Letting people go

Jan. 24, 2018, 1:00 a.m.

While we are all at Stanford to pursue academic interests, we are also here to form relationships — hopefully positive, dignifying, fulfilling and mutual. But this is not always the case, and very easily, we can become wrapped around a particular relationship that depletes us. A budding friendship might have a promising beginning, and due to some life circumstance, a series of them, even just time, the connection withers. Perhaps for most of us, when a relationship fails to move forward and the communication stalls, we take the cue and move on to enjoy everything else in our lives. Yet, even with some seamless transitions following the end of a particular connection, there are some relationships that don’t go so gently into a good night.

This might not even be at Stanford. Despite the tendency for relationships in the here and now to shape our college experience, we are also involved with other people who were a part of our lives before we began this chapter. But no matter how these people entered our lives, they have the potential to leave us with a tug of war in our hearts. When this happens, there is a clear, correct choice and that is to let go.

Though inquiry and curiosity might come at first instinct, in the case of tenuous and fluctuating relationships, it’s probably better not to ask why and shun the hypotheticals. First, based on my experience, I don’t think I have ever known someone’s specific motivations behind an action that didn’t sit well. Have you? Second, if I did know why, would it change the outcome? Our rumination would be better suited to something constructive than someone else’s choices that already happened. Last, we have to leave out what might happen in the future. This person may still be in your life in some capacity, but that relationship doesn’t have to be.

I think this process doesn’t mean the change must be permanent (in some instances it might be), the choice doesn’t suggest we no longer care or reflect a someone who has gone from acting selfless to selfish. (I have always thought that caring for another person meant we made altruistic choices on his or her behalf.) I’ve realized that when I am strained over a turn someone has made without me, I miss out on all the other great relationships in my life. I think it’s better to keep walking with those who stay beside us. The people who race ahead or stay back, let them be.


Contact Courtney Clayton at cclayton ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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