On (not) revisiting the past

dandelionYou know, I’ve always been the kind of person to take things very far. I’ve maintained toxic friendships until there was no other way but to cut ties, I’ve stayed in bad relationships until their sourness poisoned everyone involved, I’ve insisted on staying in jobs and academic environments that were clearly not doing my mental health or general development any favors, I’ve even stayed in one particular country for most of my life without ever having been entirely happy about it, the list goes on. It’s not one of my best traits, but I believe it comes from my need to see things through. I am from the generation where everything and everyone could end up in the trash: electronics, food, plastic, human lives… This culture of wastefulness has never quite sat well with me. So I stick with things. Like a hoarder. Until I can’t.

Eventually and invariably, once I reach my limit, I walk away without regret. No regrets and no forgiveness either. After a remarkable endurance of crap, I can be very ruthless. Once I’ve decided to remove myself from a situation I want it to burn, disappear, and pretend it never happened. I have no interest in revisiting the past. Especially the kind that made my otherwise strong self feel vulnerable. It can go to hell. And stay there.

But as you get older, the past has a way of resurfacing. Kids who made your life hell send you Facebook friend requests, school reunions organized by those same teachers who made you feel like a bad kid or really, really small suddenly pop up, step-people (the gender neutral term for the awful people your parents introduced into your life at one point or another) and ex-boyfriends are suddenly very keen to rekindle the friendship that never was. I call bullshit on the whole thing. I may have fond memories surrounding people who turned out to be appalling human beings, but I relativize them because I know that I’ve been through this before and those fuckers are not to be trusted.

Sure, I know what it’s like to be going through a weird phase and do things you regret to good people. I’ve ‘sinned’ too. I’ve been a hormonal, boy-crazy girl who ditched her friends because of some blonde skater boy – oh the proud moments. I know that it doesn’t make me fundamentally bad to have been a selfish asshole at 14, but I wouldn’t be dying to rekindle a friendship with me if the shoe was on the other foot. If you’ve been burned, it’s smart to stay away.

But as you get older and build up confidence and acquire a certain level of success – personal and professional – you can think: oh what’s the harm? Right? I mean, these people aren’t in any way part of your life. You’ve grown so much. You’re strong now. You’re happy. Don’t be so bitter. Throw them a bone, meet up. Go to the fucking reunion. Have drinks with an ex. Wear a cute dress and the man you love in arm and you’ll feel like a million bucks. But the thing is, if you’re still hung up about it, you won’t.

The issue with not partaking in the ‘throw-away’ culture is that, girl, you have a hard time letting things go. It’s easier to block it out, like a bad thought late at night after seeing a horror movie, than to face it. Not because you’re afraid or not strong or successful or happy enough. But because you’re a sensitive person. And you distanced yourself from people who make you feel bad not because you’re Elsa the ice queen of your friend group, but because it’s goddamned self-preservation. You don’t want to see these people really. You maybe want to find out that they’re not as successful as you. You want to Pretty Woman those motherfuckers. But maybe they are. Maybe life is so fundamentally unfair that they are successful as fuck. Maybe their whiteness and class privilege has handed them all the things you worked your ass off for on a silver platter. Maybe they’re miserable, as you secretly thought you’d want them to be, but all it does it suck you back into their lives. So from one sensitive person to another, I’m going to go ahead and give you some fantastic advice: unless you truly don’t care, don’t. do. it.

You’ve built yourself a fort, you’ve grown and blossomed, and you love who you are. Now relish in that shit, celebrate your life and let the past be in the past. You can thank me later.

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