holding on, letting go

“Dad why are there two hockey jackets in our closet downstairs?” Lucy knows I like to get rid of things I never plan to use. She also knows I don’t hang on to clothes I like that are too small because I plan to lose weight. So why were these two junior high hockey jackets of mine still in the closet downstairs? The answer is this, I always imagined that if I had a son or daughter s/he would wear my hockey jacket to school with pride. I remember being in high school and seeing my friends wearing their Dad’s university jackets and thinking this was very cool. Lucy though the whole thing was a waste of space and she did not think it was “cool” to wear my hockey jacket to her high school.

But the jackets remain in the closet. And the hope springs eternal. Lucy is in grade 10, two more years for her to fulfill my dream for the jackets. I reason these two jackets are not going to have a profound effect in the world, they are both nylon without any padding so they would not keep anyone warm in cold weather. And together they are not taking up much room in the house.

But I have met many people who pay large sums to keep stuff in storage lockers. When I ask why they tell me that they hope one day to have a large and grand home to put these items in. I also know people who keep expensive clothes they no longer fit in so that when they lose weight the clothes will be worn again. But for both the person waiting for the mcmansion and the person expecting to be Jenny Craig time flies and these expectations become less and less likely to be reality.

It is certainly someone’s own business how they make these decisions. But I worry when people “hold on” to things waiting for an elusive dream to come true. To what extent does this expectation prevent the person from accepting reality and making new plans and how much does having these items in one’s life become a reminder, a kind of shaming, of what they have failed to do? If one were to finally rid oneself of what one is holding on to could not one finally be free to chart a new course and be unshackled of the constant reminder of one’s failure?

I remember a used guitar I purchased with the money I made umpiring softball on the Commons. Back then it cost $500, it was a fine guitar. I was going to be a rock star, I practice for the day of the big concert. When I say I practiced I don’t mean I practiced my guitar lessons, I mean I practiced my awesome guitar moves as I pictured myself on stage in front of thousands of adoring fans. Imagine the embarrassment as your mother comes in your room with laundry as you are pretending to wow your fans with a great guitar solo.

But at a certain point I figured some things out. A) I was not talented enough to be a rock star. B) The fact I was not practicing this craft indicated I was more interested in the fame than the craft of guitar playing. C) Someone else who really was talented and passionate about playing the guitar should have this instrument. And D) I needed to find a more authentic passion, one I was gifted to do and determined to practice, to replace this false passion with. And I did, public speaking.

Holding on to a dream is not bad, if it is authentic to you and there is a possibility that one day it will come to pass, no one should ever give up your dreams. But if this dream is merely a way to perpetuate a fantasy that will never happen it begs the question, why are you using up all this energy on something false and what other, more authentic, passion are you missing out on as a result of leaving this fantasy in place?