“Pain is temporary, but growth is eternal. Once you experience true growth you can never return to who you once were. ~ Christa Janine
This past year I’ve had a lot of time to go inward and find moments of self-reflection. The one thing that has been consistent throughout this whole process of growth is that it is hard and it’s painful and sometimes you’ll want to give up on the journey. What I’ve been struggling with recently is the reality that even if you do grow and change you still have to deal with the consequences of the bad decisions you’ve made in the past.
This is the part of growth we seldom hear about. This is the part of growth that makes people want to give up or throw in the towel or just say “Eff it all.” However, this is the part of growth that teaches us the most. If our past was automatically erased when we decide to do better or be better then no lesson could actually be learned. We have to feel the pain of our bad choices in order to grow from those moments and hopefully never repeat those same mistakes again. We also need to feel this pain so we can dive deep into our motivation for even choosing to travel down that path in the first place.
I’ve made a lot of bad choices in life, and the crazy part about it is that I knew they were bad decisions when I made them, but I consciously choose to do them anyway. When I was in high school my mother referred to these periods as my “self-destruction mode.” What she saw was me signing up for more responsibilities at school or with community organizations, taking on a full course load of advanced placement classes, and working out excessively for absolutely no reason at all. What she didn’t see on top of all that was me drinking excessively with friends, doing drugs (like actual drugs, not just weed folks), cutting myself, and having a lot of sex with older men. Once again I have to take this moment to point out that I knew none of these decisions I was making at 16 and 17 were good ones, but I consciously made them because I was completely empty inside.
As a teen and young adult, I had two missions in life. One, to stay as busy as possible and two, stay as numb as humanly feasible. I was depressed and unhappy and feeling nothing at all seemed like the lesser of two evils. I never wanted to truly create intimate relationships with anyone and often felt the world would be better off without me in it. The sad reality is at 16 I didn’t think I’d even live to be 30 so the consequences of adulthood were completely irrelevant to me at the time. Society and God had continuously let me down and I didn’t feel the need to live by a moral compass set by either, because the reality is I was hoping, and ironically, praying that one of these bad choices would result in my ultimate demise.
I know this all sounds bleak and depressing, but that’s clearly not where the story ends. I eventually did the work to shift my paradigm and deal with the past traumas that brought me to the point of not wanting to live. However, despite that shift, I still had to consistently do the work to deal with the long-term impact those decisions had on my life. The reason it’s so hard for me to trust people is that I constantly put myself in a position to be hurt by others in the past. The reason it’s so hard for me to lose weight today is because of the years I practically starved myself to be thin and look “fit.” The reason my finances are all mucked up right now is because of the impulsive decisions I made when I was younger that still impact my credit today.
Now, this is the part of most stories where people say let this serve as a cautionary tale...blah blah blah. But I’m not most people and this blog isn’t for young folks trying to navigate through their teen years. This is for adults who have been where I’ve been, who’ve hit rock bottom, who know what it’s like to proverbially live on the dark side of the moon. This is for people who are struggling to move forward because they’re constantly beginning reminded of their past. I’m here to tell you that I know it will be painful and I know that at times you’re going to feel defeated, but the other side is worth the pain. The side that brings you to growth and joy and renewal is worth the frustration it’s going to take to get there. I say these words out loud to you because they’re words I have to remind myself of daily as well.
My life today is substantially better holistically than it was a decade ago or even five years ago. Yes, I still struggle but I now have the tools and support to keep going forward. When I want to give up I remind myself of all the things I’ve overcome already in life. I remind myself that my strength comes in doing the work and then surrendering the rest to God. I remind myself that my past was here to teach me a lesson and that the lessons I learned were put in place to help prepare me for my purpose in life. I share my story because I know it’s a story of many others can relate to. I share my story so people know they’re not alone in their pain. I share my story in hopes that it will inspire others to do their own work and never give up on themselves or their purpose.
The reason I’m a wellness professional is because I want to help as many people as I can do the work to live their lives to the fullest. I want to inspire people to not only survive but to truly thrive. I hope you can find inspiration in these words. I hope that if you’re considering quitting this will inspire you to keep pushing forward. I hope you read this and understand the pain is temporary, but the growth you’ll experience will penetrate your soul eternally.