Rewriting Your Story
Late one night, I decided to take a stroll down memory lane by going through my blog archive. I’ve had a few blogs in my lifetime. I had a blogspot once, and then wordpress, and then God knows what blog-hosting-site. Before deleting each one of them for good, I exported all my posts into a folder.
Going through one’s old writings is fun and cringeworthy at the same time. On one hand, it’s nice to see that my style of writing has evolved but the biggest difference that struck me the most was how I’ve aged. You may be thinking: “Now now Sarina, don’t you mean ‘how you’ve matured?’’’
No, I mean aged. There’s a certain feeling of tiredness when you use the word ‘aged’.
As I went through my old posts, you could tell it was written by a very young and innocent soul. I was chirpier and had the optimism to light up a whole village. You could almost feel my youth in every word I wrote. I never understood then why people in their 30s or 40s would respond to my positivity with things like: ‘Ah, you’re still young that’s why.’
Now, I get it.
This is probably my pre-menstrual hormones talking but I had to pause and mourn the loss of my younger self for a bit. It sounds dramatic, perhaps even depressing, but it’s true: the younger, more enthusiastic me isn’t coming back.
Flashback to early 2016.
In the midst of mourning over my late cousin Lil, my grief tripled after realising that not only did my cousin die but a huge part of me did, too. So much of my life and happiness had been touched by this one special individual that when he died, it was difficult to recognise my own self.
I remember looking in the mirror and seeing the reflection of a young woman completely broken. Her eyes were swollen and she looked scared. I remember thinking: I don’t recognise the person I see in the mirror anymore. Who have I become? I want the old me back.
Two years have now passed since that moment and I find myself looking at the mirror again, except this time, the mirror is my heart. I stared deep within and asked myself the same question:
Who have I become?
Although it would be nice to retain the same level of innocence and naïveté I once had, these things have to go to as I grow to make room for the wisdom that life brings. I used to think that grief ruined me; it made me dull and left parts of me unrecognisable. In reality, what grief or any other unpleasant event in my life did was to shape and colour the masterpiece that God is creating out of me.
Saying I am imperfect is as glaringly obvious as saying I am human but I’m not disappointed with myself either. I don’t say this as a sign of satisfaction with my current state—far from it. I know I’ve to be better. I have to be more thoughtful, more empathetic and less egotistic, among many other things. But I’m grateful that Al-Hakim, The All-Wise, gifted me this chance to reflect on my present self when I decided to read through my old writings.
Pain shapes us as much as happiness does. Each moment of joy and sadness we experience are significant and alters our expectations on how life should be. Once we are touched by joy, we think this is how happiness should always feel. Once touched by grief, we think this is how life should never be. But in truth, life is however it has been written for us. The worst can happen to anyone and we will have to learn how to deal with it when the time comes.
We study history to understand the current state of this world—if we reflect on our own past long enough, it helps us to understand OUR current state and gives us a guideline of what can be improved. On top of that, we also learn how to deal with certain situations better as time goes by.
Change the narrative.
Think of a memory that hurts.
Something that once made you cry yourself to sleep. Something that made you worry like no other. Something that made you angry. Something that made you dislike yourself.
You can’t change your past however regrettable or heartbreaking it was but you can change how you choose to look at it. It’s easy just to never visit our past and forget it altogether but what we ignore, we can never learn from and history is bound to repeat itself.
Ok, let’s try another activity. I want you to go back in time to that same memory which hurt you. Now, picture yourself in detail. What were you wearing? How tall were you? How did you feel?
Now, with the knowledge and wisdom that you have now, what would you tell your past-self that would make him/her feel better? What were the words that you desperately needed to hear at that time?
Think about it long and hard. If you don’t want to play out the scenario in your head, write a letter to your past-self. A lot of times, we think we need to be reassured by someone else but what we don’t realise is, the worst criticism we often get is from ourselves and it’s actually our own toxic opinions that we need to save ourselves from.
We can’t change how people view us but we can change how we view ourselves. The person you’ll have to live with for the rest of your life is ultimately yourself, so don’t forget that YOU are in need of compassion just as much as the person next to you.