Letting Go of Who You Were To Move Forward as a Writer

Letting go of who you were is always harder than you can possibly imagine. Though I have spent all this time and emotional energy discovering my writing style, building confidence to become a writer, honing my skills and so forth, the reality of leaving my old profession, and my old self behind, only just hit me.

A few months ago, I watched three landscapers struggle to pull a stubborn well rooted dying shrub out of the ground. One was hacking away at the roots with a shovel or a hoe. While the other two pulled at it from the other side. Half an hour later, the sick plant was unrooted and the hollowed piece of earth was filled with fresh dirt and a new vibrant plant, like nothing happened.

But, whenever I look across the street from my fourth floor apartment and down at the undulating row of newly planted shrubs hugging the edges of that short yellow building, I remember the struggle. I remember the cost of the peace that’s there now. Impermanent are all things. Or, in other words, everything changes, nothing stays the same.

Last week, as I prepared to close my business checking account, I realized that I will soon have to close my business. A business I started in 2006.  I suddenly became overwhelmed and sad. I genuinely felt bereaved…I wanted to vomit.

Sure, I’ve gone through waves of anxiety about changing careers over these many months and I knew a large part of it came from the fear of letting go. But, looking at my business checks and debit card with my business name, realizing this will be the last tax season under my old business name, made not just becoming a writer real, it also made not being my old self real. Like, in the world, officially, real.

It’s one thing to say you are a writer, to claim a new identity. It’s quite another thing to cut loose an old identity, leaving you unmoored to something rooted in familiarity.

Normally I would start spinning, looking for a way out, regressing, stuffing my face with chocolate, escaping. That was my old self. Not to say she is completely gone, or will ever be. It’s just that my new self knows the only way forward is through. My new self is a writer, and will become a successful writer, come hell, high water, or chocolate binges.

Though it is very hard for me to let go of this business that I built and identified with for more than 12 years, I’ve always known it wouldn’t last. I always struggled with that career and that self.

I can stop beating that dead horse finally. I can now mourn it. Celebrate all that it gave me. It wasn’t all bad by any stretch of the imagination. It was what it was and I have learned a lot and will continue to reap the benefits from that old career and that old self the rest of my life. I will not just be ok without it, I will thrive. I am thriving…even if it doesn’t always feel like it. Change hurts like a matterfucker!

This reminds me of something I wrote in my journal a few weeks ago. I’d realized that when I tell people I am becoming a writer, they see the change as a career change. They ask about what I am going to write about and those types of questions.

But, I’m experiencing becoming a writer as much more than a career change. I am experiencing a total shift in who I am and how I choose to exist in the world. I am becoming in sync with my personal values. How I see and feel, what I think and know (and want to know) are finally syncing with my actions. It is an extraordinarily soul-stirring, exceptionally painful experience.

Imagine an overgrown and derelict allotment of weeds, dead plants, fallen trees, jungly roots, bad patches of soil, that need to be completely cleared without harming the healthy trees with their healthy roots, and the good soil.

Mono-no-Aware is the beauty that comes from a sensitivity to and awareness of the impermanence of things.

But, I want to stay mindful. I want to embrace letting go and accept this constant uneasy feeling that I might just fall into a million pieces, as my new normal…for a while. I want to accept this weird feeling of fear for my future, confidence with the decision to let go of my past, while trying to experience and feel the present mess of excitement and confusion that is this gift of becoming a writer.

In little moments of grace and embrace, I find myself experiencing what the Japanese call Mono-no-Aware, the beauty that comes from a sensitivity to and awareness of the impermanence of things.

I think of that dead shrub rooted in its history, unwilling to let go of the past, being hacked at and pulled at by those three just as determined landscapers. The shrub never had a chance. Dead things must move on so new things can thrive.

There can be an unmistakable, awe-inspiring, soul-stirring beauty that engulfs your entire being when you experience that peace of letting go; that awareness that although nothing lasts, it is enough that it existed. By letting go, we create room for new and vibrant things.  It’s better than being hacked at with a shovel or hoe.

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