I’ve been thinking on this idea of letting go a lot the past few weeks. With relationships, work, projects, challenges, dreams and more, when do we let go? Not everything is ours to keep, and sometimes, I think it’s tough, especially when we’re in the thick of it, to know when we’ve given it our best, need to step away, cut our losses and let go.
I suppose it doesn’t mean that we let go forever. Perhaps it’s a matter of days. Maybe a month. Maybe far longer than that. Maybe forever. I don’t know.
I was speaking with a friend months ago about this. She shared a practice of, in our minds, placing the thing that seemingly needs letting go of on a leaf in a stream and letting it float away. Rather than crumpling it up and throwing it out, we release it out into the universe — giving it the opportunity to float back around into our lives, if and when the timing is right, or to simply float on with no return. In letting go, we must relinquish all hopes and expectations for what that letting go might mean.
The other night, I sat in bed reading through pages containing goals and thoughts I’d intentionally set and written down at the start of this year.
While I keep these dreams tucked into my computer sleeve, it had been awhile since I’d read through them. Since I wrote them over several days at the start of the year, I know them fairly well. However, in reading them anew, I was struck by the language tied to each goal — and the way I’d envisioned this year overall. There’s not one word or phrase that stands out. It’s more the combination of all of them together. In reading them with fresh eyes — and a fresh perspective of a me who’s lived six months since I wrote those goals — I saw a lot of naivety in the Emily I was at the start of the year.
My dreams still hold true. What’s changed is that I’m less focused on the outcome and perhaps more focused on the process. I know the process is part of tackling each dream. I knew that when I wrote those goals. In writing the goals, I wrote about why each was important and what it would take to see it through, and while I spent time answering those questions for each goal, I think I failed to see just how important those questions and their answers were.
In tackling your goals, you have to love the process — almost more than the end goal itself.
“you are a season of becoming” — Danielle Doby
With each passing day, between traditional media, social media and our hyper-connected world, I feel we’re becoming more apt to celebrate dreams realized, projects completed, “overnight” successes and the highlights of life. We’re more apt to share the milestones of any given time period than we are to share the process itself.
The reality is those moments are a fraction of our entire lives, and in sharing and celebrating those benchmarks, I feel as though we lose sight of the process.
A few years ago, after a particularly tough night — one of those nights where the weight of the world seems to come crashing down all at once — my mom wrote these words on a Post-it Note for me and left them on my bathroom counter.
“I love you, Em. You don’t always have to be so strong.”
I have that note saved in a box somewhere up in the U.S. And even though that note is not physically with me here in Argentina, my mom’s simple-yet-profound words are with me always.
You don’t always have to be so strong.
I’m realizing more and more that I tend to carry the weight of what can sometimes feel like the world on my shoulders and that no one is putting that pressure on me but me. I think this is human. I think we are all guilty of this to varying degrees.
In the days leading up to my 28th birthday, I wrote a letter from my future self to my current self. I stepped into my shoes at 29 and wrote a letter to myself at 28 — with the idea of capturing what I dreamt, and still dream, my reality will be as I turn 29 next year. (The exercise, which I’ve done for a few years now, is meant to help define my goals and actions for the year ahead.) Nine days after writing that letter, I was reminded that we don’t always get a choice in life.
“Who would’ve thought that when we met five years ago we’d be trekking in Torres del Paine together?” I say to Lindsay as we hike from Refugio Grey to Refugio Paine Grande in one of southern Patagonia’s most famous national parks.
Life, and the crossing of paths, is a seemingly strange and mind-blowing thing. Today, our second of five days in Torres del Paine, my mind traipses through my story with Lindsay.
She and I met in August 2012. I was fresh out of college and looking for marketing work in the social impact space. Lindsay was the national director of Right To Play – USA, an organization I was keen to work with. We initially connected through email, and then, when I was traveling through San Francisco, we met for coffee on a Friday afternoon at La Boulange. Our relationship, a mentorship and now a friendship, has grown from there.
A few weeks ago, I slid into a funk. I’m two months into full-time freelancing and contracting, and while I know I’m doing just fine, on a Sunday afternoon in March, feelings of fear and self-doubt started to sink in. I wasn’t surprised they turned up. To be honest, from the moment I made the decision to be my own boss, I was expecting them; I just didn’t know when they’d show up. But there they were, crashing the party.
I believe we all experience fear and self-doubt to varying degrees. I also believe that what sets us apart is how we choose to deal with those emotions. On this particular week, the silence of the in-between — a silence that came with wrapping stories and projects and waiting to receive feedback on other pitches, stories and projects — felt a bit paralyzing.
You see, life feels smoother when things are in motion. When there’s a lull in the action, we create time and space for fear and self-doubt to jump in, especially when rent, bills and overall living expenses are very real and present and we’re uncertain as to when our next paycheck will come.
So when those in-between moments come, what’s a dreamer to do to kick fear and self-doubt out of the picture?