Taylor Swift, once wisely denoted, “This ain’t for the best
My reputation’s never been worse, so
You must like me for me.”

I’ll never know why you did what you did to me, the way you did. I’ll never understand fully what you’ve been through in the past. I’m sorry your past before me was hard. And, I’m afraid, there aren’t enough questions this time for me to ask and try to bridge those gaps or enough bandaids for me to fix the deep wounds from your past. I wanted compassion, I wanted communication, and I wanted you. I told you I would always choose you if you gave me that option. You didn’t. You stole that option away from me. You turned it around and made me feel like I would never be enough for you. And when things got hard, like I knew they would eventually, you did the one thing I promised you that I would never do to you – you ran. Maybe you never wanted to be with me. You ran first and my pain soon followed.

It made me reevaluate if I really knew who you were or if I had the wrong understanding of your character. I really wanted to see the best in you and to let us be who we were without the ghosts of your past. But I wasn’t enough for you. I could see that you were still haunted. You promised me you would let me in with time. But that’s what you took away too – time. You didn’t let us grow and mature. You left us in the dark before we could see the sunlight again. I wasn’t enough for you. I would never be enough for you. You had seen enough. That’s what you told me and that’s what the weight of your words meant, remember? All my friends saw the red flags and heard the sirens in the aftermath. When the fireworks paused, and the smoke had risen, all that you had left for me was alone. You gave up on me. My friends didn’t give up on me. They ran too – but towards me. They had my back, and may I always have theirs. I wasn’t ever going to judge you for your past, but you let your past destroy us.

The answer to your question was that I did hurt deeply, and I did forgive you. You already have enough demons than anyone should ever have to carry. If absolution is the only thing you wanted from me, which is what you made it seem to be, I hope you find ways to fight your demons. I hope you find peace. I hope you find all the things you wanted in someone, in yourself: faithfulness, perseverance, and mercy. Be kind to yourself. The world has already been too hard on you. The demons have been hidden for too long. It’s about time that you get rid of them before it kills you completely – before you become hollow, hopeless, and numb – before you disassociate again. I hope next time you won’t let them destroy something you built with someone else. I hope you don’t let them destroy you. Don’t worry about me. Like I told you before, there wasn’t anything you could do to hurt me so deeply that I couldn’t be fully repaired. I’m healing, and I hope you are too. Of course I’m still hurting. You meant too much to me for this not to hurt. I meant everything I said. I’m sad that you didn’t give us enough time to see what I meant what I said. There’s a lot of us that I’m sad about. But with time, I’ll fully be healed. I do realize what was sacrificed for me to heal. I had to sacrifice trying to hold onto us by myself and any dreams I had for us. I hope for you to heal fully too. I hope that one day you’ll find someone who matters so much to you to that you wouldn’t run from them. I hear memories of your footsteps sprinting in the opposite direction. You were running, fast, and now you’re too far gone from me. I can’t reach you. I hope you can still reach yourself. We can’t make any promises now, can we?

Leveling Up: The Philosophy Behind Navigating Pain

Often, our most painful moments are the ones we grow from most. I’m not advocating that we purposely enjoy pain or put ourselves in positions that hurt us – not at all. That would be silly. But what I am saying is to think about pain like the analogy of a blacksmith crafting a sword. You are the sword, I am the sword, and we are the sword. Only through the fire, the analogy of pain, does the sword get hardened and molded into something sharp. Our minds, bodies, and will can be sharpened too. We can gain perseverance, perspective, and resilience through the heat. We can become the heroes we’ve always wanted to be. If we want, we can be the heroes that don’t wear capes but seem like everyday people. But we’re different. Just take a look at how we’ve built our character. When a dog is behaving incorrectly, the owner takes the dog to get retrained. When humans act incorrectly, life can hand them a punishment to get retrained. Maybe you don’t get something you want. Maybe you aren’t fully the person you thought you were once. Maybe you can’t have it all. But that’s okay. It’s more than okay, it can be great.

Sometimes we need our minds, our hearts, and our self talk to be rewired. Sometimes, I believe that life is like a test. If you fail the test, you have to retake it. If you go through something hard in life, but you don’t learn from your mistakes the first time, life hands you a similarly hard scenario to go through. But there’s a difference between life’s tests and academia’s tests. In life’s tests, there are no real shortcuts. You can try to cheat the system, but life will find out, and life will hand you more punishments because you haven’t truly mastered the test. If you want to the pass the current level, slay the dragon, beat the big boss, you have to go through real training, real pain, and level up. That’s why they call it growing pains because you’re growing and you’re hurting a lot. Just imagine yourself in the gym. When you work out and you’re working your muscles, in order to gain new muscles, you body literally has to rip your old muscles apart and that’s why you’re sore after working out. You’re like developing a new skin, a new armor.

In the last year, I’ve been through a lot of pain. But at the same time, when I was coached to lean into the pain, to discover and introspect on why I was hurting, that made me grow exponentially. I’ve had to revisit my life choices and find out how I got where I am. I’ve had to look into my inner demons and tell them that I’m in control. I reconsidered where I want to go, if I have what it takes to get there, and how I want to get there. This last year, I’ve grown a ton, and I’m extremely grateful that my coaches didn’t give up on me. They believed I’d get through the pain, that the pain was temporary, and that I’d be more than okay. They were right. We are not alone. In our successes, we’ve gotten where we’ve gotten because of mentors, supporters, friends, and colleagues. In our failures, we are not alone. Other people have been through it too. Other people who are just like me and you. We are not alone. I had a lot of negative self talk. But it wasn’t true. My inner demons were lying to me. I believed in myself negatively so much that it hurt me and almost killed me. I believed I’d never improve at some things that I deeply valued. But then, with help, I learned how to control my mind, my feelings, and how to ride life’s waves. I truly believe I am now more equipped with a toolset that I’ve never had. That’s why I won’t regress or slip back, and if I do, I know how to get help. I’m willing to get help and understand the importance of asking for help. We are not alone.  I learned how to become and utilize the other parts of my personality that aren’t innate, natural, and preferential: I’ve learned how to turn on the switch for extroversion, sensing, feelings, and perceiving. I’ve learned how to live a healthier lifestyle through meal prep, sleep, exercise, hobbies, friends, and choosing activities that make me feel like I’m achieving and enjoying. I’ve learned how I am becoming the person I’ve always wanted to be and gain the characteristics that I’ve valued most: being able to make strangers feel comfortable in a conversation, persevering through hard times and getting through it stronger, being able to ask for help and not letting ego get in the way, and being able to voice my opinion rather than being a wallflower.

So my friend, if in pain you are, it might actually be your guiding northern star. Maybe you’re in fear of your career, have choices that you don’t know how to make, or you feel unlovable. Maybe you feel like giving up – but promise me you won’t. What’s hurting right now might actually be the remedy you needed to level up. It doesn’t seem or feel like a blessing right now, I’m sure. I’m sure you’re asking, why you? Why do you have to go through that pain? But let me tell you, my friend. Let me tell you that not only will you get through it, not only will you become stronger, but life has given you a gift in disguise. You will now be able to truly empathize and be aware of that same pain you’re growing through and see it in someone else. You now have the superhuman ability to help others who are lost just like you were once – and that to me, is the greatest gift pain can give.