I think it all started a few months ago when I was taking my personal stuff from my parents’ house.
As I opened my nightstand’s drawer, I saw a bunch of printed photos of my travels six years ago.
Wow, I’ve completely forgotten about these photos. With a smile, I took the one on top and examined it. A 26-year-old girl jumping in the woods of North India stared me in the face. It wasn’t long before I burst into tears and put that photo back in the drawer.
What the f*ck just happened? Did I just cry? What were all those emotions that washed over me and shook my entire being?
Never before have I felt that discomfort just at the mere sight of a printed photo. I believe the reason of my tension was the fact that I didn’t see myself in it. It’s hard to put that feeling into words, but to put it simply, I felt like I was looking at a stranger, or a friend.
I felt separated from myself.
It’s been a while that I’ve been grieving. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy. But, sometimes, a strange feeling overcomes me and I cry for no reason. Other times, I feel strange. And most of the time, I feel something’s out of balance.
That day, when I looked at my photo, I realized that I’ve been grieving my past self.
Suddenly, all my discomfort made sense. But that was a first—it didn’t even occur to me that I could be mourning my very own person.
Is that even possible? I’m no stranger to grieving—I mourned people, places, feelings, and moments before. But my own goddamn self? I know; I’m late to the party.
For me, it was weird because I didn’t want my old self back. Usually, when we grieve someone or something, it could imply that we miss them or want them back. But I love my present self. I like where I am, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Then why would I mourn a self that I was happy to let go of?
The real confusion was the whole idea of “self.” According to the Buddhists, there isn’t really a “self” since it is regarded as our cause of suffering (as a practicing Buddhist myself, I ultimately trust this notion). I’m not my emotions—I have emotions. I’m not my body—I have a body. I’m not my thoughts—I have thoughts.
Take all of these away, and there is no identity, really. Hence, no self.
So from a Buddhist point of view, I was literally mourning nothing—I was mourning impermanence.
While I was pretty much aware of all the illusion I was mourning, I was also aware that I should read between the lines. Beyond printed photos, triggered emotions, and ideologies, my past self was trying to tell me something.
She was trying to tell me that I’m going through an immense transition in my life, that I should accept change, but I shouldn’t forget her—yet, at the same time, I should let her go.
We all go through life-altering events or situations that turn our lives upside down. But in the process of going through the changes, we should be aware that it’s not abiding.
We never stay in the same place for the rest of our lives (physically and mentally). We grow up thinking that we must hold on and protect what comes our way. The truth is, life is about learning how to shed our skins.
It is our choice whether we want to keep parts of our old skin or throw it away altogether. Today, I choose to take the parts that were of benefit in my past self. I want to take the bits that granted me meaning and purpose and throw away the ones that didn’t serve me.
I look again at my photo in the woods of India and feel grateful. That girl was trying to tell me something and she eloquently delivered it. She prepared me to take a leap into a new unknown and assured me that everything will be okay.
Courage is about being ready and determined to end phases and welcome new ones. It’s about learning that beneath all the unstable emotions and thoughts lies the same person. I’m still me. I haven’t changed. My light is just glowing differently.
Until you get used to the new light that’s shining from you, do what you must to accept it. Unleash your emotions and express them in any way possible.
Grieve who you were and welcome who you’re becoming. Grieving our past self is the most detrimental grief of all, but it’s exceptional.
Transitions are never easy, but once we land—once we firmly plant our feet onto the new ground—our emotions shift.
And remember, we’re not meant to stay there. After god-knows-how-much-time, we will find ourselves taking off to a new ground. A new experience. A new self.
Get used to flying—apparently, we will be doing a lot of it in this lifetime.