The Power of “Letting Go”

Gopal - 48187
Entered on December 21, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I believe in the power of “Letting Go”. I am sure my father, Appaji, had used these words many times, but I had never really paid much attention to them. The first time I really heard these words was at the family dinner table during the summer of ‘79 having failed in an attempt to win a full scholarship to graduate school.

While my mother served us curried vegetables and rice, I ranted on and on about the unfairness of the judging process. I was furious at myself for having failed and did not feel that I had a future ahead of me knowing that my father could ill afford even the plane ticket to America, let alone the tuition fees !

To my great surprise, Appaji, who had been quiet during most of the meal, looked up and firmly said “LET GO!” Somehow, magically, these two words, had a wonderfully calming effect on me, and released the great pent up stress I had accumulated. I could picture a steam boiler ready to burst, and the release valve “letting go” of the steam. I was carrying enormous baggage, and he wanted me start afresh by simply “Letting Go”. Later, in a quiet after dinner conversation, we sat down and planned how to apply for another scholarship, which I subsequently won.

Looking back over these twenty odd years since that fateful day, I know how important those two words were in allowing me to wipe the slate clean, restart my engines and believe in myself again. My father strongly believed in the power of these two redemptive words, and used them again and again to retain his sanity through turbulent years of family upheavals, work related insecurities and the psychological trauma of growing up in a family with eight children and an overbearing, sadistic father. As a naturally brilliant and sensitive child with a gift for numbers and languages, he paid his way through engineering school by tutoring fellow students. Later, as a civil engineering contractor, with a he had to quit his job and move with his pregnant wife when institutional corruption threatened his principles and his family’s safety. I realized that my seemingly insurmountable troubles were really no match for the hardships he has had to endure. He has sacrificed time and again his career and personal goals by letting go some of his aspirations, letting go his desires to excel in exchange for the wellbeing of his family.

To me, these simple two words contain a wealth of meaning, which I am still trying to decipher as I transition into middle age insecurities, creaking knees, teenage children and stressful changes in my job. I seem to use these two words more and more often as my body tires and my mind is challenged by increasing demands of this frenetic society where the inbox is always “full”. I have used the power of letting go to recapture time. I have let go of the hurt caused by unrequited love, let go of my expectations of my friends and family, let go of personal goals, let go of anger, frustration, pain, memories and large financial losses. I have used them many times over the years, to conquer my human desires for control, for greater wealth and material desires.

By no means, mistake these words as fatalistic – these are words that have allowed me to go as far as I can, and then, with the use of a simple verbal switch reprogram myself to prioritize my goals to what is really important. After all, wasn’t Scarlett O’Hara letting go, when she said, “After all, tomorrow is another day?”

Letting go is not about having a defeatist policy, where you resign yourself to losing the battle. It is an active realization that some things are not meant to be, and allows you to save your strength for another battle, another day. It frees me from the agony of imagining what could have been, and the regrets from defeated hopes. One day, I hope to use these two simple words to liberate me from earthly bondage, my desire to take in one last breath, accepting with peace my natural end with a smile, and the understanding that the time has come to finally “let go” of my mortal coil and return to the great unknown.