(this late night musing is brought to you by insomnia and the letter C, for constant coughing)
“Burn your bridges“
to permanently and unpleasantly end your relationship with a person or organization. ex:/Welles had burned his bridges so badly with the movie studios that they laughed when you mentioned his name.
Etymology: based on the military action of burning a bridge you have just crossed to prevent the enemy from crossing it after you.
[Before I start this post, there needs to be a disclaimer -- there are some of you, out there, who will read this and probably think I'm talking about you. I'm not. Well, maybe I am -- albeit indirectly -- but this post is not a veiled, passive-aggressive way of me taking a cheap shot. This is me, stranded alone at 3:30 in the morning, with my thoughts. It's a scary place, and this blog often feels the brunt of it.]
I never realized the phrase “burning bridges” had a militaristic tinge in its etymology. Now that I know the history of the phrase, I can see how it works. It’s quite a vivid image, imagining those metaphorical bridges burning in the wake of a diminished friendship. The older I get, the more I recognize the heat of flames of my own making.
Burns. I’ve got several scars of past burns on my body — one of them is on my arm, permanently searing my first summer job of making pretzels in a mall. Another is only from a couple weeks ago, when I tried to cram a cookie sheet into our too-small-for-words oven. Burns carry the memories of hurt, blistering, and scarring — and when burns happen in relationships, I now realize it is one part of a cycle.
I look at how much my life has changed — just in the last 5 years — and it’s hard to grasp. 5 years ago, I was in Savannah. I wasn’t happy, I was in the middle of a degree I didn’t really care about, I weighed 40 or so extra pounds. I was lost, in many ways — and many of the relationships I had, back then, weren’t helping me out of the mire. If anything, some of them only pushed me further into it.
So, what happened? I realized that I needed to pull myself out. I needed to take control, make difficult choices — and in the process, sever some of the relationships that weren’t supporting me or helping me become a better person. So, that’s what I did. Many of my friends (at that time) either didn’t like my choices, or couldn’t accept me after I did them — and as a result, those friendships slowly burned themselves out.
I moved to Canada. I started a whole new life. And now, even looking back on the “me-of-four-years-ago” — I can see how much I’ve changed. Today, I’m more confident in who I am and I’m not as willing to allow others compromise or censor that. I’m willing to ask questions I know can’t be answered — and I’m also willing to stick my neck out by saying what’s really on my mind (and heart). It can be rewarding, while also scary as hell.
But even in my life of today, I’ve had those similar experiences of the past — friendships in the cycle of growing, dying, or being completely lost.
I used to think the number of friends showed the degree of how much a person is loved and supported in life — today, I see it’s more about the caliber and strength of a few good relationships (rather than the fleet of many so-so friends).
A simplistic revelation? Maybe. But a hard lesson to learn.