I’ve never been good at letting go. I thought that after the first few times of having to let go of someone I love that it would become easier, but this is not the case at all. Every moment of letting go has been more difficult than before. Thinking back over the various times that I’ve had to let go of someone I care about I realize now that the first time was the easiest, and this time is the most difficult.
When I was seven years old, I loved to watch my shadow. It gave me hope that I wouldn’t always be small. My shadow represented what I wanted to be at that moment in my life. I wanted to be big. At seven years of age, I was tired of being small. I was tired of bullies picking at me on the playground. Albeit I didn’t really like girls at that time, I still didn’t like the fact they never noticed me. Most of all, I wanted to be big for her. No. I needed to be big for her. It is what she said to me frequently, and what I strived to be for her. “I need you to be big boy for me. Okay?”
As we walked up Main Street, our shadows walked ahead of us. That evening I saw not just my own shadow, but I saw our shadows. I remember that it wasn’t how small my shadow emanated or how tall her shadow seemed to be that caught my attention; it was the letter M that our shadows formed. Her hand was warm, and I always held as tight as I could to her hand. Up until that moment, I always believed I held tightly to her hand because I was being a big boy and protecting her. It is why I walked on the outside next to the street. I was trying to show her I was a big boy. I wanted her to know I was being what she needed me to be.
But, the moment I saw the M, I somehow knew that I had been deceiving myself. I held tightly to her hand because I was scared. I was scared of her losing me, and of me losing her. Afraid she would leave me. Even more, I realize now I was scared of growing up.
She noticed when my hand began to tremble inside hers, and asked whether I was okay. I couldn’t answer because I knew I would begin to cry the moment I opened my mouth. So, I shook my head yes, but my hand continued to tremble. I felt her hand grip mine even tighter. I knew she was trying to comfort me, but although I was only seven, I knew my fear was not one that would be easily comforted. I realized I had to grow up. The only way the bullies would stop, the only way girls would notice me, and the only way I would be the big boy she needed me to be was if I faced my fear and grew up.
I looked back down at the beautiful M on the sidewalk, and I realized it was a beauty that I was about to destroy. I began to pull my hand loose from hers. I could feel her hesitancy at first. I could feel the skin of her hand become firm, but for some reason she let me let go. At that moment I wanted nothing more than for her to grab my hand back into hers. I wanted her to make me hold her hand. But she didn’t. I couldn’t look up at my mother. Out of the corner of my eyes, I saw her hand brush across her face. I looked back down at our shadows fighting back my own tears. There was no longer a beautiful M, but rather a large and small I. That night, between my own weeping, I could hear, through the air conditioning vent, the sound of my mother crying.
Today, I understand more about that day than I ever did when I was seven. Three things that I now understand from that day that I didn’t understand when I was seven:
1. Letting go means breaking something that is beautiful.
2. When you let go of someone you love they are having to find a way to let go of you.
3. Letting go is not only painful for you, but the one you let go of has to go through their own hell.