Smiling at Regrets: When a Past Hurt Becomes a Growing Experience
Things were going wrong in Montreal.
On a whim, I bought a one-way ticket to the beautiful city of Montreal (located in Quebec, Canada) last year in May. I expected a worthwhile adventure, hopeful that I would land a good job and have the chance to explore the historic streets that once inspired me on that volunteer trip eight years prior. But little did I know, loneliness and depression would set in as I battled my inner demons alone in an unfamiliar city.
True, I had a few friends in Montreal. I met them briefly in past years on my volunteer trips, although those trips were short and I barely kept in touch. On the surface, this French-speaking city was the perfect chance for me to practice what I had learned in my French Major at the University of Toronto. It was exciting indeed, but I was still reeling from the pain of a lost relationship back in Toronto, my hometown.
What I didn't want to admit was that coming to Montreal was my escape. It was my dream, but also my way to leave behind the regret of my Toronto relationship. Montreal was supposed to be my band-aid solution as I wanted to jump start a brand new life. Time to stop regretting and begin again right? But I was running on empty.
Slowly, as my desperation and loneliness ate away at my soul, I turned to online dating. Oh, how I got addicted and started going on a worse path than I imagined! After a few guys used me simply for fleshly pleasures, I felt like a free-for-all prostitute. I felt even more hollow and I thought maybe going to church could help me.
Indeed I found solace with my new friends at church, but what was most profitable overall in this trip was that I found peace with myself. However, long before I was able to find that peace, I found a kind, loving Montreal man.
Yes, after a long summer of chasing online guys, I met a kind, loving man in the God-forsaken city of Montreal that swept me off my feet. He was a custodian at the magazine company I worked at. We met when the leaves started changing into their autumn colours.
As I attended to magazine subscribers, he cleaned the floors and came by to say hi at my desk every day. In a city where love seemed fleeting and short, I thought I finally found someone who was serious and looking for a long-term relationship.
His name was Eric. He loved me, or should I say-- adored me. I fondly remember our first date at Lafontaine Park. The fountain in the middle of the park was glorious on that sunny autumn afternoon. We walked, talked, laughed, and even kissed. The choo-choo train in the park was amusing and I posed for a photo in front of the giant cupcake statue. Memories were made and shared there.
Eric loved me, and I did care for him too. But as time went on, I realized I didn't love him. I never chose him. He only chose me. He was never what I originally wanted in a partner, but I settled for him because he was available. He was conveniently in my life in a time where I needed support, and I hung on to him only for that reason. It was not fair for him to have a girlfriend that was only using him as a crutch.
Speaking of crutches, there was a period of time in our relationship where I tripped over my girl friend's porch and hurt my foot in the middle of the dreadful Montreal winter. Eric bought me crutches and I rested at home for over 2 weeks. He was very caring to me. I would never regret getting to know him, but I did regret dating him.
I also regretted how I left him four months into our relationship. When I realized he was not the one for me, I quickly packed all my belongings and left his apartment in a flash. I don't regret leaving him in general, but I regret that I left him as alone and devastated as I was when I first moved to Montreal. However, I had to make a decision to do what was right for both of us. Sadly, I don't think he ever understood.
Relationship sunsets, regrets come and go
Finding Peace Within
There was a season in my life when every time Eric called, I would break down in tears of regret. After I ditched him, he still yearned for me. On the other hand, I did not miss him at all. Yet I still cried because I thought he was a good man that didn't deserve what happened to him. I felt it was my fault that he was heartbroken and empty.
Feeling at rest in one's soul is difficult for anyone to do. Some turn to alcohol, drugs, the internet, or other mediocre devices to satisfy their longings. For me, it was merely time and the support of good friends.
As the sun sets every evening and rises up anew the next daybreak, my regrets only lingered until their due time. Before you knew it, I could breathe again.
Looking back, Eric and I had our precious moments. As of today, it has been roughly one year since I first moved to Montreal. This hot summer evening, I sat eating poutine with my best friend as the sun set behind our backs. Once again I was at Lafontaine Park chewing away at fries, gravy and cheese curds. But this time I was at the far corner of the park, a corner I had never visited with Eric.
Seeing the fountain in the dim light of the setting sun, and watching the colourful spotlights shine up the water, I remembered. I was revisiting my memory, but with a different perspective. Literally as well as metaphorically!
At that moment, still chewing on my fries and swatting away summer mosquitoes, I smiled softly. Finally, the regret was gone.
I was happy that Eric and I shared those moments. The relationship helped me grow and become a stronger woman. I knew deep inside that this moment was meant for me to reflect and appreciate what Eric gave me. I smiled at my past regret.
Reflecting at Lafontaine Park
Remembering Regrets with Hope
No one usually use the words "regret" and "hope" in the same sentence. But today it was possible to remember my past regrets without feeling the guilt, and without feeling sad. I did have regrets but now I have hope, because I see that I have grown from my past. And I realize that those sad memories were also precious ones to be treasured.
My best friend asked me today, "Are you alright?" as I stared into the beautiful lights shining through the Lafontaine Park fountain. My response probably surprised her.
"I love Montreal," I replied calmly. "I am just remembering. I am not triggered. I am just remembering what happened here." In this season of my life, as I remembered Eric, my regrets were behind me and I felt hope and peace rising up in me.
For all those out there living with regrets, I assure you it is totally normal to have hurts and guilty feelings. However, it is also totally possible to find hope after regret, and find peace within your soul.
Take the time to reflect and find a new perspective on your situation, whatever it may be. It could be a heartbreak, a simple mistake, or any other thing that hurt you in the past. But as time goes by and you find the support you need, that thing can no longer hurt you. What once caused you regret will only make you grow for the future.
For me, all it took was finding my fountain, changing my perspective, and reshaping my memory.
You are not alone.
How do you usually find peace after a heartbreak?
© 2017 Skylar Wong