Letting Go of What Doesn’t Serve Us
A hallmark of wisdom is knowing when it’s time to abandon some of your most treasured tools—and some of the most cherished parts of your identity.Adam Grant (Think Again)
A few weeks ago I set fire to my journals of 30+ years. I carried them around wherever I went for decades but always kept them out of sight for fear one of my family members would decide to crack one open and start reading.
It wasn’t a full sacrifice, because I digitized them around 10 years ago. And I’ve edited those digitized versions for general public consumption – not that my daughters or my wife Maggie wouldn’t still be a little shocked and disappointed by the innermost thoughts of a teenager fighting his way into and through his roaring 20s – scrubbed or not. Call it Rated PG17. Thankfully, by 30 I had accumulated just enough evidence of maturity to ask Maggie to marry me and not feel it was totally irresponsible to bring children into the world.
Another “cherished part of my identity” was my ability to have a shit ton of fun with my friends and a crowd – which nearly always included booze. Today is Day 780 since my last alcoholic beverage, and I can say with certainty that in the years leading up to Day 1 the fun I was having after too many was no longer in the fun category. The blackouts when I overindulged – thankfully not too often – were worse with more at stake than ever and the hangovers longer and more painful. Letting that go has been a godsend – and when I’m out with friends or Maggie I feel young again (in large part thanks to my new brand crush – and angel investment – the fastest growing and coolest NA Beer company in the US, Athletic Brewing Company).
Downsizing our house in 2020 from 6,000 obnoxious square feet in Norwich, VT to less than 2,000 across the river in Hanover forced us to further reduce our belongings. And it was clear as I struggled to toss stuff from my past away how I mistakenly viewed them as tools for my sanity, when in fact they held me attached to my past. Seeing the old Boloco swag and paraphernalia really hurt as I heaved them into the dump (transfer station) in West Lebanon, NH during the move. Too, for 25 years I had lugged around my old surgical devices from my first real job at Ethicon Endo-Surgery back in the early 90’s… gone. Hard, but freeing too.
I guess I’m like my mom. A hoarder. But these past 2 years have been an exercise in reducing, reducing, reducing. And what I’m left with is a fraction of the “stuff” and more importantly what’s in my mind… and hopefully, some of what’s in this crazy mind of mine will count as wisdom. Only time will tell on that one, of course.
Great post John. A struggle to be sure. Those things are a burden, but they also represent something that can be so hard to finally let go of forever. Some items, you wonder why it took so long. But others, keep getting pushed back into the closet or storage space, just in case.
I often wonder why. Why do I keep those things. The things that may define my past yet helped pave my future. They often sit in boxes that are only seen or discovered again during a clean up/organization or home move. Why can’t I bring myself to let go? When I’m gone, I can only imagine what those I’ve left behind will say and think about my hoarding of the past.