There are countless inspirational photos plastered all over the internet right now that urge people to bounce negativity from their lives to make them happier people. They pop up on social media feeds literally every single day. If you’re on any network, you’ve probably seen more of them than you realize. They range from uplifting and thought-provoking to mega-stupid and clumsily worded (much like the majority of what I’ve written below).

A selection of social media fodder supporting the removal of negativity from one's life (with bonus Will Smith cameo).

A selection of social media fodder supporting the removal of negativity from one's life (with bonus Will Smith cameo).

And several authors, while writing about every day organization, emphasize similar points about “decluttering” life. Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, focuses on removing things from one’s home if the owner concludes the objects fail to “spark joy” when thinking about them. There’s another bit about actually thanking the object before giving it to Goodwill, but that’s an entirely different subject.

The point is, everyone is always trying to get others to dump the stuff and people making them unhappy so they can become happier people. I wholly agree that bailing on a bummer of a person is an excellent exercise and will often bring it up when someone needs advice about an emotional situation. It’s hard in practice, but worth doing nonetheless.

So when someone ridicules another for erasing an ex from their past, it’s puzzling, especially considering how often we urge others to rid themselves of negativity. Then again, it’s the internet, so hypocrisy shouldn’t actually be surprising at all.

“But what’s done is done! The past is no longer your life!”

Yes, it is. My past is still a part of my life. While it’s not the active part, it’s still a chapter of the story I’ve written and it continues to influence who I am today. That’s why it’s so meaningful and always will be.

With the exception of one person with whom I still maintain a passing acquaintanceship (she’s a good person), I’ve deleted every photo, thrown away every physical item, erased every trace of correspondence, and expunged every record of my past with them because it makes me happier. That’s what all the inspirational social media photos and published authors are preaching we do, right? 

There is nothing unhealthy about removing from life those people who are negative influences. There is nothing immature about discarding mementos of past relationships that do not “spark joy.” The conscious decision to improve life by acknowledging the relationships happened without providing to anyone digital/physical proof and moving onto the next great thing in life isn’t sad.

It’s liberating.

Reducing the relationships to personal timeline footnotes and discarding the proof it happened is, for me, empowering. The negativity associated with them is minimized to such a degree that it’s hard to remember why I even felt bad about them in the first place. That’s downhill inertia toward becoming a happier person all around.

The thing I take away from those relationships is what was learned while with them; mainly what I want and don’t want (SPOILER: didn’t want what they offered). That doesn’t require a lingering photo in a social media profile or a gift given to me during the relationship. Knowledge is intangible.

Getting rid of those artifacts helps position me for my future as a happier individual. As an inspirational social media post would clumsily say, “Some persons are a cloud because when they disappear, it’s a brighter day when they disappear from the sky.”