As I look back over my last 149 essays, I see memories, heartbreaks, and joys, all poured into my essays of size 12 font. I see times I was feeling high on life, and simultaneously, times I was struggling and felt as though I was stuck in the dark.. But even more than a simple timeline of moments and checkpoints, I see someone trying desperately to make sense of a messy world full of complicated emotions. I see someone a little bit lost at times, a little bit curious, and also a bit hopeful – someone just trying her best to seek meaning, inspiration, and above all, healing.
It is an understatement to say that writing has been therapeutic for me. When I have felt lonely, or afraid, or let down, I have often sought comfort in writing. Words have been magical – they have been a way to gain a new perspective on my life and on the lives of all of the people around me. Writing has unfailingly encouraged me to look twice at life – to examine what lies beneath the surface, rather than accepting things at face value.
And when I look back at all of these thoughts I have spilled across the white pages of my MacBook, I see many themes that seem to pop into my life over and over again, with each passing year. These themes are mainly lessons – those that I have learned, and those that I am still learning (or relearning). Looking over my writing, I can’t help but notice how as human beings, we are constantly learning. We never seem to stop changing, growing, or healing.
While I do not have all of the answers (or any answers with certainty), I do hope that some of the thoughts I have gathered and the lessons I have learned through examining the world through words may resonate with you as well. I hope they can bring you some comfort or reassurance in the midst of the mountains and valleys of your own life.
1. It can feel comforting to seek home in nostalgia – to live in our memories, to replay them over and over again, like little film strips that continue to roll on. But at some point, we have to remember that life is still happening and the earth is still spinning, right here, right now. At some point, we have to be here for ourselves and for our hearts in the present. We have to be brave enough to hope that the present and the future will be just as good, if not better, than the old memories we are living in.
2. I’m learning that joy doesn’t necessarily mean the absence of sadness, and grief doesn’t necessarily imply the absence of joy. Though we often want to choose an either or, life is not quite as binary as we make it out to be.
3. I’m realizing that being at peace with life doesn’t mean that everything is perfect, or that we don’t have any troubles or tribulations or low energy nagging at our hearts. Being at peace doesn’t mean that life is wonderful, or that we aren’t stressed, or facing anxiety. More so, being at peace means finding some form of “okayness” amidst all of the parts of life that are not (yet) “okay.” It means sitting amidst the chaos and making the conscious decision to remain calm. To be okay. Ultimately, finding peace means acknowledging the storm and coexisting with it, rather than sitting in the eye of the tornado.
4. It’s the hardest lesson in the world, but sometimes, the best thing we can do is let them go. Sometimes we have to say goodbye to someone good and wait patiently for someone better.
5. Something odd about life is that the right choices don’t always feel right in our bodies. Sometimes, though difficult, we have to find the courage within us to pursue what we need, rather than what we want in the present. We have to take care of ourselves by honoring what we know is best for us in the long run. And oftentimes, in the present, it really does hurt a lot. The pain doesn’t mean the decision is wrong. Sometimes the best choices can leave us let down and hurt. But later on, we will be thankful.
6. I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason. I don’t believe in fate. But I do believe that we can give meaning to some of our hardest most heartbreaking moments. We don’t need to build an identity that is rooted in our grief or in our trauma or pain, but if or when we want to, we can allow the healing process to bring out our best. We can grow new, fresh roots, and we can choose to define ourselves by how we rise back up again.
7. We can’t expect others to heal us – no one can love us so much that we automatically love ourselves. But maybe, when someone does love us, they can remind us what love feels like. They can help us to believe that we are loveable. And this can be the first step of loving ourselves – knowing that we deserve to be loved.
8. Grief is ugly and painful and devastating. Grief is dark swollen eyes and tear-stained cheeks. Grief hurts. But we cannot deny the sheer beauty that grief holds. We cannot deny that grief is, in some ways, a gift. To grieve means that we are blessed enough to have loved and to have been loved by someone special – and this is remarkable. Grief means we are missing someone – someone who touched our lives in an irreplaceable way. And thus, I’d like to believe that the sadness and grief we endure when we lose someone close to us is simply the price we pay for loving them. And there’s something so dear and precious about this.
9. As hard as it is to hear, some people aren’t meant to stay in our lives forever. They are passerbys, like boats in the night. And though they may only stay for a short while, they stay safely in our hearts indefinitely. Temporary people can leave permanent footprints.
10. Anxiety and overthinking do not change the situation. They only turn a gentle rain shower into a hurricane.
11. We can miss someone, but we can’t lose ourselves when we lose them. We can miss them, but we can’t let our lives be over when they are gone. Because we still have our lives to live. And we still have so much love left in us to give.
12. We don’t need a reason to have hope – we don’t need evidence or logic, as much as we think we do. We don’t even need to fully understand or grasp what hope is. We just have to find it in our hearts to believe that hope exists. We have to bravely decide to give in to hope, even when we can’t see it or touch it – even when we don’t know if it is there. When life is dark, we have to believe that there is something still worth living for around the corner. And this belief – this hope – this is what will help us move forward.
13. It’s okay to find home in another person. It’s one of the sweetest, purest parts of life. But somewhere along the way, we must also find home within ourselves.
14. We know we are healing when we piece back together our broken parts and turn them into something greater than what we had before.
15. Perhaps, when someone doesn’t love us or doesn’t fight for us, it isn’t actually a reflection of us. Perhaps their inability to love us does not mean that we are unloveable, or hard to love. Maybe it means that they have been hurt one too many times before and that their walls are now built high of concrete and stone. Or maybe it means that they have been defeated by love one too many times – maybe love continues to let them down, time and time again. And maybe, even if they want to love us, they simply cannot. And we can keep trying and trying to knock down those walls. But perhaps when they don’t love us, the very best thing we can do is to hug them close, wish them the best, and then walk away. Because even if they were special, we each deserve someone who is ready to let us in fully.
16. Most of the time, when we think we need closure from someone else, what we truly need is closure from ourselves – permission from ourselves to let things be. To accept the ending and to understand that it’s time to let the ending stay an ending. We must find the strength to seek peace and healing on our own. Healing is our responsibility, not the responsibility of the person who hurt us.
17. Sometimes growth is quiet and subtle and doesn’t look like growth. Sometimes growth is simply viewing a situation from a fresh perspective. Sometimes growth is trying something new, despite whether or not it ends up being a good experience. Sometimes growth just means making it through each day and noticing one small good thing about the world each night. Some seasons are for making leaps and bounds, while others are simply for surviving and just being. Both seasons are important. Both are needed.
18. How do we know when we are healing? I think we know that we are coming close when we feel immense gratitude that something happened, rather than devastated by the fact that it ended.
19. We don’t always need to find the silver lining. Sometimes really crappy, awful things happen, and there is much more bad than good in the world. Sometimes we go through devastating, heartbreaking experiences that don’t have a silver lining, and the idea of trying to find one only hurts us further. In these really rough moments, we don’t need to search for the light. But maybe, when we are ready, we can remind ourselves that there is still light in the world. Maybe there’s no shining light in our situation, but there is still goodness somewhere out there. And hopefully knowing this will help us make it to the other side
Perhaps the secret isn’t avoiding pain or numbing ourselves from pain, but rather, putting our energy into cultivating joy and peace. Perhaps when we value joy over pain, life becomes a little bit easier.