Success is not the result of spontaneous combustion.
You must first set yourself on fire.
-Fred Shero

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Jen about to set fire to an old Pierrot notebook


Three months ago, writer Jen Zern was in my backyard, burning her adolescent journals in the firepit. These were books she’s lugged around almost her entire life and now finally felt they were time to go. She photographed and scanned anything that was really important, and the rest she either shredded or set ablaze.

It was cathartic for me, just watching her handwriting on yellowed paper pages turn bright red, then char into black, then eventually disintegrate into nothing. I can imagine it was even more cathartic for her.

I took some pictures of her silently tossing these books into the flames, then asked her what the experience was like after. She said, “I had to honor and then let go of the past in order to make way for the future.” Inspiring words from an awesome woman who knows how to set the world on fire.

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It kinda looks like Lady Gaga going up in smoke

It’s a great plan. Now that her really sentimental stuff is all digitized, she backed everything up to Flickr, and never again has to worry about losing the precious memories she’s decided to keep, nor the annoyance of lugging boxes around every time she has to move. And she was a History major, so I know preserving the past has even greater meaning for her which is why I especially admire her boldness of action.

She has inspired me to ceremonially incinerate some of my own old journals, letters, notes and keepsakes in the next few weeks. The last two months of my life have been full of intense goodbyes, and in keeping with this universal theme of letting go, I think it’s finally time for me to fondly say farewell to the past and move on to new experiences and new memories.

In addition to the symbolic gesture, the biggest boon of digitizing/burning this stuff is that it will make me more mobile so I can travel more often. That’s so much more important to me than hanging on to musty boxes of old ticket stubs and water-stained postcards. The memories and feelings will continue to live on in my heart regardless of the physical existence of these things. So I’m ready to let it all burn and finally be free of the burden of being the keeper and protector of the past. It’s time to herald in the future.

And besides, I love any excuse that employs the upside-down fire starting technique that I learned recently. It’s so awesome!

If you’re ready to start letting go of your past, check out Discardia — it’s one of my favorite blogs/twitters, and it always motivates me to do something. And here’s more info on the burning bowl ceremony.

I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.
-Thomas Jefferson

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All we are is dust in the wind....