Letting Go of the Past
“The more you let go, the faster you will move ahead.” Alan Cohen
I am a curious person. Since I was little, I’ve always asked questions because I always wanted to know more. But looking back, there is one question a small part of me wishes I never asked. Asking the question did teach me a valuable lesson about letting go of the past. The lesson wasn’t easy and it definitely wasn’t quick.
At 13 years old I asked my mom “Why isn’t dad here? Why are we not together as a family?” My mom looked at me, smiled and explained not everyone has a dad. I wasn’t satisfied, so I pushed her away and said “It kinda feels like everyone has a dad but me.”
“Aleks your dad loves you but unfortunately he wasn’t a very good husband.” And she proceeded to tell me everything that happened and why they split up. It crushed me. My mom never spoke badly of my dad. Even when she was explaining the past, she didn’t paint him as a bad person. However, I saw the mistakes and errors that my dad made. My dad was my hero and the stories proved that he wasn’t perfect. My hero was broken.
Up until then, I had done everything I could to be like my dad. But I didn’t want to act like my dad did towards my mom. But underneath I knew that 50% of me is from him. So in order to not be like him, I cut him out of my life..
For years, I barely spoke to my dad. I didn’t talk about it and I thought I was fine with it. As I got older and was in relationships I just kept telling myself, “I’m not gonna be like him.” It seemed to work. By my mid 20’s, I rarely even thought about him. When people would ask where my dad was, I would respond with “I don’t know. It doesn’t really matter.”
Then when I was 29, I was leading the group huddle at the end of class. It was story time. And my question for that class was, “If you had seven days to live, what would you want to do?” As usual, I had practiced my story and I was pretty happy with it but that’s not the story I told.
When I put my arms around my students, surprisingly even to me, I said “If I had seven days to live, I’d want to see my dad.” Then I burst into tears. It was a really ugly cry, snot and everything. Yet the story just started to flow. I said to the students, “I don’t have the courage to face my dad but that would be my regret.” And everybody rushed in to hug me and comfort me.
It was a powerful story for me and the students. It also made me vulnerable and that was something I was working on. I knew that was the story I had to tell. So for the next 18 classes, I shared the story over and over again.
At the 18th telling of the story one of my students said,”Hey Aleks, I heard the story earlier in the week in another class and I noticed that you’re not crying anymore. Are you still scared to talk to your dad?”
He was right. This thing I was running away from, I shared a bunch of times and now it didn’t feel so overwhelming. I felt lighter. I looked at him and siad “Give me a second.”.
I took out my phone. I messaged my dad for the first time in a couple of years. “We need to talk.”
It was the start of our conversation. The conversations haven’t always been easy but they have always been good. Now I talk to my dad every Friday. He is back in my life.
Asking the question wasn’t what caused the heaviness. It’s leaving things. It’s leaving things left unspoken. The shame and the guilt I felt was overwhelming. I was embarrassed but when I shared it, the students didn’t turn away from me. They hugged me and made me feel #belong even more.
So I made a rule that if there’s something inside me, talk about it. My biggest regret is that I didn’t talk about it earlier. The lightness and freedom I felt after over 15 years of holding it in was incredible. Because I continue to share, that feeling of lightness and freedom has remained.
It doesn’t mean you have to share all the stories that I share, but this week, can you lighten your load a little bit more by sharing just a bit more? So you can stand up a bit more upright and walk a little more free.
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