“I’ve wasted half my life,” I wailed to my friend from my spot curled up against the doorframe on her checkered kitchen floor.
She turned from loading the dishwasher, “Don’t ever say that. Nothing is ever a waste.”
At that time, I certainly didn’t agree with her. After all, I had just realized that some or all of the past sixteen years had been a lie. I learned that the man I pledged everything to had been manipulating and conning me. I was in the process of losing everything I worked so hard for – from the house to the savings to even the dogs.
I felt defeated.
It was not unlike spending money and time anticipating a lavish vacation only to come down with the stomach flu upon arrival. Only this vacation spanned the better part of two decades and wiped out more than just my appetite.
I wondered how I would ever come to terms with squandering sixteen years. After all, I could rebuild my finances, find a new home and even a new husband, but time was one thing I could never get back.
I gave most of my teenage years and all of my twenties to this man.
Years that now felt wasted. Opportunities passed by and paths never taken.
I felt like I had been led blindly down a dead-end road. A worthless journey to nowhere.
I grew angry, blaming him for stealing my years. My youth. My potential.
I wrote scathing words in my journal about the unfairness of it all, the pointed tip of my pen slashing through the pages. I spent hours crying about the loss, not only of the future, but of my past.
One night, the sobs suddenly stopped and as my breath hitched down to normal, I realized that these hours spent mourning the “what ifs” were the real waste. Not the years I spent living, even if it that life ended.
In that moment, curled in a fetal position on the worn and tear-stained flannel sheets in my friend’s spare bedroom, I vowed to not waste any more time thinking about what could have been. I promised myself that I would never again view those years as wasted.
Because nothing is every wasted is ever wasted if we enjoyed it in the moment.
Nothing is ever wasted if we learn and grow from the experience.
And nothing is wasted because it helps shape who we are today.
To see those years as wasted was really a reflection of how I saw myself after the piercing pain of rejection.
But those years weren’t worthless and neither was I.
Those moments may not have been deposited into the life I expected, but they turned out to be an investment into an even better future.
Choosing to see those years as anything-but-wasted was a gift of forgiveness to myself. I made the best choices I could have at the time. And now I know better and I choose better.
And I choose to make sure to live a life that I will never feel wasted.