Last Halloween, I showed up at a party practically unprepared. I was wearing a red T-shirt, a pair of brown shorts and a chip on my shoulder. Everyone else had taken effort to dress to the theme. There was a Steve Jobs, Sadness (if you watched the very overrated Inside Out), Immortan Joe and Super Mario. And there I was, standing proud with a (potato) chip on my shoulder that I’d cut out of yellow corrugated paper. Well, it seemed like a clever idea.
It wasn’t because I felt the need to parade a lifetime’s bitterness at the top of my shoulder. Everyone has a little baggage, but I try to avoid it.
Maya Angelou once said, “bitterness is like cancer, it eats into you”. That’s true, and it makes me wonder how people can hold on to anger for such long periods of time. Of course, as a kid, I used to bear grudges. I didn’t have a bad childhood, but you know, when you’re 10 and didn’t know better, you get into all sorts of petty fights and squabbles. You begin to hate people and you’d refuse to speak to them for days.
But then you grow up and learn to let things go, instead of storing bad memories deep in the depths of the earth, like a time capsule buried beyond easy reach.
I once asked a friend in Hong Kong, who worked for a women’s magazine, who exactly she was writing for. According to her bosses, it was “for the woman who is too busy to have sex”. They even discouraged her from dating so that her stories were more realistic. Naturally, life then was hell, and she left quicker than she had imagined for sexier pastures. It came as no surprise that those bosses were in their 30s and 40s, single, had no personal life to speak of, and had to take pleasure in making other people feel miserable.
It’s downright selfish, and I have no sympathy for bitter folk like that. But then again, it makes you wonder what they had gone through to become the way they are. Bad childhood? Bad marriage? Bad heart? Maybe. A lot of people are held back by the past. They don’t happen to be the most grounded of people, and while they seem strong, they are definitely not empowered.
Another friend, who recently got diagnosed for schizophrenia, had previously battled depression. Her parents weren’t the most loving, and with one sinking ship after another, she grew to wallow in self-pity. She felt trapped and detached emotionally from every surrounding. She stopped calling her friends, stopped doing what she loved, and before she knew it, slipped into a hateful abyss. I wish I could have done something to stop it. Yes, bad things happen, but there are ways to deal with them and forget they ever happened.
What is scarier is that the conflict you have with hard memories can be passed down from generation to generation. It affects people, if you don’t choose to let them heal.
I imagine if everyone learned to live and let live instead of demanding an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth, we’d be seeing fewer wars and there’d be less suffering for innocent parties. I mean, why let ourselves be dictated by hard feelings? It mars the truth and thwarts chances of reconciliation.
No, I’m not here to preach. Last year was tough, but I know we are all born into a story that’s capable of a happy ending. Dislodge bad memories and let the hurt dissipate, and get that chip off your shoulder to make 2016 a better year.