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Imagine life is like the face of a cliff. The top is hidden above the clouds, and even though it is nowhere in sight, you are certain it exists. You are climbing this cliff, while tethered to a safety rope that extends skyward into the atmosphere. You pause to look around and notice that there are others climbing as well. Everyone, it turns out, is climbing the face of this impossibly vertical cliff. Some are moving at a decent pace while others are hardly making progress.
Every climber has multiple chains with bags at the ends wrapped around their ankles. You then make the connection to each climber’s speed and how many bags they have tied to their chains. They are being held back by their heavy loads, and it seems that they don’t even notice.
Puzzled, you edge your way over to the climber nearest you.
“Hey, what is all of that stuff tied around your ankles?” You ask.
The climber glances down at the tangled mess of chains and bags, “Every memory of every mistake I’ve ever made; everything bad that has ever happened to me.”
“I don’t see what you need all that for. It’s only holding you back. Maybe you should cut those weights off?”
“The burdens I’ve created for myself are mine to bear. I’m nothing but deserving of every once of shame. Besides, letting go would mean becoming someone I am not.”
He seemed to have his mind concluded, but you continue regardless, “I really think you need to cut some of that stuff off. You’d be able to climb a lot faster, and it wouldn’t be so painful.”
“Who are you to tell me what I need? You’ve got some luggage yourself.”
Slowly, you look down, and sure enough you also have bags at the end of your chains. You hadn’t even noticed them before.
“Go ahead already. Let go of your mistakes. Come on!”
Your hands find themselves grasping a pair of heavy wire cutters, but you couldn’t bring yourself to use them.
“Not so easy, huh?” The climber said with satisfaction.
The climber had a point. Who were you to ask someone to do something that you yourself were not willing to do? The only way forward is up, and the things from your past are not helping you ascend this cliff.
“Our past defines us. We have to carry our burdens with us as a reminder of who we are. Suck it up and keep climbing.”
You did not understand this. It seems so counter-productive to purposely slow yourself down. Why are you letting your past define you? Why are you punishing yourself for something that you can never change?
Letting go is the last thing you want to do, but sometimes the right thing to do is the one thing you don’t want to. You feel the cold air rush into your lungs as you inhale deeply. With your eyes closed, you cut one of the chains from your ankles.
Surprised, you exhale and look around. Everyone is watching you. After an embarrassingly silent pause, you boldly cut another chain. And another. Yet another. Only one remains. You look around to see thousands of wide eyes staring back at you.
“I don’t want my past to define me,” You said, “and neither should any of you.”
The final snapping chain echoed across the cliff face as you smile. You begin climbing again, faster and stronger than ever before. Why didn’t you do this sooner?
As you ascend, the others you left behind began to fade into the fog. A loud crack shot its way up the cliff. Startled, you looked down, but couldn’t make out anything. And then another crack, followed by yet another.
“Surely not…” You began.
More and more loud snaps and cracks pierced the frigid air until it sounded like a swarm of insects. And then you saw them: figures emerging from the fog. A dozen maybe? No. There were hundreds! Before you could grasp what was going on, thousands of climbers were racing up the cliff. All had removed their chains.
They chose to let go.