The story of this island does not, and could never, follow a straight path. It is pulled and pushed in different directions that reflect the diverse and divergent experiences of everyone who lives here.
While that is a source of frustration for some who want to present a singular narrative of our complex past, it should instead open up a conversation about our common history.
An important part of that common history is, of course, the partition of Ireland and foundation of Northern Ireland 100 years ago. This event, more than many others, has had a profound political, economic and cultural impact on the lives of all those who share this island.
But the experience of that moment, and the evolution of the state that followed, has been markedly different for communities across the north.
Last year I received an invitation from the Secretary of State to join the British Government's Centenary Forum, which would set out a programme of activities to celebrate the anniversary of the foundation of Northern Ireland.
I carefully considered the invitation and the approach to commemoration that the Northern Ireland Office had proposed and, unfortunately, I felt I had no option but to decline.
It was clear from the correspondence that, in the same way that others have tried to rewrite our recent history to present the ugly acts of the past as patriotic, the NIO had very little intention of reflecting on an experience of partition that did not meet their celebratory top line.
The use of Seamus Heaney's portrait without recourse to his estate, I think, demonstrates the singlemindedness of those rolling out that programme.
I recognise and respect that, for many people, Northern Ireland is a critical part of their identity and I absolutely want them to have the space to celebrate that. I want them to take pride in our shared history, our common culture and everything that makes our island experience unique.
But for many partition was an act of immense constitutional trauma that severed relationships, economic opportunities and created a new state where sectarian discrimination was hardwired into the institutions of government.
When the SDLP was founded 50 years ago one of our founding principles was to act as an anti-sectarian force for good.
That's why I joined the party as a teenager and it's why I have worked throughout my entire political career to undo the systemic sectarian influence of that state which affected, and infected, virtually every aspect of life for so many people, including in my own city.
Our mission statement today continues to reflect our goal of a reconciled people in a united, just and prosperous new Ireland.
That goal is fundamentally at odds with the celebration of partition. It is wrong to suggest, as some have, that the SDLP will not take part in the centenary. The experience of communities like mine, and of people like me, are critical to this story.
We will therefore take part in events which mark the centenary and seek to bring our people closer together.
This is an important moment and we will stretch ourselves, as we have throughout the decade of centenaries and throughout our history, as part of a mature conversation about the future of these islands.
What we remain opposed to is those who seek to straighten the arc of our history to suit a single narrative.
The SDLP will be honest with people: we believe that the interests of people on this island are best served in a united, prosperous new Ireland. We will pursue that vision.
But it is my firm conviction that, as relationships across our island, and between our islands, continue to evolve as a result of the constitutional upheaval that we have experienced over the last five years, that we are all called to build that new future together.
And while I have said that I believe the United Kingdom is coming to an end, I do not for one second believe that those for whom that is an important part of their identity should be in any way diminished.
I know that our scarred history places a moral duty upon us to manage those relationships and to conduct the coming conversation with care, compassion and patience.
The prize is to build a shared home place for all of our people.
Colum Eastwood MP is leader of the SDLP