Releasing Who I Was: crying for who I was, am, and could be

Sometimes, out of no where, I want to cry.

Not because I’m sad or because anything is wrong. Not because I’m so happy that I’m overcome, but just because it feels like something is building up inside and needs to be released. In those moments, which occur in calm moments, the tears don’t come. Though I feel as if my cheeks should be hot with tears, my eyes remain dry. My heart beats with a dull ache, and my mind slows to quiet, stroll through time.

If I had to assign the emotion, I’d call it grief.

It’s not the sharp, heart-shattering, world collapsing pain of the sudden death of a loved one. It’s not the intense, deep well of longing that for months afterwards. No, this is different. It’s less of a open grave, and more like a tattered photograph. It’s accompanied by a sense of melancholy and nostalgia. It’s different from many other kinds of grief because I”m not mourning something I’ve lost. I’m mourning something that is, was, and could be. I’m mourning myself.

Who I was, who I am, and who I could be are all different people.

The past isn’t tangible; our memories fade, change, and evolve with time. As such, our sense of who we were will also change as we do. As a child, I would have described myself as a “normal kid” with a “sometimes unhappy, but otherwise normal life.” As an adult looking back, I see an anxious child with trauma from a highly unstable upbringing. As I grew older and my perception of the world changed, so did my perception of myself. Likewise, how I saw myself as a teenager and what I thought I wanted, has drastically changed from age 18 to 28. But this doesn’t mean that I my past selves were wrong. I have evolved.

And sometimes I mourn for the girl I was.

I miss the sunny little girl with her head in the clouds and the jaded teenager striving for a better life. I miss the hardworking 20 year old, and the excited 25 year old. I miss the life and the futures each one of those girls would have had. Because with each evolution, my present and future changed. My life, my surroundings, my wants, my needs, and my goals all changed. At some point, the slow evolution through gained knowledge and experience made me entirely new. My mourning isn’t just for who I was at those stages, but also each of those girls could have been.

“If” is a strong word.

I’ve already written about how those two small letters can keep you trapped in the past and locked in the future. When these moods come about, “if” fills my mind. If I stayed sunny, who could I have been? If I hadn’t moved here, if I had married him, if I studied that, if I became this… It’s not all sadness. There’s pride at how far I’ve come, and joy from who I’ve met and where I’ve been. But, there’s all the lost possibilities and lost potential compound until I feel simultaneously overwhelmed and empty.

And the only way I can release all this emotion is to cry.

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