“I have no regrets now that the relationship has dissipated. I said all that was in my heart, those burdens lifted. And I wouldn’t take a moment of it back. Because among the bad, there was good… I know what I am [and am not] looking for[in a relationship]. Yes, we should have made it, but I can no longer entertain the idea of what would have happened then. Just like I cannot dwell on how the story would have gone if perhaps our paths had been closer in the beginning.”
Oh to be 25 and enlightened! As I look back at this excerpt of one of my first articles, I think about how I thought my life experiences had made me so wise. True, I had made some valid points. I had reflected on my previous relationship and was looking forward all the wiser. I knew what I wanted and what I was looking for. Or so I thought. However, a few years later, I found myself in the same situation in a different relationship. Older? Yes. Wiser? Apparently not.
So how is it that I, a strong, independent, confident woman, could go from knowing exactly what (and who) I was looking for, to going down a path of learning the same lesson again? It’s simple. In my attempt to block out painful memories of my past, I also blocked out the lessons I learned as a result. So when I was confronted with the same situation, warning signs, and red flags, I reverted back to the girl I was before that first experience and had to learn my lesson. Again. This time, for good.
While going down that same path a second time, I made a valuable observation about the past.
We all have things we’d rather forget but those are the things that aid us in making informed decisions about our present and future. And while we shouldn’t dwell in our past, we also shouldn’t throw it out completely or ignore it, even the parts that truly sucked or, upon reflection, make us want to gag, crawl into a hole, scream.
I also don’t think we should feel the need to sound all enlightened (cue the angel music and halos!) and claim we have no regrets. Regrets are okay. No, we wouldn’t be where we are without them, but yes, those moments were really awkward, uncomfortable and sucky, and we probably would change them if we could! As my friend Allison, 30, so eloquently phrased it, “What a load of crap! There’s a boatload of things I’d undo. Yes, I learned from them, but I think I’d probably still have ended up right here had I not made some of those bad decisions.”
We talk so much about the past we want to forget, but what about the past we want to reclaim? Truly becoming older and wiser is about being reflective. Remembering those troublesome events of the past and the lessons learned accordingly, but also holding on to the optimism and perseverance of our youth. Personally, I’m reclaiming the spirit of the 25 year old me who said:
“But that’s the thing about life. It takes you on a journey that you can never prepare for ahead of time, but equips you with the tools to handle it one day at a time. Although you might not be where you planned, you are exactly where you need to be even if you cannot see, feel, or understand the reasons why.”