While packing in preparation to move, one of my old college roommates, and closest girlfriends, recently found the “goodbye” letter (letter is an understatement; it was a novel) I wrote her after our four years of college.
The context: I was moving on and she was staying another year.
The pain of this separation, the nostalgia of having shared this pivotal and transformative time in our lives, and the realization that we wouldn’t be embarking on the next phase together, brought on a flood of emotion, and apparently, some pretty good insights (I’m not going to lie, I was struck by the profundity of my 22-year-old comment).
What I knew at 22, still holds true at 34. However, despite 12 years of spiritual, personal, and emotional growth, letting go is still hard.
I’m what I call a “nostalgic clinger.” People, places, events (and the memories associated with all three), have a deep and enduring impact on me.
Additionally, I don’t like change. More often than not, I fight it (kicking and screaming).
Lastly, I like answers, I crave meaning. In their absence, I struggle to surrender the endless “whys?” that loop in my brain.
Thus, nostalgic clinger + not liking change + an incessant need for closure = someone who doesn’t let go and/or move forward very easily.
These personality quirks aren’t necessarily bad. Truthfully, I’m thankful that I’m a sensitive, empathetic, consistency-yearning, resolution-seeker.
However, these traits can be limiting. Namely, when they prevent forward momentum in my life.
My girlfriend’s discovery was well timed. I’m in the midst of a “letting go crisis,” and as such, needed this reflection from my college self.
For me, letting go doesn’t come easily or naturally. It’s always a conscious (and painstaking) choice.
However, it’s always a choice worth making.
The reality is, progress is only made in the midst of, and on the other side of, our willingness to let go. Sometimes, we can’t move forward without saying goodbye. Often, we’re not capable of plowing ahead without unburdening ourselves from old patterns, routines, and truths. At times, we can’t welcome new ideas without relinquishing old ones, nor can we embrace new people without letting go of others.
This is harder than it seems. And that’s ok. The grieving process is normal.
However, I’ve learned that there’s also a certain power in simply surrendering. To echo Patty Griffin, “It took a while to understand the beauty of just letting go.”*
The beauty is simply this: letting go alleviates the emotional tug-of-war we wage; it liberates us to embrace new experiences and opportunities; it opens up space in our souls for new people, relationships, and memories.
*Patty Griffin, “Let Him Fly.”