The Art (& Attitude) of Burning Bridges

In times of conflict, it is not uncommon for human beings to hear some type of phrase around being conscious of not, “burning bridges.” I always understood this as, “politics,” and was constantly aware of the importance of navigating this dilemma if ever it should arise. Sure, there were times where I looked in the mirror, then at an interaction, and just said, “Fuck it,” but more times than not I preferred to keep things cool. It has been over the past six months where the idea of, “burning bridges,” has replayed over and over for me, in various capacities. “To burn or not to burn,” that seems to be the question.

While in Puerto Rico this past November, I did a brief night in a hostel, and written on one of the walls was the following:

“May the bridges I burn light the way.”

Powerful, right? This is when things changed for me. Sure, politicking is important, and yes, respect is key, however at some point, bridges are just going to be burned. And in that burning moment, perhaps others will see the fire and either come for help, avoid, or simply take note (yet another metaphor to give me life).

The most recent appearance of this concept came from one of my graduate students last week. This particular colleauge has a calendar with quotes on it, and with each day she tears off a page, she later giving that quote to someone who she felt it was most relevant. This past week, and after a conversation regarding conflict and before heading home for the night, she passed by my office and dropped a calendar page on my desk. The quote was as followed:

“the hardest thing in life… is to know which bridge to cross… and which to burn.”

This was particularly refreshing, and existed as further affirmation. I guess, and in a lot of ways, this also served as a bit of validation. Why does, “burning bridges,” have to be the mark of the devil? Sure, we should be respectful and civil to all, however I am starting to believe that there are just some bridges we should never cross over again. After all, burning a bridge doesn’t mean a new one can’t be rebuilt, it just means that path in particular is no longer usable. And if it takes setting fire to (the rain?) the bridge, so be it – go out with a bang, right? I’m still navigating how I truly feel about this, however as I write this all out and continue to think more on this concept, I feel good about the idea of burning bridges. Life happens. We learn. We move on.

So, what does this all mean? Be big. Be bold. Set fires (metaphorically, of course – please don’t cite me for your arson-ous ways). I have always said that I am the type of leader who lives boldly, courageously, and now days, unapologetically. So, where are my matches?



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