Columnist discusses the importance of letting go and forming new dreams and relationships.

By Josie Stewart, ’21

In elementary school, my dream was MIT. I’m not sure why, considering I’ve always had some deep-rooted, incessant hatred for math and most sciences, but nevertheless—I insisted to my parents that the school was my future.

Meanwhile, as most younger kids do, I had a second dream. To be a Rockette (which is hard when you’re only five feet tall) or to be a choreographer for a New York company. Not soon after, though, I watched my fellow dreamers abandon their own path to pursue something else.

It was unfathomable to me—I could never quit something so vital to my being and the thing that I talk about while I get my haircut; how could I let go of something that has been a part of my life since I was 3-years-old? 

I loved dancing, but I hated actual being at dance. Being at the studio seven days a week and wearing itchy costumes while ruining my skin and hair with makeup and hairspray was second nature to me, despite how upset I was every time I had to redo my bun eight times. So, when I finally decided to quit dance to begin high school, it was difficult to believe I could let go of something I had loved for so long and that showed in my life. To believe I did, I threw away the countless trophies, costumes and medals displayed across my room, removed “dancer” from my Instagram bio and of course—immediately found something to replace my voided interest.  I began letting go of part of me, when in reality I uncovered talents I never knew I had and interests and happiness that I otherwise would have never found.

By Josie Stewart, ’21

As for filling that hole, I joined the crew team as my sister had done three years earlier after having no experience with any other sport and a slight disadvantage in height. Since she loved it, I knew I would, too, and no longer would I have to search for part of my identity. Bumper stickers on my car, medals displayed once more and more keychains than I actually could fit on a lanyard ensued. So once again, it was unbelievable to me that my friends could leave the team, until I realized this year how much I wanted to leave myself.

I have always stayed friends with the same people, because they had always been there. I never gave up on a dream, because it’s always the one I’ve had. I never considered that my own happiness should be a factor in decision making, because it had never occurred to me before.

So how do you know when to let go? To quit a team or to join one? Drop a collegiate dream? End a relationship? Or finally leave your friend who hasn’t treated you the way you deserved?

It’s hard. Change is always uncomfortable, and there is never going to be a written sign to tell you to move on. I waited for one for years, and it seems that I’m waiting for one again. In the end, my sign ended up being my own happiness and remembrance that I’m only in high school. 

There is always time to reevaluate your circumstances and involvements. In fact, the moment you realize you’re unhappy—you should.

It’s taken me until now to actually apply that to my life, despite hearing it for years on end. I could have been so much happier and had many more new experiences if I had not just kept to what I knew. While it may sound like a ripped-off “Pam Beesly moment” or mid-teen sort of realization, it’s difficult for you to actually realize it in your own life even after hearing it numerous times.

Now, I am surrounded by people who make me happy, and I am given new experiences every day that work toward a future dream. I realize that my current ideal of living out my teen years like Cameron Crowe did isn’t very realistic, but for now—that’s it. It’s mine until it no longer makes sense or until I find something just as amazing to pursue instead.

High school may be short, but it is a time to find yourself and prepare for the real world. Don’t toss your cap on the last day and let it fall back down to you filled with regret of how you spent your time. You can stay in contact with whom you would like and let go of those you don’t need. Let go of what you will point at and laugh in old yearbooks or memories on your camera roll that you don’t look back on fondly. You are changing, and what you love usually won’t change with you. Do not think that just because something or someone has been there, it has to stay. In the end, it is your happiness that you should be left with.