We often hold onto things for too long because we don’t want to look weak. For someone as painfully self-conscious as I am, this is true. Maybe more accurate is the fact that I am terrified of disappointing other people, and the landslide of questions that follow when something falls through: “What happened?”; “Are you sure?”; “Why did you do it in the first place?”
I’ve dreamt about studying abroad ever since I was given the chance to do so. When I was younger, I was sent out by my high school on an exchange program. There, I was exposed to the shiny life I could have. To me, going to school in a different country meant learning in a place where I could experience life to the fullest.
I wanted the aesthetic college life that I always read about in books: working at a coffee shop on weekends, sightseeing with people who know the city, having my own part of the universe I could tell the people back home about. As someone who has been sheltered all her life, I guess I just wanted to see the world and learn about it at the same time.
I fantasized about reading in the “quad” as the leaves turned brown around me, and studying in a massive library surrounded by people from all over the world, learning about cultures far removed from my own. I wanted to live through the seasons, having clothes meant for the cold and not just the hot/hotter/hottest weather the Philippines provided. I wanted the aesthetic college life that I always read about in books: working at a coffee shop on weekends, sightseeing with people who know the city, having my own part of the universe I could tell the people back home about. As someone who has been sheltered all her life, I guess I just wanted to see the world and learn about it at the same time.
I told everyone that could listen about this dream. Friends, teachers, and even strangers would listen to me drone on and on about how I was leaving the country to come back and save it when I learned how to.
I took all the necessary steps to reach my goals. I took the SATs (twice), balancing it out with local college entrance tests I planned to take. I took a language proficiency exam. I was given entrance interviews, both in person and through Skype. I even went to the campuses themselves to tour.
My family spent a lot of money just for the applications, and that shit’s not cheap.
And guess what? I got in. Full ride.
But I didn’t take it.
Letting go of what I worked so hard to get for the majority of my high school life was difficult. It felt like I was rendering all my sacrifices and the sacrifices of my family useless. Not to mention, I had the expectations of all these people on my shoulders. But I did what I had to do. I realized that studying college in another country was something I wasn’t ready for, emotionally and mentally. The strain of what I eventually have to deal with would have broken me. It took a lot of reflection (and silently staring at my bedroom ceiling), but I realized that I couldn’t handle that environment. I had a better chance of growing academically here in the Philippines, and it was the best fit for me.
Some people would call my decision stupid. Sometimes I think so too. But what would have been even dumber was for me to jump into something I knew I couldn’t handle, and having it eventually backfire and returning me back to square one.
The reality is, “throwing in the towel” isn’t always the right choice. It can just be the easy or convenient decision, the one we make when the going gets too tough and we can’t keep up with the pace. There are also times though, like what happened to me, when something you want isn’t meant for you. No matter the kicking and screaming, sometimes what you reap isn’t what’s best.
If you looked at it simply, giving up and letting go both have the same meaning: leaving something behind and doing something else. The differences lie in your circumstances and where you are emotionally at that point before you decide on staying or leaving.
So how can we tell the difference between the two?
The processes of giving up and letting go are parallel, although there are some subtle nuances between the two. If you looked at it simply, giving up and letting go both have the same meaning: leaving something behind and doing something else. The differences lie in your circumstances and where you are emotionally at that point before you decide on staying or leaving.
When you’re about to give up, you still have some sort of control or power over your situation, and there are physical actions that can still be taken. You haven’t examined all the possible areas that need to be worked on. Maybe you’re just trying to tiptoe around the problem or avoid it all together. Maybe you don’t want to admit that the way you’re approaching it is all wrong. Maybe you’re just scared.
Letting go however, means that you’ve exhausted all possible options, or have deemed all options as unfeasible and you’ve come to terms with what isn’t working anymore. In my case, I worked my ass off for a dream I knew at the back of my head that I wasn’t prepared for. Sometimes, that’s the hardest part of letting go; you did everything right, but the goal is wrong.
Letting go of something is definitely harder than just giving it up. It takes longer too. But there is a sense of comfort that comes with the knowledge that I literally did everything I could. It’s not yet my time.
Avoiding giving up should be as easy to do as those motivational posters say it is, but as someone who is very emotionally confused, it can be hard when you’re always questioning your motivations and intentions behind a project. It’s also difficult to let go for the very same reasons, but for your own sake and for the sake of others, it’s better to make peace with what the universe has in store for you, and what it doesn’t.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely thankful for where I am now. I’m spending my college days learning things I never knew before. It’s difficult, but it’s beautiful in its own way, and I would have missed this view if I hadn’t let go.