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The Best of Times and the Worst of Times

Every moment is more than the pain that we see

By Jessica NorrisPublished about a year ago Updated about a year ago 7 min read
The Best of Times and the Worst of Times
Photo by Jakob Braun on Unsplash

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us..."

A classic start to a classic book. Oh, how the English language has declined since that day. It's quite a profound opener, to be sure. And as I look back through the pages of my life, I think of the best of times and the worst of times.

The best of times

I look back through the photos of when I was the happiest. This one certainly comes to mind:

It's of my siblings and me when we were in South Carolina. This was a time in my life when I felt most like myself. It was my first time participating in National Novel Writing Month. I was starting to discover the "writer side" of myself and felt like I could share my writing with the world. It was my senior year of college, and I was in school full time to get my bachelor's degree. While I could have been working as a nurse, I decided to take the year to have a little more of a social life. I had a whole year to be an average college student, with a typical workload and a normal amount of free time.

But if I could take you back to one of my happiest days, it would be the day that I took this picture:

This is a pic I took when I went hiking, right after finishing my last night shift. It was a time when I couldn't stop smiling, and in any picture I took, the smile could not have been more genuine.

I was full of a newfound exuberance. I couldn't stop laughing and smiling, and my world felt more happy and bright than it had felt in a long time. I had a day shift, a real day shift, and I could sleep at night! My wonder in the ordinary was awakened once again; the simplest of things became exciting.

We look back on the best of times in our lives, and we want to go back. And these feelings become particularly strong when we're going through rough times in the present. Wouldn't things be better if we could go back to then?

The worst of times

I've had a pretty good life, full of many blessings, but I've had my share of hardships and pain, just like everyone else. When I was thirteen, I was diagnosed as a type one diabetic. That week in the hospital was one of the "worst" weeks of my life. My potassium levels got whacked out, and I spent three days in the ICU. And I received a diagnosis that would change how I lived every day of my life.

Then there was surviving nursing school. I spent two years in isolation, spending every spare moment studying and feeling like I couldn't engage in socializing or enjoyable activities for fear of missing out on valuable study time. To make things more painful, I cut things off with my first love interest during that same time frame. I experienced emotional turmoil, and it took a long time for me to heal.

My time on night shift. Top off nights with a global pandemic, working with COVID patients, and no longer being able to do the things I loved like dancing or karate with others, and you have a recipe for a bad time.

Now I'm off pursing a career as a freelance writer. I look back on those days and shudder at their unpleasantness. Those are days I would never wish to return to.

When we have these "worst of times" memories in our heads, we tell ourselves they were terrible. And we start to believe that every moment of those times is tainted and flawed.

But were they truly the best of times?

Our memories can be deceptive. We can make our memories extreme and romanticize the best of times.

I look back at the photos again, and I realize that they are not as perfect as I would care to remember. The same year of that photo on the beach, my grandma had died, and I had broken up with my boyfriend. That year wasn't just the sunshine and beach that the photo shows.

I got a day shift in 2020, a year of havoc and a global pandemic. And even though I had a day shift to call my own, so much with the world was still wrong. Things were still shut down, and people were full of fear. My own life was going well, but there was plenty of pain and hardship in the world.

And I realize that no time in my life has been perfect. It's life. And while it doesn't seem fair to take all the good memories and admit that they are tainted, the reverse is also true: the worst of times weren't actually the worst.

They weren't really the worst of times either

The time of my diabetes diagnosis was hard. But I see the good that was happening at that time too. A diagnosis meant that I had answers. And when I finally started getting treatment, my health and strength returned. I was able to eat again, and I had energy. People came around and supported my family and me. My pastor and his family, members of my church, my neighbors. I remember when our neighbor from across the street brought me a sketchpad and oil pastels (one of my favorite mediums). It gave me something to do in the ICU.

I remember coming home from the hospital and having pizza, and that was some of the best pizza I've ever had in my life. Learning how to live with diabetes was a challenge, but I had a great family and support system to help me.

Nursing school wasn't all bad either. I had friends to help me along the way, like my second breakfast buddies: Noah, Jeremy, and Matt. And nursing school taught me to be disciplined and focused. And later, I was able to help other students as a tutor and supplemental instructor, something I couldn't have done if I hadn't been through it first myself.

The time on nights? Yeah, it was draining, but there were moments of appreciating the vastness of the night sky. And those long nights awake during my time off saw me rekindle my love for writing and push me toward later career choices.

And in the pandemic, I had the support of my family and those in my community. They were there to help me through those hard times. The pandemic showcased the strength and resilience of so many. And it was a time that allowed me to reevaluate my priorities.

Not romanticizing but finding the good

Our memories and mindsets are often partial and inaccurate. I tend to frame events as good or bad and not see the nuances. My point is not that you should start remembering all the bad stuff that accompanied your happiest moments. But it's helpful to remember that fixating on the memories of our "perfect" pasts can often keep us from moving forward.

And it's easy to see only the hard things, but there is often good still happening in those circumstances. As the song goes, "Your blessings come through raindrops." There are still reasons to be thankful, but we can't see the good if we aren't looking. Cliché? Yes, and maybe I sound superficial.

And yet, I challenge you to see the good in the your hardship because there are good things. Good people who are investing in your life. Opportunities for growth and personal betterment. The testing of your faith developing perseverance.

Maybe you won't see the good until later. But as you look back through the photos, perhaps you will see the good even as you remember the pain behind your smile. Because they can be more than the worst of times.

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About the Creator

Jessica Norris

Passionate writer that is enthusiastic about writing engaging, compelling content. Excels in breaking down complex concepts into simple terms and connecting with readers through sharing stories and personal experience.

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