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By Isai Efuru

The things in life that we regret are often the very things that made us who we are. Our mistakes, missteps, hiccups and wilderness moments were all designed to lead us down the yellow brick road of maturity. When you find yourself remembering a dark part of your journey, turn the light on it, examine it thoroughly, and find the jewel within the experience that helped you get through. That’s the beauty of remembrance; you recall it to remind yourself of the lesson you learned and the greatness that you are made of. You can then forget the shame of it and live anew.

In my years as a college socialite, I attended parties more regularly than classes. I was determined to have a good time at any cost, and floated my way through the courses with a minimal effort. I graduated on time, but without the honors and accolades that I had become accustomed to in my former years. I pushed myself to make it happen for my mother, but I knew I had fallen short.

I failed to stick to my life plan for becoming an educator, and without an internship, work history or recommendations, I spent the next ten years catching up to my dream. More missteps and mishaps occurred, taking my spirit low with each one because I kept getting stuck on the mistake and not the lessons. Yet, I never lost faith in God, even as I lost faith in myself. I asked God to help me turn my perspective around.

My inspiration to keep going was the look on my mom’s face as I took my college graduation photos back in the early 1990’s. Her eyes sparkled then as she told me how proud she was that I graduated. I never forgot her eyes and her smile, and when life would get rough for me in my early years of teaching, I would remember that I owed it to her to stick and stay, to take the lessons forward and leave the guilt behind, as she did in working to raise me.

When I graduated with my Master’s degree a few years ago, she had the same look of pride in her eyes, and I knew that redemption was mine. I knew what she sacrificed to pour into me, and I knew that I couldn’t continue to make excuses. Life was all about living, learning and producing from there. I took the pride in her eyes, my faith in God and the lessons of my trials, and surged forward into a career that embraces all of me.

Every time I enter my classroom, I remember my journey and the choices I made that led me astray. I remember God showing me how to forgive myself, dust myself off, and try again. I let go of the shame and embarrassment of messing up, and reminded myself that I was not the mistake; I was the lesson learned. I then remember that God helped me get it back together, and with God’s help, I would continue to stand tall and live the dream out. I also remember my mother’s pride and her knowing glances. She knew that if I had the courage to live out the lessons, that I would travel far and fly high. The key difference in standing tall and moving forward is releasing the negativity of you past errors, and looking forward to the possibilities of the future. Hold on to memories that pushed you to be your best; reviews what your highs and lows taught you. Forgetting the shame of our mistakes doesn’t mean forgetting the lessons they teach us; the lessons make the load lighter so that we can fly.

Isai Efuru is a 45 year-old writer and pastor who currently ministers in Charlotte, NC. Email her at

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