If I Only Knew

If I only knew back then what I know now… What would I do differently? That’s easy. Everything. Or would I? Would I be the same woman I am today if I hadn’t gone through it all? If I hadn’t changed schools? What if I’d taken volleyball more seriously or focused on boys a little less? Maybe I’d have spent more time on homework than on the phone? Would hanging with a different crowd have an impact? If things were different, what would my life look like today? Do I really want to know?

Opening up the past

Apparently my mom decided that my usage of their home as a storage space had reached it’s expiration. Over the past few months she’s been bringing over boxes and bags full of old toys, papers, and other memories. You might recall, I recently completed the KonMari Method. Because of this, I knew I couldn’t just stash all the stuff that was flooding in the door. I was still very much in tidying mode, so I went through each load immediately. But, what I didn’t plan for was the emotions that would come rushing back as I opened up my past.

It was fun to find evidence of my desire to write starting so long ago. After sifting through short stories, children’s books and the starts of novels I had written, it seems only appropriate that I now call myself a blogger. I am a saver, like mother, like daughter. In these boxes/bags, there were notes to my parents, random items that reminded me of special events or trips, millions of photos, 10 years worth of calendars and planners, stuffed animals, letters, cards and movie stubs. An unbelievable amount of artifacts that construct another person’s life. Because as I dissected it all, I realized how much I’ve changed.

Flooded with memories

There was one box full of notes passed during my junior high years. Some from me, but mostly to me. This is the box that spoke to me the most. I can see all those years ago I was already wearing my heart on my sleeve. Sadly, it caused me to crash and burn more than once. While reading these notes, my heart ached for the, boy-crazy, God-seeking, material-driven, gossipy girl who wanted so desperately to be liked. She did everything, including changed her “colors” regularly, to try and make that happen.

More notes than I can count have friends commenting on my hurt feelings, bad moods, and “boy-crazy”ness. There were hurtful letters I wrote but didn’t pass and responses to hurtful ones I did. These notes spanned years, but reading them all together was overwhelming and I found myself blushing. At certain points I even wanted to run and hide, knowing that when some people think of me, this is who they remember. It’s hard to see that side of myself now, but all I can do is be thankful. Thankful that I can recognize those behaviors from the past and that I’m not doing that stuff anymore.

How to fix the past

Through this process, I’ve felt the urge to message friends I may have hurt and apologize for things I said or did. I wanted to tell them the truth. The truth that I wanted to be liked so badly, I’d do or say anything, including saying hurtful things and ditching them. But we’ve all moved on, so I won’t. I can’t help but feel sad for the selfishness I exuded back then to people who really cared for me.

Rather than drudging up the past, I choose to be thankful for what I’ve learned and know I won’t treat those in my life now the way I did back then. There are some of these friends who are still in my life today, though. I have actually reached out to some of them and thanked them for sticking by my side despite who I was . It’s brought up some fun conversations and also given me a chance to see that time from their perspective.

Knowing Him before I knew Him

My favorite item to sift through was a box from a retreat I attended my junior year of high school. It was the start of a heart change in me. The event opened my eyes and out of all of my experiences in high school, messages and images from it stick with me to this day. I couldn’t help but think, what if only I’d have stuck close to that version of myself… The girl who desperately wanted to know Jesus. What if I stopped trying so hard to figure Him out back then, and understood all I needed was His grace. Could I have avoided much of the pain that I endured over the next 7 years? Maybe. But what would life look like now?

What I loved most about this box from the retreat was seeing the heart of a 16 year old girl who really did love God. Looking back, it was clear many times in my life I sought after Him. But when I felt like I failed, I would run the opposite direction. I wanted “the christian life” so bad, I befriended good Christians and tried to live like them. When it was “too hard”, I’d quit and do the exact opposite. It was a constant rollercoaster. Seeing all this now was like reading a teen drama and as an adult. I just wanted to hug that poor main character and tell her how loved she really is!

I wouldn’t change a thing

As the “what ifs” popped in my head, I reminded myself I wouldn’t be who I am today without all these experiences. It took every dark road, stumbling block, sleepless night and broken relationship to get me here. And here isn’t the finish line either. I’m still learning. So much. I can’t change the past, nor do I want to. Sure I wish I wouldn’t have caused so much drama, hurt feelings and chased after boys so much. But that was all part of me being me and becoming the woman I am today. It also gave me some good experiences for my toolkit that I may need to share with young ladies some day. Who knows!

The best part of all of this was seeing how God continually showed up for me through those He placed in my life. Even though I wasn’t always ready for the messages they were sharing, they chipped away at my heart and showed me what I really wanted in my life. A relationship with God and friends who support that. It took me a number of years to figure that out… but He was always knocking. And in the meantime, He allowed me to learn some painful, but very helpful lessons. Now, twenty years later I can remember and be thankful that He’s always been with me even when I assumed He wasn’t.

So what would I change from my past? Not a darn thing… <3

Learning to be grateful for the past, rather than holding onto regret or guilt. Moving forward learning from it can help us in the future, as well as allow us to appreciate the past.

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