The summer I turned 13, I was miserable. To anyone who has been a 13-year-old girl, or even known a 13-year-old girl, this information may sound redundant at best. I was 13. I was a girl. Of course I was miserable.
Also of course, I in no way recognized that much of my misery was misery of the garden variety, hormonally driven, stereotypical 13-year-old girl sort. My misery, I was certain, was special.
Part of the specialness of my misery was that at the beginning of that summer, we had moved to a new town, leaving behind a boy on whom I'd had a crippling crush--a crush, needless to say, that I had never admitted out loud to him.
Because school was not in session and our new house was well outside of town, there were no new friends or even classes to distract me from spinning elaborate fantasies from the teeniest of what ifs. What if we hadn't moved for another week or month? What if three weeks before we had moved, I had somehow scraped together the courage to declare my never-ending love? What if he had loved me back?
I remember one afternoon, at the tail end of one or another of my all-too-frequent misery-fueled tantrums1, my mother was in my bedroom patiently trying to get to the bottom of my outbursts and moodiness. This was no easy task, as I was (to put it mildly) not the most forthcoming of children, particularly about any feelings that may have been perceived as "weak" or "vulnerable."2
On this occasion, I managed to squeeze out something vague about how I wished things had gone differently before we'd moved from the old place--that I couldn't stop thinking about things I should've said or done.
My mother made all the right sympathetic noises and then she said, "You know, it's really not healthy to wallow in the past."3 She went on to make the inarguable point that the past cannot be changed so it's a waste of time and energy to imagine otherwise.
Twice in the past week, I have caught myself making somewhat the same point to two different people. Both of them were talking about regrets and wasted time--of failing to live up to their own expectations, of letting themselves (and in one case, others) down. I told them (more or less), you cannot keep carrying around that regret and disappointment--the weight of it is a burden that will only hamper future progress and forward motion.
It is ever-so easy to be wise about other people's lives, but I am a wallower from way back. And I am a wallower still.
1. Because if you can't take your misery out on your younger siblings, who can you take it out on?
2. I have thought a lot about why this was the case and I have some theories, but I also have a strong feeling it's something I might never really figure out without some professional help. "Professional" in this case being a synonym for "expensive."
3. I was lying in my bed when my mother said this and she was sitting in a chair across the room, right next to the fireplace. I had a fireplace in my bedroom because we were living in a nearly 200-year-old house and there were fireplaces in all the bedrooms. They were mostly boarded up or bricked in, but still fireplaces in every bedroom. This has nothing at all to do with this story except perhaps as a measurement of the power of 13-year-old angsty misery--I mean, who is miserable with a fireplace in their bedroom?!
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