We all must let go of something at some point in our lives. We let go of our childhoods, taking on responsibilities and becoming independent outside of the ones who raised us. We let go of love that must end. We let go of comforts and traditions to make way for new ones. But to identify something as new, we must still have the old in our distant minds, so is it ever really gone? Is nostalgia a comforting memory, a gut-wrenching pain, or just simply a denial that the past is the past? Is it all of the above? Loved ones who have died or left us in less permanent ways – do they ever really leave us? We as humans always move on to new things, but do we ever leave behind the old?
Do we ever truly let go of anything?
I often wonder why we cling to the things that destroy us. I wonder how and why we, as humans, think we’re so different from the tide that turns the ocean into sand and back again. The water creeps higher and stronger until it swallows anything that stands in its path, and then as quickly as it comes, it is gone. The dark blue becomes a dull tan blanket and anything that was there before is a mere blur of what it once was. Then out comes the sun and children play, runners run, seagulls search for their next meal; all these new intertwined, beautiful footprints intersect the lines that the waves left behind. And then it is gone and all that was drowns in the sea. The water drowns us, but its reliability is comforting, for it does not disappoint. It will drown us every night.
All experiences we have as people shape us. Every interaction, every touch, changes who we are and alters our future. A conversation can change an opinion, which leads to a decision that could affect many, and the butterfly effect continues indefinitely. Those people have an emotional reaction, as all of us do, to the change and they adapt, becoming different people in the process. People are always leaving and brains are always changing. For some, memories are erased, but for most, they stay. What remains is a person, one or several memories, and a choice.
I hear very often that to love is a choice, and in many ways I believe that. But it takes an immense amount of strength to wake up every morning and choose something that you might not feel in your heart is right. In this case you have two paths: to hold on or to let go.
When you despise the beaten path but fear the road less traveled, where do you go? The idea that one must descend into the dark to find the light, that drowning in the ocean might somehow bring you air; it’s a line between pain and strength. The beaten path is safe, it’s comfort, it’s what you know and know well. It’s routine and it’s a backlit path where you can watch each step. The road less traveled is frightening and dark and not laid out in front of you. Upon clichés I might say the road less traveled will bring you the most joy and self-fulfillment, and the beaten path will bring a dull, lifeless existence. It’s impossible to know which path will bring the best result, but one thing is for sure: you’ll amount to nothing if you’re standing still.
Making a choice isn’t always a negative thing – memories can be joyous and there are endless examples. But it’s often the positive memories that make letting go even more difficult, the ones that can stray us from our goals. We cling to things that destroy us because they’re comfortable, they’re familiar, and in most cases, they’re safe. Often times we don’t realize this destruction until a significant amount of damage has been done, but that’s not to say you’re forever flawed. In fact, you are forever changed, and that is a beautiful thing.
The body we walk around in is a fossil of our experiences, every scar a representation of a battle won or lost. I believe we can let go, with a delicate recipe of self-commitment, love, and time. It is one of the most difficult things we can do as people, but also one of the most self-rewarding. It is an art that nobody ever really masters, and something we rarely do alone. Closing one door always opens another and no matter who stands beside you in this life, it’s important to reflect on the doors you choose today and always. We cling to the things that destroy us, but we are never truly deconstructed beyond repair. If we’re holding onto something for the wrong reasons, we’ll always figure it out. We should strive to think intelligently and feel things beautifully, with our heads and our hearts that are long bruised and bent; but not broken just yet.