different from what is considered normal. People thrive to feel accepted and to fit in, and that it why they change themselves in hopes to better their future self. This directly correlates to Mia in If I Stay with her family and boyfriend Adam. Mia expresses how she differs from her family by stating, “Dad sometimes joked that the hospital where I was born must have accidentally swapped babies because I look nothing like the rest of my family. But as I got older, Dad’s hospital joke took on more meaning than I think he intended. Sometimes I did feel like I came from a different tribe. I was not like my outgoing, ironic dad or my tough-chick mom. And as if to seal the deal, instead of learning to play electric guitar, I’d gone and chosen the cello” (Forman 28). Mia always felt out of place and self-conscious even around the people she loved the most. Throughout the book she often looked at herself with doubt and would almost make decisions that would change her future in hopes to fit in with the people around her. For example, Mia felt more confident after wearing a blonde wig that went with her Halloween costume because she thought she finally felt that she physically looked like the rest of her family. She almost quit playing the cello even though it meant so much to her because she felt out of place with the musical genre that she pursued. Mia often wanted to change herself physically and mentally because she felt so different. During her coma state, Mia often referred to her outcaste life as a deciding factor for whether or not she should wake up. By reflecting upon that, she used that as a reason to not come back to life because she thought it would affect her future. In the end she realized that it is her differences that make her so special, although she considered ending her life because she always felt out of place. When people reflect on their past identity they always try to find ways to make their current and future self better. By doing that, they find flaws within themselves that ultimately do not match with society or the people around them which can change their fate in life.


Love is also a very powerful factor that can change one's destiny. The love filled relationships that people create within their existence help guide them to make decisions and shape their own life. The novel Choices of Love by Dorothy Maclean is based off of her experiences within her life where she looked towards inner guidance to help fulfill and guide her to certain actions. She described her decision making process by saying, “I was learning from within that all situations are helped by love” (Maclean 12). Maclean often looked towards love to assist her in situations that she would doubt or be uncertain about. She believed that the answers to everything lied within love. Love can help people through positive or negative times, however love has such a powerful impact on people that they rely on it more than anything. Not only do they rely on it, they thrive for it and that is partly because the reasons people do things are normally because of love. In If I Stay when Mia contemplates waking up from her coma or not, she looks towards love to assist her in making a decision. Mia thinks about living without her love, Adam, if she doesn't wake up. This is a big choice that Mia has to make that will ultimately change her life, and she looks towards love to help her make it. Towards the end of the novel Mia describes her time with Adam by stating, “Adam is crying and somewhere inside of me I am crying, too, because I’m feeling things at last. I’m feeling not just the physical pain, but all that I have lost, and it is profound and catastrophic and will leave a crater in me that nothing will ever fill. But I’m also feeling all that I have in my life, which includes what I have lost, as well as the great unknown of what life might still bring me.” (Forman 217). Simply Adam’s presence provokes such strong emotions to make Mia rethink events from her past and even think of her life after awaking from her coma in the future. Because of Mia’s powerful love for Adam, she is able to contemplate her life as a whole. This shows the influential role that love plays in someone's life. Within love, not only do emotions arouse, but thoughts and remembrance does as well which helps shape someone into their subsequent self. Love provokes such strong feelings and the love you have for someone or something can help shape your future and shape your identity.


Family can have such a positive role in someone's life and within those family bonds, values, morals, and choices can evolve. In The New York Times article “The Stories That Bind Us” by Bruce Feiler and If I Stay, both show how having a positive family life can help you in the future. When Mia is contemplating whether or not to wake up from her coma she thinks, “What would it be like if I stay? What would it feel like to wake up an orphan? To never smell Dad smoke a pipe? To never stand next to Mom quietly talking as we do the dishes? To never read Teddy another chapter of Harry Potter? To stay without them?” (Forman 153). After realizing that she has no family left due to a tragic car accident, she cannot think about waking up without them.  Because of the strong family relationship she has, she is worried that living a life without them will be unbearable and impossible. As Mia dwells on her past with her family, she doesn't want a future without them. She cannot bear to have her family not be there when she gets married, or to see her children, or even to help assist her in big and small aspects of her life. She has always relied on them, and when that aspect of your life is gone, you do not know how to cope with it and plan your future without them. Mia constantly thinks that she is better off not waking up because they wouldn't be there with her. This shows that if you possess a strong relationship with our family, you depend on them to help you through your future. Now that Mia does not have that part of her life, she feels that she does not even have a future.  In comparison, when Feiler describes the significance of having a close family he states, “The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative” (Feiler 1).  He believes that the relationships that you create with your family in the past can directly correlate to the family bond that you will have in the future. This shows that by having a close family structure, adolescents and adults can be helped in a time of crisis, conflict or just decision making in general.  It is so important to have a close family relationship because they will help in life when they are present, and even if they are not, the things you've learned from them in your childhood can help in your further life when someone is evolve.


Many things can help shape someone into who they will be in the future. Gayle Forman and modern sources specify on feelings about your personal self and also relationships that you create with your family and the impact that love can have on someone. All three aspects play a big role in the life of Mia and everyone in general when planning your future. Within each individual's life, historic moments, life-changing mistakes, and special events shape our personalities and the direction of our future choices. By looking deeply into memories from the past, we can discover a great deal about who we are and what we want to change about our life going forward. Although we can't avoid our past identity, we can move forward and learn from it.






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