We are often told to never look back; to not worry about what has happened, to focus on the future. Yet, sometimes I can’t help but look back. I relive the choices I’ve regretted, hear the words I wish I hadn’t of spoken and find myself feeling guilty for wasting years of my life, trying to be something that I thought I needed to be.
I have always wished that I could go back to high school, to do it all differently. If I made different choices at fifteen, didn’t take so long to stand back up after falling down, I could have carried on with my education and then maybe I could be living the life I had planned.
Looking back, there were years of pain and hopelessness; moments where I don’t even recognise myself, but maybe that was because my life was on hold. I was existing but not living. It’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy anything during those years, I just didn’t enjoy it with the enthusiasm that I knew I could. Maybe if I did take it all back it would turn out better, but would I be who I am right now? Would it be worth the risk of not meeting the people I have or losing the memories I’ve created if I tried to start again?
But even in the past year or so, when I’ve felt less distant, more me, I’ve felt as though I’ve had to play catch up. Whilst I was on hold, everyone else was still moving: having fun, growing wiser, achieving. Maybe that’s why I lack confidence, feel vulnerable or still feel judged by others? I’m still catching up with my teenage years. But we don’t have to catch up because there is no time limit. There isn’t a check list at every milestone birthday. You’re not forbidden to blow out the candles to your cake and officially enter into a new decade if there isn’t a tick in all of the boxes. I certainly wouldn’t have made it to 20 if that was the case.
Unfortunately, even when we come off hold, it doesn’t mean that we will no longer experience the pain and frustration. After struggling for so long, we finally reach the end of the tunnel; beams of sunlight warm our cheeks, making us feel free. But then after walking a mile, we then stumble across another tunnel. It doesn’t seem fair. But life isn’t fair, which is why we have to gather up what we’ve learnt so we are better equipped for the next hurdle.
It’s as if we start life with an empty first aid box. We’ve got the box, the potential to help ourselves, but life would be far too easy and simple if everything we needed was already at hand. We would never learn, change or grow. Every time something doesn’t go to plan, we can learn from that, maybe in the form of a plaster or antiseptic wipe, but it’s up to us to put what we’ve learnt into our box, to help ourselves for the next time we cut our finger, or maybe to provide a plaster for somebody else. Also, the box doesn’t have a limitless supply. Once you’ve thrown in one bandage, that bandage isn’t going to keep multiplying every time you need one. You need to check when your supplies are running low, to be mindful of what you might need or if you need to borrow an eyewash from someone else’s box. It’s okay to ask others if we don’t have what we need, but we can’t always rely on their supplies.
When we are on hold, we build up strength, patience and perseverance, so then when others experience something similar, we can comfort them with what we’ve learnt. We can also provide them with hope; reassuring them that things will get better because we are proof of that.
It can be fustrating that after holding for 8 minutes and 57 seconds, listening to an annoying tune that is then stuck in our head for the rest of the day, we are just told that there is nothing more the person on the other end of the phone can do. We are no further forward from when that person put us on hold.
‘That was a waste of time. I’ll never get those minutes of my life back!’
Even when our life is no longer on hold, we feel fustrated – we’ve wasted too much time. Maybe that’s also how we are feeling during lockdown…
‘I could have been doing this,’ ‘I should have never done that,’ ‘if only I knew…’ but we are not in charge of the button on our stopwatch, so if we can’t do anything about it, shouldn’t we just make the most of it?
It’s easier said than done but what if we just trusted time? Maybe this isn’t where you wanted to be today, but what if the things that got you to today didn’t happen exactly as they did? Would you have those friends, travelled to that city, gained those skills from that job or experienced love with that person?
Being on hold teaches us. It forces us to stop. It gives us time to collect our thoughts. It not only allows us to learn from our mistakes, ready for when similar obstacles occur, but it provides us with a pause – a chance to think things through before we speak or act. When we are forced to hold, we realise what we actually need, which is what we should replace with the things we are using, just to make do.
Coming off hold and living again doesn’t mean that you are immune to being on hold, you just now know what to look out for – if you want to. We all have a choice, whether that’s listening to someone giving us advice or to our bodies to know what we need. It could also be looking out for signs of a trap that could lead us down a darker path, it’s up to us to recognise it.
If you are on hold right now, whether that be because you are experiencing pain or if you feel like you aren’t where you’re supposed to be, what it is it trying to teach you? Always be on the lookout for the positives.
There is hope whilst we hold because we haven’t stopped; that’s why we are holding. Don’t put pressure on how things should be, whether that be pressure from people around you, society or those doubts in your mind. Trust time.
Start each day with a heart full of hope and be grateful for what you have right now. I know. It seems pointless because it won’t change the circumstances, but it acts in the same way as a candle. When the power has gone off and the batteries to your torch have run out, the candle can still provide light from its little golden glow. The candle doesn’t fix the fact that there is a power cut or that you don’t have any spare batteries, but it’s what allows you to hold on. It gives out warmth, its scent brings comfort and the flickering flame allows you to find hope in the fact that even when everything seems to be dark and broken, little things can still bring you light.
So, if I happen to stumble across a magic lamp and a genie popped out of it, asking if I wanted to go back to being fifteen, I think I’d turn down his offer. Yes, I might not be where I thought I would be at 23 but then, is anybody? Trying to fill the boots of the perfectionist only filled me with pain. I didn’t think I’d ever say that whilst still living at home, with no major milestones such as graduating, but just by being exactly who and where I am right now, I’d be happy. But I am. Perfection lied. It has been lying all along. Life doesn’t need to be perfect in your eyes, your family’s eyes or society’s eyes in order for you to be happy. So, I’m pulling off my boots of perfection and leaving them out for the genie, because fairy tales are exactly where perfection belongs.
Hold on with hope.