Life,  Writing

LESSONS ON DETACHING

A couple of weeks ago I was in a relatively heated and emotional argument. By that, I mean that the person I was arguing with argued back while I was close to tears, immensely offended but playing it off with shoulder shrugs and (looking back at it) annoying comments to focus the bad energy and focus away from me and back on to him. Right before another one of my defensive outbreaks, he halted, looked me right in the eye, and said “Antonia, you need to stop getting so attached.”
It’s an easy sentence, it’s not loaded with emotional vocabulary and his tone wasn’t rough or rude or anything of the likes. He said it matter of factly and quickly, like he had just realized it, like he was ripping off a bandaid.
To continue this overly dramatic metaphor, he did not only rip off a bandaid but also a layer of scar tissue that I thought was untouchable. Did his statement, which struck me to the core, hurt my feelings? Yes, yes it did. But did it open my eyes? Yes, yes it did.

It is not a secret that I’m sentimental, that I get attached to people just as much as I am attached to the stuffed animal my parents bought me at Disney World when I was in second grade. My bedroom walls used to be covered in postcards, I keep shirts I never wear anymore as “sleeping shirts” just to have an excuse to still have them in my closet.

I am writing this post sitting at the living room table of my new apartment in Amsterdam. I never planned on living here, and I invited people to my farewell party weeks before I was even convinced that I was actually moving to Holland. I’m not really a homebody, I’ve never planned on staying in Germany or anywhere close, but I spent my last day in Düsseldorf sobbing while I said goodbye to the life I had so recently started loving. I said goodbye to the parrots that occupy the Königsallee once the sun sets, I said goodbye to my place of work, I said goodbye to the restaurant that had become my favorite since Spring. I said goodbye to these places and smells and feelings as if that would change a thing, as if the word “goodbye” would remove all traces of attachment, as if it was that easy.

All my life I thought that my ability to love so deeply, to be so loyal, to get so attached so easily, was a fault of mine. It has caused me heartbreak over irrational things. Overthinking is my most dangerous pastime, and I get distracted easily by daydreams or songs that remind me of people I can longer speak to. When meeting new people, I am extremely careful of how much I show of my sentimental side, I hide it. I follow the typical dating advice like it’s prayer: “pretend you don’t care” “don’t show him how much you like him” “don’t come off as needy or attached”. To a certain extent, this advice makes sense. By nature, I am not a needy person, I am not clingy, but I do find it hard to let people in, I do struggle with opening up, so it almost comes naturally to me to ask more questions than answer them, to avoid certain topics, to always have a completely different conversation at hand. Drake said “If I ever loved you I’ll always love you, that’s how I was raised” and nothing has ever resonated with me more. I hate opening up and I try to avoid it like the plague, but I get attached easily, I am loyal almost to a fault, and I am done apologizing for it.

I’ve thought about attachment as a fault and attachment as an asset ever since I was called out during that argument weeks ago and I have come to the conclusion that “getting attached easily” is, in essence, nothing but faith. Faith in this new person, faith in this new relationship, platonic or romantic, faith in this new direction life might be taking.

Every single person you meet changes you. They introduce you to new music, they take you on trips to beaches you’ve never been to, teach you new habits like knocking on wood for good luck, they take you to new restaurants and open your eyes to a whole new world: their world. That is the beauty of human connection; you meet one new soul and yours will be altered forever. That’s the way life goes, whether they stay or not, a piece of theirs will always stay within you, and a piece of yours will always stay within them. And isn’t it much more beautiful to sacrifice looking “needy” or “overly emotional” in the name of faith than it is to avoid attachment like the plague? And, if things do work out, wouldn’t it be so much more beautiful to be able to say “I believed in this from the start, I had faith in you, in this” while actually having something to show for it?

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.

– Carl Jung

I have learned that it is easiest not to get attached. It is comfortable to say “I knew this would happen, I knew this would hurt”, and so I have begun to avoid getting attached to specific people, and have started attaching myself more to my own wellbeing, my own emotional safety. It is as easy as letting go of anything that didn’t work out: university applications, friends that don’t text you first, boys that don’t reciprocate energy, jobs you had to quit with managers that didn’t like you. I have started to use his words “Antonia, you need to stop getting so attached” as a sort of mantra, and it has freed me.
I moved to Amsterdam even though it isn’t what I wanted because I forced myself to detach from what I thought I wanted, and being here feels right even though (or maybe because) I have no idea how my next three years will go. I spoke to my friend about this only yesterday and the more I told her, the more she kept repeating herself: “Antonia, it’s all falling into place”. She must have said these words at least five times as I was telling my stories, and that’s how I realized that detaching from the way I thought things were supposed to go, is actually how it is supposed to go.

I have no idea where I am headed, I have no plan, nothing I could possibly get attached to right now. I am free, and I am accepting the challenge. I am leaving you with my personal words of wisdom, a lesson I took to heart, a lesson I live by now: “You need to stop getting so attached”

Leave a Reply