There’s something sad about people who feel the need to take a scorched earth policy to their past. It’s sad because you should never have to look at your past as something you survived but more something that lead you to where you are. And the thing is that it’s simply classier to move forward and to not burn everything behind you.
Sometimes all we can do is survive our past, and that is true for everyone. We all have moments, people, and sometimes places that have tested us to our limits and these trials by fire forge who we become. Too many of us have to literally survive their pasts, living through hells that most will never understand and those people get a pass from me because if you are lucky enough to survive abuse or hate or worse then you have every reason to want to ‘burn’ the things you survived. You’ve earned that. For most of us though, we just do it to make ourselves feel better.
And it does make us feel better.
We feel better if we act as if the people in our past were wastes of our time, or jerks, or losers. We feel better if we make it about them and not us. They weren’t worthy. They weren’t worth it. Them. They. Them. And so many of our current and future romantic people almost demand it, as if you choosing them over the past isn’t enough. They need you to denounce the past like a religion you outgrew. And it’s silly. The past is the past. We can obsess over it, ignore it, keep it in glass, or look at it as fairly as we’re able but it is still the past. Past romance can be re-kindled but it’s never the same. Past friendship can be re-born but it isn’t the same. They aren’t the same because we aren’t the same. The people we spent our pasts with are not the same. We need to cherish what was when it makes sense, laugh at the times where our judgment was questionable, and to stop punishing ourselves when friendships and relationships end. We mourn those things enough when it happens, we don’t need to take a gas can to the events post mortem because it doesn’t make that pain sting any less, it just gives us another body to bury along the way and ties us even more firmly to the past. It’s one thing to look back and wonder What If or What Happened To but it’s a whole other thing to look back in anger, which ties you to that time like a ghost to a house.
Places are the same way and Flint has become the perfect kicking post for a lot of people. For some reason we blame the places we lived and are from for dooming and damning and harming us – as if a place can make someone a jerk or a place can make us inherently miserable. A place’s climate, social issues, political issues, economic issues and on and on can inform the culture of a place, can inform the people of a place, but in the end we all have the final say in how we behave. A place doesn’t tend to make us ‘bad’, we were bad to begin with and the place just happened to be, well, a place. Still though, we use place as the symbol that we want to destroy.
“Screw ___and all the people there.”
And we say those things as if it makes us look better. As if it washes some invisible blood from our hands. We say it as if it gives us some coolness factor that yeah, we’re better than that place and those people. Only, no, you’re not. You’re just less classy. You’re more bitter. You’re taking a lot of unneeded baggage with you to wherever you’re going. Look, some places are not meant for us, are not right for us, are not a good fit for us. That’s fine. It makes sense. To childishly talk trash about a place though is petty and small. If you are unhappy then leave. If you can’t then find a way to leave in time. Don’t blame a place for your plight though. For me I have a lot of issues with Flint – mainly the people that run it – but I don’t bash the city and everyone in it and everyone that loves it. I certainly didn’t adore one of the places I have lived as an adult but, again, my drama was my drama, I certainly didn’t blame a city for it. It’s the same thing as talking bad about ex-people – it only makes you look bad. With places it is more harmful though because you speaking ill of the place you are from informs the opinions other people have. Flint has a lot of issues, as I have said in the past and as most people know, but the worst issue it has is the perception that it’s some warzone with poor people everywhere and no hope to be found. That isn’t the city I live in, work in, and created a convention in. That’s not the city that I love. No place is perfect but unfortunately people are happy to believe whatever trash talk we hear on a place and if we have already heard bad things then we’ve just been given ‘proof’ that that place is awful.
As we move in live we also move on. We move forward. And that’s what life is about. You should always be trying to move forward while keeping where you came from and what made you in your heart. The good, the bad, the ugly, it all forms who we are. The heartbreak, the triumph, the adversity all forges us. And the places we have been, places we have lived, people we knew, and people we loved are all part of who we are. Acting as if we are re-born anew every time we make a major change in our lives is just childish. We earn our scars and experience in life more often than not and that is what makes us stronger and wiser as we move forward. And that’s what life is about, forward momentum. In whatever we do we need to move forward so we can grow, can change, and can evolve. If we cling too tightly to the past, to past wounds, or past success, we lose sight of the things yet to come and what we can do in the future. And here’s the rub – if you aren’t willing to let go of your past, willing to forgive the sins that are forgivable and forget the ones that are not then we are wrapping anchors around our ankles that will forever keep us trapped in a time we would like to be away from. We often forget, too, that we may be the heroes of our own stories we can also be the villain in someone else’s and we’d be wise to keep that in mind as we burn down the people and places which used to mean something to us.
There’s no one way to live a life. We’re all going to falter. We’ll all fall. We’ll all screw up. So be it. We live, we learn, and we try to grow. We move on. Moving on though can’t be done if you’re pulling your past around with you and the more hate, the more anger, and the more vitriol you spend on that past the more you will find that it wasn’t the places or people you were looking to shed but yourself, and that’s not an easy thing to do.