Letting Go

We all carry around so much baggage, both emotional and physical. There comes a point when we must let it go and stop carrying it. In a small way I have started to let go of some things.

For twenty years, I have been an art teacher, and I have filled my classroom with a lot of stuff - books, papers, objects, art, and so much more. But with embarking on a new chapter in my life, I needed to go through all of that stuff and let so much of it go. When I transferred schools four years ago, I sorted and purged. I let go of a lot of stuff then, but I still ended up with forty boxes and bins of stuff. That was four years ago, and I know that I have accumulated even more, but I don’t have the room to keep it all. After a while I just feel like all of these things are just holding me down and holding me back.

I began to sort and purge today with the goal that within a couple of weeks, I’ll just have a few boxes to move from my classroom. I plan on giving away all that I can, and I know that there are some eager teachers in my district that would love to have some of the myriad of things I have accumulated over twenty years, but there’s still a lot to get rid of, to recycle, and to trash. Over the years, my classroom became a place to put much of my old artwork - paintings, sculptures, and experiments from college and my first few years of teaching - things that I didn’t want or need at home, but things I didn’t want to get rid of. Some of these things are more than twenty years old, and I just don’t need them. I don’t have room for them, and they’re not things that I would sell or donate or give away. I no longer wish to hold onto the past, so these things need to go.

I began letting go of some of it today. I quickly filled a recycling bin with old files, miscellaneous papers, and outdated booklets. Those things were easy to part with, but I was surprised at how other things stirred up some emotions. I think it was part nostalgia, part fear, part sadness, and as I dumped some old artwork, notes, and projects into recycling (mostly things from college - things that I do not need and will never use), I felt some powerful emotions. It was hard to let these things go. Maybe part of it was that I spent so much time on these things. Maybe they just symbolized the past that is long in the past, but still some how still with me. But I let these things go, and much more.

I wanted to make the letting go more of a ritual - more symbolic, so I grabbed a few pieces and brought them home. In many ways these three things represent different stages of my past. The large head made of thin plywood was done in college during the spring of my freshmen year - 24 years ago. The red, orange, and yellow 3-D portrait was something I made from colored paper about 10 years ago when I taught high school, and the wooden tower was something that I did about a month ago as my elementary students worked building wooden sculptures. All things from the past - all things that I no longer need - all things I no longer want to hold on to.

I placed them in my fire pit in the back yard, and I set them ablaze. It didn’t take long for them to burn to ash. It was cathartic to see these things disappear - to let them go in such a concrete way.

In the end they were just things, and too often the things we have weigh us down. We all have baggage, and we seem to haul it from place to place. There comes a time when we just get tired of lugging it around and we need to lighten the load and just let go.

Here’s to letting go of the past, focusing on the present, and moving into an unknown future.