I’ve made poor choices in life. Not through my whole life, but there are things from my teenage and college years that I’m just not proud of. I wish I could say that I have some perfect track record, but it’s just not the case. It could have been a lack of foresight, it could have been poor decisions in friends, it could just be the path that I was meant to take. Regardless of what brought me here, I’m here now. For that, I am grateful. Without all those sound choices paired with the many more poor choices, I would not be the man I am today.
Can I improve? Of course. The sky is the limit and to think otherwise would be foolish. But we have to take a beat and look back at where we started. Each choice you make brings you down a different road in a different direction. Left, right, fork in the roads, tunnels and bridges each time a decision is made. Some have slight bearings and others will take you in the completely other direction, but we cannot travel backwards on this road…there is no taking a decision back…just more decisions to be made in hopes to account for any that you wish you could take back.
Some of these choices will leave you feeling gleeful and excited, some will leave you nervous and remorseful. These are feelings we must start to understand because they are unquestionably paired to all of our decisions. When the feelings come forth, we must be aware that these feelings do not define us, they are just a consequence of our choices. You may feel angry you turned left when you should have turned right, but take a deep breath and know that anger is becoming your choice. Not only is it a choice, but that anger will blind you to making other correct choices if so you choose to befriend it. Let it pass so you can focus on the next.
Personally, I look back upon a lot of my choices and feel regret about some. This isn’t the healthiest take on what’s happened in the past, but it’s an honest one. There’s an argument that, at each individually passing moment, we are doing our absolute best…as that’s all we can do in that moment. On one side, that can be an argument for complacency. “I’m doing my best,” one might tell themself, reassuring them that eating a bag of chips and rewatching Superbad for the 15th time is what they need. Or, it’s a strong reassurance that we didn’t know better in that particular moment and couldn’t have done better in each of the moments we feel guilt about. Now we do, but back then…we were different people. Apparently, every 7 years each cell in our body has turned over. So not only have we grown into different people metaphorically… but also in the most literal of senses.
EDIT: Turns out I was wrong. But fuck it, for the most part they do. That’s good enough for the point of this writing.
Now, I just started trying this an hour ago, so it’s not rocket science, but it worked: in those moments that you feel guilt or negatively about from your past…I want you to imagine someone you love and admire telling you “You don’t have to do this. Let’s go do something better” and then guiding you to somewhere that you’d consider a better choice now. Keep your eyes closed, breathe, and continue to visualize the love you feel from that someone bringing you to an activity or place that you love. After a few minutes, you’re going to find some peace.
What you can also do is imagine the tough times of someone that you love, the trauma that they’ve endured, the moments that were of utmost difficulty for them… think of the version of them that is in that moment… and offer your support. Remind them that it is going to be okay, keep them safe, let them know it’s going to be okay and just give them the shoulder to cry on. Continue to breathe and put their safety first and foremost in your mind, then with each exhale give them the love they deserve and needed in that difficult time. Within a few minutes of this, you’ll be washed from head to toe with a sense of tranquility.
For roughly 20 minutes I sat in a room with some quiet noise playing, falling into what sounded like a gurgling brook, and meditated with these thoughts. I walked into the room an overanxious mess. My heartrate was through the roof, I couldn’t breathe from anywhere but my chest, and it felt like I couldn’t focus on anything more than a noise-emitting screen. I had cleaned the house and I still couldn’t settle. The noise needed to cease.
After a couple minutes of letting my days thoughts bombard me like an automatic nerf gun to the face, I was able to settle into thoughts on deeper issues. Guilt emerged as memories that left me with what feels like permeant regret. Grief swam to the surface with the memories that had previously left me numb. Normally, I’d shake these guys off like a soaking wet dog, but I decided it was important to embrace them since they went to such efforts of saying “hello.” Once I felt a bit calmer, it felt only right to take on someone else’s pain and breathe out love for them. Thinking about my better half and all that she had told me lately, I felt a true need to help somehow. There’s really never anything we can do. There’s no teleporting back in time, but the best I could do was pretend. The best I could do was pretend I was there with that version of her and help her breathe through the tough moments. I could only pretend to give her a hug when she needed it. I could only pretend to be the good influence when the version of her needed one. I could only pretend to be the beacon of safety for that version of her when she needed it most. It was all my imagination, but my love for her in those moments was 100% real.
Once the timer popped, I had felt as if I melted into the floor. Peaceful. Relaxed. Calm.
Trauma is no fucking joke, big or small. We’ve all gone through it, but we don’t have to continue to keep it with us. We need to work through it and we need to help each other work through it. Do what you can, start local, and then grow your circle. The best version of you is how we get the best version of the person next to you.