No. Not ghosts in the sense of the dead coming back to life to seek their revenge and haunt the living. But ghosts of the past, good or bad, regrets or loves. We all have them. The things that haunt us.

But recently, I am realizing that these ghosts aren’t always a bad thing. These ghosts teach us lessons and help us to grow. We learn from our past mistakes.

When people tell you to move on, listen carefully, because sometimes they are right. Don’t hold on to your ghosts so much that you forget about the future. Instead, take those mistakes and successes and learn from them.

In The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien, a book I read in English, O’Brien uses war veterans to write about the fact that everyone carries ghosts. However, he does not view this as a bad thing, even in the hardest times. Instead, he shows it to be a very valuable thing. What would we be without our past experiences, without the people who have made a difference in our lives?  Whether they are still by our side or have moved on, in one way or another, they were important. O’Brien writes “by telling stories, you objectify your own experience. You separate it from yourself. You pin down certain truths. You make up others.”

When you allow yourself to remember, you allow yourself to heal and understand. Do not make the mistake of dwelling, which we all so easily fall victim to. What’s past is past. But don’t forget when you forgive. Tell the stories over and over again until they don’t hurt so much. And don’t let anyone make you feel ashamed for remembering. Don’t feel stupid for telling your story more than anything else and feeling the way it makes you feel. One day, the parts that used to make you cry, will be the ones that you’re most proud to tell. What seemed, at the time, to be your biggest struggles, will become your biggest triumphs.

Sometimes the stories that are the hardest to hear are the ones that most need to be told.

And learn to listen when others tell their stories. Don’t be too busy. Don’t be annoyed. Have patience, because that boy talking your ear off, that girl crying on your shoulder, one day they might surprise you and return the favor when you need it most.

Love your ghosts, and hold them close. Cry when you miss them, and don’t be ashamed. Thank those ghosts and don’t forget them. Those ghosts made you who you are, good or bad. You would be nothing without them.


Finding Happiness in Other People

Now you probably read that title and thought that I either messed up or I have some pretty flawed logic. Most people will tell you that you have to find happiness in yourself before you find it in others.

And that’s true. But other people are important too. Because the people in your life are a part of the reality that you create for yourself. The people you surround yourself with should make you happy.

Starting college, I have met a lot of new people that I love. Lots of new acquaintances and friends that have made me so happy. And I’m not talking about best friends. I’m talking about people who I say hi to in the hallway or talk to in class. And I found myself wondering why in the world new random people could make me so happy. So I began to think of the things that made my life different recently. Want to know what I came up with?

“Good luck! Let me know how it goes.”

“I’m proud of you”

“I miss you.”

“You look pretty today”

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

These are phrases of I had underestimated. When your world is small and you see the same people every day for years of your life, you lose touch with these small important phrases. These words get lost in the everyday life “what time will you be home?” “do you need anything from the store?” and “did you do the dishes?” But these small statements that often get lost in the shuffle are important, because they show us that someone cares. They aren’t professions of love or intense passion, but rather just small pieces of evidence that someone other than you is invested in your situation. And these words were ones that I had begun to not hear, and also not say. I didn’t realize how much I missed them and how necessary they are to being happy.

And of course, there are some people that, no matter what you say to them, cannot step outside of themselves enough to make you feel this happiness. People too stuck in their own world will not understand the importance of the words they say and will very rarely utter statements like the ones above. But these are the people who most often need to hear the statements they don’t give to others.

So say them anyways, even if you never hear them back.

However, these are the people we must often let go of because they start to make us think differently. These are the people that can pull the happiness out of us, often without us even realizing it. I didn’t realize how many of these people I had in my life, how much I missed hearing these little important words, until I stepped out of my everyday life and met some new people. I didn’t realize how much I had retreated, how much I had pulled myself away from new experiences thinking I wasn’t worth it, fearing I was not good enough.

Because in our world, in our self-centered generation, small acts of kindness are so rare. Words of caring are too often signs of weakness, and we are encouraged not too rely on people because they are bound to let us down. In this way, we foster a culture of rejection. We are taught not to expect too much and therefore create low standards. We are taught not to find happiness in other people. We are taught to create our happiness, no matter the cost. I have always been told that I expect too much of people. When did an investment in other people’s lives and someone invested in mine become too high of an expectation?

So I want to say that we can and we do find happiness in other people. We find happiness in the joys and upsets of other people’s lives. We enjoy getting involved in other people’s experiences, even if it is just in the smallest ways. And meeting new people is the best way to appreciate this and put it into perspective. I’m not saying we have to neglect or throw out the people that have always been there for us. That would be a horribly mistaken viewpoint. I am saying that no matter how much we love our family and closest friends, the people that we are so comfortable with, it is important to have other experiences too. It is important to step outside our comfort zone. Because only when we do that can we truly appreciate the ones we have loved for so long. Our old relationships can greatly improve when we change and grow. The best relationships should never prevent you from changing and growing.

When you start to feel unappreciated, dejected, bored, depressed, complacent, or stuck, go out and find some new experiences. Find some new people and get involved in the lives of others. Show them you care and realize that you deserve to be cared about. Reevaluate the people in your life. Offer them the words you wish to hear. If you don’t hear them back, that’s ok. Don’t stop saying them. But make sure you find people that make you as happy as you strive to make others, that put as much effort into your relationship as you do. It’s ok to expect that from people. It’s ok to expect loyalty, love, and caring. It’s ok to expect to find happiness in other people. We’re human.