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The Art of Letting Go

By Emmanuella Ogbonna

Letting go has never been easy, whether it’s a job, a friendship, a half-finished love affair, or even something you have absolutely no use for.

Growing up, my parents always thought it was a waste to throw things away, even if they were old and no longer useful. So we packed up old books and kept stacking them up, even when we knew we’d never need them again. We keep old utensils and possessions even when it’s obvious that time has made them obsolete. So I grew up with this mentality of holding on to things.

Now holding on to things has its benefits. I mean, there can even be something beautiful about it. Some things take more time to become more beautiful or make sense to us. But there are also things we do not need anymore, and holding on to them can ruin everything for us.

One thing I am most guilty of is holding on to one’s friendship, and I think many of us would agree that friendship is work. You spend a lot of time getting to know someone, sharing moments with them, and eventually, you feel like life would not be the same without them. And then, just like that, life happens and things may take a turn for the worse. Either they ghost you, or things just fall apart. And sometimes you want so badly for things to work out, but with every minute you spend together, you hear the universe saying that things are different now.

If you are anything like me, you may think that there’s still hope for the friendship and that it can be saved, no matter how damaged it is. So you keep trying and trying and trying. Eventually, you’ll come to the same realization I did: friendships sometimes have an expiration date.

This realization should not make you feel so sad. If anything, it should make you feel somewhat relieved, especially if you did everything you could to save the friendship. It’s not your fault, it’s just the way life is and we all have to adjust.

I recently had to part ways with a 5-year-old friendship. If I am being honest, that friendship had been dead for over a year, but I felt like there was hope and that we could make it work. But sometimes there is no good way to revive a dead friendship. Even if we do, we may end up with a vegetable. That’s exactly what happened, a friendship died and I kept reviving it because I could not fail as a friend.

Here are the three most important lessons I learned from that experience.

It’s okay to let a friendship run its course.

Friendships are beautiful, but beautiful things sometimes come to an end. It’s okay to let them be that way. You do not have to control everything. You can just relax and let things take their course. That does not mean you should not fight for your friendships. You have to and you will. But before you do, ask yourself these three questions and answer them truthfully.Why is this friendship so important to me?

Why am I fighting to have this person around? Is it because I do not want to lose them, or is it more about the time I have invested?

Is this person also fighting to be kept? Because at the end of the day, you can only keep someone who wants to be kept.

We can miss people and still not want them in our lives.

I think most of the time we hold on to someone or something because we fear that our lives would be very different without them. We think to ourselves, what if we let them go and miss them terribly. So we fight to keep them in our lives so we do not feel so empty. But it’s okay to miss them and even love them, send them love and light every time we think of them, and then let them go. However, if we try to save an already dead relationship just because we do not want to miss them, we may get stuck feeling anger when we think of them instead of the happy feelings we should be getting. So it’s better to let go before things turn sour.

People change, friendships die — get over it.

When I was younger, I had this favorite quote about friendship that I always carried with me. Somehow I grew up with this quote in my subconscious.

Friendship is a promise made in the heart silently unwritten, unbreakable by distance, unchanging by time, by a heart that cares forever.

I have not written this down in years. It makes me smile when I write it.

It may be a great definition of friendship for my 12 to 16-year-old self, but not for my current self. I know now that time changes friendship and that distance sometimes takes its toll. I know that a friendship definitely does not last forever, so I would enjoy every minute of it. I know that people change, and sometimes that person is me. I also know that it’s okay to grow out of friendships or even stop fighting for one and let go.

The art of letting go is both beautiful and liberating. And who knows what happens when you free yourself. No resentment, no hate and no hard feelings. You just let it all go and move on or even better— move forward. You may find that the universe has something better in store.