memories

Rev(ital)ised: Nothing Can Take It Away by Michael Nichols

This one was born of my struggle to accept things that I cannot change and live my life beyond that moment.

31 January 2009 at 3:41pm -- from Facebook Notes, revised 3 February 2014

I’m a very attentive person when I try to be. I try to take in everything I see and hear (granted, my short term memory span doesn't exactly help). I especially notice opposites: modesty versus immodesty, truth versus lies, depression versus joy, helplessness versus having a grip on life, etc. And I especially notice when people have changed and when they have something to hide.

It seems to me that, while most of the people I know are generally normal and okay with their lives, a few people have issues, and having been through stuff myself, I keep on asking myself, "What can I do to help?" and I think I have an answer.

I don’t know if you've ever been there, but have you had something that you treasured more than anything, then you made one simple decision for better or for worse, or maybe something happened that was completely beyond your control, and it was gone, in all likelihood to never be within your grasp again? I struggled with this myself, and even though you can feel the absence like a severed vein, I know one thing to be so true: nothing can take it away.

What do I mean? Two things, mainly.

First of all, nothing can take away the pain. It’s just not going to happen. Take any meds you want. Drown it out with substance abuse. You might get a high off of it, but it won’t change your life. It won’t take that situation you have and make it alright. And complaining about it definitely isn't going to help, though we all need to let it out every now and again. Making it a lifestyle for attention, though, isn’t going to help you. Sure, it’s great to ask people for advice and help when we feel helpless, but crossing that line to create drama only hides the real issues, preventing you from finding real help.

But secondly, there is a parallel to the fact that nothing can take away the pain: nothing can take away the memory. While the memory is what creates the pain in the first place by making you long for what you once had, the memory is also the one thing that can truly eradicate it. If you have that good memory that you wish you had back -- that girlfriend, that home, that church, that family member, anything -- you can say, "Hey, I had that. I was fulfilled in my life. I had a close connection with a person. I achieved that goal." Maybe somebody moved, passed on, you lost something precious, a friendship was shattered, your abilities have faded (mental or physical), but nothing can take away the fact that they were yours, and nothing can undo the past, good or bad. So if good is in it, find it, and hold it.

No matter how much you’ve lost, at least you can say that you had it, and remember that life doesn't end here even if one chapter does. Don’t lose sight of reclaiming what you can, but if you can’t get it back, even if it’s difficult to accept, please, for your own sanity, try. You will slowly start to see how good you have it and how good things can become if you refuse to let the past enslave you but instead let it propel you. Your life may not be a bed of roses. It might not even be a little rosebush. But at least you’ll have that one rose, and regardless of how many thorns have to prick your hand to hold it, you will still have it to nurture and behold its beauty.

Semester Four, Week Six by Michael Nichols

I just finished my second response essay for Dr. Herman's MUS 206 (that's American Music History), and I must say that I've realized that I've done a lot of second guessing and freaking out over things I shouldn't have and overthinking, a process of which I am the undisputable master. I had a choice of four topics to choose from. My choice, in short, was to talk about the significant role a band has played in my life.

Now, I know what half of you are thinking. "Oh, no. He's going to ramble to his professor about every single Yellowcard record in existence." Shockingly, no -- I think it's relevant that I'm currently listening to their song "Only One" from their release Ocean Avenue Acoustic. Actually, one of the possibilities explicitly stated in the topic description was that I could talk about my own experience being a part of a band. So, that's what I talked about.

Everything came back to me, how we started out as a pair of strangers at a coffee-and-music event put on by a local church (which I'm now a part of). I remembered how I had this decades-old guitar with a broken saddle being held together by scotch tape and supported by a bottle cap. I remembered I sang a solo version of "Shadows and Regrets," also by Yellowcard, a mutual favorite band. I remembered being this lonely teenage cynic who wasn't sure who or what to trust or believe in, other than having learned all his life that Jesus is the main person to trust, and that He is trustworthy.

I remember writing all of these super angry-depressed songs but hiding behind an exterior that pretended everything was okay at home and at school and at a very old-school, conformed-to-tradition church, when I felt like I belonged in none of those places. But then I remember meeting this dude who liked to write and play music like I did, who believed in Jesus but didn't condemn me for not following every nit-picky little tradition to the letter, who treated me like a normal person. To this day, he's still a bandmate, co-writer, and one of the best friends I've had, who's been there through some of my darkest times, helped me make sense of stuff, been a voice of compassion and a fire under me when I needed both. I look forward to continuing to work with him and be a friend to him the same way he has been to me.

But there are some things I didn't remember. Not that I forgot all the mistakes I've made, all the good times I've missed, all the bad times I could have avoided, all the people whom I've betrayed or have betrayed me, all the people whom I've hurt and have hurt me, the ignorance, the idiocy, the immaturity, all of myself and others -- no, I haven't forgotten those times... but unlike what has been true of me since spring 2008, I think back on these times with this awesome friend of mine, whom I'd tag here if he were on WordPress, and I don't think about the dark times. I still hold them in the back of my mind as lessons I've learned, but they're just echoes now, things that have no more power over me.

When I wrote my essay, I related it to the music, but in writing that essay, I realized all of this other stuff. No matter how hard life has been so far, I haven't been stopped from living, pursuing what I love, being human, or believing that Jesus loves me and has a future for me both here and in eternity -- though, for those of you who don't know, I've come close to all these things over the past five years. That's the power that one single friend among billions of people on this planet has had...

... and that is why I believe in good, why I believe in love, and why I believe in God.

Nothing in this world has been able to take away my joy, and by the grace of God alone, nothing will.