Your art does not define you.
I have created pieces that no longer resonate with me.
I have made arguments in essays that I no longer agree with.
I have forgotten the meaning behind some of my poems.
I have created something one moment and felt perplexed by it the next.
This used to frighten me. I used to feel like I had to erase, undo, and delete my old creations. I would see something I made that no longer reflected who I was, feel disturbed by its existence, and want to tear it up in response.
I think this is because I felt like my art had to represent me as a person, but it doesn’t.
Our creations exist in their own right. They are not extensions of us. They do not tell the world about who we are today. They do not capture all of our complexity. They stand by themselves—the product of the past, the product of a moment, the product of a part of who we were then.
I have learned to respect my old creations, these misrepresentations of my present-day self. They still make me uneasy, but I no longer rush to unmake them. I believe they have the right to exist, but that they do not define me. My past work cannot define me, only the parts and pieces of who I once was.
If someone decides that an essay or poem of mine from years ago represents who I am today, that’s more about how they’re choosing to see me rather than the truth of who I am. I do not have to conform to these old versions of me, my old ways of being. I do not have to be the person who created that art then. I can only be who I am now.
I do not have to fear the past selves, pieces of whom can be found in my past art. I can learn to live with them. I can learn to let them live in the world. They do not define me, and I do not have to define them out of existence.