I think I was 9 or 10 the first time I saw someone moonwalk. I remember the event: it was the Motown 25 concert and Michael Jackson was on stage performing Billie Jean in his sparkling ass outfit and high-water pants. He came out, threw the hat, did his song and eased across the stage. Walking forward; moving backward.
Now as cool as it was I never got the hang of it. I wanted to: my friends could moonwalk, I saw Breakin’. Just never happened for me. And eventually it became old news, old hat and I moved on. And we all know how things ended up for Mike. Maybe it was a good thing I was never able to do it.
When I was 12 I made a mistake and it cost me my relationship with my grandmother. It was the 80s and my father had gotten laid off from his job in Minnesota (I remember both recessions and booms under the Reagan administration. Shit wasn’t perfect!). My dad ended up moving to Washington DC, in with his mother—my grandmother—to start his life over. It was a messy divorce between my parents and my brother, sister and I were often caught in the middle. I was mad about the whole thing, didn’t understand tough economic times (not like I do now!), and certainly didn’t handle it well. I got into an argument with my grandmother about my dad, said some choice words and hung up. And I never spoke to her again. By the time I was old enough to understand the gravity of my actions or even realize the quality of the relationship I was missing, she was gone. She passed away before I made it right.
Now It’s easy to chalk it up to being 12, to being young and stupid: when you’re that young, you can’t really comprehend mortality or understand that people don’t last forever. Nothing lasts forever but I didn’t know that then. I know it now. And I’ve carried that burden with me, and the responsibility of it, for a long time. I was 12 when it happened; I’ll be 39 this year. I was only able to forgive myself in the last couple years and even then I had help. To this day, I can’t listen to Christina Aguilera’s song Hurt without tears in my eyes.
But I can’t go backwards either.
I sincerely believe that everything that happens to us happens for a reason. I believe that we are the collection of our experiences and choices and they all work together to move us forward, to move us toward that person we are meant to be. There can be no wallowing in the past, no moonwalking—walking forward but moving backward—if we are to be who we’re supposed to be. And there’s no dancing around the difficult obstacles in your path. Those decisions, those regrets and poor choices and hurts handed out and pain received—they’re part of you. Part of the person you were. Part of the person you are today. Part of the person you will be. They simply are what they are.
Own them. Embrace them. Whine and cry and scream at the top of your lungs about them. But stop dancing. Stop moonwalking. Just walk. Step by agonizing step. Just walk. You’ll get there faster.
I never ever wanna press rewind, never wanna go back in time
Not much glory in that story but it’s mine
So I’m loving who I am today, past has passed away
Finally I have forgiven me
–Forgiven Me, Mary Mary (2008)