Have you ever heard a song on the radio or saw an old photo from your teenage or college years and suddenly you were transported back to a particular moment in your life that flooded your brain and heart with such visceral emotion that it caused you to lose your breath? Or perhaps you’ve caught whiff of a particular scent that reminded you of past adventures and experiences that were a part of your journey towards adulthood? However you are reminded of your past, do you not sometimes feel a tinge of pain? Sometimes good, sometimes bad? But either way, doesn’t your heart squeeze a bit tighter or your breath catch a bit quicker? Why is it that our memories can “hurt” even when they were good memories?
I’ve tried to figure this out on my own but never seemed to find a good enough answer. Perhaps our memories are supposed to hurt, supposed to remind us of how precious life truly is? Maybe it’s a way to keep us grounded, a way to keep us focused on the present so that when it becomes the past, we will treasure the experience even more and keep it forever in our hearts? I’m not sure if there is a scientific reason to all of this or not, but I am positive that our past will always stay a part of who we are – even if we try to forget them, run away from them, bottle them up, or whatever. WE are who we are today because of who we were yesterday.
Even when our lives don’t go as planned, even when major life changes occur – both good and bad – those moments will always be a part of who we are, even when we don’t want them to be. Friendships, relationships, childhood memories will always find a way to warm our hearts or bring a tear to our eyes. How we respond to those memories depend on what is going on in our life presently. Perhaps the memories feel painful because they were such a bright spot in our lives, or perhaps they feel painful because they were such a dark spot in our lives. Either way, the memory is there because it is a part of us, it has shaped us in one way or another. We cannot undo our past but we can carry it into our future to help keep us human, help keep us aware of where we have been and where we are going.
There are many memories of mine that pop up in the craziest of moments – the scent of wood chips on a summer day remind me of my days at camp, the sound of a song on the radio transports me back to my days in high school, the image of an ultrasound warms my skin as I remember the birth of my boys. All of these memories are painful in ways that I cannot even begin to describe…and yet, they are beautiful in ways that have enriched my life in more ways than I can count. But then there are the songs, scents and photos that remind me of so many memories of people and things that I have lost, or that are no longer a part of my life, and my heart hurts a bit. Yet this pain isn’t one that I can ignore or wish away, because those points of my life have helped shape me into the person that I am today, they have helped me learn about life, and love, and loss in ways that no book or encyclopedia could ever do justice. The learnings and experiences I have gone through are one of a kind in the sense that they are now written within my DNA, within my very being, and they can never be taken away. Though they may “hurt,” they are also blessings in disguise as they remind me to never take anything for granted because you never know when the present will become the past…and sometimes we just aren’t ready for our present to become our past.