Why Your Past Can Own You If You Let It


It’s funny that for so much of my life, I fought against any negative imprint from my past, distracting my mind with alcohol and sex and the pursuit of the latter. Yet, at this point in my life, all I want is to expose all my secrets and be purified, to be free from carrying them strapped on my back for so long. I don’t need to hang on to the past like it’s a bad habit I can’t quit. Memories you want to forget only intensify the more you want to forget them.

The more I long to purify myself, the more I’ve realized that those secret memories of shame and frustration and embarrassment only have as much power over me as I’ve let them. And, wow, have I given them such extraordinary power over me.

I never had a boyfriend in high school or middle school and I hardly had boyfriends in college. I was never pursued or liked or crushed upon, not openly, not in the way other girls were. I never experienced adolescence in the way of movies. I never seemed to be a hormonal boy’s fantasy. I have a long line of crushes for boys that never seemed to share the intensity of my affection. I’m sure there are a lot of reasons for this and the biggest one is the most obvious one: I was a very closed off person, very fearful, very skittish in the name of love. Intimacy made me extremely uncomfortable. I may have thought I wanted to fall in love, because that’s what women are supposed to want, but I never truly wanted to. I simply wasn’t ready for love until I was ready.

Yet, in the darkest moments, that feeling of shame I felt for not being wanted comes crawling back into my mind. I think to myself, “Even if you were unavailable, or so you say, plenty of unavailable people are pursued. You just weren’t good enough. You weren’t pretty enough. You weren’t enough of whatever they wanted.” For a while, I tried to convince myself I was good enough, pretty enough, enough of what they wanted. I slept with guys and I kept just enough distance away from anything real so as to never find out what I thought was the truth all along: I was not good enough to be loved.

I was not good enough to be loved.

These eight words have haunted me for too many years and have caused me to drink to excess, to prove my worthiness by letting someone find their way between my legs. I’ve tried to fuck my way into adequacy and believe me, it doesn’t work. Nothing works, because nothing outside of me is supposed to work. I’m not supposed to find my worthiness between the legs of a person. I’m not supposed to believe I am worth being loved only when someone gives me love. That’s not how it works. That’s never how it was supposed to work.

The thing I’ve been missing all along—that rogue piece to the puzzle—is that there is no case to solve here. During my teenage years and into my early twenties, I don’t need to know whether or not I was worthy then or if I was just damaged by my own doing or if the timing was all wrong and I was trying to make it all right. I don’t need to know why I was not loved or pursued or deemed fuckable at that time, not because this is some feminist manifesto or anything, but because it really doesn’t matter. All that matters is right now—that right now, I know I matter. I know I’m worth being loved, because I see my own worthiness regardless of the physical evidence being present or not. I don’t need to be loved by someone else to know I am worth being loved. (Which is especially poignant to feel and understand because I am, indeed, loved by someone else, the kind of love that is impossible to receive if I don’t believe I am worth receiving it. If you think being unloved is hard, try being with someone who is constantly trying to prove their love to you, because you do not believe that they love you.)

I’ve long tried to heal these past wounds by “figuring them out” and “trying to find the truth.” The truth is that I am worthy because I am just a human being. I don’t deserve to be loved by someone else—that is a gift—but I do deserve to love myself, because that is something I can actually give to myself. I am worth my space in the world because I exist, because I am here, in it, right now. I don’t need to sludge through the muck of my past to find the answers to why I was not loved or pursued or lusted after, because it just doesn’t matter. I can see that now. I can see that right now, literally as I write this. We are in my process right now, guys. Welcome to this journey.

I think it’s enough to say that I was not loved or pursued or lusted after because I was not. It was not the time. It was not my path. It was not the prescription that was written for my life. It simply was what it was. And that’s okay. I can move on, just as I can move on with as much past pain I’ve kept locked away, afraid to reveal into the open air. My past says nothing about who I am now, not really. That’s the beauty of life: it renews and grows.

I can either look to my past for how my life is going to go—and then expect nothing less or nothing more. Or, I can choose to look forward and see the possibilities, which are limitless. I can begin again at any moment. I don’t have to be who I once was and I do not need to be imprisoned to who I once was, simply because that girl does not define who I am now. She is a part of me, but she is not me. There’s no sense in carrying that shame and that sadness and whatever I’ve made all that mean into my current life. It’s done. It can stay done.