What holds us back from being happy? Perhaps it may be the same for some people, but different for most people. As I have experienced life, I can only be certain of one thing that has always held me back from achieving happiness – the inability to let go. I have always held on to memories – I would lie on my bed for days, scrolling through photos on my Facebook, photos that had captured fleeting moments.

Photos cage a beautiful moment inside of them; we move on in our lives and several years pass but these moments remain caged, and every now and then we look at these caged moments and reminisce all that we have lost: our youth, our childhood, our school days, our college years, our loved ones, and our happiness. If you have photos that cause you pain, set them on fire so that the caged moments inside them may be set free. To be happy, you must learn to let go – let go of the beautiful moments that cease to exist.

A beautiful moment is like an astounding bird that you noticed the other day you were taking a walk in the park, and that you were tempted to capture. The bird was so alluring that you did not want to let it go, no, you would rather cage it so that you could always gaze at its marvelling beauty. But what you forgot is that when this marvellous bird is caged, like a moment is in a photo, it will remain marvellous no more – it will grow to change from alluring to grotesque, like a cake that you preserved but that changed from sweet to sour, and the sight that once gave you immense pleasure will then give you searing pain.

So moments are best not captured; did you see that bird today? Relish its sight while it lasts, and when the bird flaps its wings to fly away let it do so. Do not preserve anything, relish it for as long as you are meant to and when it is time for it to go, let it go.

Relish the moments while they last, and when they are gone do not dwell in the past.

I have always been nostalgic about everything, the one to preserve, the one to hold on to everything I can catch hold of. When I was eleven I started maintaining a list – a list of people that I was close to. I would write the year we got close, and if we fell apart I would strike their name off and write the year we lost touch. I maintained this for three years, until I was fourteen and every name on the list had been stroked off. I would have stopped with the list even if there had been names to write because I no longer wanted to mourn the loss of the people who had left.

We can learn from many things in life, and I have always known that my habit of preserving has caused me pain but what struck me was an old friend with whom one day I sat in a cafe and discussed old and pleasant memories of freshman year. I told her that I hated the fact that we had all taken different paths, and nothing was as it used to be anymore.

“Don’t you? They were such good moments” I asked.

‘Her reply was what struck me – “I do, and they were good moments. I had fun, but it’s gone now and it’s time to move on. I don’t think about it too much.”

That is when I realised why, even though both of us had lost the same things and were at the same phase of life, she was happy and I was not. She was happy because she had moved on, she no longer ceased to remember our “good old days”. No, she wasn’t trying to get in touch with old friends and recreate memories – those moments were like the beautiful bird to her, the bird that she saw, relished its beauty, and then watched it fly away. And I was the one that had preserved the bird, the one that was pained every day at the grotesque sight of the bird. The sight of spring had changed before my eyes into a sight of autumn but had remained a sight of spring for her. I was still stuck amongst memories while she had moved on and was preoccupied with relishing new moments.

The secret to happiness lies in letting go and not preserving anything. Let go of those caged moments, the friends that you lost touch with, the time that you failed eleventh grade, the crush that you could never get far with. Let go of what is gone and believe that there are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.