Monday, July 11, 2011

May the bridges I burn, light my way.

I read this quote quite a while back. It has been rolling around in the back of my mind, stirring up debris. It really made me think. It’s one of those statements that can be taken in different ways -- or mean different things to different people. It’s all in the interpretation. I suppose primarily, because you’re either the bridge or you’re the one holding the match.

I’m trying to look it from the “burners” point of view. It’s saying in essence, “I’ve done some things. I have created damage that is beyond repair. And I am using these experiences to move on. I am not looking back.” This could mean that they will be guided by the relationships and opportunities that they destroy. It could mean that the mistakes that someone made in their past and the broken relationships with other people -- the burning bridges -- will be a guide for them later. They will learn from them.

“Burning the bridge” from a literal sense means: To cut off the way back to where you came from, making it impossible to retreat. It’s a point of no return. Figuratively it means: to make decisions that cannot be changed in the future. Or to act unpleasantly in a situation that you are leaving, ensuring that you'll never be welcome to go back.

I suppose there are times when your actions cause a bridge to burn, beyond your control. Or maybe I shoud say your "intention" -- because our actions are in our control. I also believe that sometimes a clear cut decision is made to “strike the match.” You’ve had time to contemplate the outcome and the affect it will have in your life and others'. There are ramifications for every decision we make in our lives. Nothing happens without consequence. Are there hurts and actions that can’t be undone? I don’t like to believe that, but yes, there are.

I think there are different types of burning bridges – ultimately defined by what side you’re standing on. Some bridges can smolder for what seems like a very long time. One person is trying to ignite the inferno and the other person keeps throwing water on it – trying desperately to put out the blaze. Eventually, however, if someone wants it up in flames bad enough, it becomes impossible to extinguish. Others are so quick to combust; you’ve barely had time to escape with singed hair and hopefully your eyebrows intact.

I can honestly say that there is only one occasion I can think of in my life when I burned a bridge with full intention. I was a checker at K-Mart in 1989. I had given my 2 weeks’ notice and my last day scheduled was a Saturday night. The same night all of my friends were going to a rock concert. I can’t even remember which one, but I can tell you that I really wanted to go. I called and told my boss that I wasn’t coming in. I was informed that if I didn’t work the full 2 weeks’ notice, that I would not be eligible for rehire. Ever. I was black listed from K-Mart. Forever.

So I guess I should say that I am not an “intentional” bridge burner, generally speaking. I’m cursed with always trying to always keep one foot in, and one hand hanging on. I’m always afraid, that if I let go completely, there is no going back. Does this make me a coward? Because I’m afraid of making clear cut decisions? Because I fear finality? Or does it make me brave because I’d rather battle and endure? Perhaps a bit of both.

“May the bridges I burn light my way.” No thanks. I don’t want that type of light guiding me through my life. I don’t want my life defined by the path of destruction I’ve left behind me.

So the question remains, are you an arsonist or a firefighter? I want to be the fighter.

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