It takes a certain kind of person to let go, to brush things off like so much dust off your shoulders. While I believe this trait comes innately with certain personalities, I also believe you can learn to let go. And I'm trying.
I've made it no secret that I overthink. I'm also a romantic and prone to nostalgia. None of these dispositions have made it easy to learn to let go. But at the same time, they have shown me why it's necessary: if I let go, there's no reason to overthink; if I let go I can still be romantic and nostalgic while avoiding the pain that can come with holding on too tightly to the past.
There are all kinds of advice on learning to let go. One of my favorites is the rule of 7. I ask myself, will this matter in 7 minutes, 7 hours, 7 days, 7 weeks, 7 months, 7 years? I think I picked this up from some random Forbes article but it's been around for quite some time. Basically — life is long, time is relative, and some things are not as serious as they seem. An old manager said something similar to me, when I was agonizing over a decision. The popular saying goes that life is short. And in many respects, it is. But also, life is long. You can only make what you think is the right decision in that time. Sometimes that means walking away.
Not long ago I wrote about looking back on one year post-college, and how difficult — mostly emotionally — the transition had been for me. Though it seems paradoxical, something that has helped in looking back is actually letting go. Holding on too tightly had made revisiting past experiences painful, when they should have just been the most poignant kind of bittersweet.
Last weekend, I watched a rom com on Netflix called Set It Up. There was one part in particular that stuck out to me. It was silly but also true, in a displaced sort of way. The main guy was explaining how when you have three salamanders as a kid, you'll spread your love between them; but if you only have one, you'll squeeze it too tight and kill it. While I don't necessarily agree with this in the context the character said it (basically, love), I do think there is something to be said for holding on too tightly to things external to yourself. Sometimes you have to let go.
When I say "letting go," I'm referring to several senses of the phrase: letting go of things that bother us, letting go of assumptions that were made too soon, letting go of a past that can no longer be the present — and letting go of a too-tight grip on a sense of control. And while there are nuances and differences between all of these, there is also something innate that ties them all together: a sense of relief upon release.
It's hard to let go. It's hard to acknowledge that most of life is out of your control, that you can only make the best decision you can in the moment, that it's never going to go exactly to plan. Ultimately you can't force someone or something else into a decision; nor can you make them feel one way or the other. You can only do what is right for you. Sometimes risks don't pay off. It's hard to acknowledge all of this.
And yet, once you decide that there's no point over-agonizing on things that are out of control, on someone else's decision, that at the end of the day you can only do you — there's relief.
And to finish with some dialogue from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which I just began watching. It feels, oddly, appropriate:
"I don't know what to do."
"Well, it's morning. Go have breakfast."
Maybe it's just that simple.