To Whom It May Concern,
In Citizen: An American Lyric, a collection of essays penned by Claudia Rankine, the author writes, “The world is wrong. You can’t put the past behind you.”
I didn’t always believe this to be true. After all, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition defines the word past as “time gone by”. Whatever you’ve experienced has already occurred, and as disheartening as it feels, you can’t go back and change that which has already happened. So when I was younger, I would extract the memory of a negative event from my mind and crumple it up like you would an unwanted piece of paper, or a poor rough draft of a story, a piece that simply wasn’t working for you, no matter how badly you longed for a breakthrough where the words would finally flow effortlessly from your pen to the paper. After that, I would carelessly toss the thing over my shoulder and forget about it.
So easy. So simple.
Except it isn’t. At least, not anymore.
Now, as far as I’m concerned, Rankine is right. You can’t put the past behind you. There isn’t a time machine to transport you back to a specific situation so you can make amends and be forgiven for your previous actions. There’s no way to right your wrongs and redeem yourself, no way to kiss the wound you’ve inflicted and make it better. I’m not one to use the word impossible all that often, but in this case . . . there it is. Once the moment has occurred, it’s gone. And there isn’t anything you can do to change it.
To get to the point here: I’ve never been brimming with this much regret. Ever. When I’m alone with my thoughts, which can be quite often, they wander. I allow them to. I remember things I’ve said, things I’ve done. The recollections of my hateful words and thoughtless actions disgust me; because of them, I’ve hurt many people who I still care very much about. I’ve driven them away out of sheer thoughtlessness – or maybe stupidity. Or maybe both.
As I mull it over, here, on this page, it was possibly . . . no, most likely . . . . It was most likely both.
I was an ugly person and an even worse friend. I still am. I’m selfish, closed off, and if you’re reading this and shaking your head, if you’re defending me by recalling the short amount of time you’ve been around me, where I seemed like a decent, happy person, then you really don’t know me at all.
And that realization really, really hurts.
It sucks. Because I want you to know me. All of me. The kind, caring me. The angry, irrational me. Not only the me who doesn’t think before she acts, but the other me who thinks too much and hides her true feelings. I want you to know every single part of who I am.
There’s so much I want to tell and show you, but where is the time? When can we meet, sit, talk? Just talk. Come to know each other. Because let’s be honest, I don’t know that much about you, either.
And I want to know you. I want to know everything.
Let me reveal something to you now, so you understand: It’s difficult for me to open up. To anybody. It scares the shit out of me. I’m afraid of a person’s assumptions about me, of his or her judgements. I’m afraid of making a bad first impression. Because what if you walk away? What if you don’t want to invest the time and effort it takes to get to know me? I mean, really get to know me, inside and out. The good and the bad. What if I decide to confide in you, take a risk and step out from behind the wall I’ve so carefully built to keep you at a distance? What if, after I’ve chosen to trust you, you just up and leave?
I can’t begin to describe how damaging the blow would be.
But if you do decide to pass me by, it’s okay, right? I’ll just get over it, right? After all, I can’t go back and change your mind. You’ve made your choice, and I have to accept that. And I’ll do just that. I’ll heal myself like Wolverine – quickly and seamlessly gluing the broken pieces back together – and get on with my life. No instant replays.
The past is the past, remember?
But it’ll be so simple. So easy.
Except it won’t be.
For the record, I’m not looking for your sympathy. I’m not looking for you to tell me that it’s okay. That despite all I’m telling you, I’m still a good person. Because I’m not.
And that’s not okay.
The way I treat the people I care about most is not okay. The way I think of myself, and only myself, is not okay.
The way I shy away from communicating what’s really going on in my head? The way I’m always wary of putting my trust in a person?
So, if you’re reading this, if you’ve actually made it this far, I first want to thank you for taking the time to do so. And second – I’m sorry. I’m sorry if I’ve ever hurt you or driven you away. I’m sorry if I’ve ever shut you out. I’m sorry if I’ve lost your trust, or if I’ve lost you entirely.
However, staying away from me is probably in your best interest, anyway. Why?
Because I’m a walking time bomb.
I’m a liar.
I’m a coward.
And honestly, I really don’t deserve you. Your kindness. Your unconditional love.
You can do so much better than me.