The Past Truly Is the Past
You may even wonder if it is possible to move on—and it might not be without professional guidance to help you process everything that your past represents. It’s not a process that can be rushed; you have to be honest with yourself as to whether or not it is time to let go of the past. Maybe the answer is “not yet,” and that’s okay, but at some point, you have to be willing to say, “From this day forward, I am choosing to live.” Too often, we fall into the trap of thinking we need to have everything figured out before we can act. You don’t have to have a road map before you set out; you don’t even have to know the direction you’re traveling. You just have to be willing to move and leave the past behind.
The unfortunate part is that those emotions of hopelessness and doubt may resurface again and again as you push ahead. But if you can focus on the moment when you said, “This is it. I’ve made my decision,” you may find it is a little bit easier to recommit yourself to the path. Don’t be discouraged when it feels like you are moving backward. I know: That’s easy to say and difficult to do. But it is an essential part of healing. Letting the past stay in the past means that you recognize that any setbacks moving forward are simply part of your new journey, not a sign of failure.
Don’t Hide Your Scars
The thing about scars is that they bear witness to something in our past. They are a reminder of an incident, an injury, an accident, or a mishap—something that went wrong. But they are also a reminder of something that went right: The body healed itself. It created new tissue around the injury in order to protect it and close it. That can only happen if you are alive; scars mark you as a survivor. And, given enough time, most scars start to fade. Your body has the ability to preserve, protect, and persist.
Scars mark you as a survivor.
There is a difference between a wound and a scar. A wound is still fresh; it runs the risk of infection if it’s not tended to properly. It can still cause pain. It may need to remain covered until it has healed sufficiently to be exposed. But the time will come to remove the bandage and let sunlight and air do their healing work, too. Only you will know when that time is, but when it comes, I hope you are not afraid or ashamed or embarrassed. Your scars may not be pleasant to look at, but what they represent is a beautiful resilience and a toughness that no one can ever question or take from you. Wear your scars proudly. Wear them for yourself, to honor what you’ve been through. And wear them for others, to connect with them and inspire them to keep on fighting.
You change. The people around you change. Relationships change. Even your understanding of God changes. Everything changes. But you are supposed to stay motivated . . . for what? For a future that is still totally unclear? For a life that some people have decided is too much for them to handle? For all the people who didn’t get this second chance? Maybe. Stay motivated. Wisdom comes with time, and perspective comes with distance. Sometimes you feel overwhelmed by the extraordinary turn your life has taken, and sometimes you are caught completely off guard by a phone call on a seemingly normal night.
Recognition is nice, but it can’t sustain you.
Stay motivated. It gets old. It gets predictable. It becomes cliché. But in the end, it’s good advice. And sometimes, you don’t need platitudes or well-wishes or rousing speeches or photo ops, you just need to remember to take the step right in front of you and keep pushing forward, come what may. Honors and awards are great, but they don’t always happen—you have to keep moving forward anyway. Recognition is nice, but it can’t sustain you—you have to keep plugging away on the awful days as well as the great ones. You have to keep trying. You have to keep hanging on, even when there doesn’t seem to be any reason to stick to it. You have to find that reason within yourself. You have to stay motivated.
You’re Going to Fail . . . and That’s Okay
Sometimes, we don’t get what we plan for. Sometimes, everything can go wrong even when you do everything right. You’re going to fail . . . and that’s okay. The question is what you do with that knowledge. If you don’t even try because you might miss your goal, you miss out on life. We are all going to face defeat, and more than just once or twice. How you react under those circumstances is what matters—do you give up? Do you push on? Do you give it your best shot for your own peace of mind even when you know it’s a lost cause? That, to Kyle, is the real measure of perseverance; it not only shows us who we are but also forces us to think about what we could become.
The question is what you do with that knowledge.
There is a quote from Teddy Roosevelt that sums up this idea perfectly: “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly . . . who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” It is the act of striving that marks the difference between true success and failure. Kyle wrote, “All of my exhaustive preparing, all of my long, intense training—none of it had mattered in the end. I failed. But what did matter was that I put one painful foot in front of the other.”
Say Thank You
There is power in moving from someone who only receives to someone who is able to give, too. For Kyle, it marked a major shift in his view of himself and his view of the world. Even though his healing journey will never really be over, the opportunities he has had to thank people have helped him move beyond the chapter of his life dedicated to recovery; now, he can look ahead to whatever comes next, making something out of this life that so many people worked to save.
The healing power of saying thank you is immense.
Whether to a teacher or a parent or a mentor or a friend or a pastor or a health-care provider or a quiet supporter or an entire community, there is freedom that comes with expressing appreciation. It is acknowledging their role in the progress you’ve made from “there” to “here,” whatever that may look like for you. It closes the loop.
Gratitude is one of the most important parts of becoming a whole person and building a life of significance. Gratitude requires wisdom to recognize the roles of others; it requires humility to admit you couldn’t have done it alone; it requires strength to be able to give part of yourself back to someone and know there is still enough of you left to thrive; and it requires inner peace to be able to say, “What you did for me helped create a life I am glad to call mine.”