17 Ways to Let Go

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Recently, the overwhelming enormity of the fact that I am graduating in four months has been hitting me quite hard. Time that once seemed to go at a snail’s pace is now flying by too quickly – and in the midst of the multitude of deadlines and responsibilities I suddenly feel like it’s a shame I have to leave so quickly. I still have an arsenal of advice to hand out, both clichéd and uniquely my own, and am determined to preach it to the public.

Although in my mind I have lived a wizened life, my short yet adventurous 17 years have been filled with more than my fair share of disappointment, heartbreak, teenage angst, anger, and inner turmoil. With such great pain came great responsibility: and the necessity of practicing how to let go.

And so in honor of my age, I present to you 17 tried-and-true, from-the-heart Ways to Let Go.


  1. Learn how to ignore the devil on your shoulder that encourages you to put down and diminish someone else’s achievements. They worked hard for what they got.
  2. If they cheated their way into what they got, have faith that they will learn from their own mistakes. Step back and don’t try to take matters into your own hands.
  3. All the women in the world can be beautiful at the same time. Drill it into your head that you can be just as beautiful as the next girl.
  4. Take a page out of Atticus Finch’s book and climb into someone else’s skin when you fail to understand them from your own perspective. The way the anger melts away may surprise you.
  5. Lose the belief that other people have an obligation to make you happy. Go out there and seize the day for yourself – the happiness will follow.
  6. Don’t hold back your emotions. Not only does a good cry shed hormones that build up during stress, there’s no way of knowing when those pent-up emotions are going to release themselves.
  7. Get that it’s okay to make mistakes. Nobody can do everything perfectly. Life screws you over sometimes, but you gotta get back up. The road to perfectionism is rocky and dangerous – don’t take it.
  8. But don’t make the same mistakes. Treat every mistake as a learning experience and take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
  9. Figure out what you want in a friendship (and romantic relationship). A similar sense of humor? Taste in food? Listening skills? It’ll save you a lot of time in the future. A good relationship is worth a hundred mediocre ones.
  10. Cut ties with friends/SOs who don’t treat you well. You don’t need more negativity.
  11. Learn how to take criticism. If your first reaction to criticism is anger and defensiveness, find out what’s causing that and deal with it. There’s always room to improve, and your friends/parents/professors are here to help you.
  12. Relax. A wound up person is not an emotionally healthy person. Watch Netflix or go out on a walk. You deserve it.
  13. Know that it’s okay to ask for help. No one expects you to do this alone. Reach out to someone when you need to talk or vent.
  14. Take responsibility. The only person you can control is yourself. When things go awry, don’t dwell on how someone else could have been better, but focus on bettering yourself. Take back the power.
  15. Pull a Lara-Jean Covey. Write your feelings out in a letter and keep it in your drawer. Or record a video talking about it. Look back on it in a few weeks/months/years and be pleasantly surprised at how much you’ve moved on.
  16. Know yourself and how you cope with grief. Proceed accordingly when things (and you) fall apart.
  17. Accept that sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.

If you made it this far, I’m assuming you really care about what I have to say, so let me repay you with a piece of my heart – my account of my ED rejection from Columbia University. A part of me is fearful of putting this out here, but I figured I’ve been open enough on this column to continue to be honest.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget that day. I had woken up and gotten ready to leave, expecting to just casually check my decision and hop in the car. Instead, I spent the whole day sobbing into my pillow, eating ice cream and Takis, watching cheesy Disney movies, and sleeping at 4pm.

The first few moments after I read (and reread, and reread, and reread) my letter were rather numbing. I went through the first four stages of grief within 10 minutes, but the whole reality of I’m-not-going-to-Columbia didn’t truly sink in until I called my friend to let her know. As soon as I spoke the words, the tears came pouring down and I had to hang up.

Looking back, I think my decision to stay home and wallow alone was the right choice. I was extremely attached, and the rejection was like a punch – no, multiple stabbings – to the gut. I spent the day crying intermittently, reading a dozen articles titled “Advice for the College Rejection Recipient”, and trying to keep a positive mindset.

But in the next week, and over a period of time, I moved on much more quickly than I expected (considering I had to finish applications, I had to move on). The pain left just as intensely as it had come, and I was overwhelmed with a sudden peace: a self-reassurance that my life is not over – nay, it has barely begun – and a firm belief that everything happens for a reason. As I continued my search for the perfect school (as Columbia was not The One) I found that all the schools I was applying to were just as great, if not greater.

All the things listed above – grieving, accepting, recording your feelings – I did in my process of Letting Go of my rejection (and the school). And in the end, I think the rejection taught me more about myself and the ups and downs of life than any acceptance ever could have. After all, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you are successful in Letting Go.


Allison Rhee