I remember watching old Tamil black and white films with my grandfather, who used to add little commentaries about the actors on the screen, piquing my interest and making me laugh during the dramatic scenes. I still have the librarian’s badge, with my name printed on it, above the title ‘Ketua Nilam’ from my high school. The badge has definitely faded from a glowing silver to a washed-out yellow, but still gleams when it is caught under the light.
Looking back, it’s amazing how tiny things such as these have reminded me of the happiest moments in my life. And I believe that this is one of the few reasons why one holds onto their past; it reminds them of home. Home need not be a place. It can be a moment one treasures, a moment that one reflects upon in times of difficulty. It serves as a reminder of a warm place and of better days with their beloved ones as well as a soothing balm that makes one realise that this too shall pass. These things that we hold onto from our past act as a safe space for many of us, consciously or unconsciously.
Hope, the last thing remaining in Pandora’s box when the rest of the evils were released, is something that we rely on when we’re at our lowest. Just as it was in the case of Pandora’s box, we cling to these moments from the past that bring us joy, confidence, and hope for a solution to all of our problems. These memories tell us to persevere and they keep us company. Holding onto the past may seem as something burdensome, but truthfully, we fail to realise the value of it in the face of troublesome times.
Not all of our memories are exactly nice either. Some of us don’t want to be reminded of the ugly past. Regardless, that is not how the human mind functions. We do end up holding onto bitter, embarrassing, and stiflingly awkward moments from the past. Nevertheless, we get to learn from our past. Isn’t that how history works? We study history with the hope that we don’t repeat and relive past mistakes. Experience is the best teacher. Our past experiences give us knowledge on how to deal with certain situations and cope with life in general. We should draw wisdom from our bad memories instead of shunning them altogether.
What most of us fail to comprehend though, is that the bad and the good are all part of us. Mistakes and all. The scars that we carry, whether visible or not. The flaws that we are ashamed of. The guilt that we shoulder. I believe that is the beauty of being human. Our past may be flawed, sometimes filled with dark and painful cracks. All of this is what makes us the person we are today. Truthfully, it seems almost bizarre to say that the past hasn’t influenced one to be the person they are today.
Embracing the past and accepting it is probably one of the vital steps of loving yourself even. And I’m not saying it is easy; it can be fairly hard for many. Holding onto the past is not a sign of weakness or being sentimental. I think it takes a lot of courage for one to face their past and accept it as a part of them. We are only human after all. So, it’s a definite yay for me when it comes to holding onto the past. Our past is what makes us whole anyway.
Poorani, who is a tad bit sentimental when it comes to things from the past.
Damn. I can’t still be expected to argue against this topic after that beautiful piece from Poorani, right? I couldn’t agree more that our past shapes us — after all, it is the essence of our present selves. I must admit that I’ve never been able to lead a life on the principle of forgive and forget. I’m more of a forgive but never forget kind of person, yet here I am arguing against holding onto the past, and that includes grudges, heartbreak, and bitterness.
I propose the alternative; letting go. It might sound cliché… comical even, when Princess Elsa is all that comes to mind at the mention of letting go. Alas, I have learnt some hard lessons in this area. You might have too. Foremost, I found that holding onto things from the past keeps us rooted in the past. Indeed, this is desirable for tradition, heirlooms, memorabilia, and fond memories. However, I believe some things should be buried in the time that has passed us by.
Heartbreak. It is not uncommon for one to hold onto fragments of a broken relationship. Be it old text messages, gifts, clothing, or even an ex’s phone number, it can be difficult to let go of the last pieces of them. It is human nature to cling to lost loved ones, and for those loved it can be a beautiful thing. Your grandparents’ heirlooms, Mom’s cookbook, Dad’s watch… However, this habit leeches into our romantic relationships too.
I struggle to let go, either for fear that it means losing all that is left of someone or because it feels like all the time and effort I had previously invested has gone to waste. The Sunk Cost Effect refers to the persistence of humans to invest in something or someone to avoid failure, often spending excessive time, effort, and resources attempting to fix or retain a lost cause instead of cutting our losses and moving on. You cannot begin to treat a wound and heal until the bullet is removed.
I believe the same rule applies to bitterness, grudges, and guilt. You can learn from mistakes or misfortune, but anger, guilt, and shame offer nothing but torment. It is said that forgiving oneself and others is the path to freedom. You can choose to remember a mistake, so as to avoid repeating it, but the guilt and shame that accompanies it must be abandoned. If left to fester, these negative emotions corrupt the soul and lead to a life of discontent and unrealised potential.
In short, the idea is to choose the things that one holds onto from the past. You must ask, “Is this good or bad for me, and those around me?” In our pursuit of happiness, it’s important to remember that our actions affect others. For instance, clinging to a past relationship could affect current and future relationships, just as holding onto limiting beliefs, insults, and criticism could cripple our dreams. After all, sometimes holding on does more damage than letting go.
Written by: Poorani and Karran