As human beings, from the moment we are born and say “hello” to the world, we are destined to say “goodbye.” We say “hello” to our new parents with an earth-shattering cry while at the same time leaving the safety and comfort of the womb. We say hello to that new shiny vehicle while simultaneously saying goodbye to the old reliable putt-putt. We leave our planet Earth behind to become a high-ranking gondolier on Mars. Well, maybe that last one is the plot of the Slice of Life anime series Aria, but still, the soliloquy applies, and we see great examples of the need to let go and let God through our main character; our Aquamarine, Akari Mizunashi. While our ultimate undine has been enjoying the wonders and beauties of the world of Aqua, she also has to experience the wonders, beauty, and sometimes unavoidable sadness that comes with saying goodbye…or at least “See you soon.”
Let’s get some backstory out the way. Aria is a multi-season anime based on a manga by Kozue Amano. Sharp-eyed readers will remember that we discussed Amano-sensei and many other prodigious women in anime earlier this year. The series takes place in Neo Venezia, a city on the terraformed planet “Aqua” (Formerly Mars). In this futuristic city on the water, based on the actual city of Venice, Italy, the primary mode of transportation is either walking, flying a motorbike, or riding the waves on a gondola with a friendly gondolier, known as an undine. The series focuses on three journeymen undine and their gentle yet dedicated quest to become the highest ranked undine of their respective water tour companies, thus earning them the right to ferry passengers. For this post, we’ll focus on the third season, Aria The Origination. Of course, it goes without saying that this will contain spoilers for the Aria series, so consider yourself warned!
So what can female gondoliers on Mars teach us about learning when to let things go? (By the way, Female Gondoliers on Mars sounds like it would be THE most awesome 50’s horror movie ever!) Stick with me, my friends, and we’ll break this down.
At this point in the Aria series, Akari Mizunashi, the journeyman at the small Aria Company, has been trained and guided by the high-ranking undine Alicia Florence for a few years, and it is soon time for Alicia to give Akari her promotion exam. Having witnessed the promotion of both her friends to the top rank known as “Prima,” Akari soon takes her exam and, of course, passes with flying colors, receiving the moniker “Aquamarine” However, Alicia reveals that she will soon leave the Aria Company to accept her promotion to Managing Director at the Gondola Association…and, by the way, she’s getting married too. Alicia is nothing if not an overachiever. She tearfully admits to Akari that she had long possessed the skills required to be promoted but put off the promotion exam as long as possible because she didn’t want her precious time with Akari to end.
Our newly promoted Prima informs her former mentor that she also must go along her path and let go of the Aria Company. Alicia understands entirely and is given a send-off worthy of the GOAT of all Undines. The next day, before opening for business, Akari ruminates on how, once she opens the shutter, the old lingering memories of her time with her friends will blow away in the morning breeze. But our adorable Aquamarine decides it’s alright because it’s time for a new beginning. She then flings open the shutters and starts her new life as a Prodigious Prima. Now, while this sounds simple and easy-peasy lemon squeezy, it’s not. It’s the culmination of years of growth and development on Akari’s part. All those sessions of sculling her gondola with her friends during practice, all those little adventures through Neo Venezia, those moments of magic and wonder, and yes, even the few moments of sadness and parting, all make the Prima Undine that we see in the epilogue, now training her own journeyman.
Get it? Got it? Good. Time to get into the spiritual.
Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Throughout the series, Akari has had to let go of something to make room for something bigger and better. Heck, in the first episode, as she leaves Earth (known as “Manhome”), we see her contemplating her new situation; how she’s like a bird leaving the nest. As the series continues, she experiences the magic and wonders of Neo Venesia, but there are key moments where she must let things go to improve. She must say goodbye to old ways of thinking, doing things, and even precious physical things to grow and mature as an undine and as a human.
One of the first significant examples is when her training gondola, which has been with the company for years, has reached the point where it must be retired. Akari is at first sad about this, but after realizing that replacing the gondola can’t be avoided or delayed, she changes her mindset to one of celebration and happiness and spends her final days with the gondola reminiscing with her friends and eventually lets it go with a smile. She pretty much gave her gondola a goodbye party. I think we should all do that with our old vehicles; throw a big party before trading them in! You’ll get some weird looks at the dealership when you pull up with a whole party crew, but hey, as we say in Louisiana, Laissez les bons temps rouler! But I digress.
Later in the series, we see that she has to let go of two of her friends, who are promoted ahead of her to the top rank, but she still maintains their friendship and cheers for them and their accomplishments, even though their higher levels makes them too busy to hang out like they used to. In fact, Akari’s friend Aika was in tears when she told Akari that she was promoted, worried that Akari would be sad about being last. But, true to form, Akari is ecstatic that her friend finally achieved the goal she worked so hard for and is willing to let her friend go towards her dream even if she’s the last one standing.
Finally, after passing her promotion exam, Akari realizes that the last thing she has to let go of is her dependence on Alicia. While this is a painful concept to her, the series’ events have prepared her to accept that; sometimes, you have to send stuff off with a smile and a wave to grow and mature.
Sometimes we as humans want to hold onto something for longer than we should. We grow attached to it, get comfortable with it, and don’t want to upset the proverbial apple cart. This can even include things that are God-Given blessings. Sometimes, when we’re blessed with something He has given us, our judgment can be a little cloudy when it comes time to let it go when that usefulness has passed. It doesn’t make it any less of a blessing, don’t get me wrong. Still, Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “To Everything, there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven” Sometimes, even our blessings have expiration dates, just like that cheese in the back of your fridge. (If you’re reading this, clean out your fridge; the mold on that cheese is becoming sentient.)
Heaven knows I’ve been there. I’ve held onto a blessing for a couple of seasons too long. Some years ago, I once had this vehicle I inherited from my late sister, an Acura Legend. It was not the best-looking car in the world; the clear coat was peeling all over, the bumper was held on with prayer, super glue, and zip ties, and 95% of the instrument panel didn’t work, so I didn’t know how fast I was going or if I had gas in the tank, and the AC was busted, which, in the great state of Louisiana during the summer, is the definition of suffering. However, I loved that car to pieces (literally and figuratively). It was the car my sister taught me to drive in, the car that she drove full time, the car she prayed for, and after she passed away, it was the car I used to take my driver’s test. I wasn’t ready to let that history go. I held onto that car for longer than I should’ve and put THOUSANDS of dollars into it. Yes, you read that right, THOUSANDS of dollars. Fiscal responsibility? What is that?
One day, I was about to take it to the shop for yet another round of repairs, and it took longer than usual to crank, like 30 minutes. Eventually, it turned over, but the engine barely ran. I turned it off to run inside and get dressed. When I got back out, the car wouldn’t crank back up after 45 minutes of trying. I was shocked. I was about to get it towed to the repair shop when my mother called me and said, “Hey, Josh, hold up on that for just a minute…lemme see what I can do.” In the back of my mind, I was thinking, “This is it; this is the time to let go. It’s time to move on.” One hour later, my mom picked me up, and we went car shopping, starting a new, if not unusual, journey that would see me driving several different vehicles over a month (LONG story) before settling into #JeepLife, where I’ve been ever since.
There’s a moment in the OVA of the series, Aria the OVA: Arietta, that flips our outlook on loss and returns agency to us at a time where we may otherwise feel powerless. We see Alicia in a flashback, scared and afraid to assume command of the Aria Company on her own when she gets promoted to Prima and her senior, the founder of Aria Company known as “Grandma,” leaves. Grandma says to Alicia, “I’m not leaving YOU. You’re leaving ME. You’re setting out on your own now. You’ll be fine.” In other words, by letting Grandma go, Alicia can make the Aria Company her own, just like all the other Primas did before her. Time to cut the apron strings, my dear. Greatness awaits.
Even though it was painful to lose my sister’s car, even though I had countless memories and invested so much in it, much like Akari and her gondola, I had to give up that Acura, and by doing that, I firmly believe that God started me down a beautiful and wonderful path; a path I wouldn’t have gone down had I not learned how to “Let Go.” But little did I know I would receive another sharp lesson years later about the NEED to let things go.
Now it’s time to get into the deep, guys. Up to now, I’ve just been talking about the stuff that’s harmless to let go of; things that we release because they no longer can serve a purpose. However, sometimes we can inadvertently hold onto things that aren’t exactly good for us and never were. I’m not going to get into much detail on this one, guys, as it’s still a raw wound to explore. Still, there have been multiple times in my life, especially in the last three years, where I’ve held onto things that I KNOW I shouldn’t, both physically and emotionally. I held onto anger, pain, terrors, hatred, anxieties, worries…heck, as I write this, my eyes are beginning to tear up just thinking about it. To say it’s unhealthy is an understatement. That stuff was so toxic and began manifesting itself in a way that made me look and feel like I was losing my ever-loving mind.
I soon recognized that the behaviors resulting from my holding those negative feelings were making me paranoid under the guise of being “safe” and “cautious”; “if I stay on top of the situation, if I stay aloof, if I stay self-protective, if I don’t trust too easily, if I stay distant, it will NEVER happen again.” My mind was in a constant loop of toxicity that felt like I couldn’t break…or rather, I didn’t WANT to break.
Once I saw how this line of thinking affected me, I realized I had to let it go. I went to God and said, “You know what? I’m broken, and I’m tired. I can’t do this alone. I can’t keep this anymore. I need help. Please help me to let this go.” I realized that I didn’t HAVE to hold onto these things anymore once I understood that God’s purpose was to give me something bigger and better. All I had to do was let it go…
When I did, things started improving. I started getting better. I started seeking Him more and more, getting into His word, seeking those beautiful “signs and wonders,” and over time, He started putting people in place that I could talk to in the physical that could guide me where I needed to be.
Don’t get it twisted, my friends; I’m still working through some things. Recovery, I’m learning, takes a lot of time and patience, and there are still times when I have to snap my proverbial rubber band and get my focus back, but Praise God, I’m nowhere near as bad as I was, and I’m here to tell you right now, guys, prayer works. It works, it works, it WORKS.
So please, guys, remember–sometimes it hurts to let things go; sometimes it’s hard to do, and many times, it’s PRODIGIOUSLY NECESSARY.
But know that each thing you let go of, God has something much, much, MUCH bigger and better in store for you. Sometimes you have to take that first step; be it that first scull of an oar in a shiny new gondola, the first step in the computer store for that new laptop, that first admittance that “I need help,” or heck, the step away from your poor car that won’t crank over. But believe me when I say that it is SO VERY WORTH IT. So take a tip from Akari; don’t just say “goodbye.” Say goodbye with a smile and know you’re moving on to better things. And in this case, sappy comments ARE allowed.