Our Reading Lives

On Letting Go of Childhood Favorites And What We Outgrow

Caitlin Hobbs

Staff Writer

Perpetually tired, Caitlin Hobbs somehow manages to avoid being taken by the Fae while simultaneously doing things that would attract their attention. It may be all the cats they keep around. Caitlin can usually be found dismantling ideas about what makes us human as a student in cultural anthropology, indexing archives and rare books, or writing a book of folklore retellings. You can contact them at caitlin.m.hobbs@gmail.com or on twitter as @caitlinthehob.

It’s something that we all struggle with: letting go. Especially of things that were part of our childhood or our identity for so long. Humans dislike change, instinctively, and letting go of something that carries so much nostalgia is really difficult.

For instance, I was, once upon a time, a very big fan of Welcome to Night Vale (WTNV). Just about everyone my age was at one time or another. And even if they were not a fan, you knew about it. It was there for me through a lot, from just riding the bus to school in the mornings during high school to graduating, diploma in hand, and having absolutely no idea what comes next or who I wanted to be. Night Vale was there, always welcoming me back to its slightly surreal on-goings like nothing had ever changed. My world rapidly changed around me, unpredictable and distressing, but Night Vale? Night Vale, despite the overall show concept, stayed the same. Reliable. But these days, I don’t listen to WTNV anymore.

A few years ago, at some point, without realizing, I put the podcast down and never picked it back up.

Now this is not an indictment against WTNV, or Joseph Fink. They were there when I needed them, a comforting friend to return to whenever I wanted. Some of my best memories of that time period were of being at my bakery job, early in the morning before the sun and the birds even thought about rising, with the store lights low and the only company I had being the gentle humming of the ovens and the calm, lyrical voice of voice of Cecil Baldwin in my ear as he described a glowing cloud above the Arby’s.

I loved them, dearly. I saw them live, bought their merch, convinced family to listen to them. For a long time I marked my days by measuring time between episodes. I had created a spot for the podcast and the people involved in my heart, and I never thought I would give up, never leave behind, something I held so dear.
But time moved on and things changed, and before long it had found itself a home in the past. I had grown, and so had it, and our relationship was no longer the same.

It’s okay to move beyond things, to outgrow what you once held dear, especially in this time of faults coming to light. As children it’s easy to miss, to ignore, things that as adults we can’t help but fixate on. Things that as adults we become privy to, through the simple fault of growing up.

It’s especially true now. It’s so easy to learn more about your favorite media figures via the internet, what they think and feel, what they believe in. And sometimes that mars the image we have of what we hold close to us. My mother grew up loving Marion Zimmer Bradley and Piers Anthony. Her shelves were filled with their books. Needless to say she doesn’t touch them now.

They’re still on her shelf, as she can’t quite give up the physical books; some of them she has had since high school. But they haven’t been opened in close to a decade. Because they no longer carry that warm, nostalgic feeling. Now they just remind her of disappointment, of being let down by people she once held in high regard. She’s not the only one in this position either. Several people are in the same place, let down by people who they thought of as heroes, people they made a place for on their shelves or on their playlists. And they have to try and figure out how to set aside, maybe even give up, these things they loved.

And there’s some like me, realizing one day that these things they loved no longer mean the same, no longer the puzzle pieces that fit nicely into their identity like before. But we don’t have a framework to mourn the things we leave behind. And it’s something that we can’t create a framework for. We all mourn differently, and grow at different rates, we can’t create a cookie cutter five stages of grief for something like this.

It’s something that each individual person is going to have to deal with in their own way. And they will have to deal with it, you can’t ignore some things, keeping your head blissfully buried in the sand in ignorance, or force yourself to return to things that no longer have a place in your life. Some things are better left in the past, lest they be truly be ruined forever.

Letting go of anything is something that’s necessary. It’s as human as wanting to hold on tightly to the known, standing on the precipice of the unknown. But it’s up to each individual to determine the best way to do so.