The Eraser

I talk to myself a lot.

My parents find it strange when they walk in on me, but we always end up having a good laugh about it.

The thing is, in my mind, talking to myself is therapeutic. It is also my way of preparing for the future. 

I have many dreams of standing in front of a crowd, giving speeches that resonate with people, and moving them towards change. Different things come to me in different places at different times; in the shower, watching a video, reading comments, or seeing other stories. 

I have lived a good life. I have supportive parents and family. There was never a time I shared my thoughts, and they would tell me to come up with something else or try to talk me out of an idea. In all my years, there were many things I wanted to become, and I always had their support. 

When I wanted to be a doctor, my mom would sew my lab coat for career day and help me prepare my speech. At sixteen, I fell in love with the ocean and wanted to become a marine biologist. Though they were unsure how far that dream would take me, they supported me all the same. When I told my dad I wanted to try getting my stories published, he encouraged me. Again, he said he would help with whatever expenses I might encounter. 

Still, with all the support I received, I never seem to find the will to chase my dreams that seem to be running further and further away. I was always stuck in the past.

As I sat on the balcony, my thoughts began to stray, as they always do. The small talks I give myself are birthed from the ideas that roam my mind. Previously, it was about speaking out and the joys of sharing ideas. In truth, speeches scare me. I am not good at giving speeches in public, but in private, with no one else around, the words flow like a river. In those moments when I speak, I am in an environment of my own, completely detached from the world around me. 

The balcony fades away, and I am once again on the stage, looking out at an expectant crowd. I never see their faces; they are always in the shadows. One day, I would stand in front of real people and observe their genuine responses to my words. Looking at my fingers, I begin to speak to myself, still picturing that I am somewhere else.

“What would you do if you had the chance to go back into your past and erase the things you are not proud of?” I believe that everybody has those thoughts. There are so many things when I think about them. The phrase “why on earth did I do that?” comes to mind. I wish I could go back and change a few things. Still, the nature of time is that it only moves forward. When something is in the past, it remains there. If there was ever a disruption that gave me the chance to go back in time, a portal opening to those different points in my life, providing an opportunity for change, I wonder what I would do. How about you? Do you wonder? “Can you list a few of the things you would want to change?”

Naturally, I get no answer as I look past my hands to my swinging legs. The crowds are numerous, but each of them wears my emotions; they are my creation, after all. My thoughts and all their answers are the same as mine. Still, I continue to speak, my voice strong, my confidence rising with each word I utter.

“Let’s say I get the chance, and I go into every memory that haunts me to make a change. I won’t send that manuscript because I know it will be rejected. I won’t say those words because I know it would hurt my friend. I won’t enter that competition because I know I will fail. What comes next? I have erased those disappointing moments. That lie, that picture, those words, they are gone. I no longer remember them. Now, I have nothing to be embarrassed about. My past will only have good memories, the things that bring me confidence, that assure me I can do whatever comes to mind. There is a catch, though, a big problem; I no longer remember. Sometimes amidst the pain of memories, I fail to see how those mistakes shaped my upbringing. Those moments keep me away from the lies, embarrassing posts and words. Sure, they stuck and occasionally brought me embarrassment, but I knew the result and fought never to make those choices again. 

“If I take an opportunity to go back and erase those moments, I erase the gains that came from that particular incident. If I erase the memories of failures, how would I know that there are corrections and improvements to be made? If I can’t remember feeling ashamed, what would stop me from returning to the same things I got the chance to erase? In the end, after I make the change, there is a high chance I will make those mistakes again. The hardest thing to grasp is that pain and mistakes are vital to growing and moving forward as success and joy. Making mistakes is like taking a vaccine into your mind. Its lessons lie dormant until you face that situation again.  

“Mistakes make you grow, but they are not friends. Like fire, they are bad masters because they would overtake you if you let them. Forgetting them reduces growth, but accepting and moving forward… adds to you. Let’s say you made a mistake and said something you shouldn’t have about a friend. The friend found out and is now disappointed in you and considers you disloyal; it breaks your heart. If you forget this incident, go back in time and change it, you are liable to repeat this mistake tomorrow. If you remember and work to earn your friend’s forgiveness, even more so, maybe they don’t forgive you, you are less likely to make that mistake with other friends. The key is to let go. It was the biggest trick I had to learned. And to be honest, I am still learning to this day. Because no matter your age, you never stop making mistakes, truly. It is easy to go for the eraser and walk into that time and erase it, but it takes courage to walk through it.

“Okay, let’s travel back to reality because no one has the technology or the means to go back into the past to change anything. That was just hypothetical. Being human, every mistake, every pain, every rejection, and every negative emotion we have ever felt at any particular time cannot be erased. You can’t unsee that message. You can’t unsay those words. You can’t undo that event. It is done as soon as it is done, for better or worse. You can choose to say, ‘though I have been rejected, over and over, I am still going to enter that competition.’ You can choose to say, ‘though I made a fool of myself in that past relationship, I won’t give up on myself.’ You can choose to say, ‘though I failed myself, I have another chance to stand up and get it right.’ Our internal eraser wouldn’t work like the hypothetical one, but in my opinion, it works best. In the hypothetical scenario, there is no learning experience. Once you erase it out of memory, it’s gone. Our realistic eraser, our internal eraser, doesn’t erase the mistake but can erase its hold on you. 

“Think about this. Let’s say, for example; I was a bully for years in high school. This is all theoretical, by the way. I wasn’t a bully. Okay, back to the scenario. I was a bully and turned my life around years after high school. I began to help children who had been bullied. I do my best to leave that past behind me. If I met someone from my high school that knew me, maybe someone I bullied when we were younger, there is a chance that the person would not believe that I have changed. Some people might say things like, “you can never change”. People who would begin to remind you about your past, the things you are now ashamed of. If you have not erased the hold of that past, their words will set you back. You may start to wonder, ‘why try’? Why try to be different and helpful if they will never forget how you were before? 

“But if you wash them away and grow out of your past, nothing others would say can have power over you. The reason is that learning from failure, mistakes, and pain makes you the master, not the servant.  That way, you accept that you have done what cannot be changed but move forward, determined not to be defined by the past. You haven’t forgotten. You aren’t acting like it never happened. You are no longer allowing yourself to be controlled by them. 

Would that be easy; no. I am older now but still fighting some of the binds myself. Other people facing the same problem might get ahead before you, but don’t be discouraged. That’s life. It is possible that a problem you have outgrown someone else may be battling with it. We are all different. Your strengths are someone else’s weaknesses, and your weaknesses are someone else’s strengths. There is no reason to shrink away and think it is impossible to achieve. Start that journey today. No procrastination. The more you say it is impossible to let go, the more it would remain impossible. The moment you decide to let go, no matter how many times you get knocked down, you will remember that there is an end goal, and you will stand back up. 

“There is joy that comes from looking back and seeing how far you’ve come. A euphoria to having the binds of the past disappointments fall away, making air spaces for you to finally breathe. The feeling of that freedom is special in its own right; it makes the journey worth it. It is not something you do for your friends or family or to save face. It is something you do for yourself.”

My head turns to the sky, and I stop speaking, the rest of my words fading into the hot afternoon air. I always do this; speak to myself. I hope to share words one day, but more importantly, those that give me strength. I am a classic overthinker, and my thoughts overwhelm me more often than not. I can contemplate one thing for hours on end, and they are mostly negative things. Each time I fail at something—a competition or an exam, for example—the only perspective my brain zones in on is that I am not good enough. I think on this over and over, looking through all the words I could have said differently, feeling less for not having won. As a result, I am constantly afraid of trying because my brain reminds me of all the times it didn’t work out; I was certain I did my best only to fall short. It is a daily struggle to remind myself that there is too much in the future to remain sour about the past. 

One day, I believe I will be able to remove the last holds on me. It would take more than a while, but it is a battle I am not ready to stop fighting. There is too much at stake to wait and to see how far the past can sink me. My dreams are drifting farther away from my reach amidst my constant uncertainty. Like the clouds, I admire each time I sit on the balcony, high and beautiful but too far to touch with my hands.  My worst pain was not knowing how far I could get simply because I was afraid of not being good enough. Everyone has failed. I am not the exception to that rule. I have to grow from the fear of not being enough. I will rise from my failures to actualise my dreams. There is a lot of work to be done, but whatever the end might be, I know that the beginning starts with me. 

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