Whoever this mythical “they” is, they say that history is important so that we are reminded not to repeat the same mistakes; to learn and grow from what was and use that knowledge and experience to move into what is in the contemporary space which we occupy and advance in daily and currently. To me, this only scrapes the surface of the many different ways in which we are effected by our past lives, past selves, past events. Our past is constantly growing while our future is constantly shrinking; by the end of it all, we have spent much more time in the “past” than the future or the present. It is something that holds great meaning and importance on many levels, both positive and negative, both deep and shallow, both to hold onto, but also to let go of.
Picture for a moment, the past as an anthology of short fiction; vignettes or otherwise. When I read a collection of short fiction, sometimes I start at the beginning, but because (with exceptions of course) there is not a ‘beginning’, ‘middle’ and ‘end’ of the book, I will often open the book to the middle and read the first paragraph of a story that is nestled; if I don’t like it or it doesn’t grab me at the time, I move onto another story – maybe at the beginning, maybe at the very end. With our lives as a book of short stories, we can pick and choose which chapters to read, and when we review them, and how we review them. We may be particularly drawn to the evoked thoughts and emotions that are present in some over others; we may forget some or disregard them due to lack of interest. In a sense, in the case of the latter, this is “letting go”, kind of like letting go of certain pasts…
Maybe this is all an incredibly metaphysical and outlandish way of recalling the meanings of the past. But the point is this: there is no reason, logically or physically and emotionally, to hold onto, to review, to collect EVERY story in the anthology. While some will hold significance for a number of reasons, some fade away or are forgotten; some are hated; some are boring and stoic to a point where we choose not to care about them or to read them at all.
An ex-friend told me once (ironically, as he is indeed an EX-friend) that he is a “bridge-burner” (again ironically, as he is no bridge burner and just thinks he is). It is evident in the way people conduct themselves whether or not they are bridge-burners; to an extent, bridge-burners refuse to learn from their mistakes or acknowledge their mistakes at all; they just let them go, and give them no future thought, as if this is supposed to heal or help in some way. Bridge-burning is a construct of those who cannot face their past, so they choose to lose a connection with it.
I’ve let people go and I’ve (attempted, and almost succeeded) in letting certain memories and events go – but I don’t really consider this bridge-burning. Because no matter what I end up doing in life, for better or for worse, I will always be connected with the people and memories I’ve “let go”; the bridge-burner chooses not to do so; he chooses to press forward without regard. But the connections I keep are reminders of what NOT to do in the future, of who to avoid, of ways of living one’s life that are healthier or better or happier or more fair than the way I lived before in the past. Certainly the connections remain; but the people and memories no longer affect me. They are waiting, shivering somewhere far away from me, at some kind of winter time bus stop, for a bus that won’t ever come.
Letting people and memories go is a crucial part of shedding one’s old skin, to use a vastly-overplayed cliche phrase. It is taking power back from yourself and delving into a part of your soul and spirit that knows it can accomplish more than what it thought it could while being bound by these people and memories.
Usually when I saw this I refer to negative memories, people inflicting negativity; but it can be a positive thing too; I once thought for example, that life would never be as good as it was when I was in my first year of university and lived on 6 Mac with my awesome friends, having round-table caf dinners nightly and studying on the grass in20 degree weather. I was wrong, but for a long time, hampered because I continually compared my current life moving forward, with a wonderful memory from the past.
In terms of negative people, negative memories– there is no purpose for them in your life. They will only remind you of perceived inadequacies, times of cold-hearted uncertainty, anguish. They will enforce negative beliefs you may have about yourself. They will haunt you. Only by placing them out of reach, separating yourself from their binding hands, can you truly move forward and embrace the powerful part of yourself that is able to control and filter which stories to choose, which to read, and whe to read them.
Sometimes it is the case where someone once created and forged with you positive, close-knit, loving memories and later you realized you were wrong about them. Letting go of those people, because you have such a strong history with them, because so much of your life and the parts you WANT to remember are intertwined with them, can be the most challenging thing to do. As I consider this, I do think of, in my own life and in my friends’ lives, particular instances involving particular people; I think of the exact moment, an early December morning just before Christmas, that I cut out a particular person completely from my life and before I did that, I did hesitate for a moment which surprised me immensely. It wasn’t as easy as I projected it would be, even given dire circumstances. But I did it. I went through the process of essentially “deleting” someone from my life. And I’m so glad I did; with distance, by eliminating someone from your scope of vision, you can see more clearly. You can begin a process of rediscovering yourself, your new life, without them, even though it’s so difficult to do so.
We choose the stories we read and will continue to do so, and in the process and with experience, we may tend to forget, forgive, or even be more selective about the stories read, focused on, disregarded. Life will continue, with a strengthened filter. It’s of utmost importance to remember that when making huge decisions.