Letting go

Your last few tasks have encouraged you to anticipate the coming twelve months and schedule what you want (or need) to get done.

Today is about letting go. What do you want to lose in the next year?

Letting go doesn’t have to be negative. You may have some positive endings to look forward to. For example finishing off a project you’ve enjoyed, getting ready to defend your thesis, getting promoted, watching your students graduate, or embracing saying ‘no’ to more tasks because your time is already full.

Alternatively it might involve ditching things that aren’t working for you or causing you pain or distress. Some examples include:

  • looking for a new job if your existing one leaves you feeling stressed, unhappy or unfulfilled (or finding work if you are currently unemployed).
  • switching career pathways if the one you’ve been following isn’t giving you what you want, or if you have been made redundant.
  • dropping projects where you feel unappreciated or exploited.
  • altering or ending friendships or connections (on or offline) that make you feel miserable or exhausted.
  • moving away from a place or person that is causing you harm.
  • admitting if a project or paper isn’t working and looking to leave it, pass it on to someone else, or abandon it.
  • deciding certain activities (e.g. going to conferences or serving on committees) are not working for you currently and stepping down from roles or deciding to have a break from taking on any new commitments for a set period of time.
  • being heartily sick of the past year and wanting to say goodbye to all the pain and heartache the pandemic has caused.

Letting go of some things is easy (even if it doesn’t feel that way). For example if you’ve been struggling with a paper that isn’t essential you write you may want to park it for now and come back to it later – or just accept it’s not worth your time.

Other things may require more planning and action before you can make them a reality. If you’re being bullied at work you might not be able to leave right now, but you could start looking for other jobs, or if you’re really being made unwell by your employers to see your doctor and get signed off work. Or you might want a complete career break but need to retrain, in which case you can plan that work over this year.

If you found this difficult
It may be you feel you cannot let things go. Either because you can’t focus on what to drop – in which case taking time to reflect in the coming weeks and months and taking stock of your work/life overall may be easier than coming up with a list of things you need to cull right now. Alternatively you may be under pressure from others that prevents you saying no; or are unable to escape prejudice and bigotry. This stuff is important and often overlooked and we will talk about your safety and wellbeing later this month.

Sometimes we hang onto work because it’s our anchor, identity or safety net. During my PhD I was chronically unwell but I wouldn’t quit my studies because I felt without them I’d have nothing left – that I’d be nothing. At times this kept me going, but at other times the pressure worsened my illness. Equally when I was made redundant a few years ago I felt my identity had been ripped from me and it took me some time to acknowledge while I had no choice but to leave some things behind I had a lot I could carry forward.

Alternatively it may be less a case of you needing to let go and more that you feel you have been let go of. Particularly if contracts have not been renewed, you do not feel valued at work, friendships have suffered during the pandemic, or you no longer feel as close to family as you once did.

As we continue to live within a pandemic there may be things we don’t like but can do little about. That could include working online when we’d prefer to be meeting in person; not being able to see our loved ones; or feeling overwhelmed with workplace demands, presenteeism and/or digital surveillance. We may feel more secure working from home, and might be anxious at the thought of face-to-face working; or fear whenever restrictions lift that inequalities and exclusions we experienced prior to the pandemic will be magnified (particularly if we’re disabled or chronically sick). In this case we may feel very much like letting go, but equally noticing we might be trapped by our feelings, financial hardship, working conditions, or the way our country or state has responded to the pandemic. You may need to be creative in what you can claim as your own to let go, and what you may need to find ways to live with.

It may also be the case that you are not ready to let go of some things yet. That is fine. Don’t feel guilty if you’re aware there probably are things you should quit but emotionally you cannot handle that right now. Or if you are living with grief that there are loved ones for whom you will never be ready to say goodbye to. If that is the case for you Refuge In Grief can help.

Letting go can be very emotional so make sure you build in time for self-care with this activity.

It is also easier if you do this activity with friends. Sharing together things you are holding onto and whether they’re helping you or holding you back.  You might want to record each other talking about what you want to leave/quit and how you might achieve that. Or sketch out a plan of resistance or escape. Or draw, collage or scrapbook what you are going to let go and where that will take you.

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