The best advice I’ve had in recent times has been words to the effect of “in order to give the future a real chance, you need to completely let go of the past”.
It took me a split second to realise that all the decisions, baggage and concerns I’d been holding onto in an attempt to keep the peace and maintain a comfort zone, were the very things that would inevitably hold me back. I took action immediately.
My baggage was my fixed opinions on things, my ‘experience’ and ‘lessons’ I felt egotistically attached to and my half open doors that smelt awfully like ‘backup plans’. Could it be that these very things whilst defining who I was yesterday and who I am today, could also write the story of who I am tomorrow?
Some people call this strategic, hedging the bet and being ‘smart’. But is it?
Would you keep your old apartment just in case the new one doesn’t work out? Would you assume that all people are bad because one person did something mean to you once-upon-a-time? Letting go doesn’t mean you don’t care, it means you want to continue moving, learning, growing, enriching who you are even if it means letting go.
Whether it’s moral obligation, sentimentality, habit, fear of change or just sheer laziness, it’s very easy to hold onto things in the past and work hard to keep them around. Perhaps it’s because you feel you need to have evidence of your efforts, perhaps you feel entitled to it or maybe you have difficulty saying goodbye?
Saying goodbye can be hard particularly when there’s history, emotion and a story. It might be a childhood toy, a relationship, a job, a photograph, a home. Sometimes things are forcibly removed against our will, other times we let go over time without realising, some things we give up willingly and then there’s the things we fight to let go of – even if they’re bad for us. We feel our identity is wrapped up in these things and without them, we start to question who we are.
The common thing about all of these goodbyes is that change is inevitable. Dead people don’t come back, you can’t make a relationship what it was and even if you replace your childhood toy, it’s not THE toy.
It’s a brutal reality and it’s highly probable you will go through the stages of grief. It’s ok to grieve, to feel hurt, to be sad, disappointed and feel loss – it means you’re dealing with it and in time you will move forward.
Without trying to be too morbid, at least with death we draw huge personal reflection and are forced to move forward in life because it’s imposed on us. It’s devastatingly sad when we lose a loved one but it’s the circle of life we are begrudgingly faced with.
What I think however is the most tragic (and preventable) human condition is when people elect to spend their lives in denial of change and don’t move forward not because they are incapable but because they can’t bear to lift the anchor.
What’s worse is when they bemoan their existence and act as if the world has done them wrong.
Kainotophobia (the fear of change). It’s the slowest and most painful death of all.