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A Shelf Full of Old Journals

Tonight was supposed to be my room-cleaning night. Well, two nights ago was, and then last night was. But tonight was REALLY the night. As I picked up the random stuff on my floor: socks, Christmas presents, loose dryer sheets; I stumbled upon my beautiful old leather journal. I got it almost exactly 5 years ago and it was one of the best gifts I have every received. For the first time since I wrote it, I dove in to read the words I knew would hurt my heart. This journal covers the roughest part in my life- when I was constantly battling with how much of myself to give to God (and conversely, how much of myself to give to my ex boyfriend). It covered my complete dependence on my ex as well as the breakup that I thought I would never recover from.

While I read, I noticed, more than anything else, that these experiences that i wrote of still had a large impact on me today.

In between a few pages, I tightly tucked in a letter from one of my dearest friends. I had cried and confessed to her about some of my struggles and she said, “in a few years, these mistakes won’t matter.” All of these hurts from him and hardship and conflicts wouldn't matter. How comforting at the time.

But now in hindsight, I can say- how wrong.

I have scars. I still criticize my decisions. I still struggle with sins that I invited in 5 years ago. And I still whisper to myself “fool” when I get relationships wrong. I read this journal and see my past-self falling for lies and excuses. And then I realize that perhaps these past misjudgments have, in a way, led to my supreme caution in present relationships. I am protective of my heart to a fault and I am very unwilling to give the benefit of the doubt to men. I have been changed. My faith in myself and my faith in (certain) others have taken a hit.

And that’s when I realized that things go deep. We are complex people, complex beings. And things that the world considers small can create some of our biggest scars.

Sometimes, I think that we only feel qualified to be hurt by “big” things- sickness, deaths, divorces, affairs, emotional trauma, disorders, etc.

But if anything creates BIG change in you and BIG hurt, then those things are big things. And maybe the moment we address them as such, we heal a bit of our hearts that weren’t even open to healing before.

For me, I previously thought that being betrayed by a high school boyfriend wasn’t worth the energy that I assigned it… So I ignored and denied that it caused any change in me. And I didn’t understand that I would need any kind of healing.

Its only now that I read my 18-year-old words, see my trust in him, see how I was fooled…that I notice how I let one man influence the way I address others now at 23.

If when I meet someone, he or she addresses me poorly, perhaps they are doing this same maneuver. Who knows how many “little” things have caused bruises and scars in people’s lives. I have a shelf full of journals on my bookshelf, just from college. In 4 years, I have filled around a dozen journals with my experiences, lessons, pain, joy, etc. Even if others don’t write them down, I know that they have also had countless events, attitudes and emotions that have impacted them greatly. Seeing people as complex beings with high school break-ups and friendship dilemmas can hopefully bring understanding and empathy to me and to you.

His cruelty seems to come from his rejection and hurt. How could we take it personally then?

And then, with this empathy, maybe we will all be on each other’s sides. Or at least have a little more grace. I know I’m pretty hard on people that mistreat me, and thinking of their story isn’t my first inclination. What if it was? And what if we stopped ranking people’s hurt based on what the world says should be “big” and what should be “little” deals, and just loved them and helped them heal?

I hope in 5 years, I can reread journals from today and actually acknowledge that some “little” things have hurt me. I want to look back and see that my admittance of that hurt has led to healing. God knows- healing can happen! Also- starting now, why don’t I assume that people can still be influenced by their past hurts? When I meet someone that seems to have a chip on his/her shoulder, I would prefer to picture their shelf full of journals- perhaps leather like mine- filled with instances that have had lasting impact. Lets be people that are FOR the people. Healing for them, healing for me – that is what I hope to see.

my shelf

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