He sat beside me, looking forlornly into his glass. We’d been friends all our lives, but I’d never seen him be this serious or this honest.
“I’ll never get married. It’s hopeless,” he said. “I’m not marriage material—I’ve slept with more girls than I can count, if I’m honest.”
I sensed he wasn’t done talking, so I sat quietly and let him finish. “I used to do that dating app, Tinder, and I’d just meet up with girls in bars and sleep with them a few times and then we’d never see each other again. At first I thought it was really satisfying, but after about a year I realized it wasn’t. It sucked.”
My friend took a sip of his drink, and I nodded my head in understanding.
“That’s not really who I want to be, and I’ve stayed in committed relationships ever since, but they never work out,” he said.
“I don’t know how to make it work. I find unhealthy women and I’m a mess too. No one will ever want to marry me.”
My heart broke for him as he spoke because of the depth of his longing for a wife and family, for a real relationship. Even though I had been critical of many of his choices for years, I was softened as we sat at the table and he bared his soul. I decided his honesty deserved my own.
I told him that my history wasn’t that different from his own. As I’ve written before, I spent one wild year going from hook-up to hook-up. I also deceived myself into thinking it was satisfying, only to realize at the end of it that I was more depressed than ever. It might be easy for him to forget about my past now that I’ve been happily married for years, but that wasn’t always the case.
I told him what I know to be most true in all the world: It’s not your past that determines your future, it’s what you choose to do with it.
You can let it suck you down and convince you that you aren’t worth anything more and don’t deserve anything better. Or you can decide that that’s not really the person you are. You can choose to walk away from your past and make a change. I told him that I did it, and I could see in his eyes he wanted to too. And I told him I believed in him.
Making huge changes in your life isn’t easy; I know that first hand. For my friend to really do it, it means changing the places he hangs out, probably going to counseling, and re-evaluating what’s important in a relationship. It won’t happen overnight, I know that, but in my experience if you want to change badly enough you really can. None of us are condemned by our past; every day we wake is a day to start over.