Build A Life Around It

by damiec

I used to believe that the pain we experience in our youth–the heartache, the suffering, the things we so desperately hated about ourselves during a time in which we struggled to figure out what kind of person we wanted to be–would grow smaller with time. Years pass and the pain begins to fade, shrinking and dissolving until it’s nearly gone. Until it’s just a faint memory that can be shrugged off as childish nonsense.

While I was home for Thanksgiving, I made the mistake of pulling out some old yearbooks from my middle school days. My husband and I were trying to trace back how we had each met an old classmate that we’d run into the weekend before and middle school seemed the most likely point of origin. Flipping through the pages and glancing over old messages scribbled in glitter pens, all the horror of my middle school years came flooding back. The hours I’d spent crying alone beneath my bed covers. The horrible things that one particular group of girls had said about me behind my back, and to my face. The horrible things I did to other people because I felt I had earned the right to be mean, having suffered so much myself. It was a terrible time in my life and thinking back on it makes me neither happy, nor proud.

But I realized that the pain doesn’t get smaller. It stays the same, holds it’s shape forever, jagged edges and all. That’s why it hurts as much now as it did all those years ago. That’s why the same kind of anxiety and despair filled my chest as I looked back over those old pages. It doesn’t get smaller. It never fades. Never shrinks. Refuses to dissolve.

Instead, you build a life around it. Like concentric circles moving up and out from a painful center, your life grows. One circle for the people in your life who bring you joy. One for the love you feel for each of those people. A circle for the things that make you laugh and smile. A circle for the hobbies and activities that give your life meaning. One circle each for the things you have accomplished. And another one for all the places you’ve been, the things you’ve experienced and seen. Life is circles upon circles of good music, soft kisses, moments of uncontrollable laughter, late night conversations by candlelight.

You keep building a life until the center, the pain, is so far away that it’s hardly visible. So that you have to travel back, through all the newer rings, past all the pleasure that you’ve built up over the years, to reach that center again. You build a life around it so that when you close the yearbook and place it back on the shelf, the pain goes with it. It recedes into the distance, a tiny speck at the center of a life full of magnificent, beautiful circles.

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