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Lately, I’ve been going to the pool at my gym or to the ocean and floating. I lie on my back and try to make my body straight; when I lean right back my face is almost entirely submerged except for my nose and mouth. It’s an amazing feeling when you’re under the water and your ears fill with water so you can’t hear anything and your body seems weightless. Even after repeating it a few times each session, it takes time to really let go and let your muscles relax entirely. It’s a feeling I’m so unfamiliar with that it takes practice, releasing and fully letting go of tension on demand. 

Letting go has always been an issue for me: letting go of objects, articles of clothing, and people that I can’t remember why I am friends with. I didn’t really realise this until I broke up with my ex. People always talk about breakups being hard, and in the past, they have been, but never to this extent. It was like losing a part of me. I was alone in the world in a way that I had never been before, even though in reality, I actually had. 

I remember when I was young, my room was filled with stuff. I liked being surrounded, somehow it made me feel secure. Over the years, the feeling of comfort has diminished, but the habit of collecting, has not. What I’ve realized, travelling the last two years, is that when I’m around less stuff, I feel more clarity. I have more space to be in the moment and less attachment to things. When I’m less attached, I’m more present, more connected, to myself and other people. I listen better, which is hard and always a work in progress. 

When you’re in a conversation with someone, to be really present is a gift that is rarely afforded, often even by the people closest to us. 

Why is this so difficult? 

When did we become so distracted? 

Sometimes I have conversations with people who are not even pretending to be present. It’s off-putting because when people are actually listening you are the true focus. It’s exciting and nerve-wracking all at the same time.  

Now when I’m surrounded by stuff, I get overwhelmed because I need to sort through it and decide what I need and what I don’t need. I find it difficult to get rid of it, whether it’s giving it away or throwing it out. 

When I decided to travel, I was forced to pack up everything. It was hard because I struggle with sifting through objects and deciding their fate. To help me through this, I purchased the book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo. I added this book to my pile. Though I didn’t get through the whole thing, my best friend did, and she revealed to me the magic part: hold the object you are weighing and feel in your body if the object still gives you joy. If it does, keep it. If you are really honest with yourself, and it doesn’t, thank the object and allow it to move on and out of your life.

Have you been afraid to let go because you're scared you won't find the same or a similar scenario again?

This was such a great metaphor for my life. Even now when I read the book title I see the words The Life-Changing Magic of Letting go instead of the actual title. Wouldn’t it be great if I could actually take all of the steps that I needed to take to allow me the freedom to move forward in my life? And wouldn’t it be great if I could use this system of checking in with myself to see how I am actually feeling about something: acknowledge it, thank it, and just let go. 

a black woman playing with bubble maker

I’m not gonna lie, it ain’t easy. But really, when you think about it, what, in life, that is really worth doing, is? Since doing the exercise, I used the same system to let go of people, situations, and stuff I no longer need on the road. When I take the time to complete this exercise, I feel like I get better at it. It does get easier. It’s a slow process of getting easier, but it does happen eventually. 

When you’re on the road you meet a lot of temporary friends. Some of them are so great that you know you will make the effort to see them again someday or at least keep in touch, and some are just passer-bys. 

Learning to let go of people has been one of the best lessons for me. I’ve created many lasting memories and had some of the best times of my life traveling and getting to meet so many incredible humans. Some have been so influential that merely being in their presence makes me feel like I am a better person. To then have to let them go makes learning those lessons even more powerful because I need to remember to carry them with me, and be my own best influence moving forward. 

I still struggle with letting go, but now that I am much more aware of it, I give myself challenges. I put myself in situations where letting go is inevitable. I must move forward with or without those people or things. I’ve noticed that one of the reasons this task is so difficult is that I always worry that what I have is the best and that I won’t be able to find it again. Scarcity mindset. But what I have realized is when you do let go, you open the door to opportunities that may have never happened had you not found the courage. I saw this quote a few years ago on a notebook and it always stuck with me.

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” – Andre Gide

In light of my journey, I have discovered some important lessons about what works for me and helps me to let go, and move forward. Hopefully, they will help you too. 

  1. Sometimes letting go is the best decision you will make because what waits on the other side is more powerful than you think or can imagine.
  2. The act of letting go requires practice and lots of it!
  3. Letting go is not easy, but necessary if you want to live in the present
  4. Sometimes life doesn’t work out as we planned but if we can recover from life’s vagaries and let go of what no longer serves us we can create a brand new life. 
  5. Life is precious. Learn to let go as fast as you can so you can enjoy every moment that is happening now. 
  6. When letting go, remind yourself, it’s not always about better or worse, sometimes it’s just different and that’s okay.

Do you feel like you know how to let go?