I was having a conversation with a friend recently about The Good Ol' Days. Granted, we are both still only flirting with the age of 30, but that doesn't mean we don't have them. I mean, my high school reunion is around the corner—isn't "Good Ol' Days" the universal theme?
They might as well have a money jar where everyone has to put in a dollar every time they use the term and then use it to fund the following reunion. Then we'd all be sporting grass skirts instead of embarrassing name tags on the coasts of Hawaii. Aloha good ol' days!
Back to our talk:
It began with our bodies, of course, because way too many conversations do. I used to be able to wear that or I used to be able to do this or that used to be here are typically the sentence starters. This portion of the conversation was brief because I now make a point to cut them short. There is not much I care less for than hearing women berate their bodies in conversations—especially when I fall into the trap of being a part of one.
A good body-bashing session used to be my go-to icebreaker with women. This is becoming less and less over the years and I could not be happier about it. 'Scuze me while I pat myself on the back—I've worked my perfectly imperfect ass off really hard for that one!
After we agreed that our bodies were still pretty awesome—despite any flaws—the discussion turned more into one about our insides rather than the out. My friend turned to me and said:
I just don't know what to do anymore or where the hell I am supposed to go from here. I guess it is more the fact that I am SO lost right now that upsets me. Like, more than ever. I feel like I had so much going for me back then. And now that I am older—and dealing with the aftermath of some pretty shitty decisions I've made in the past—I feel like my options are so limited for my future. I just need to be more realistic and accept that I am not going to get to have those things anymore. I feel like settling is the only option.
The amount of hopelessness in her eyes when she said this tore right through me.
Here was this beautiful person sitting in front of me with so much potential and so many dreams and so much love to give, yet, she was denying herself all of these things in advance. She basically told me that she didn't deserve any of the things she longed for because her current circumstances weren't exceptional and she'd made some crap choices in the past.
Oh, c'mon! Who hasn't royally screwed themselves in the past? What a bunch of shit.
And I told her so, too—in a much more pleasant way, of course. After a couple of tears, a long hug and (hopefully) some fresh perspective, we parted ways.
That night I mulled over her words in my mind and tried to apply them to myself. Now that my friend was no longer there to comfort, I couldn't help but relate. I began to analyze the ways that I also felt that the old and better off version of myself deserved more than the current me.
I had the urge to physically see the old me . I needed to hold the proof of the better life I was supposedly promised. So, I pulled down my dusty box of pictures and began to search for the thing that this current me was evidently missing.
Cue the nostalgic piano solo and lock the door—this pity party had a guest list of one.
I cannot tell you how many times I have come across a photo of myself and yearned to be that girl in the picture again. I begin to curse myself for not possessing—or maintaining—the qualities and attributes of the slightly younger girl I am staring at in my hands.
Look at that light in her eyes! Now SHE had dreams—REAL dreams. Look at that body—that confidence! SHE knew what she wanted. SHE knew where she was headed and what she deserved. SHE lived in the big city—a city that inspires! SHE was a girl on a MISSION. Where did SHE go??
I quickly gathered the photos and placed them back in my closet. I couldn't look at them any longer. In fact, I did want to even think about them. So, I turned on my computer and began sifting through a different kind of box. It's a folder of inspiring quotes, snippets from stories, and photographs that I recently put together.
Any time I feel a let's-dwell-on-how-awful-of-a-person-I-think-I-am session coming on, I interrupt it by opening this folder instead. And, you know what, it has a relatively high success rate of kicking negative thoughts in the ass.
Here is the one delivered this particularly swift blow:
"How we walk with the broken speaks louder than how we visit with the great."
When I first came across this quote, I applied to how I interacted with others—and still believe it is an incredible way to see it—but, reading it in that moment of need, made me apply it to myself. I was intentionally walking by the broken parts of myself to flatter the parts that had already been pieced back together.
Visiting hours are over, ma'am. Move along.
Why was I wasting my time there?
Those parts of me no longer needed my attention—much less my praise. And, you know what? Those "great" parts of myself weren't always that great. I had to work to get them that way. I had to pick up those pieces once, too. And, if you look closely, you can still see the places where they had fallen apart.
It's easy for us to stop seeing ourselves as the great works of art that we are. We are so busy talking about what others have seen that we forget how to describe what we can see.
We blame our current circumstances or people or situations of the past for dimming the light that we used to exude brightly. We blame the ones who broke our hearts or the children they left us with or the body those children gave us or debt that a failed semester acquired or a city that you swore you'd never stay in or a family member for abandoning you. These are all examples of the things we accuse of stealing our light—our greatness.
These are the things that left us in pieces.
Here's an idea: PICK THEM UP.
Examine them. Figure out what they need to function, to stick—to heal. Is it love? Patience? Accountability? Then find those things! Read about them, write about them, talk about them—search endlessly for them—Endlessly!
Because, when we stop, we lose our way.
That's when we begin to feel like the state of being lost is something we just need to learn to deal with or accept or—worst of all—settle for. It's when we stop the search. It's when we no longer desire to pick up our damaged pieces. It's when we close our eyes to revisit with the past greats instead of opening them wide so that we can see our way to the broken.
Of course, there are going to be things from my past that I wish were in my present—it comes natural to us to want the things we once had. But there are also a lot of things that I have now that I didn't have then: A clearer conscience, higher levels of patience, a more open heart and mind, a better idea of who I was, who I am and who I want to become. I am wiser now and that kind of wisdom can only come from making mistakes and from falling to apart.
You see, we must walk with the broken—it's what makes the greats.