By Richard Bleil
The past couple of days has been an interesting collision with my past. And, interesting lessons.
With a new consulting contract in hand, I was tasked with finding files for the company from work I did with them almost a decade ago. I had saved the files to an external backup hard drive, but the hard drive was in the city where I last worked.
See, when I lost my job, my rental contract came up before I found a job (yeah, no kidding since I’m still looking, right?!?). I rented a storage unit so stash my belongings, which isn’t so bad. That means when I find a new place, everything is packed and ready to go. But along with those belongings was the backup external hard drive.
Eight miles away, in the adjacent town, lives my ex girlfriend. Without a job, no place to live and most of my belongings stashed away, she let me live with her for a few months. Unfortunately, she lives in a town in the middle of a state with about seventeen people. In the state. NOT a lot of job opportunities. Eventually, I had to find work, which I did just to get back into life. I moved to a larger city, and lived in a cheap motel while working, hoping she would join me, and between the two of us we could make a life in this city with more opportunities.
Instead, she dumped me.
That’s fine, but I had to leave a few things with her, which I promised I would collect at a later date. Eight months later, the first payment on this contract brought me back to the area filled with bad feelings and painful memories, but, hey, if I have to return, might as well be for buckets of money, right?
The hard drive was there, and after some preliminary difficulties, I managed to download all of the old files onto my new computer. It was an interesting lesson in how sometimes we need to hold on to part of our past. I worked with my then-wife on this project, and we did a lot more work than I thought. There were about 150 files, and things I didn’t even remember doing. It’s a treasure-trove of raw data, reports, projects, and will prove to be invaluable as we move forward with the new contract.
We are who we are because of our past. Everybody has some parts of their past that they would like to leave behind, but it’s important to remember that there are things that we should keep as well. My father had a terrible temper, and I’ve fought my entire life to keep it under wraps. But, there are times that it has also served me. I don’t fly into out of control rages, but when I need to stand up for myself, or to stand up for what I believe to be right, I draw on that source to give me the intensity I need to be taken seriously.
I drew on that source when I went to see my ex-girlfriend. Nothing happened; but I certainly wasn’t looking forward to it either. It was the one last thing that had to happen before I could cut her out entirely, and the courage to do that came from my father’s stubbornness. When I think about my
In a surrealistic Hollywood moment, when I arrived at her apartment, she had thrown all of my belongings outside in the lawn. You know that scene from the movie where the lead actress decides it’s over and throws out all of his belongings; you know, that comedy? I don’t have to say which comedy, because I know of at least half a dozen movies with this scene. It was all I could do to keep from bursting out laughing.
What an interesting this lesson was in reminding me that while there are things from our past that we should hold on to, there are also those things we should leave in the past. When I think about my marriage, for example, I realize that she was emotionally abusive. I put up with it, I’m sure, because it felt familiar to me, reminiscent no doubt of how I was raised. But, at the same time, while I am having such a difficult time letting go, that is also keeping me from moving forward, like a boat’s anchor stick on the ocean floor. Sometimes, you have to just cut the anchor loose.
The secret, of course, is knowing what to keep, and what to cut loose. If you are hoping for advice on how to tell what to keep and what to lose, I have none. This is highly personal, but it might help to remember that even the bad parts of our history can have value. I don’t like thinking about my father’s temper, but it has served me well once I got it under control. The emotional abuse, that has done nothing but hold me back. I need to let that go. It’s human nature to make mistakes when thinking about this; the future is not made clear to us. But we can support each other in difficult times. So I wish you luck, and I hope you know that I’m right there in the quagmire with you.