Updated: Dec 10, 2019
“What if I forgave myself? I thought. What if I forgave myself even though I'd done something I shouldn't have? What if I was a liar and a cheat and there was no excuse for what I'd done other than because it was what I wanted and needed to do? What if I was sorry, but if I could go back in time I wouldn't do anything differently than I had done? What if I'd actually wanted to fuck every one of those men? What if heroin taught me something? What if yes was the right answer instead of no? What if what made me do all those things everyone thought I shouldn't have done was what also had got me here? What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?” -Cheryl Strayed
This quote from Cheryl Strayed’s memoir, Wild, is by far one of my favorites, if not my favorite. It brings up a lot of emotions for me. I cannot completely relate to her specific experiences, but I do know what it feels like to want to forgive yourself for things that aren’t necessarily deemed “forgivable” by others or by yourself. What is forgivable? What isn’t?
There have been many times in my life that I’ve done things I shouldn’t have. Some are small, others are bigger; some of them are so far in the past yet still run through my mind as if they happened last week. That pinch of regret rises up from its sleep in the pit of my stomach and I could actually laugh at some of the decisions I’ve made.
You look back and see such an estranged and distant version of yourself that’s barely recognizable to who you are today. Why did I do that? How the hell was I ever into him or her? Why didn’t I know better? How could I have been so dumb?
Sometimes my friends and I will get together at one of the places we always loved in high school. We’ll sit in one of our parents’ backyards with a bottle of wine, an old playlist we used to listen to and flip through our book of memories as if they were yesterday - some certainly feel as if they were.
We’ll look at all that we’ve experienced in the nine years since graduation and most times we’ll laugh at all of the dumb decisions we’ve made. Things we never imagined ourselves doing and others we wish we could go back and change. Of course, there are always the things we never believed we could do that we have now accomplished.
But what’s most interesting about these nights or the random moments of my day where my mind trails back to past experiences, is that all of it always leads to something. It may not have led me to where I hoped or expected to be, but nonetheless, it still led me to a greater awareness of myself.
Remembering specific moments that I’m not too proud of – moments that I never imagined I would get over – I can now see that in some puzzling way, I wanted and needed to do those things. I wanted and needed them because without ever having experienced them, I would have never known the type of person I wanted to be.
We would all love to live a life without any mistakes or regrets; we all want to reach this level of perfection. But what is a life without ever messing up? What’s a life without taking chances? What’s a life without ever being sorry?
Some of the most revealing moments of our lives are after we have gotten lost and have spun completely out of control – after we have hit rock bottom. These are essential and necessary elements to life because they remind us that we are human, that we are not immortal, and that we still have time to make amends and change.
So, what if you forgave yourself? What if what is driving you to being lost and crazy is the same force that's steering you to being sane and found? What if you were always redeemed – then, now and in some far off place in the future? What if this is all meant to be, exactly as it is, regrets and all?