The Inevitability of Letting Go

The things we love won't always be there

Words by Shawn Mihalik

I own a lot of books. Up until a few months ago, I owned over 800 books. My library is smaller now—I gave up more than half of it in a divorce—but it’s still not insignificant. I have many books signed by the author, including several first editions. As a novelist, books are one of the most important things in the world to me.

I have no plans to get rid of any of my several hundred books, and I expect that my library will grow larger in the future. In fact, my wonderful partner gifted me signed first editions of two of my favorite novels at Christmas, and I think I’ll order a few more novels from a local bookstore soon.

All this said, I’m not particularly attached to my books.

Suppose I lost my entire library in a fire, even the signed first editions: Would I be sad? Yes, a little. I would mourn the loss. I certainly mourned the loss of the books I gave up in the divorce. But I would also be, and have been, able to move on from the loss pretty quickly.

The books are just things. If my copies were destroyed, there would still be thousands, and in many cases millions, of copies of all the particular titles I own still extant in the world. Losing the books wouldn’t mean losing the information.

The same is true of other possession—and even of relationships. Obviously, my books weren’t the only loss I mourned after the divorce. We can allow people we love into our lives while recognizing that they might not always be there. That they probably, even definitely, won’t always be there.

Letting go of our attachments doesn’t have to mean getting rid of everything or owning nothing or loving no one. But it does mean understanding that, some day, we will be forced to let go—and being at peace with that inevitability right now.


This essay was originally published in Inside Minimalism. For more exclusive essays from our talented team of writers, consider subscribing.

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