How To Forgive Yourself For All The Lives You’ll Never Live


There’s nothing particularly linear about my life. At the age of 29 I’ve lived a lot of different lives. I’ve been a farmer, a social worker, a newspaper reporter, a waitress, a programmer, a music journalist…the list could go on. But these are the things I’ve done, jobs I’ve had, positions I’ve held to have a paycheck. And like all of us, there are the roles and titles I hoped to earn someday but never quite had the chance to.

One of the inevitable parts of growing up is letting go of the ideas you once held about the kind of life you could lead. When you’re a young adult almost anything feels possible. You have a blank slate to start from. Your youth feels eternal, the nights last too long, and you feel as though this moment could last forever. Then one night turns into another and soon all the mornings feel the same and one day you find yourself staring at your reflection in the mirror, realizing you’re of a certain age now, and all those dreams of becoming various people have been left behind. This is just one of the side effects of being human.

We go down certain paths either because it’s our calling, or because well, what else are we going to do? and we build our lives up from these moments. We get a job, fall in love with someone, and proceed to live out a series of events everyone else is participating in within their own stories. Then, somewhere long after the newness has worn off from all of these things, we start thinking about the past, our regrets, the lives we should have // could have lived.

It can be depressing thinking about the dreams you’ve put on a shelf for reasons of practicality or circumstance, but you can’t focus on this. You have to forgive yourself for the things you haven’t done. You have to let go of the expectations you (or others) have placed on yourself to live up to. I know this is hard. Trust me when I say I know how difficult it is to let go of the things you once placed so much hope in. The actual act of letting go is much harder than anything that can be put into words because it’s never something that happens all at once.

Sometimes I think you have to become extraordinarily sad to figure out what it is you really want. When you find yourself lost and uncertain those are the times the greatest clarity often comes to mind. The experience of unraveling is bittersweet, because in the end you come out a different, stronger version of yourself, but it’s never without its heartache. There’s always something we lose in the process of discovery of self.

To forgive yourself is to accept yourself. It’s the uncomfortable act of coming to terms with the way you have treated your past – mind, body, and soul. It’s owning up to the decisions you have made, and the series of choices you chose that led you to where you are now. It’s immersing yourself in the present state of not what could have been, or what could be, but what is. It’s the end moment when instead of swimming against the current you finally let go and allow the tide to bring you home.

In essence, it’s the process of becoming.

And that’s why the art of forgiveness is so important – you are in the process of becoming every day, of actualizing your true self by either accepting your reality and finding growth within that, or continuing to stay in the same stage you were previously in. And only then when you let go of the lives you’ve never lived and the decisions you’ve made will you then find fulfillment in your present life. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

Former senior staff writer and producer at Thought Catalog.

Keep up with Koty on Twitter

More From Thought Catalog