Jaclyn Steele

Dear Self: Burn the Bridges

If you are new here, this is the background on the “Dear Self” series. 

These letters, written to myself, were created with the purpose of cleaning up some of the sticky stuff in my head…  Like goo gone for my brain and I want to share these thoughts because I think many of these sticky subjects are so intertwined with the fabric of our internal life that we sometimes forget that they also exist outside of ourselves – that other people experience sticky stuff, as well. And sometimes the sticky stuff is the very thing that binds us together.

So, welcome to the sticky inner workings – where the pollen is harvested, refined, and hopefully, at some point, turned into honey.

“No point in stayin’ safe – it just get’s in the way.  So, let’s burn the bridges down. Let’s burn the bridges down.  Light ’em up, no turnin’ around.”

The song “Bridges” by JOHNNYSWIM

Dear Self,

You just returned from almost 2.5 weeks in the Middle East.  This land has eluded you for more than a decade – like a gem buried in the sand that you catch a glimpse of when the conditions are just right.  You’ve been longing to experience the vastness of this area of the world in the depths of your bones – to hear it’s stories, to touch it’s people, to taste it’s creativity, to attempt to understand a place that has, for so long, seemingly been so misunderstood.

In some ways, this was a spiritual journey for you.  You went by yourself.  Something deep inside needed to be unearthed – pulled up to the surface and into the light.  You were reminded of your favorite book, The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo, when Santiago sets out in search of his personal legend.  That sense of longing and adventure is in your blood and sometimes it must be chased after alone.  Life is full of dichotomy – we need each other to survive, yet we need silence and space to truly discover all the beautiful layers we contain below the surface of our skin.

You went in search of these deeper layers.  You left the U.S. feeling burnt out  and unlike yourself.  Months of grinding in work and music and business building without enough time for recharging and inspiration left you feeling as though you were standing on one leg.  You knew you needed a change of pace – to feel a sense of awe in front of wonders that are beyond your small corner of the world.  You wanted to feel small for a moment to remember how big your life could be.  It’s up to you to shrink or grow, my dear, and sometimes you have to shatter what you know in order to build something that fits your ever evolving frame.

You have returned home changed.  Yes, you saw glorious architecture, you experienced the canorous call to prayer, you tasted the gastronomy of a culture that pre-dates anywhere else you’ve been, but what permanently changed you were the conversations you had with people outside of your familiar feedback loop.  You swapped stories with global citizens from totally different backgrounds and understood that, really, we are all so much the same.  You are reminded of this every time you travel.  Our differences pale in comparison to what could unite us if we took the time to unveil it.

On both sides of the globe, our media highlights only the sensationalized and radical things that occur in our cultures.  In general, they fail to share the beauty that exists on both sides, and instead opt to show only what sparks fear and rage.  This act is antiquated and only serves to separate us further.  This enrages you, Jaclyn.  You want to do something about it and the only thing you know to do right now, in this moment, is to share your experience.  It was rife with hospitality, acceptance, laughter, and love.  

You want to burn the bridges down so the only way is forward.

You want to do this not only to span the gap between cultures, but also the gap inside yourself.  How can we ever live in a world where peace reigns if we are unwilling to participate in making it so?  

And how do we make it so? You know it’s hard to come up with a simple answer to a complex question, but you have a gut feeling that moving forward looks a lot like sharing stories.  It looks a lot like openly recognizing the innate humanity in people that may look different and come from an area of the world you don’t recognize, but, darling, that’s the beauty of it all.  Do you want a canvas that is purely black and white or do you want a canvas that contains a cacophony of dazzling color?

So what will you do next? You don’t know exactly, but you have an inkling that it includes raising your voice a little louder, opening your heart a little more deeply, and using your talents to focus on the cracks in our world so the light can leak in. If you want change, you have to be it. If you want to leave the world a better place than you found it, then you have to put one foot in front of the other and get to it, my love.

Little by little, bit by bit, piece by piece, you will spark the bridges, burn them down and carve a path forward… one human interaction at a time


Y O U.


  • Kevin Hammontree

    Absolutely stellar and insightful Jaclyn, so enriched by knowing that someone, who knows this much passion, is sharing this time on this earth, with us. Thank you for going, learning, and growing, then returning to bring this experience to us, so that we may share, as well. Blesding to you, my friend.

  • Dan Tea

    This really hit home. There should be more travelers like you pollinating our mother earth. Maybe then, just maybe, peace will be instilled in humanity more rapidly than the false positives of advocating fear-mongering groups. In the end, we are the good people!

    • jsteele

      Thank you, Dan! It’s so important to keep an open mind in life… it’s when we think we have all the answers that we really have none of them. I so appreciate your comment and agree with you whole-heartedly.

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