I’m fortunate that I’ve kept a well-documented written record of my life since I was 18. I have ten years worth of semi-regular journalling (some periods of my life, I did journal basically every day – for months at a time) to refer back to if I ever feel like being embarrassed of myself, or reminded of where I’ve come from versus where I am now.
My past self is a mixed bag of people; sometimes she wanted adventure; sometimes she wanted stability; sometimes she wanted boys who were so wrong for her (actually, that was most of the time…). Sometimes she suddenly came upon a CRAZY idea and she followed through with it (like “Hey! I think I’ll become a teacher!”). She is someone I can take a lot from, even though I know more now in the present than she did in the past.
We all wear many different hats in our lifetime and we all take advice and lessons and each and every one of them that’s on the shelf, good are bad. Here are ten of the most important lessons I’ve taken from my own self in the past.
1.Strive to live in the present and not take things for granted.
I’ve always been someone who lived a bit in the future, and reminisced about the past. As evidenced by my own writing, I did try and appreciate everything I had, but I still fell back into that bad habit of remembering when things were better and looking to the future and wondering what would happen. What I’ve learned from this is, to keep going. To keep striving to see things as good in the here and now, and accept what I can’t change, but focus on what I can change.
2. Without even thinking, put faith, energy and enthusiasm into all of your best friendships.
Whether I’m still friends with the people I’ve talked about or not, the important thing is just how much I loved those people and how much they gave me and how much I gave them in return. I feel so strongly about friendship. I’ve never taken it for granted, nor have any of my negative experiences with friendship soured my ability to long for those deep and meaningful platonic connections. My past self tells me when I re-read her words, that this has always been true. Friendships have been something that have allowed me to get through so much, and have given me some of the best and most significant memories of my twenties. I should remember the good moments more than the bad ones.
3. If you love someone, tell them.
I was never really in love with the ‘right’ person in my early twenties. But I had so many fleeting loves and not all of them were assholes who didn’t deserve my love (but some of them were – more on that later). The ones that were truly good people who didn’t know I loved them, should have known – not to put them in an awkward place or because I expected anything from them but because they made my life enriched, exciting and valuable during the time I loved them. It doesn’t really hurt anything to tell people you care for them and how much you love them.
4. It’s not your fault people will treat you like shit.
After my first real heartbreak (we’re talking RIGHT after – mere days), I wrote the following:
“I’m sorry… I’m sorry I told my mom I was ‘seeing someone’. I’m sorry I pretended everything was fine when we talked about it. I’m sorry I’m bringing down my friends. I’m sorry I’m making things awkward. I’m sorry I want to take a big knife and stab myself multiple times through my already-damaged heart. I’m sorry I wasted like, hundreds of notebook pages gushing over you, wishing and longing and getting excited over you. I’m sorry that I let you take me on some sort of sex venture that I WANTED just to waste your time. I’m sorry that I wasn’t the one to cut the rope first and put YOU in that awkward place. I’m sorry I still shamelessly like you but that I have pride which I’m also truly sorry for. I’m sorry I’m going to continue wasting my time falling in love with you. I’m sorry I’m powerless to change your fucking mind.”
Looking back now, um no… this doesn’t fly with me. I don’t want to be the person who apologizes for other people treating me like shit and disrespecting me like this and playing me for a fool. It’s not my fault. It has never been my fault. The person who incited me to write something this demeaning and powerless can go fuck themselves. They’re the ones who should be sorry. It has nothing to do with me.
5. But… the worst will always be over. Always.
Grieving. Heartbreak. Hard times. Falling-outs with besties. Guys who don’t call. Feeling ugly and undesired in your own skin. All of these things generate bad feelings and someday, maybe when you least expect it, or when you’re not even paying attention, those bad feelings end and everything gets good again.
6. Time doesn’t “heal all wounds”; wounds merely scar over and leave visible scarring.
Every wound I’ve ever wrote about is something that still weighs on my mind. But does it keep me up at night? Does it make me cry myself to sleep? Does it make me punch my pillow and curse to the dead air when I wake up in the morning, still hung over from the pain from the previous night’s reflections? No. It’s more of a “oh yes… that happened. Fuck” and then I move on. Are the wounds healed and have I forgotten them? No. I think of them as lessons on what not to do and how not to live your life. That’s how I operate, at least right now, and that’s okay with me.
7. My life is richer than I realize every day.
When you have your entire life written out, it’s amazing to see all the memories, pains, stories, happenings, musings, ideas (some that worked, some that didn’t), failures, successes, celebrations, mournings and clues to the future that are contained in a series of long-winded hand-written books. Sometimes writing out life turns the ordinary extraordinary. And sometimes when re-reading, everything is more extraordinary than you think it is on a daily basis.