Why sentimental value is bullshit.

As a kid, I didn’t have a favorite superhero. The closest thing to one was my dad. He has always been and will always be a hero to me.

Life was difficult growing up — we didn’t have a lot of money. My parents, in order to raise me in America, gave up everything they had: jobs, opportunities, wealth, connections, friends, family. It’s part of the reason why I respect, love and admire my parents so much, because of all the sacrifices they’ve made for my brother and I without ever expecting anything in return. It wasn’t until high school though that I realized how little I knew of the world and how fortunate I had been to have been shielded from the struggles my parents had to suffer through.

Life eventually got a lot easier. My dad found some success opening a PC repair shop. He began establishing a name for himself, teaching computer courses and eventually hosting his own radio talk show on our local Chinese radio station.

I remember one day, after moving some boxes to a storage unit we had rented, I asked my dad why he didn’t just sell or throw away the things we had in storage. We had been paying for the storage space for over a greater part of a decade already and most of what was stored were boxes of stuffed animals, kitchenware, vintage clothes, furniture and stacks of antique photo frames — mostly relics of the past that my parents had brought with them to America.

“Jon, these are things that mom and I used to have in the past. They’re things of our life in Hong Kong, before coming to America and giving birth to you. These are items that I worked hard for and was finally able to purchase after saving up for them. Back in the day, some of these were considered luxuries as not everyone could afford it. One day you’ll understand.”

It’s been 10 years, and I now understand. At the same time, I disagree.

Perhaps it’s due to the clashing culture, or the generation gap or because I simply lack perspective not having suffered through life the way my parents have, but I have a different mindset as to how things of sentimental value should be treated.

For my parents, sentimental value was about holding onto the past, to a time when things were easier, in a life that was more fortunate. It’s true that our past is important because it makes us who we are and helps us remember where we came from, but at the end of the day, no matter how much we will it or seek it, it’ll still be the past. That’s all it is and ever will be.

We’re better suited to focus on the future where our opportunities will be, instead of focusing on our past and its’ things of sentimental value, especially if the purpose of those things be merely there to remind us of our past capabilities. What we’ve accomplished in the past should be the stepping stone towards what we’re able to accomplish in the present and the future. No matter how often we look back and remind ourselves of the things we were once able to acquire, it doesn’t better our future in any way.

In fact, we hold ourselves back and limit ourselves from seeing what’s possible within our futures. The way our mind works is by believing the things we tell it, either through thoughts or actions. When we hold onto the things of the past and convince ourselves that these are things from a better time, we’ll subconsciously limit our own future because we’ll have already believed that the past is the limit. We might let ourselves then be forever stuck at that very limit and lose the drive, the ambition, the opportunity to a better future because we would’ve already settled for the past. Settling for the past is always easier than the future because it’s certain; it’s already happened.

I have nothing but love and respect for my dad. That’s why I believe that instead of looking to the past at what he used to be capable of, it’s better for him to see beyond it and instead progress towards a future that’s limitless. Whatever his capabilities were, he’ll exceed it by leaps and bounds.
This I know it. He is, after all, my hero.

About the author

Jon Lee

I travel the world in search of lessons worth sharing. Addicted to culture shock and transparency. Currently working on heeyy and duuck.

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