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Memories Of Life’s Travels and Why They Are Bitter Sweet

Do you ever think back onto some of your most treasured memories of your life and suddenly that bitter-sweet feeling that nostalgia can be starts to become a bit more bitter than sweet?

Not because it was bad or anything, but because, well, you miss it.

You see the memory in your mind and you smile at the thought of it, but when it’s over there’s that little pit in your stomach. I hate that feeling. I don’t like to miss things.

I’m talking about the memories that were from another part or phase of your life. The ones that where magnificent, and perfectly imperfect, and life-changing in big and small ways, yet something else called to you and eventually you walked on from them.

MY MEMORIES: A PERSONAL STORY

To be honest with you, I’ve been struggling with this myself lately.

Every day I see things that remind me of the past year I spent in China…emails from friends still over there, pictures on my walls, the set of chopsticks on my dresser, the old metro card in my wallet, the grey sky outside today. (Okay, I miss most things, but I do not miss the never leaving grey sky that humbles you to adore white clouds! ;-))

And I’m not going to lie, it’s really hard for me sometimes.

By the time I had left China I built a life for myself. I had a group of hilarious and crazy friends, a job doing web design for a travel company, a luxury apartment that cost $400/month, a relationship that defied the odds, a restaurant downstairs that sold beers for thirty cents.

Looking back, life was pretty good then. Probably better than I gave it credit for at the time, but that’s how most things are in hindsight isn’t it?

And now pretty much all of that is gone. All that’s left are my memories, and as much as I get such joy from looking back on them, it hurts to do it as well.

THE PAIN VS. THE REWARD OF OUR MEMORIES

Whether you’re recalling memories from past travel adventures, ended relationships, times when the butteries were still there, old friends you’ve lost touch with, good times from the old days, childhood innocence and fun, or those random, spontaneous best days of your life, there’s always a mixed bag of emotions that come up.

And you start to think about how they’re merely memories.

You think, those times have come and gone. That’s just life, ya know? That’s just how it is. You move on, you grow up, things change, you change, people change.

You start to dwell on the fact that the only thing that stays the same in life is that nothing stays the same.

It doesn’t have to be like that though. That’s the bitter side of memories.

So I say to you as much as I am saying to myself right now, don’t let the bitter-sweetness of past memories be more bitter than sweet. It’s not worth it.

These memories were some of the happiest, most important instances of your life, and they’ve have helped you become who you are at your core today. These memories are the things you love, the things you are, and the things you never want to lose.

IT’S YOUR CHOICE HOW YOU’LL REMEMBER YOUR MEMORIES

I’ve been realizing it’s absolute blimey for me not to be celebrating these kinds of memories lately.

Sure, we wish we could go back to some of them and relive how we felt at those moments, but that’s not to say we won’t ever find them again in other forms.

If you long for those memories of adventure and exploration, why not smile at the face of them and let them inspire you to plan your next one. These were the times that opened your eyes to the world, and without them you wouldn’t be as passionately curious and adventurous as you are today.

Or if it’s a love or a friendship that you miss, be thankful for the time you shared together. And remember that certain people come in and out of our lives when they’re meant to, and they’ll come back in if they’re meant to as well.

Or maybe you’re like me and you miss the way things were. Remember that you can give and take from that past phase in your life, and with that you can build something even bigger and better that will bring you and is bringing you even more wonderful memories.

Memories are a fickle friend. We can choose to let them haunt us, or we can haunt them. Remember that those pieces of your life are  not the present, but merely memories for very good reason. Whatever led you walking by them, don’t forget that it was what you wanted and needed at the time. Everything happens for a reason. The coulda, shoulda, woulda mentality will take every bit of sweetness out of your most beloved memories and leave them only bitter.

There’s a big difference between letting go of, holding on to, and embracing your memories. As I said before these are the pieces of your lives that make you, YOU. Celebrate them. Enjoy them. Let them inspire you.

Spend a little time each day reminiscing. The bitter-sweetness is well worth it.  Never stop exploring, wondering, and reminiscing. The past and the future can work hand-in-hand if you let it.

What About Your Memories?
What have been some of your most treasured, yet bitter-sweet memories? What did you take away from them? Share your stories and insights in the comments! I reply to each comment with love and thought and nothing is cooler than the discussion that get’s going from you guys, so don’t forget to Subscribe to the Comments!

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About Lauren Rains

Hi my name is Lauren Rains. I write about the human experience. Through thick and thin, I’m dedicated to growth, adventure, integrity, and love. The Mad To Live is based on my pursuits, experiments, research, and lessons of challenge and triumph in all areas of life, including being entrepreneur, a writer, a philosopher, a traveler, a teacher, a student, a creative, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a significant other, a stranger and the list goes on. At the end of the day, I believe human beings are here for two reasons: 1.) to love one another with total acceptance, and 2.) to see what we’re made of as we create the possibilities for an abundant life for ourselves and for others. No more bullshit, let's just enjoy our lives.

Share with me what you're getting into that matters to you. It could be stepping into entrepreneurial pursuits, embarking on a journey of the self, making a crazy life change, or even if you're totally stuck. I want to connect with, support, collaborate with, and learn from as many people as possible through this blog (that means you!) Click the *Share* link in the main menu and let's connect by filling out the form.

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  • Jen

    Lauren, this post really spoke to me. It sounds like we share the same relationship with some memories, and I like the twist you put on remembering — using it to inspire an even bigger life. I often look back on a short-lived but powerful friendship with a smile and a glimmer in my eye, and then the memory ends, and I get sad. I’ll use your post to help me take that memory and use it to move myself forward.

    • Hey Jen!
      well itsnice to know I’m not alone in this bittersweetness. some days my memories take me higher and some days lower ya know? if only great things did not have to end Hah. but that is life. I’ve def been learning more than ever to embrace my memories though. and as far as past friendships goes I think.those can be some.of the hardest to embrace, ya know? Because usually no mAtter how you look at it you still wish that person was in your life.

      I guess what I’m trying to say is, yea, let them move us forward. they made us who we are today 🙂

  • Hey, I want thirty cent beers!

    Keep your memories close to your heart and your future at the forefront of your mind…

    Keep rockin life Lauren – you’re destined for great things miss “The Mad To Live!”

    • Hey Mark!
      Thanks for the kind words! I certainly don’t mind the title miss “The Mad To Live” haha. 😛
      If we cross paths roaming this world, beers are on me! 🙂
      Keep rockin life as well Mark!!!

  • carole

    your interpretation of a particular memory can change over time. for example, right now, your memories of china might make you wish you were there, but in a few years, when you’re onto some totally other phase of your life, your perspective on your memories of china will be totally different. you’ll remember it as an amazing chapter of your life, and then you moved on to the next chapter. so, honor your beautiful memories, then go out and create some wonderful new ones.

    • Hey Carole!
      You make an excellent point there! It’s funny how memories go in phases like that. I guess they morph between things you miss and things you long for and things you simply reflect on. It’s like your first love…its so hard when its over, but when you’re older and you’ve moved on and there’s a new love in your life that ends up being the REAL love, you look back on that first love and you appreciate it for all that it was, ya know?
      Thanks for sharing!

  • Jen

    Hi Lauren! 🙂

    I really love this post. Just passed my 7 months in China mark, and I’ve been thinking of all the awesomeness I will experience upon my triumphant return home, but you have helped me to focus more on what I’m experiencing right now.

    I can’t tell you how freakin’ amazing it is to know someone who has just been through what I’m going through right now, such a similar experience we share!

    You are so right when you say we can use those precious memories to fuel our next adventure, I know I plan to come back to China again after this year is over – hoping to live in Beijing next time 🙂

    Thanks for your wisdom 🙂

    Jen

    • Hey Jen!
      It is awesome to meet someone that has lived in China! The only way to understand that place is if you’ve actually LIVED there, ya know? I try to tell people when they ask me and they just don’t get it. All they see is what the media tells them and there is just SO much more there than that.

      For me I will say that after my year in China was over I couldn’t wait to back home! And I want to tell you that I really regret this. Well, I don’t regret leaving as I know it was my time for the next part of my journey. But by the time I had left I sort of let myself become jaded to where I was – as much as I loved China certain things about living there can be so stressful – and suddenly I was focusing on this and ready to get out into an “easier” place to live than Beijing. (Now this wasn’t ALL the time, just on my bad days…I wasn’t one big walking Negative Nancy or anything haha)
      But I wish in my final days there I had continued to act as I did when I first arrived: with awe and fascination! It

      But that is in hindsight. And I will say I did Do It Up there and saw so much and traveled so much! Have you gone down to Yunnan Province yet? Lijiang? Tiger Leaping GOrge? I LOVED IT!!! (clear blue skies btw!) If you haven’t been, when you go back to China you must go! There is still so much of China I want to see. It’s too big haha!

      – Another funny thing about memories – I recall the most random memories of China at the most random times. I’ll be putting on my shoes and images of fireworks bursting over Beijing’s high rises on the Lantern Festival come into my head, or i’ll be walking the dog and I’ll think about how I used to ride around the streets of Beijing on my electric bike and go buy fruit in the street. I just LOVE those memories 🙂

      Anyway I hope you enjoy your last days or months in China (however long you’re still there?) and live it up like crazy and make as many more memories as you can!!!!! And I promise to do the same right now and on my next adventure!!!!

      Xai-jien!!! 🙂 (I know I spelled that wrong I’m so bad at that haha)
      – LAUREN 🙂

  • Jen

    Hi! 😀

    I totally understand what you mean, you really do have to live here in order to really get what China is all about. It’s not anything like I expected it to be, everything I knew about it kind of had to be re-learned once I got here.

    And I know it can be hard not to let this place get on your nerves every now and then, I know some people who have lost their temper a few times and other who have been so jaded by the end of their time here. I’m doing my best to be as patient and accepting as possible, but sometimes if I’m already in a mood the little things can make my blood boil, haha!

    I have to say though, Beijing is like a paradise for me! Going there after living in the city I live in was heaven 😀 Daqing is the oil capital of China or something like that, and while it is quickly becoming easier to live here (a Carrefour just opened a few weeks ago, for example) we still have to go without a lot. But that’s fine with us, we wanted to be pushed and challenged for this year, to see how much we could grow 🙂

    I’m with you, China is huge! We won’t be able to see everything we wanted to this time around, but we will definitely be back!

    Jen 🙂

  • Hey Lauren!

    We totally agree with you. There are days when we reminisce on our memories together in Sydney with huge smiles on our faces. We recount where we first met, our usual dating spots, Shaheera’s favourite eating joints and traveling with Tariq’s unimates.

    However, there are also days, especially when we’re upset with the people or traffic here, that makes us so angry and sad that we’re not back there. Nevertheless, we know that this is only temporary and it’s only a matter of time until we return or we move somewhere else. This keeps us going and motivates us to work harder to reach our goal. 🙂

    Oh, and we totally agree with what Carole said. Once you’ve reached a different phase in your life where you fill completely immersed in and utterly fulfilled, then memories are just that. Something to visit and laugh about, not something to yearn to get back. If you haven’t reached this phase yet then perhaps it’s time you start looking for it. 😉

    Thanks for sharing yet another interesting post! Looking forward to reading more!
    Tariq and Shaheera

    • Hey Tariq & Shaheera!

      Yea I know exactly how you feel! Especially as someone that was abroad with her boyfriend him and I tend to reminisce about the same things. The places we had our most romantic dinners or walks, great nights with great friends, the way we grew together there.
      It’s like a peace of your heart gets left there in a way. It’s not bad that it happens or anything. It’s just, well, as you said, we plan our next adventure and find our hearts there again.

      May many more memories of love, happiness, and adventure roaming this world come to us each day!
      – LAUR 🙂

  • I’ve thought about this topic a lot and the thing that I really like about old travel memories is that they never change.

    Even with Facebook, Twitter, etc. these days, most of the people you meet on the road you’ll probably never see again. But the time you spent together, the laughs, every emotion, sight, sound and smell is encapsulated in that time and space, forever remaining the same.

    It’s different with friends or lovers. If you breakup with someone or have a friendship fall apart, a good shared memory can feel tainted. Not so with travel memories. Those were the best times of our lives, when everyone was happy and you didn’t have to deal with people living their day to day lives.

    You’re glad it happened, but it’s sad to think about. Bittersweet, definitely.

    • Hey Paul!
      WOW what a great comparison! I couldn’t agree with you more! You are dead on.
      Sometimes I get caught between the two because many of my travel memories are combined with my memories of love and friendship. But of course I wouldn’t have it any other way. I kind of like it is bittersweet. If everything was a bed of roses and rainbows, we wouldn’t learn from our memories.
      Thanks for sharing Paul!
      – LAUREN

  • Just stumbled across your blog today.
    Anyway, my bittersweet travel memories usually revolve around people I’ve met during my travel that I shared some wonderful memories with (with photos to boot), but we never got a chance to exchange contact info. So I’d look at these photos and sometimes I wonder what they’re doing now… the sad part, sometimes I don’t even remember their names… just the good times we’ve shared.

    • Hey Jill!!!!
      Awesome 🙂 I’ve actually been following you guys on Twitter for awhile now it’s great to see you here 🙂

      I know exactly how you feel! I usually make a great point to exchange info but sometimes it just falls through the cracks. Some of these people I’ve had the best conversations of my life with them, but the next mornng our schedules are different and we’re off to different destinations and somewhere along the way we just don’t get to exchanging their info.
      But I’m still glad to have them in my memories as well 🙂