I’m about to get all Rafiki on y’all. (That’s the monkey from the Lion King, in case you didn’t know…)
One of the biggest struggles I’ve consistently had over the years is dwelling on the past. I wasted my four years of college isolated in my boyfriend’s basement with no friends. I should have spoken up sooner. I wasted my childhood not being myself. I was such a tattletale. Why on EARTH did I let my eyebrows grow that thick????
When I started therapy at 23 years old, it got worse. Why didn’t I go to therapy and start taking meds for my OCD sooner? But my therapist (repeatedly) reminds me that, first of all, you can’t change the past, no matter how much you obsess over it. Second of all, it is NEVER too late to embrace your inner bacon (i.e. your unadulterated self).
That sounds like a pathetic attempt at comfort and reassurance, but based on my own personal experience, that’s not just some vain shit I’m spouting out there, Skippy. I fully believe in second chances.
Why I Believe It Is Never Too Late
I virtually had no friends growing up. The friends I did have all idolized my sister, so I basically gave up trying and focused all my energy on helping out around the house, watching my younger siblings, and doing schoolwork.
Then I went to college and for one hot second, I had REAL friends. Friends that were MINE. But that was short lived, as those friends abandoned me as soon as I started dating my first boyfriend, who made me feel very isolated for the rest of my time at school. So again, I fell into the routine of work, school, cleaning, rinse, and repeat.
When I finally started going to therapy, it hit me hard: I had wasted my life living in a robotic fog. I didn’t do any of the things I really enjoyed doing, had very few fun experiences, hadn’t taken any risks, and barely even knew who I truly was as a person. It hit me like a sack of bricks, knocking me into the deep end of absolute misery and regret.
It hit me so hard that I considered suicide. (My come-to-Jesus story, As Bad As You Think, is now available on Amazon in paperback and eBook formats.)
During my stay in the psychiatric ward, there was no frickin’ way anyone could have convinced me that I still had time. That it wasn’t too late.
Yet here I am.
Between 23 and 27 years old, I’ve made new and fostered existing close friendships. I’ve had so many fun and unique experiences that I often smile to myself randomly throughout the day thinking about them. I’ve learned who I am and what I like – some things I never would have guessed about myself in a million years but that I absolutely love. I laugh almost constantly (my apologies to the people who know me). I’ve become somewhat of a mentor, in situations that apply to my experience. And I’m making people laugh as part of a local improv comedy team.
If I hadn’t “wasted” all that time, I never would have appreciated all the amazing things I’m experiencing now, and I may not have experienced them with these incredible people currently in my life.
Now, I’m not saying you should continue wasting time staying withdrawn from people, holding off on applying for that job, or staying in an icky relationship. What I’m saying is this: once you have that moment when you realize something needs to change in your life, be kind to yourself. Be grateful that you know what you know NOW. Don’t obsess over “what ifs” and how much time you’ve “wasted.” No matter how much you overthink it, nothing can change the past. (*Shudder* that thought used to depress me so much.)
That doesn’t mean you should grieve and be miserable. It means quite the opposite, actually. Everyone has a different timeline. Just because someone you know was the popular prom queen in high school doesn’t mean it’s too late for you to rock the friend scene in your 20s, 30s, or even 40s and beyond. When you see your life as it is (unique to you, awesome, meaningful, an unwritten story full of possibilities, etc.), you’ll actually find that you are not only able to have all the things you missed out on during that time you “wasted,” but you can experience them in even bigger and better ways than you could ever have imagined.
FOR EXAMPLE (Yes, it’s story time):
As a kid, one of the things I always longed to be was funny. I wanted to be the funny one in the family; the funny one in friend circles. But I shoved that part of me deep down because I was convinced that I wasn’t allowed to be the “funny one,” since there were already a gazillion “funny ones” in my family of 11 people.
Even in my college relationship, my boyfriend was already “the funny one,” so I continued to smother that part of myself, convinced that it wasn’t my place.
Fast forward to today…
I am an active member of my community’s improv scene. I get to be silly ON STAGE, in front of people, making them laugh. People associate me with comedy; they know it’s a hobby and passion of mine. I have a little black book dedicated to jokes and random funny things I think of throughout the day.
Yes, it took me until my twenties to finally live as “the funny one.” But I guarantee you that it would not have been as much fun or exciting had I experienced it sooner. Hell, I doubt I would have even gotten involved in improv at all – who knows??
My point is, your past happened. You can’t change that. In the words of Rafiki, “It doesn’t matter! It’s in the past!” What DOES matter is this: “Yes, the past can hurt. But… you can either run from it or learn from it.”
I learned from my past that I’ve always wanted to make people smile and laugh. So I’m going to live my life doing exactly that in the coolest, riskiest ways possible; not wasting a single moment to make up for all those years.
Some people feel guilty for not “discovering” their true purpose or passion in life sooner. This is another trap to avoid like the plague. You wouldn’t expect a newborn to be an expert at calculus math, even if he lands on an open textbook when he pops out of his mother’s womb. That’s not how this works, Karen; that’s not how ANY of this works.
Your marriage didn’t work out? It’s not too late. You’re only just now starting therapy at 40 years old? It’s not too late. You haven’t made your big break in acting yet? It’s not too late. Your eyebrows are growing over your eyelids? It’s not too late.
Be patient with yourself. Some things simply reveal themselves to people later on. It doesn’t mean you did anything wrong or incorrectly along the way. It simply means you had to learn a few things first, so that only YOU can do whatever it is the way YOU do it.
It’s never too late to do what your bacon was meant to do. So what can you learn from your past to get your bacon cookin’ today?