NYKIA TANNIEHILL ’15
“Once you get to junior year, you just don’t have time for anything other than what’s important. If people or situations aren’t serving you the way you need them to in a given moment, this is the year you learn to let them go.” I looked up to catch my friend in the middle of a saucy hairflip before she took a sip of her drink, clearly pleased with her words of wisdom. Cramped around a table in Buffalo Wild Wings, the rest of us exchanged tentative glances, as if to silently debate the validity of this statement. Somewhere between ordering drinks and the delivery of the salads, the nature of our conversation had quickly shifted from small talk to “real talk.”
“She’s right, that’s so true,” said the girl to my left with whom I had only recently become acquainted. “You’ve been trying to bring every person and every problem along for the ride, but something about junior year just doesn’t allow that anymore.”
Suddenly, my chipped nail polish became the most fascinating thing in the world. I twisted and tugged at my fingers in my lap, refusing to come to terms with the topic of conversation. Here I sat in the heart of Brooklyn, with two accomplished Communications majors going into their senior year. The last thing I wanted to do was take their advice for granted. However, with my history of being sensitive and a little too accommodating, the concept of letting go seemed impossible.
My interactions with others are characterized by my desire to be friendly and give as much of myself to others as I would hope they would give to me, especially in times of need. My greatest strength—and ultimate weakness—is my empathetic nature. In terms of challenges, asking me not to cry at the end of Toy Story 3 is a tall order in itself. Asking me to walk away from situations over which I have little or no control is even taller, but in no way was my reluctance to accept these comments the product of fear. I just would have preferred to master Magic Johnson-sized challenges before confronting Yao Ming-sized challenges, if I had my way.
Time and circumstance didn’t grant me that opportunity. Two months later, I was elbow-deep in classes, preparing to study abroad, forgetting what it felt like to sleep, and looking the Yao Ming-sized challenge of conquering junior year square in the shins.
I soon found that 24 hours in a day was simply not enough. My meal times shortened, my opportunities for long heart-to-heart sessions lessened, and my weekly shopping trips became a thing of the past. A task or obligation occupied every minute of every day. Each accomplishment became less like a careful contribution and more like a Hail Mary shot in the last four seconds of a basketball game.
Despite the ensuing madness, life didn’t stop. How could I expect it to? Facebook and Twitter still buzzed, juicy stories from the weekend still circulated, and Girls Night Out was still mandatory. I began to panic. Two months ago, my friends made the solution to this whirlwind seem so simple—sort out anyone and anything that serves your being and make it your business to answer to those wholeheartedly above all else. But how can anyone truly figure out who or what is serving them well when stress is inevitable and there’s barely enough time to breathe? I feared that I would appear as selfish to those who knew me as a compassionate person. Who am I to walk away from things that hinder my happiness?
I still have not found the answers to these questions. However, I am learning that so much goes into taking care of ourselves on a day-to-day basis, and any additional matters to which we are successfully able to lend our time and energy is a matter of sheer grace. That, in itself, is a source of wonder and a reason to take pride in the people and causes we treasure. Beyond that, a large part of letting go is trusting myself to decide what I can and cannot handle. I also need to trust the sincerity of my intentions.
More and more, I’m learning that choosing my happiness is not malicious, and it does not have to disregard the feelings and concerns of those around me.
Rather, it requires me to acknowledge the fact that I am one woman. I’m definitely not Wonder Woman, and certainly not every woman. I’m just this woman with only so many hours in a day and only so much energy to make them all count. Who am I to deny that I am perfectly worthy of receiving just as much of me as I give to others? That’s a truth with which I try—and fail—to negotiate on a daily basis.
Despite the demands of the outside world, we are consistently in control of our immediate world—and perhaps the true nature of our immediate world is that it’s ever-changing. There are no constants. However, rather than siphoning out the things that cause us anxiety, maybe it’s all about remembering to hold fast to the things that help us heal quickly. Maybe it’s about reserving our right to cling to anything that gives us the strength to keep giving to a world that won’t always take what we have to offer. Maybe it’s about being brave enough to trade cram sessions for hour-long chats and sleepless nights for the occasional power nap. It’s true—everyone and everything can’t come along for the ride—but a pit stop or two never hurt anybody.