1. The big things that you changed your mind about
The dream job you never thought you’d quit. The person you didn’t think you’d leave. The plans you had for the future that never came to fruition because something else got in the way. Life ebbs and flows and to keep up with it we have to do the same. We have to forgive ourselves for having the self-awareness to change our minds about the really big things.
2. The ways in which you fought through pain
The dark paths you shouldn’t have gone down. The crazy things you did in the name of coping that brought about more damage than good. The things you did to keep yourself alive when you didn’t know any better way. The way your survival instinct showed itself when you were too young or helpless to control it doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you a stronger, fuller person for still being around. For having found your way back to life.
3. The person you could never love properly
The person whose words body never fit right with yours, whose thoughts weren’t the ying to your yang, whose words never quite sounded right but whom you tried to love despite and because of it all. The person you tried to get it right with so hard that it felt like your heart was going to give up on beating, but who eventually had to let go. You cannot force love into existence. And letting it bloom somewhere else only makes us all freer in the end.
4. The fries that you ate with your lunch
You’ll survive this.
5. All the ways in which you are not enough
The body you’ll never have, the knowledge you will never acquire, the courage you’ll never muster and the effort you’ll never put in. You may never be brave enough or smart enough or strong enough to suit someone else’s ideal but you are always going to be just perfectly you enough and the moment you realize how important that it, the sooner you can let the rest go.
6. The way you treated your parents when you were sixteen (Or twenty. Or thirty.)
You were awful and infuriating and insufferable and now all of those days are behind you (Unless they’re not. If you are sixteen and reading this, please go hug your parents and tell them you love them). So perhaps we all grew a little sideways or backwards on the way to growing up and we said a couple things we didn’t mean. Life went on. We all grew from it. And it is never too late to say, “I’m sorry.”
7. The way you treated yourself most of your life
Every flaw you picked apart inside the mirror. Every lie you told yourself about your limitations. Every “I am not good enough” thought that ever flitted through the recesses of your mind, settling into a place where it mattered. We have to forgive ourselves for not being our own best friends, our own confidants and our own biggest cheerleaders. We didn’t know what a difference it would make to love ourselves, until we finally did.
8. The useless degree you took in college
The world is changing, quickly. Once upon a time there really were jobs for undergraduate Philosophy majors. We just don’t happen to live in that world anymore. But the cool thing about the world we do live in is that it’s getting smaller every day. We have less specific career paths when we graduate but more general opportunity. You’d be shocked at all the ways your “useless” major still comes in handy. You won’t end up where you expected but you may end up somewhere much better.
9. The breaks that you took from life
The semester when life got you down. The year you spent living at home. The months that you wish you could wipe from your mind as times of self-loathing and fear. We all get overwhelmed sometimes. We all forget how to deal. We need these times to re-group, to reflect, to re-create ourselves and figure out where to go next. We are stronger for having gone through these breaks, despite what they felt like at the time. We figured out how to bounce back harder.
10. The chances you didn’t take
The places you never travelled to. The experiences you didn’t have. The person you did not chase after when they decided to walk away. We have to unclasp our palms and let go of every alternate reality where we’re happier, stronger, brighter because of all the things we did differently. Those universes do not exist. But ours does. And it’s okay here, if we open our eyes up and let it be.
11. The things you didn’t say until it was too late
The “I love yous” we let slide. The phone calls we didn’t pick up. The messages we forgot to pass on while we still had the chance to do so. We believe that our words and intentions could have changed things, so we use our words now. We don’t let our “I love yous” slide. We pick the phone up. And we forgive ourselves for all the times when we didn’t.
12. The disasters you didn’t see coming
Every person you should not have trusted. Every fun night out that went wrong. Every choice that in retrospect should not have been made. Except we don’t live our lives in retrospect. We live them forward. And we don’t get the privilege of knowing if our choices will be right or wrong before we make them. We simply have to do the best we can, try the best we can and forgive ourselves whenever we are wrong. If we’re living life right we’re going to be wrong a whole lot.
13. Whatever you still are not ready for
Every fear that is holding you back right now. Every leap of faith you haven’t yet made. Every story you’re telling yourself about where you ought to be by the age that you’re currently at. We’re all a little not ready for life. We’re all a little bit timid. We’re all a little bit gunshy and we’re all trying in whatever small ways we know how. Give yourself the time you need to grow. It’s going to happen, just not on the timeline you think it will.
14. The mistakes you haven’t even made yet
Because as much as we’d always like to believe that we’re eternally out of the woods now, we’re not. We’re going to screw up again. We’re going to fall down again. We’re going to make more huge, inconsolable mistakes that will diminish us. And thank God. The day we stop making mistakes is the day we stop living. We just have to give ourselves the room we need to make them.