The Prompt: “Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?” (Author: Alice Bradley)
I have an unfortunate memory—not a single memory, for that would be ok, but my overall memory is wicked good at holding on to things and I find that unfortunate in that it disallows me from letting things go. Even when I want to let things go, there’s that primary source just staring back at me. The things it holds on to for years are those moments of extremes: extremely good things, extremely bad things, in all their vividness. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Yes, please.
I’m sure it’s like that for a lot of people, and I’m sure a lot of people are a heck of a lot better at ignoring or processing the source than I am. But hey, when it comes to analyzing texts (words, images, etc), I’m a professional. If there’s a reason my brain presented me with that memory at that particular moment, of course I must approach it critically and discern the reason for that intertextuality. Right? Right??
Yeah. I’ve started to let that go.
This little tale is actually important to the more concrete things I’ve let go in 2010. That overly-critical analysis of my actions in the past, relative to certain long-standing relationships, brings with it a constant and unnecessary sense of guilt. One personal/professional relationship in particular has often been fraught with difficulties (mostly, but not entirely, of my own doing), and this year I had to come to terms with making a move away from the professional side of it and be ok with whatever personal downfall might occur. There’s a lot more to it than that, but this isn’t a story I want to spread all over the interwebs. It’s a tough thing. I’m square with my stand on things, professionally, and things are going to work out how they work out, personally. Everyone’s in a state of flux at the moment—the business, a kid going off to college, all sorts of things. But I think that for once we’re all on the same page (and I think that really just means me, because I think I was always the only outlier) with regards to letting go the processes and actions (or inactions) of the past.
That was really vague.
Let’s try a concrete one: I let go of any desire for a tenure-track job. There we go. Some of you may laugh and say “but wasn’t that a pipe-dream anyway? I mean, have you seen the academic job market in the humanities?” and sure, there’s that, but I’m that arrogant/confident sort who was pretty sure I could land a tenure-track job in my particular subfield.
And when I figured that out, I realized it was the absolute last thing I wanted.
Now, that is not to say that I’m all about walking the path and not so much about the destination, because I’m not. Believe you me, there’s a destination in my sights right now and I could not be happier that it’s there, and I plan to stay there a loooong time.
But it was incredibly difficult to let go of the notion of having a teaching job because the entire reason I left industry was to teach. Because I love it. Even with the horrible experiences of this year, I do love teaching with every fiber of my being—almost as much as building, and if you do either of those things right, you’re doing both, so that works out for me.
So yes. I had to let go of the guilt of stepping away from everything I knew and had going (which had repercussions in other peoples’ lives, see above), to do this…thing, entirely toward a goal I ended up not wanting to achieve. And I had to let go of the feeling of failure associated with that, because come on: that’s not a failure. I have an awesome new job, one that is so better suited for me than anything else, and will do more good for more people than teaching ever would.
I think I’m also working on letting go of the idea that I can’t let things go.
[There’s an analogy here to procedural versus object-oriented programming, but if I start to flesh that out SkyNet or the Cylons might get some ideas about humanity and we wouldn’t want that.]
[This post is part of Reverb 10 “an annual event and online initiative to reflect on your year and manifest what’s next.” This is my post #5.]