Letting go of anything in life can bring up feelings of uncertainty, doubt, and fear. Just think of the first time you let go of a rope swing to plunge into uncertain waters, or a tree branch trusting that secure arms would catch you if you needed them to. As we walk through life, the “letting go” moments continue to come at us, often with bigger and deeper feelings, bigger and deeper meaning, bigger and deeper consequences. Letting go of a relationship. Of a loved one - human or furry. Of a job. Of a false identity. And, though they might seem easy to let go of, those limiting beliefs, “not good enough” voices, and habitual patterns that keep us from moving forward in life.
Over the past 5 years, my life has been a story of letting go. It has been exhilarating, terrifying, wonderful, tear-filled, laughter-filled, and ultimately SO, SO WORTH IT ALL. The unraveling of all I was holding on to (and had been for far too long) began in 2010 but really hit in 2013. That was the year in which I realized—deep down for the first time—that the career I’d dreamt of since I was 4 years old, the career I’d worked hard to build, was not serving me well. While working as a veterinarian brought moments of happiness into my life, and I’m grateful for the relationships it brought my way, it was slowly killing my soul. I would come home from work each day completely spent, unable to summon up the energy to truly be part of my little family which I love so dearly; lacking the mental resources to cook dinner; unable to turn off the ever-present thoughts about what I would walk into the following morning at the office; and dreaming of past days when I had the energy to run, bike, ski, and enjoy the active lifestyle that my husband and I so loved sharing. I realized, in one astonishing moment, that I hadn’t laughed in months.
It took yet another year and a health scare (for my husband…not shockingly, my stress affected more people than just me!) for me to let go of the rope. In one morning, having had to return from a 3 week trip to Ecuador after just 3 days because of that health scare, I broke down and for the first time voiced the words “I can’t keep putting on my happy mask and pretending that I’m OK. I’m not OK. I need to quit my job and we need to move.” Both hands flew off of the rope that morning, and while the details took a few months to sort, the letting go had begun. I quit. We moved. And the journey since has been remarkable, wonderful, testing, and amazing. It’s taught me so much about myself, about who God is, and shaped me in ways I never expected.
I’ve found it helpful to focus not on what it is that I’m letting go of, but on what I’ll have instead if I do indeed let go. By letting go of veterinary medicine, I reconnected with laughter, with joy, with my family, and with myself. I’ve discovered life-giving work that fills me up rather than emptying me. It drew me into a place of curiosity about myself, my habits, and my limiting beliefs and has taken me on a journey of personal growth. It took time, patience, grieving, processing, faith, and embracing the unknown to get there (more on that another time). And I’m beyond grateful for all of it!
How might this resonate for you? What might you recognize that you want or need to let go of? By doing so, what might you have instead? Letting go of the rope may be scary. But it can also reveal deep trust, courage, and strength. It can be exhilarating and terrifying in the same breath. It can open up rivers of tears, but with those tears, opportunity for comfort and healing. And friends, releasing the rope, jumping into the lake, and finding that you CAN SWIM is so, so worth it. And quite probably a much better alternative than hanging onto that rope indefinitely.