“There are a lot of cliches and adages about every relationship and event in our lives somehow enriching us and making us stronger, better, smarter, you name it. But to perfectly honest, I’ve had a lot of experiences, and memories, in my life that I could have done very well without. Most of them had to do with dating.” – Beth Harbison
My book club read a book called If I Could Turn Back Time. In it, 37 year old Ramie Phillips hits her head in a fall and then wakes up on the eve of her 17th birthday. She has to navigate through her teens and relive moments she had decades before, the good and the bad. She gets to rewrite history, in a sense, as well as enjoy things from her youth (like smooth skin, a nicer body, flexible joints and an added bonus, her high school boyfriend). I won’t ruin the end, but she learns to appreciate life in a new way because of her experiences.
When we met to discuss the book, an obvious question was posed, “If you could go back in time, knowing what you know now, what would you change?” Well. I have made quite a few mistakes in my life and can also think of several embarrassing incidents that I would like to take back. Yet the main thing I considered changing, when asked, was the length of time I spent in my last relationship. Unlike the book, time isn’t something we are given back, so to spend any of it unhappy or unfulfilled is truly detrimental to one’s life.
My birthday recently passed. I usually make a really big deal about my birthday, and used to joke that it was a national holiday (go Scorpio!). Yet, weeks leading up to this one, I just wasn’t as excited about another year ending and the digits getting higher and higher. Time is ticking by even faster and I can’t control it. I started to think about all of the things I had yet to accomplish and I got frustrated. Then I committed the ultimate faux pas and compared myself to others my age that were further along than I was and seemed to have their lives “together.” Forget cake! I wanted to throw myself a pity party instead.
So my answer to the time travel question made the most sense to me, at first. Because any time spent with the wrong person was just wasted, right? Time spent at the wrong job, in the wrong city, even with the wrong hairstyle (we won’t talk about my jheri curl days) must all be irreparable mistakes too.
But then I remembered some of the sayings that I have heard throughout life like, “Everything happens for a reason” or “You won’t enjoy the sunshine if it never rains” and “You can’t appreciate the good without the bad.” They sound like corny cliches, but for some reason, they started to resonate with me.
Sure, I would much rather learn about trials and tribulations from a book or through someone else’s mistakes. But there is something beneficial to learning lessons the hard way. Whenever I got spanked as a child, I knew to never, ever, eva do that one thing again. It took me a while to learn that doing things similar to what got me in trouble the last time, would end with the same sore butt. But I didn’t like pain, so I eventually put two and two together.
These same lessons have applied to my adult years. I know now that putting myself in certain shituations can lead to harm, being irresponsible can cause me to lose out on opportunities and ignoring red flags in a relationship will only lead to heartache.
But if past pain can help me to recognize the good in my present (and make me hopeful for my future), then I am grateful. Each day we are given can feel like a gift, if we stop to remember the moments that we’ve struggled through.
By the time my birthday came, I woke up excited about my new year. I spent the day getting pampered and eating really delicious food. I had two pieces of dessert, thank you very much! Then later that week, I had an amazing brunch with some of my closest friends. Overall, I felt so loved!
I could appreciate all of that love because I know what it is like to not feel loved. I know how it feels to basically have to beg someone to spend quality time with you; to feel lonely. My laughter these days is even louder (if that’s possible), because I know what it is like to cry. My smile is even wider because I remember when I could only frown.
I understand now that certain lessons are necessary for personal growth. So if I could turn back time, I actually might not change much…except for that jheri curl.
“Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.”
― Mahatma Gandhi