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There is a saying that a person who makes no mistakes usually does not make anything.

It’s been a week full of ghosts. Thanks to social media, it’s harder than ever to leave the past behind. Even when you aren’t directly involved, it’s hard not to bump into twitter posts or Instagram uploads, Facebook posts and mailing lists. It used to be, when you left someone behind, that you just had to make sure not to walk down the same street as them, maybe avoid their favorite bar. It was much easier to avoid and detach.

But now, damn social media keeps the ghosts trapped in a spider web, reminding you, just when you’ve tried to forget, that your past is littered with mistakes.

I’ve always tried to adopt Madonna’s approach to learning:

“…her true genius is a facility for learning. She is a quick study. One of the only things consistent about her career is her ability to absorb and incorporate knowledge at an alarming rate, allowing her to stay one step ahead of critics, competitors, fans and trends. Some accuse her of being pretentious since she started speaking in a British-tinged accent, but rather than being an affectation, it is simply further evidence of her adaptability and spongelike nature. Before I leave her presence, she will actually count on her fingers the things she’s learned from me.”
– Neil Strauss, Rolling Stone, December 1, 2005

I’ve tried to view my mistakes as productive, as lessons learned–either of what not to do again or of what to do (or choose) differently. But this week, the ghosts have hung heavy, lingering reminders of bad choices and bad people. There have been a lot of them lately, and it’s been a struggle to remember that even those bad choices had good results, good lessons learned.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?

It’s crushing to read that someone for whom you tried your very best, someone whom you left in a better place than you found her, can only say “thank god it’s over” and “man, was it toxic” when talking about your relationship. Disappointing that someone for whom you gave years writes you off in less than half an hour. When two people you introduced got married and forgot to invite you.

It’s hard for me to think poorly of people because I do think that most people mean well. I think people get busy and distracted and overwhelmed, but I don’t think most of them are actually cruel and selfish.

But when ghosts from my past swirl up to remind me that yes, people are cruel and selfish, it can feel a bit disheartening. And then I have to struggle to remind myself that scars heal, and that, with time, they will serve as reminders of battles fought and risks taken. That mistakes were made, but, along the way, so was a life.