I’d like to voice an unpopular opinion: I’m in favor of burning bridges.
I learned something about myself recently that I found startling: I am a bridge burner.
Anyone who knows me will attest that I am no diplomat. I do not find shared ground. I do not exploit commonalities. Blunt is my middle name. Mind you, I am a yenta, a maven, and matchmaker extraordinaire. I introduce, I fix-up, I open doors. I have lifelong friendships built on decades of NSFW adventures and walking together through fires. But I am zero parts charm offensive or bridge builder.
Fine, I always knew that. I did very well professionally leading with that skill set. It was a feature, not a bug.
But, lately, I’ve been realizing that it’s not just that I’m not a bridge builder; I am a bridge burner.
In praise of burning bridges.
I love fiercely. I fight proudly. I pick sides firmly.
Sometimes I win. And sometimes I lose.
And when I lose, and sometimes even when I win, the bridge comes tumbling down.
But, you have to stand here, or you have to stand there, Right?
When you stand in the middle, you stand nowhere. So I stand for what I believe in, fighting on behalf of the causes I hold dear, loving fiercely the people I hold dear.
This doesn’t mean there can’t be learning. This doesn’t mean there can’t be compromise. This doesn’t mean there can’t be evolution.
And this doesn’t mean that my way has to be your way, either.
But it does mean that if you, too, choose this path that some will see the courage of your convictions as arrogant, a resolute decision on what is fact in this ever-changing world. A too loud, too sure, too full version of a person that those in the middle can’t abide. But, it is not so. You aren’t too much, they just aren’t enough.
If we stand for nothing, we stand for nothing.
I’m in favor of burning bridges, it seems.
So I chose sides, I pick teams, I make known my thinking. Never do I keep my counsel, hide my cards, deliberating stratagems. I challenge myself with opposing views, but I collect like-minded warriors along the way, to tilt ever together at new windmills, optimistic that the arc bends ever always in the right direction. And the shared idealists-in-arms of it all fills my soul.
That’s the upside.
But this also means that people like me — maybe people like you? — lose people along the way. Each and every loss broke a tiny piece off of my heart. Some sit like little pits in my belly, reminders of times when I could have been more politic, more mature, more inclusive.
Those are burning bridges, each and every one, because decisions were made from the other side of the river as to who I was, what I felt, what was in my soul, and right or wrong, done is done, no matter the fact that the truth laid somewhere in the middle. Regardless, the action was mine to apologize for, and theirs to not accept, collateral damage of the path I chose.
At each step, I am certain there must have been a calculation, conscious but likely subconscious — “This cause / fight / person matters enough that I’ll take whatever flak I get for standing up for it / them.” I must have felt it worth the fight deep in my amygdala lizard brain. I knew that my words, my deeds, my actions would earn me the disdain of some, even with the love of others. But I pressed on, “ALL IN!”
Because some things matter enough to me.
Was it always worth it in the full view of hindsight? I can assure you that it was not. And yet, I don’t know that I’d have it any other way.
What matters enough to you?