My former student asks me if my life now is different from how I imagined it when I was her age and I almost laugh. At 27, I am almost twice her age, and absolutely nothing in my life is what I would’ve imagined. I tell her this, and I think a big ball of stress immediately leaves both of our bodies.
But it’s never wrong, I say. Just different.
I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about apologies and forgiveness. I am working on being more honest, pushing to stop myself at only saying what I really mean.
I had been using Sorry as a filler word— what other word can mask insecurity and laziness and anger and hurt and blame and frustration and all of the emotions I used to hide with an unnecessary apology? I haven’t found a replacement yet, so I feel the word form in my throat, roll around in my mouth, and leave a beat of awkwardness when I swallow it. The hardest part is determining when I am actually really sorry for things—which is surprisingly infrequent. And it leaves me feeling guilty and spent, like I am wrong to stop apologizing for my very existence.
Forgiveness has been harder. At first, I thought I needed to forgive more, but I don’t think that’s it. In line with my unnecessary apologies, I tend to hand out forgiveness like candy on Halloween. I believe in being kinder than necessary, but this often means allowing myself to be stomped on over and over by repeat offenders who have already shown me who they really are. I am struggling to hold back to only when I mean it—the need to forgive comes in waves, like seasickness that leaves my insides churning. I want to believe the best in all people, I want to treat them as I would like to be treated even after I already know that they don’t feel the same. But I also want to stick up for myself, hold true to ultimatums that will leave me better off in the end, and believe that there are some people who need to work harder before they deserve the grace of my forgiveness. Even more difficult are the times when I know I should forgive myself.
I think I need to stop living my life in optimistic quotes that stick on my bathroom mirror.
There is a Chinese curse that says: “May you live in interesting times.”
But it can’t be wrong, I think. Just different.