Past, Meet Future

Written by Nicole Antoinette

I’ve been doing the big question thing lately. The thing where I’m all, “What now?” and “What next?” and “With who?” and “My life?!”

When I’m big question-ey like this, it’s usually about the fact that I want things that feel contradictory. I want to stay and I want to go. I want him and I want to be by myself, and I get stuck in the questions and focus too much on the unknown of what’s to come and not enough on where I’ve been and what I’ve already accomplished.

The past, for me, is perspective, it’s why I’ve been keeping journals for as long as I’ve known what pen and paper can do together, and I try to remind myself during the big question times that I can take pause and look back.

When I do this, I continue to find that everything I thought was soul crushingly bad, everything I thought I’d never come out the other side of, has turned out just fine. The big decisions worked themselves out and it’s just fine and I’m that much stronger and nothing is as horrifying and destructive as it seems when you’re in the hole of it.

I flipped through an old journal recently and came across an entry I wrote about love (although really, isn’t everything about love in some way?), but this particular entry caught my attention because it came from the point in a past relationship that terrifies me about all future relationships. The point where I cared about him enough to know that I’d give up way too much of myself to spend the rest of my life curled up inside his heart.

I’m so lonely tonight. Maybe because hotels are anonymous and isolating places, or maybe because I’ve spent so many nights being with someone else that I’ve forgotten how to be by myself. I need to get out of this lonely place. Or, I need to stop feeling like being lonely is a weakness, that it’s some kind of sign that I’m not as self sufficient as I’d like to be.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about sacrifice, about what parts of ourselves, our lives, and our opportunities we give up for other people. Sometimes, it’s a sacrifice that someone else asks us to make: not talking to an ex, relocating to a new city, changing our sleeping habits, but sometimes it’s a sacrifice we know we have to make: letting go of our past, being less selfish, letting someone in. For me, the deepest sacrifices are the private ones, the things we give up secretly, the things we don’t ever tell the other person we’re giving up for them.

I’ve been there, and maybe I’m there now because if I had to sacrifice everything to be with him, I would. That’s a wildly dramatic thing to say, isn’t it? But it’s how I think sometimes, in grossly over exaggerated statements. I don’t mean to be so dramatic, but for some reason my soul finds comfort in hyperbolic absurdity.

So here we are, him and I, wherever “here” is, and I’m wondering about my priorities, about whether the path I’m taking and what I’m choosing aren’t in fact things that I’ll look back on and regret. My therapist says that I should stop obsessing about regret, because “in a predictable twist of fate, we usually spend so much energy obsessing about not letting something happen that it happens anyway.

She has been right about a lot of stuff over the past year, so I’m considering believing her about this…

Maybe it’s because I’m surrounded by friends who are married, or engaged, or in serious relationships, friends who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, or maybe it’s this journal entry from 2007, but it all has me wondering if it’s possible, I mean really possible, for me to have big love while still having everything else that I want at the same time.

And so, settling down and total freedom are having a fierce little go around in my head. And you know what? They better get their shit together soon and sort it out, because with all that shouting, it’s quite difficult to get anything else done.

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