Far too many people live with regrets, dwelling in the past, failing to savor the present and incapable of imagining a future. Alexander Graham Bell described regret in this way:
“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”
Join me on this journey to my younger self, not of regret, but of gratitude for those experiences and people that taught me what is truly important in life.
Superficiality has no place in my life. My friendships are few yet deep and fulfilling. I learned this when, as a teenager, I encountered the ostentation of “the popular group.” They wore the right clothes, they got new cars at driving age, they boasted of boyfriends, they were the pretty ones. I lived among them but I was not one of them. I tried but failed to be a part of them.
Regret? No. Gratitude for the very younger me that realized the value of deep and loyal friendships. I learned to develop friendships with teenagers of substance and value. My friends became the ones that were loyal, uninterested in the latest designer clothes, focused on education and having good, clean fun. They taught me that choosing friends wisely helps sustain you when the chips are down and they taught me to accept rather than compare myself.
It took me longer to learn not to judge. A perfectionist by nature, and a recovering perfectionist by choice, I was hardest on myself. Trying to measure up to an impossible standard is exhausting, and perfectionists find it difficult to forgive themselves. The worst part of perfectionism is that those who live by it expect the same of others; therefore, they are constantly disappointed, frustrated and angry. They are hyper-critical and imagine themselves to be somewhat above everyone else.
“No one can do it like I can,” they reason, “so I’ll just do it all.” I am thankful for the experiences that put me flat on my back because of this attitude. When two devastating events early in my marriage plunged me into depression, I faced a decision. I could stay mired in self-pity and my loss of control, or I could learn how to deal with challenges and tragedy by moving forward one step at a time.
Those experiences taught me two things: life is not perfect and neither am I. I learned to forgive others and myself; that ability came slowly, but it changed the way I interact with people, and it also saves me from unnecessary stress over what I cannot control. My journey from perfectionism encourages me to give people the benefit of the doubt until they prove otherwise. Thank you, younger me, for being open to this lesson.
Tragedy is not always simply tragedy. Often there are deeper, more meaningful purposes being carried out. Those purposes do not lessen the pain of tragedy, but they help us to see a bigger picture, and for me, to further develop my faith in a God who does not delight in pain but understands its greater intent.
Tragedy does one of two things: it drives us away from God, or it draws us nearer to him. In my life, tragedy has always drawn me toward God, seeking his comfort, his strength and trusting that he is at work in ways I cannot understand. Never has he failed to teach me the larger lesson or given me the patience to wait. He has revealed deep truths that sustain when nothing or no one else can. Thank you, younger me, for answering God’s call to faith through Jesus Christ.
I am still a jar of clay, being molded and shaped. Note to “older me.” Keep your heart and you mind open for lessons yet to come.