Middle school was a tempestuous time for me. I know how naive that does sound, because all it was was middle school, a part of life that should be easy to forget, a period of time that that is ubiquitously painful for every awkward preteen, and I do not have such a right to claim that it had a greater effect on me than anyone else. I know that it was simply middle school, trust me, I sincerely do know this. Yet I cannot help but reflect upon those three, quite tragic, years with inordinate penitence. Can anyone help what they possess pain for? Can we ever truly move past our mistakes, and most unforgettable wrongdoings? I do not believe that we can simply “let go” of whatever it is that is ensnaring us in our pasts, notwithstanding the countless songs (cough cough, Frozen) and culture preaching for us to let go of our mistakes, let go of who it is we used to so honestly be, and move the hell on. And perhaps this is a personal feeling, but I do not want to let go of who I used to be. Quite bluntly, for me, who I used to be is not a part of me that I can just so easily and regardlessly dismiss away, banish from myself. I can’t. I wish I thought that I was even able to accomplish such a feat, but I am not a person who likes to lie to myself. And so I know that I will never truly forget who I used to be. Over time, though, I’ve come rather slowly to realize that perhaps that isn’t such a terrible thing after all. Maybe our endurance of ourselves is a sign of strength, not loss, not weakness.
There are so many people who I have lost over the past few years, not in the literal meaning as in the terms of tragedy such as death, but there are losses that hurt just as horribly. And believe me, I have felt these losses all too prominently over the past few years. I never imagined that I would ever hate anything about myself, but I do. I hate abundant aspects of myself, traits of my personality, darker thoughts that cross my mind repetitively, not simply because I have recognized these darknesses in myself instantly, but rather, I have learnt so much of my weaknesses because of what I have been through. In times of crisis, I understand myself better. I know how to anticipate my reactions to certain things.
That’s the thing. The past will never disappear and dissipate into thin fragments that are gone with the wind. That will never happen. I know this. And I know that sometimes, many times, we may want certain parts of ourselves to vanish without a second look. And this makes sense, when you look at it like that. But here’s the thing: why would we want to forget what made us us? All of the strenuous horrors that you may have faced in your life, all of the weak feelings you wish you could surrender to, they make you who you are. But at the same time, they do not define you.
The past does not disappear as it ends. However, the past also does not define who you are. Your present self is who you are, but your past self led you up to the present, didn’t it? Had you made one choice differently, your life could be irrevocably different. And that is somewhat frightening, but also somewhat relieving. What’s life without uncertainty? Why would you waste your entire life questioning the inevitable what ifs and instead question the right now? This is where you are, this is who you are, and every single thing that you have done in your life, every single moment that you chose to spend doing a certain something, have helped lead you to where you are now. And if where you are is not where you would like to be, well, you do have to let go of what you are unable to change. We needn’t burden ourselves with the past, but we also must accept our pasts, because they are the most unchangeable parts of ourselves and our lives.
I miss so many people, so many things that I could’ve, should’ve, would’ve done if I had the chance or choice now. But I don’t. I simply am not Marty from Back to the Future. The past is utterly irreversible. The past is gone, but the future can be whatever the hell you make it to be. Opportunities are rare but they are also present in this world if you can allow yourself to stop holding onto what holds you down. Do not let your past self shove you down. You are worth so much more than a few choices you made, a lost person, a heartbreak or a few. You’re worth trying. And god, this all sounds terribly cliche, and I generally despise cliches, but you know what? Right now, I know that I am using a cliche and I’m owning it. Too bad. It’s one that I believe we must all do at some point in our lives. We must accept our pasts, without them ruining our present.