I’m Learning

I’m Learning to Let Shit Go

Losing something important to me gave me the strength to move past my trauma

Black woman looking out the window with a forlorn expression.
Black woman looking out the window with a forlorn expression.
Photo: Robin Gentry/EyeEm/Getty Images

So I think I have a ghost in my apartment.

I started noticing it almost immediately upon moving in. I would hear noises coming from the ceiling as though someone was walking around up there. (I live on the top floor. No one is above me.) Doors in my apartment would open and close on their own (I live alone). None of the clocks in my apartment ever read the same time no matter how many times I reset them (including the digital clocks on the oven and microwave!).

But the scariest and most annoying phenomenon is that items in my home have mysteriously gone missing. Since the day I’ve moved in, household items have disappeared in ways I can’t explain. I’ve gone from having five plates to three. Socks and underwear that I’ve had for years are vanishing into thin air. I’ve even had a whole pillow just disappear!

Most of these occurrences had been spooky yet small inconveniences until something went missing that was very important to me: a ring. A 14-karat gold diamond ring that I’ve had since I was eight years old.

I’m learning to let go of the material things, and the emotional weight I attached to them.

My mother had given me the ring after she had found it on the sidewalk on her way to work one night. It wasn’t really fancy. The stone was cloudy, the setting was loose and the band was severely bent. Still, it was real gold and a real diamond and by far the fanciest thing we’d ever owned. Most of our valuables, including any jewelry we had, my mother would have to sell to pawn shops or charity stores in order to pay bills. But we never pawned off that ring.

I was really proud of that. To me, that ring was our insurance policy. If money ever got really tight, at least we had the ring to fall back on. And if I still had the ring at the end of every month and every year, it meant, in my little mind, that we’d beaten poverty! Looking down at that ring on my finger over the years gave me a lot of security. It reminded me that I was a survivor, and I could make it through anything.

So I was devastated that after keeping it safe (and it keeping me safe) for almost my entire life, the ring just up and disappeared.

I looked everywhere for that ring. In 20 years, I’d never lost or misplaced it. I’d only ever taken off for showers and x-rays. At the time it went missing, I had no visitors nor had I left the house due to strict quarantine mandates. I’d barely unpacked, I hadn’t even vacuumed or taken out the trash yet! So there was nowhere else the ring could’ve been but in the apartment.

But it wasn’t there. It wasn’t anywhere to be found to this very day.

I grieved losing that ring. But in that grieving process, I had to think back to why the ring meant so much to me in the first place.

Sometimes, we hold onto trauma as a badge of honor. That trauma continues to haunt us long after the experience is behind us.

In reality, that ring had very little monetary value. We probably would’ve only made a couple hundred bucks if we’d ever pawned it. And it shouldn’t have held as much sentimental value to me as it did. I’m no longer an eight-year-old living in poverty. I’m a grown-ass woman with my own house and my own job (and my own ghost!) and my own money to buy a brand new ring if I want it. But I don’t need a new ring, I needed a new mindset.

At the end of the day, the ring was a reminder of everything I had survived. But I can still hold those memories without holding on to the fear of returning to a state of need and scarcity. I don’t need the ring or an apartment or anything to validate my inner strength and street smarts. I carry that power in myself every day.

Thanks to my mischievous ghostly roommate, I’m learning to let things go. I’m learning to let go of the material things, and the emotional weight I attached to them. I’m also learning to let go of the story of who I used to be and what I used to need, in order to fully step into the person I am today.

Sometimes, we may hold onto trauma as a badge of honor. That trauma continues to haunt us long after the experience is behind us. At some point, we all have to give up the ghost. At some point, we have to let things, people, and memories go so we can make room to heal and move forward without needing to look back.

So shout out to Casper, the friendly apartment ghost, for teaching me this valuable lesson. And in the spirit (haha!) of this new mindset, I will be letting go of this haunted apartment very soon so I can move out and move forward.

I’m Learning is a weekly series of essays by ZORA senior platform editor Jolie A. Doggett about all she is learning about life through living. Follow her for more stories!

Senior Platform Editor @ZORAmag | book lover | fangirl | Black woman | Terp

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