Death, Rebirth, and Saying Goodbye to the Last Life

Old red riding lawn mower with peeling paint and rust sitting on a trailer bed.
My family's mower from my childhood.

In mid-July, I stopped by my parents’ house for some reason or another. I don’t remember why, so it must not have been for anything particularly important. Just another weekend day.

As I walked around to the backyard, my dad asked if I remembered this pile of—what was essentially—scrap metal.

It was the old riding mower our family had for at least two, maybe three, decades. I’m honestly not sure how old it was. It felt like it and I were about the same age. We’d both seen better days.

Looking back upon my teen years, I have fond memories of cutting the grass on that mower. Don’t get me wrong; like any other teenager, I absolutely hated doing any and all chores. But, it’s hard to view those memories through the lens of 20 years ago. Today, I see those times that I was “required” to mow the grass as life lessons that my father would impart upon me. They were mere stepping stones from boyhood to manhood. That old mower was part of what shaped the person I would become, the person I am still becoming.

My dad had loaded the lifeless hunk of metal onto his trailer. It was time to let that piece of the past go.

He’d long ago moved onto bigger and better mowers. I don’t know why he held onto this one for so long. Maybe I’ll ask him one day. Or, maybe it’s better not knowing. However, as I write this, I do wonder whether he took a moment to say goodbye in his own way. We tend to grasp onto things long after they’re gone, as if the whole world would shake if we just let go.

Perhaps he unceremoniously hauled it to the scrapyard for a few dollars, not giving it a second thought.

July was somewhat of a turning point for me. Things had already been going well for a while, and I was happy with the trajectory my life was on. But, I felt like there was more I could be doing. Some of that was related to financial plans I had made at the time. Another part of that was letting go of something I had clung to for far too long.

It was time to say goodbye to Theme Hybrid, an old website of mine.

The site was my first business venture as a young and hungry 24-year-old who was ready to take on the world. It was also the thing that kept me from pursuing greater things for years after it had fallen from its early success. I had given everything that I had to give to it for 11 years. Why was I giving it more?

I shuttered the doors on the business in 2019. No one visited the site anymore, despite a lackluster effort to keep it open as a $free hub for developers.

My heart wasn’t in it back then. It hasn’t been in it for the last three years since closing the business side of things. Why was I still allowing it to have power over me?

I quietly took the site offline in July. I didn’t tell anyone, knowing a few developer friends may have talked me out of it. No fanfare. No epic goodbye. I just breathed in the moment alone.

I had simply let go.

In all honestly, I haven’t given it much thought since. It wasn’t until yesterday that someone asked me if the site had been taken down. He was the first person to do so. Like I said, no one has visited the site in a while. Not even me.

That question is the reason for this post. I have found peace in letting go of that part of my life, and I figured now was as good of a time as any to share my thoughts on it.

Around the time that I was putting the final nail in the coffin, I came across a decade-old web comic that helped change my perspective. In it, the author talked about the myth of only living one life. It seemed that YOLO was a lie. His argument was that we lived many lives.

“Most people never let themselves die,” read one of the panels.

It was at that moment that I knew I had never truly put my last life to rest. It was time. It was time for me to fully embrace my new life. But, in all of the ways that mattered, I had already done so. There was just that one last burden from the past that I needed to shed.

One of the ways I categorize my posts here on the blog is by era. After so many years of blogging, it’s nice to have that breakdown when reading through old posts. These eras are a reminder of where I was in my life as I wrote them.

It’s hard to say exactly when this new era began. Part of me feels like it had started around October 2018. I hit some big goals that month like rebuilding this site on a custom blogging system and deciding to take on NaNoWriMo (winning for the first time the next month).

There was a definite change with my outlook on life, but it was also a bit of a recovery phase. I was still clinging to so many of the things I needed to let go of at the time.

August 2019, nearly a year later, was when things really started to click. In Writing Again, a post I published that month, it seems I could feel the tide changing:

I do have a couple of professional writing-related fires I’m stoking at the moment. If things play out in my favor, I’ll have some other good news in the near future. As always, I’m remaining cautiously optimistic. I want to believe I’m on the verge of a major turning point that will propel me to doing more of the thing that I love to do in the future.

I was co-writing the second edition of Professional WordPress Plugin Development at the time. This was also shortly before I took a job writing at WP Tavern. It was nice to feel like my feet were on steady ground after several shaky years. Since I took that role, I’ve slowly felt more and more like I could just be whoever it is that I’m supposed to be. While I transitioned into a job at Automattic earlier this year, those two and a half years with the Tavern were life-changing in ways that I can hardly describe.

There was just one last thing to do: name the last era so that it would be separate from the current timeline.

For a while, I considered titling it “The Dark Years.” In some ways, that is what that they were. There were moments—days, weeks even—where I had almost no motivation to do anything. The first post in that era was even a farewell to my Uncle Donald, who had just died.

The name seemed fitting, but I have come to look upon those years as more life lessons, much like those that I learned from my father. They were a part of my last life and are now labeled as such: The Last Life.