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Let the Past Die. Shred It, if You Have To.

There’s this great line in the latest Star Wars movie where Kylo Ren (no relation) tells Rey to let her past die. “Kill it, if you have to,” he says. He tells her this because she is obsessed with finding her parents, who may or may not have abandoned her or sold her off for alcohol money. If she lets go of the obsession, then maybe she can focus her powers and abilities on helping him rule the galaxy.

Or something like that.

My wife and I were cleaning out the garage today when I stumbled across an old letter. It was addressed to me, but it was sent by a dude I knew about 15 years ago. I knew him because he was the father of the child that my then-girlfriend had. He was a bit of a jerk, always wanting to place demands on then-girlfriend (TG, for short) and calling me all sorts of names…

The dude once ran into me at the hospital where I worked in the lab. He was an ambulance driver — or something — and he was there to take a patient on a transfer, or something. Anyway, he ran into me in the hallway and said, “Hey, are you dating TG?”
“Uh, yeah?” I didn’t know who he was.
“So you’re the apple-picker,” he said. It would be some time later that I would learn that “apple picker” was intended as a slur against me for being Mexican, since all the Latinos in the county worked at the apple farms as apple pickers.
“No, I’m a medical technologist. Is she dating an apple picker, too?” I replied. He just grunted and walked away. Weeks later, I would learn that he got mad at me because his friend/colleague made fun of him, and because he thought that I was showing him I had a college degree and he didn’t.

So, yeah, back to the letter… I opened the envelope and found a printed letter:

“Here is your key. Do not attempt to contact me again. Do not call me. Do not text me. If you do, I will be contacting Pennsylvania State Police and Immigration.”

It was signed by TG in ink, but the rest of the letter was printed off a machine. Also, Immigration? Seriously? (The key referred to a key to a shared storage unit we had.)

The letter was sent in 2003, and it had been in my stuff for some reason. Honestly, I don’t remember ever receiving it. That was such a weird time in my life. I was more focused on getting into the MPH program and doing well that the whole relationship just kind of fell apart in the background. I’m sure I just tossed it into my stash of stuff when I saw who sent it.

As you can imagine, finding the letter brought back strong feelings from those times. It reminded me of how evil that dude was and all that I went through for someone who ended up not being worth the time. Sure, I’d talk to her a few more times after that letter, but it was always in a weird way. It never got romanting or anything close to intimate ever again.

Again, it’s been 15 years, so it was time to shred that letter and forget about it. I did the same thing to tons of other stuff from many, many years ago… Except for two things. One was the doctor’s order for mom to get her blood type and a VDRL test (for syphilis) in August of 1978, when she was four months pregnant with me. The other was a copy of my original birth certificate from the civil registry in Mexico. Those are worth keeping, or at least scanning.

So at the end of this year, it’s probably time to let some things die now than to do it 15 years from now. It’s better to let go of things that weigh me down and don’t contribute to my future or that of my family.

Happy New Year.

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René F. Najera, DrPH

I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
About History of Vaccines: I am the editor of the History of Vaccines site, a project of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Please read the About page on the site for more information.
About Epidemiological: I am the sole contributor to Epidemiological, my personal blog to discuss all sorts of issues. It also has an About page you should check out.

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