I don’t know about you, but the end of a year always makes me nostalgic. Nostalgic about the past. Nostalgic about all the goals I set for the year. Nostalgic about how everything did or did not play out like I thought it would.
The thing about looking back on things is that they’re imperfectly preserved in the past. Struggles are framed in the context of their often positive outcomes. Relationships are frozen in the state that they were, never to age, or mature, or evolve with time. Things that were so stressful and of utmost importance one minute, are all but forgotten the next.
The issue with looking back on things in the past is that they give us a warped sense of our present and unrealistic expectations about the future. We aren’t the person we were back then, and that’s okay.
That’s something that I’ve struggled with tremendously over the last five years.
Sometimes I look at something I’m currently dealing with and wonder how I would’ve handled it six months ago…a year ago…five years ago. But then I have to stop myself, because I’m not the girl I was six month a go, a year ago, or even five years ago. With each challenge, stressor, and setback, I’ve changed…and more often than not, I think that change is positive.
The other day I was at a theme park, and not five minutes into getting there, I had a GI accident that made me realize the extent to which my body has become irreparably harmed by years of trauma and continued stress on organs that barely function as it is. Sometimes I really wish I could rewind to a time when I didn’t have health issues, but over the last year, I’ve come to realize that it’s healthier to accept a new normal, rather than yearn for what was “normal” in my past. While my body is the antithesis of healthy, it’s the only one I have, and I can either live in fear of it, or embrace it.
Today, tomorrow, this year and in the years moving forward, I’m choosing to embrace it.
My new normal is carrying an extra set of clothes at all times, medication at the ready, and this unwavering pang of worry that I’ll get sick at the most inopportune time. My new normal is also talking about something I never would’ve shared before – not with my friends, not with my family, and definitely not with strangers on the internet.
To be totally honest, the accident was completely embarrassing and left me anxious for the remainder of my time at the theme park. Every stomach ache had me worried it was going to happen again, and instead of it happening in the proximity of a Starbucks restroom without a line, I’d be stuck on a ride I couldn’t get off, or in a crowd I couldn’t move through fast enough to get to the nearest restroom.
My new normal is letting go of unrealistic expectations of myself and recognizing when I’m starting to compare myself to the old me, to other people, and to a combination of the two. A healthy sense of self starts with letting go of negative thoughts that limit growth and confidence…and it’s only been in the last few months that I’ve realized how often I’ve framed what I’m going through in the eyes of who I was several years ago.
As this year comes to a close, I’m reminded of the tremendous progress I’ve made in terms of adapting to and being proactive about my health. At the same time, I’m also reminded about the areas I still need to work on; the areas I lack confidence in; the triggers I’ve yet to reassociate with positivity (instead of negativity). I don’t know if I’ll always be bothered by the extent to which my health issues curtail what I perceive as confidence and independence, but I know this is the first year I’m acknowledging they’re not going anywhere.
This year, I’ve realized that it’s a hell of a lot easier to resonate my frustrations on whomever is around when things go wrong. I know I’m leaps and bounds better than I was when I was first diagnosed and dealing with vomit and diarrhea for the better part of six to eight hours a day, for months on end; but there is still more I can do to improve.
Sometimes it’s just hard to maintain perspective when things fall apart and it feels like I’m starting from square one all over again. Sometimes I wish I could be that girl from my past who lived life so fearlessly.
Today, I really miss that girl, but not because I wish she was here today. I miss her because I never want to forget how she approached the world with so much positivity. I miss her because I wish I could tell her she was going to change so much in the next several years, when she’d look in the mirror, she wouldn’t recognize herself. I miss her because I wish I could go back and protect her, so she’d never have to experience things like loss, and pain, and a broken heart.
I want to thank that girl because she’s a bit of nostalgia from my past that will forever be preserved in a veil of unfettered innocence. She reminds me to always search for something good when everything seems bad. She encourages me to get up when I’ve fallen down, time and time again.
She is me, but at the same time she isn’t…
and that’s okay.