Some of the best advice I received in college was,
Michael, just let go. It will be okay.
I had been talking in the hall with a professor—I can’t even remember what we were discussing anymore, though I remember being stressed—and he looked at me sincerely and caringly, and said, “Stop. Michael, just let go. It will be okay.”
I remember looking up and feeling like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. It was similar to that feeling when you kind of want to do something but don’t until someone gives you permission. You don’t even need permission, but for some reason it takes someone—anyone, because it doesn’t really matter who—telling you that you can do it to free you.
The feeling was similar to that.
The lesson inherent in that phrase has repeated itself to me cyclically since.
Hundreds of emails in my inbox that I have kept for one reason or another but probably aren’t important (because I take care of those right away) that I feel an unearthly obligation to read and handle?
I highlight them all and archive them.
Maybe I’ll miss something and someone will get angry at me. Maybe. It hasn’t happened yet.
Forty percent of my students are absent during a class without any notice because of a confluence of appointments, vacations, school activities, and illnesses?
I change the plan and do something else.
Maybe we’ll sing less well at the concert because I didn’t take that extra time. Maybe. I did get to know my students better.
Lose valuable rehearsal time, miss work, go through the pain of finding internal substitutes and writing sub lesson plans, lose the monetary incentive not to use PTO, and spend more money than I would like to go on a trip with close friends?
I book the flight.
Maybe I’ll seem less dedicated, maybe my students will think I don’t care, maybe I’ll regret those lost rehearsal minutes, and maybe the combined cost of the trip and lost PTO incentive will break my retirement. Maybe. It seems unlikely.
Expect to have the same number of concerts, with the same number of students, with the same number of songs, with the same level of difficulty as I did every year before the pandemic?
I program fewer songs. I change songs multiple times. I leave out parts of songs. We sing in unison where there are parts written. Our concert is shorter. But we like the music. We sing well. And we have the time and energy to have fun.
Has anyone complained?
Has anyone commented?
Would it matter? Like, really matter? Like, “lose my job,” “ruin kids’ lives,” “destroy the choir” matter?
To me, one part of restoring wellness is to “let go.”
When our expectations are out of line with reality and when we try to control things we don’t have control over, it creates stress, anxiety, hopelessness, disappointment…
When we accept each moment and each situation,
take a deep breath,
let go of what we wanted,
and simply try to do something—anything—with what we have, something starts to grow.
It’s kind of like after a wildfire. The earth doesn’t stress over what it’s supposed to look like, it simply starts to grow again.
Slow and steady.
And over time, it finds its way again.