I’ve written before about sentimental items. It’s a fairly common phenomena that people have a difficult time letting go of things because of the emotions attached to them. It might be a special gift from someone or a memento of a specific event. Whatever the underlying reason, people keep items because of past associations connected with them.
I was thinking about this recently and I’d like to propose there is another reason some people struggle to let go of material things from their past.
It’s because those items represent who you were when you understood yourself.
They are tangible reminders of someone you recognize.
And so you hang on to those things from the past in the midst of a life where you struggle to get your footing. Why? Because in the midst of the difficult and bewildering times you can at least point to those things and say, “This makes sense to me. I understand this part of my life, even if it was long ago.”
When life comes at you in a relentless fashion and you struggle to respond to the needs and demands in your life, you can lose track of who you are.
Holding on to things from the past feels like an anchor. Something that makes sense.
If you let go of those things, then who are you? You may have been struggling for so long to just meet the needs arising all around you every day that you have lost track of who you are.
Over the years I’ve been online I’ve interacted with so many fantastic women who barely have time to do it all. These are not women trying to have it all. They are trying to do all that is required of them because of life circumstances. In the midst of it, there is barely time to breathe let alone reflect on who they have become at this point in life.
Some of them have no idea who they are.
And so they keep the things that bring them an identity. Things from their past when they understood who they were. They knew what interested them. What they wanted to do in life. Where they wanted to go.
Items that anchor them to what feels like a safer and saner time before they feel like they lost control of the plot due to the demands and needs of others.
Even if everything else makes them feel like they are drowning, they can look at that item or collection or creation and feel some connection to understanding some part of their life.
I think people also keep things because those objects prove you had value as an individual at some point. They represent concrete accomplishments.
The items show you did something meaningful. That’s a powerful emotion when your current life is consumed by things that are very long term (parenting), very open-ended (homemaking), and are incredibly slow to show lasting tangible results (homeschooling).
I’ve struggled with this as it relates to a few aspects of my life. One of them is my past as an educator. I find myself in this place of having a degree in education, being an experienced teacher, homeschooling my child, and creating learning materials to help support our family. At the same time, I ask myself if that’s who I really am or do I simply keep functioning in those roles. Do I keep the items from the past associated with it all because it’s the only thing I still recognize about myself or because they are a vital part of my life right now?
I do these things in my life now because they are there, some of them are required of me, and some of them make sense at this point in my life. But if I were given the luxury of a month to step back and really ponder what I wanted to do if I knew I could do it, I don’t think I would necessarily chose what I’m doing in all those cases.
Or maybe I would.
That’s the problem. I really don’t know.
Right now I think I wouldn’t. I think I became a teacher because it made sense in my world at that time. I’m a homeschooler primarily out of conviction but also it’s because my child needs it and there is no other option that will allow her to truly flourish. So I’m not sure how much of it is conviction and how much is compulsory because I love my child. I don’t have the opportunity to even ask myself because the decision is made for me.
I do the things I do because they all dovetail nicely with everything that’s come before and is present now. It seems to work and even seems like God’s leading.
But I find myself trying to figure out how much in my life physically is there because it fits what I must be doing now and how much is just baggage I’m dragging along because it makes me feel valuable and I understand it.
I find myself wanting to let go of things that represent who I was in the past. I’m proud of what I accomplished. I’m grateful for the doors that God opened for me.
But at the same time, I feel convinced I need to let go of the things that defined who I was so I can find out more fully who I am now and what new thing God might want to do.