For the longest time, I felt that my best life was elsewhere. That once I’d made this much money, had that job, achieved this, bought that, I would finally be happy, successful, at ease, and worthy of love. This was hope.
I also felt afraid that if I didn’t get all these things, I would be a complete failure. I would be unhappy, exposed as a fraud, be looked down upon and abandoned. This was fear.
I was certain that once I’d gotten X and gotten rid of Y, I’d be released from my fears and finally happy.
2016 was the year I learned to let all that go.
I let go of the belief that everything could ever be okay. I let go of the idea that I would ever be free from sadness, disappointment and worry. I let go of the fantasies I had about being successful, and the fears of being a failure.
I let it all drift into the wind.
And that’s when I felt the relief I’d believed was elsewhere, reserved for a future version of me. Because the truth is that the future doesn’t exist, and neither does the past. The only opportunity for freedom is here and now, and the first step towards liberation is to accept reality as it is, not as I wish it was or wasn’t.
Letting go doesn’t mean I let go of my goals or my work. It means I release the idea that life has to be perfect for me to fully accept it. It means I let go of the madness of “if only.” It means I surrender the lust for my dreams and the need for control.
It starts by embracing everything, the parts I love and the parts I don’t, with open-minded awareness and tender compassion. It starts by understanding that I am not the only one in the world who suffers. It starts by considering that, perhaps, striving for happiness isn’t as important as learning to be kind to myself and to others.
This is the biggest lesson I learned in 2016, and it has brought me more relief and clarity, as well as shock and confusion, than anything else in the past year. It has shaken the foundations of my beliefs, but it seems the only sane way to live in an uncertain and temporary world. All I can say is, I’m still working on it.