Portland, Oregon, has a TON of bridges that span the Columbia and Willamette Rivers, unsurprisingly earning Portland the official nickname of “Bridgetown.” As the Willamette divides Portland down the middle, starting at the top, there’s the St. Johns Bridge, Fremont Bridge, Broadway Bridge, Steel Bridge, Burnside Bridge, Morrison Bridge, Hawthorne Bridge, Marquam Bridge, Tilikum Crossing, Ross Island Bridge, and the Sellwood Bridge way down at the bottom. So, with my car packed up full of my belongings (again), I departed Portland thinking about all bridges in my life…
The very first bridge in Portland was the original Morrison Bridge, built in 1887, also happened to be the longest bridge west of the Mississippi River. It was an architectural marvel, finally allowing people and horse-drawn buggies alike to pass over the Willamette. It was originally a toll bridge, but the toll was dropped in 1895. The Morrison Bridge has been rebuilt a number of times, the most recent redesign was in 1958.
My favorite is the beautiful blue St. Johns Bridge, where you’re 205 feet off the water!
Bridges physically connect two locations that would otherwise be unconnected (or too cumbersome for success), bonding the “places” (not just the physical locations, but the inhabitants and spirit) together through building and exchange of a bridge. Goods, people, whatever. We all know this. Bridges are cool. But if you really dig down on the friendship-bridge metaphor, it is both inspiring and painfully honest.
It takes a lot of energy to build a bridge, and equal energy to maintain it. Both sides of the bridge benefit from the connection, some more than others at times. If the tedious, general upkeep is not maintained (the check-ins and touch-ups), even a well-built, and well-traveled, bridge can break down over time. Here it comes… the same is true with our friendships.
I love Portland, and I had a great time living there. I made some amazing connections, friends I’ll keep for the rest of my life. But what about those people that didn’t become my best friends? What about the people that wronged me? And perhaps more introspectively, how do we address the relationships that have grown to become imbalanced? How do we build the right bridge?
There are so many quotes about burning bridges, I chose not to include one in this post, simply because we all get the metaphor by now. We like burning bridges because it’s an instant satisfaction, exciting, energy-filled exchange where you hope the end result will be complete and total destruction of your enemy and there’ll be exclamations in of worldwide vindication that in the end, they were wrong and you were right! And we all know, it rarely (if ever) ends like that. Instead, you’re emotionally drained, somewhat ashamed, slightly confused, and the ripples of your outburst will continue to echo outward, essentially ruining your reputation behind you (i.e. burning other bridges)… Not so cool now, huh?
But old bridges aren’t actually burned. Not even old wood ones. Bridges, when they’re decommissioned, are for the most part disassembled. The bridges are stripped down to the bare bones before destruction. Many pieces will be salvaged, reused, repurposed, into other objects in our everyday lives. What if we applied that principle to “decommissioning” our bridges?
What if, rather than exploding at that friend that never returns your phone calls or text messages, you simply, gently, emotionally disassemble that bridge, piece by piece, and put that energy into other facets, other friendships, other bridges?
The need for connections is a symptom of the digital landscape we’re currently creating. The idea that things can be connected is being celebrated. The belief that everything should be connected is, in my opinion, sometimes needless and counterproductive. Some bridges just don’t need to exist, and that’s okay. We are not only defined by who we choose to associate with, but also who choose not to associate with.
Some bridges should not exist. You don’t need to be “friends” with that guy that never calls you back. You don’t need to be “friends” with the owner of the company that fired you. You don’t need to be “friends” with that roommate that you really didn’t like. The truth is, those were never large, sturdy bridges to begin with. They were footpaths. A dangling line across a chasm. It served it’s purpose when you needed it, but it isn’t intended to last the rest of your life. These bridges are okay to let go.
I’ll be honest, I wanted to burn bridges. SO BADLY. Ultimately, I just let them be. There’s was little fire. Maybe we’ll cross over them again sometime in the future, or maybe they will fall into the relentless river of time and life. I valued them, but I can’t look back at the bridge and wonder if it will make it, I’ve got to keep moving forward, over the bridge.The bridges that we should be spending most of our energy on are the bridges to the future. What are we doing today that will connect us, in a positive way, to where we want to be in the future? What kind of incremental bit of progress, which plank can I add today, to get me one step closer to the other side, where I ultimately want to be? And who can I connect with, work with, support, and partner with, where we can achieve our goals together?
For me, that’s filmmaking, and that’s not going to happen in Portland, Oregon. And despite all the reasons to stay (Fall in Portland is the best, the solar eclipse, Crater Lake, etc.), I have to build on my 15 years of screenwriting and put it all into action, to finish building that bridge, with a complete move to Los Angeles.
So yesterday, I loaded up my car with every item I own (for the sixth time in just over two years), said goodbye to Portland, and I’m currently on my migration South.
(Bonus drive over the Bay Bridge!)
I’ll see you in Los Angeles!