Moving On

Reading Time: 5 minutes

By Yang Siqi (17A01C)

“Stop thinking about it, and just move on.” You might have heard someone say this to you before. Maybe you’ve said it yourself, to a despairing friend. The tone of which it was uttered could have been concerned, or dismissive, and most of us are likely to have been both victim and perpetrator of this phrase.

Often, we may find it necessary to distract or extricate our friends from this despondency: after all, everyone makes mistakes, and theirs may not matter in the long run. Maybe one day they’ll look back at their blunder, and laugh at how flustered or dejected they were, because it didn’t turn out to be such a big deal. Nevertheless, it almost always feels different to be on the receiving end of those words.

Being a rather introspective individual, I personally find it difficult to move on from my mistakes until I’ve reflected thoroughly on my actions, and come to terms with them and the consequences they’ve brought about. Being told to move on, then, before we are ready, may be vexing.

But why is it that we are so preoccupied with our mistakes?

It could well be human nature to tend towards self-pity, and to nurse our sadness by entertaining it. After all, we see ourselves as the victim in the situation, having suffered the consequences of our mistakes. It is definitely not easy to get over this stage of unhappiness and regret. However, the longer we brood over the issue, the larger the impact of the problem could be, as we can become consumed by it.

More counter-intuitively, we tend to trivialize our emotions. This prevents us from addressing the root of the matter, subsequently avoiding the pain that may follow. This may seem like a much better alternative to facing it head-on. I myself tend to repress negative thoughts rather than finding any real solution for it, expressing excuses such as “at the end of the day, it won’t really matter” and “before I know it, I’d have forgotten about this altogether”. This doesn’t help matters though; the problem is still there, and on our worse days they may come back to haunt us. That’s when the logical resolution would be to tell someone about it: sharing a burden makes it lighter, and an emotional one is just the same.

But sometimes it may be difficult to open up. Say you’re having a delightful lunch with your close friends, and everyone is joking and laughing. You feel like talking about your problems, but you don’t want to ruin the mood. So you keep it in, and laugh with the rest of them, but that niggling feeling of sadness never goes away.

Or, you’re not sure how they’d react. What if they brush it off as something inconsequential? After all, it never happened to them; they wouldn’t know what it feels like. But that fear could be unfounded: though we do not share the exact same experiences, our feelings are universal. Most are able to empathise with emotions like pain, neglect, sadness or jealousy because they’ve been in situations which induced such feelings. Needless to say, your friends, people whom you’ve formed close emotional bonds with, will be even less likely to scorn at your woes. So fear not, because confiding your problems in someone you can trust is the first step towards recovery, and towards really moving on.

Why, though, are we often told to move on? Firstly, when we are dealing with prolonged misery, it becomes easy for us to lose motivation in what’s really important to us; to lose sight of what’s crucial for our future. After all, what is the point of completing your tutorials, or even going to class, when you’re going through an emotional upheaval? These realistic concerns become trivial in light of our desolation, and emotional distress often causes us to completely sidetrack from our normal everyday activities.

But the world continues to move along, with or without us. A few days of missing out on lessons could set you back far behind your peers. Besides, juggling the increasing workload while dealing with suppressed emotions could seriously take a toll on the individual, not to mention cause even more frustration that would only contribute to a dispirited state of mind.

From a more abstract perspective however, to move on is expected of us because a perpetual state of emotional torpidity may cause us severe psychological strain. We might not trust in forging new bonds with people any more, closing up just a little more to protect ourselves from the harsh outside world, perhaps even drifting away from those who are close to us.

And to some extent, caution against the strange and unknown is necessary; but to entirely isolate our emotions from anyone, even those who may be able to help us, is nothing but foolhardy. To expect to be able to handle emotional stress on our own is unthinkable; and, in the words of John Donne, “no man is an island”. We need reassurance and support, and it makes sense for us to share of our experiences, even the unpleasant ones, with our kin.

Besides, to move on can bring us many benefits that we could be unaware of. To put behind what had been tormenting us is comparable to putting down a heavy emotional burden. Be it getting over the rejection letter to a dream university, a fall out with a close friend or a bad breakup, moving on will improve our mental and emotional state, giving us renewed strength to carry on with our everyday life. More than that, we gain experience through these trials and tribulations. On one hand, we’ll be better prepared to face similar situations and take steps to avoid the same bad outcomes; on the other, we are inclined discover and seek to correct some of the flaws in our characters.

That being said, what does moving on really look like? There are rarely any visible signs to moving on; very much of it is internal and only the individuals themselves can tell. For a period of time we may pretend to be fine, while the problem continues to fester or bring us pain with a mere thought. Perhaps truly having moved on is when we can look back and share about the issue that had wounded you for so long, to family, friends or even acquaintances without feeling the slightest twinge of regret or sorrow, and with full knowledge that you’ve once been in pain because of it, but that you’re not bothered by it anymore.

I guess at the end of it all, moving on is not forgetting that our issues ever existed. Moving on is accepting our setbacks, learning from them, and then becoming a better person through it all. Our experiences are what shapes us – and the painful ones, even more. Shying away from them, or staying put where we are, relentlessly harking back to them, is what’s dangerous – it limits us, and hinders our potential. Often, to move on from our mistakes is to bring about fresh perspective, and a renewed faith in the world and the people around us. It is difficult, and we may never truly feel ready; nevertheless, it is time to move on.

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