I remember high school like most adults do, which is to say I don’t go out of my way to remember it. Whether it’s from all the hormonal impulses, misplaced built up angst, or being a teenager is just intended to suck from the get-go, high school isn’t typically something we look back on and think, “Man, if only I could do THAT again.”
Now of course, I know I don’t speak for everyone and there are those
freaks of nature people who actually enjoyed their adolescent years. Maybe I’m still not old enough to reminisce with a bittersweet nostalgia. Maybe it’ll happen one day.
But honestly? I doubt it.
For me, high school will always represent my biggest loss thus far. High school will always be a blur of my mother battling against her grief. High school will always feel like my head down in the hallways so no one tries to approach and give unsolicited condolences.
High school will always remind me of my father’s death.
But this isn’t about that. I have learned my survival and (thank God) it’s a hell of a lot smoother than it was when I was a teen.
The trauma didn’t disappear though.
The hurt wasn’t erased simply because I got older. Time didn’t heal all my wounds, like everyone promised. Like all those cards that sat on my mantel declared. Like all those teachers and parents of kids I barely knew assured me, rubbing my shoulder.
When you tell someone time will heal their worst pain, you are not being as helpful as you think. And believe me, I understand it comes from a good place. Wanting to comfort and console someone is beautiful. I never want people to lose that; humanity needs gentle understanding. We need hands to reach out and say, “Grab on if you need me.”
But time does not heal all wounds. I mean, T. Swift has a point. Bandaids don’t fix bullet holes. And time, as forgiving as it can be, does not swoop in like a magical antidote and permanently smooth out the left over scab. If the mark was deep enough, the scab will scar. And the scar will stay.
That’s not to say time doesn’t serve an important purpose. You learn how to keep going. But continuing forward isn’t the same thing as eradicating the past. Continuing is figuring out how you can honor your pain, and to find the good parts in life as well. I’m not sure I believe “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” but I do think time can teach us how to survive. You learn how to channel your grief into something constructive, or you sit with it. It’s okay to sit with it. There is a strength in that. Don’t forget.
My personal mantra is a simple one: “Survive, and when possible, thrive.” To me, that just means taking care of myself. My success comes from honoring how I feel, and recognizing when it’s time to thrive, and when it’s time to just survive.
When you’ve gone through a tremendous loss or pain, you cannot expect time to come in and wave its magic wand. It would be easier that way though, wouldn’t it? Personally, I like to hold onto my memories. Even the ones that sting. I carry them with me and I recognize their importance. My pain is just as valid as my joy. I don’t need time to get rid of either. I just need to survive, thrive, and most of all, live.