I was having a somewhat serious conversation with The Girl the other day, and we were talking about how neither of us have really done anything evil. I mean, I’ve beaten a guy into submission because he wouldn’t stop trying to hit me, and I did try to steal that one CD back when I was in high school. (Funny story, that one. Maybe for next time?) But neither The Girl nor I have really hurt anyone… That we know of.
So we got to talking about a theoretical situation where I do end up doing something horrible to someone. For example, let’s say I run over someone with my car in a fit of rage during a roadrage incident. You know, one of those moments where you see red and totally act on instinct? What if I ever did that?
“Ren as we know him would cease to exist,” I told her.
“How so?” she asked.
“I try to hold myself up to a higher standard, and doing something like that would be very unlike me… So much unlike me that it would not be me after that.”
“How do you reconcile that with that thing you did back in 2002?” she asked, pointedly.
Yeah… That thing back in 2002.
I’m not going to get into details, but it has to do with that other blog post where I’ve forgiven myself for things I’ve done. It wasn’t a big deal. No one got physically hurt, but someone did get their feelings hurt in a bad way. (Mine were a bit mangled after that, too.)
I know I’m making it too vague, and there’s some among you who might be seriously wondering what’s up. Don’t worry about it. It’s all water under the bridge.
“That wasn’t me,” I told The Girl. “That is, it’s not the me you would meet four years later and marry four years after that.” It’s true. We change a lot from one year to the next, or from one phase in our life to another. We certainly change a lot throughout those phases, so much so that we might not recognize who we’re looking back on. I certainly don’t recognize the Ren who did that thing back in 2002. That Ren was a stupid kid.
But I love to death that stupid kid.
See, as you move through those phases in your life, you need to let out your demons, take them for a walk. The more you store things up and they begin to fester in your mind — or in your past — the more they cause you stress and trouble. I don’t mean that you need to tell the world about your demons, or write it in a blog, but you do need to take those demons out for a walk and show them the light of day.
Since 2002, and before that of course, I surrounded myself with people I could trust, people I could tell about my misadventures. They offered the best advice and all of their support when I told them the things I had done (or left undone). I’ve found that this is the best thing to do in order to deal with those things, those demons. Leave them inside you long enough, and they start to transform you into something… Well, into something that was not what you had in mind for yourself when your principal told you to write a five-page essay on where you’ll be in five years.
(True story. He did that to me, and then a similar storyline happened on Smallville and I almost died. Yeah, okay, I died.)
Seriously, though, you need to talk it out and find people who you can trust with these big issues of yours. My main recommendation is an impartial person who will keep your secrets (#SetecAstronomy) and is trained on what questions to ask to help you through your issue. My second recommendation is a good friend who can keep your secret. (Bonus if they can also go to your house after you die and blast your cache.) A third recommendation is some random stranger. My fourth, and final, recommendation is to just talk it out with yourself.
Whatever you do, don’t let those things fester in your head. Of all the things (and people) that should not live rent-free in your head, demons are the most dangerous.
Speaking of secrets…
Oh, look. I’m out of time. Maybe next time?
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
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