I think one of the first things I remember hearing when I got my first job was “be nice to everyone and try not to burn any bridges.” For someone like me who tends to speak her mind that was probably good advice. As I have gotten older and seen life happen to myself and every other human I have had contact with I have come to a new conclusion however. Yes, you can be as nice as possible to everyone but sometimes it is ok, no a GOOD thing to burn a few bridges. Let’s face it folks, there are just some places we just don’t need to go back too! There are experiences we have had that do not need to be repeated and there are people with whom we need to sever ties for their sake and our own. I am not trying to say that we need to walk through life carrying a torch and accelerate playing Sherman’s Army with every relationship and connection in our lives. I do believe that there are some connections (bridges) that we need to let go.
My understanding of burning a bridge has changed over time. I really don’t believe that you have to injure the person or place on the other side of the bridge in order to burn the bridge. Burning a bridge is in a way lighting a funeral pyre that marks an end to a relationship. This relationship can be with a person, a job, a group of people, a place, a way of life, anything that impacts your heart, mind, or even your soul. Life changes all the time, it changes faster than we can keep up. Things are beginning and ended all the time all around us and sometimes it is good for us to acknowledge that change and move on to build new bridges to new relationships and places.
Life is full of endless possibilities but life is not endless. We must make the hard choices that help us to live with purpose and to make forward progress. Sometimes these choices close a door or burn a bridge. As I have made choices in life and learned to articulate what I believe some bridges have spontaneously combusted others I have had to make the hard decision to selectively burn like farmers do with some crops in order to enrich the soil so that a new crop can be planted that will thrive in the ash of the failed crop.
The only wisdom I gained from a three-month career as a telephone sales rep for a generic drug company was something the sales manager said a thousand times a day, “every no is one no closer to a yes”. I burned the bridge to that job very quickly and would never want to rebuild it, but out of the ash I was nourished by words that remind me that there is always the hope of a yes out there if you stick with it!
We learn something from everything we experience in life, even the bridges that we burn can teach us something even if it is just that we NEVER what to go back there again!