keep a box of mementos, souvenirs of your current world. in a couple of years you’ll look through it with the detached sentimentality of a stranger who has vaguely known your stories. you’ll read over the letters and skim through journals. you’ll mark the nights that have changed you. you’ll mark the nights that you just barely survived. collect the movie stubs, the small gifts, birthday cards. remember who is in your life. remember who has left. put on the one elephant earring that maria had given you at the barn when you were fourteen and needed a miracle. hold it in your palm. remember that drive home in the sunlight when rodney only smiled in the driver’s seat while you looked out the window and cried and laughed and cried and laughed. read through all of it and you will see how you’ve grown, how even your handwriting has changed, how you have become sloppier with language, how your priorities have toppled over each other and rebuilt into different homes. remember fondly the past selves that you have grown out of, shed, and found a new shell to call your own. remember the old haircuts, your favorite blouses. acknowledge it all. all the hurt and all the sadness, all of the love that you have received and all the love that you have given out. then, let go of all the things that keep you from moving forward. try to understand, from a far away perspective, why you hurt when you hurt. try to understand why that night in his bed you could not say let me be free. understand why your loneliness defined you for so long, and then let it go. there will be more nights. most memories blur with time. faces smudge, facts get misshapen, and sooner or later you realize that those nights that you depended on for solace are no longer what you need to survive. think of you at sixteen sitting in that dark room, cleaning the pink throw up off the wooden floors. think of her and understand that that moment was necessary, but no longer defines you. that night will be replaced with sneaking onto the roof of your elementary school with the boy that you will one day love, kicking basketballs off of the roof with one, no two shooting stars tailgating overhead. understand who you were and kiss that self on the cheek, say thank you, say goodbye. let go of all that is keeping you from moving forward, from climbing your way into the new stage of your life. it’s going to be so hard, shinji. it’s going to be so hard to peel all these selves back. it will be so hard to let go of the things that you no longer need. but you must, love. you must. you have so much to look forward to. let go of all the memories holding you by the tail end of your shirt. let go. it will be okay.