This past weekend, I went to a bridal shower for my old roommate from college. I was a bit hesitant at first because I have a giant fear of the unknown. I wondered who would be there, who wouldn’t, if it would be awkward to see people, would I even know anyone, etc. My anxiety was once again taking the wheel and steering me right off a cliff into a pit of nervousness, but it was my duty as a bridesmaid to be there for her. I don’t know why I let my mind go in a million different directions about a simple luncheon at a wonderful restaurant. Free food. Free drinks. Why was I worried again?
Much to my surprise, there weren’t that many people there that I knew. I kind of ventured over to the corner with my fellow bridesmaid and friend, Jenny, who is my right hand (wo)man through all of this, to sit down at a table and mingle with some familiar faces. While we ate some amazing food, ooh’d and ahh’d over some pretty great gifts, and clinked our glasses to watch the soon-to-be bride and groom kiss, the doors to the private room creaked open. I turned around to see two faces I hadn’t seen in years, and in that moment, I was overwhelmed with joy. Jenny and I yelped with excitement and the now four of us embraced in hugs. All the worry and tension melted away. The four of us (and the bride when she could get a moment free from being the most beautiful woman in the room) talked and caught up and laughed until we cried and had stomach aches for the rest of the afternoon.
For the rest of the shower, all I wanted to do was play “Remember when…” and reminisce about all the amazing times we had in college—five years ago. We couldn’t believe it had been that much time since we all lived in a dormitory with no air condition and all the roaches our freshman year. As we told stories and exchanged “I miss yous,” I was so happy that I could have cried. I am already the most emotional person the planet, so it took all I had not to just start weeping at the table about how wonderful this moment was (plus one of us was getting married! Surreal!). It was like time had no passed. It was like we were back in that dorm with the roaches, eating Ramen noodles and drinking Skol because that’s all we could afford with our laundry quarters. I could have sat there and strolled down memory lane the rest of the night.
After the shower, I was on a happiness high. I came home and told my parents all about how much fun I had and couldn’t stop to take a breath for fear that I would forget to tell a single memorable moment from one of the best afternoons I had had in a long time. Looking back and re-telling old stories made me so happy and comforted. It also made me realize that the past can be beautiful.
I know a lot of us are determined to leave what’s in the past in the past and move forward into the future. Don Henley told us, “Don’t look back, you can never look back,” but I’m not sure if Don got it 100% right, guys. I will fully admit to being semi-obsessed with the past and nostalgia and reminiscing. I go through old Facebook photos and posts, I look through old photo albums, I read my old journals, old blog posts, etc. I love keeping everything that ever meant something to me because I never want to forget a moment of what led me to right here and now. And this doesn’t have to be a bad thing (though some friends would call this ‘emotional cutting’).
The past is something to be remembered and cherished. If we forget our past, we will forget so many remarkable moments—stories, memories, kisses, laughs, smiles, cries. I am not saying that the past should determine anyone’s future. I do believe in moving on from what has happened and coming to terms with what has passed – but that doesn’t mean that we should forget it all together. Our past can be a great tool to have in our toolbox for life. We can learn from the past. We can protect ourselves from making the same mistakes twice, thrice, and then a fourth time for good measure. You can’t just throw your past away and pretend it never happened (though I’m sure we all have some moments we’d like to erase), but those erasable moments are the ones that matter most!
Everyone has moments from long ago that they’d rather forget — painful memories that make us shiver or cry or cringe, but those are the memories that teach us how to live and be the best versions of ourselves today. Our memories and history help define who we are today. We are every bruise and scar we received from every battle we have fought. We need to honor and respect our past and the battle wounds that come along with it. Never forget the moments that led you to where you are and more importantly—where you’re headed.
Katie is finishing up her undergrad at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. She enjoys wasting hours on Facebook and tweeting things no one cares about. When asked the question, “Do you do marathons?” She promptly responds, “Of course! Which show?” Follow her @KatieGarrity! Or read her personal blog where she talks incessantly about Ryan Gosling and hummus here!