So you might’ve gone through — or are presently going through — something that’s been consuming your thoughts, and not in a good way. It’s flooding your mind, it’s everywhere you look, it’s everywhere you go. It’s the kind of heart-wrenching experience that’s made you comb through your memory on your morning commute or in bed at 2 a.m. when it’s pitch black out. You think to yourself, ‘Where did it all go wrong?‘ It’s that something or someone that leaves you feeling empty, even when you’re in a crowded room. You know exactly what it is — it’s the first thing that just popped into your mind when you read this.
It might’ve been a breakup. It might’ve been the loss of a friendship. It might’ve been a falling out with someone important in your life. It might’ve been an argument you just can’t come back from — and you know in your heart that nothing will ever be the same. People change, we change. No matter what it is, we try to tell those around us what happened in an effort to come to terms with the situation, and find someone who agrees with how we feel.
We’re angry, we’re upset. We’re lonely, we’re betrayed. We feel every emotion in between in an effort to find any semblance of solace within our sadness.
And far too often, we hear the all-too-familiar words from other people:
“You deserve so much better.”
“Move on and try to block it out.”
“Forgive and forget.”
But in a world where we feel like we have to keep our guards up all the time so we don’t get hurt, should we really forget once we forgive?
We’re not always the same person. Almost every minute of our day, we’re constantly learning something new. We’re getting older every second, getting wiser, getting more seasoned at living life, no matter how slow or how quick that process may be. We may not even realize it happening, but it is.
We’re constantly changing little by little everyday as we walk on the path that is life.
However, there are things that happen we can’t expect, things we simply cannot plan for. Sometimes, things so sudden and drastic happen, altering our paths forever, changing us in unimaginable ways — all in an instant. Our experiences, both good and bad, shape us in ways we sometimes can’t (and maybe we won’t) understand or realize until time passes.
The good things that happen are like Polaroid pictures we keep in a box stashed somewhere. They’re frozen in time, emotions and all. Sometimes we forget the Polaroids exist. But once in a while, we remember. We open the box and look at the pictures. We reminiscence and laugh about the good times, and we go back to them in our minds, anticipating the next time we can experience it again. Those memories, perfectly preserved in the moment. Whether or not we admit it, we chase the highs.
But what about the bad things? Do we really forget them? Are we supposed to burn the Polaroid pictures from the times we want to erase all record of the things that went wrong?
The answer is no.
Right now, it may feel like everything hurts. It’s all too familiar. Falling asleep and getting up in the mornings suddenly feel like the two hardest tasks you’ve ever done. You feel like hiding away from the world. The sun may be out, but all you know is that the darkness of the night comes right after.
The emptiness you feel is like the tsunami wave you’re trying to run away from, but you know you can’t outrun it. You feel it coming. It catches up to you, and when it does, suddenly you’ve gotten the breath knocked out of you. It’s all-consuming. You’re drowning. As the waves rush over you and while you’re waiting for it to stop, you’re knocked down. You’re fighting to reach the surface.
But when you take that very first breath above the surface, you’re still alive.
You’re here, right now in this moment, aren’t you? Sure, whatever’s happened to you may have pushed you to the ground so hard you feel like you couldn’t breathe. Maybe you can’t see the light right now. Maybe you think to yourself, ‘No one else is feeling the way I do.‘ But trust me, others do. Time — and life — goes on. As much as we sometimes want it to, the world just doesn’t stop for anyone or anything.
Days, months, years pass. Maybe over time, the waves have slowly subsided. Maybe you’ve even taken that courageous step to forgive the person that caused you this much pain. It might not be perfect, but you might finally feel like you’ve pieced together the puzzle enough to carry on.
And maybe you’ve moved on entirely. Maybe you haven’t. Maybe it’s something in between. Moving on from something traumatic or painful isn’t black and white. It’s a continuum. You don’t have to feel like you have to be at a certain stage of healing. You can take your time. That’s okay.
But whatever stage you’re at, as much as you want to forget what happened in the past — all the pain, and the bruises, and the tears, the heartbreak and the depression and the scars — don’t.
You don’t need to be presently feeling those things anymore, if enough time has passed. But you should remember somewhere in the back of your mind what it was like to feel them.
Remember how we change constantly? It’s these things that cause us immense amounts of pain, that are a part of our path in life. Over time, the feelings of pain fade, but the memory of it should remain somewhere in the back of our minds, like those Polaroids we look at once in a while. It may really, really hurt to open the box and look at the pictures.
But why should we keep them if that’s the case?
They teach us what to expect the next time something similar happens. They ultimately help us learn. They teach us how to take care of ourselves, despite the pain that feels like it’s burned us to the very core.
They show us how to get up every morning and conquer another day. They remind us of our journey and just how far we’ve come.
It brings out our fighting spirit and shows us how strong we really are. Maybe you didn’t know you had that in you, but you do. It’s there. And the next time the wave hits you and carries you off course, you’ll be thankful you didn’t forget the bad things that happened before. You’ll rise above the water faster, catching your breath, and start swimming and fighting against the current.
And before you know it, you’ll have reached the shore.