“Just let go.”

Growing up I was extremely competitive in anything relating to academics. I wanted to be the best and have all A’s on my transcript, get into an amazing research university, win scholarships, go to medical school, and be the best doctor.

I did achieved all of those things (sort of). I graduated as my high school’s salutatorian, had all A’s on my high school transcript, received a full ride to the University of Tennessee, and during graduate school, became the student assistant to the Vanderbilt Medical program manager. My need to control every aspect of my life led to burn out. I felt so lost in terms of what I wanted to do with my life professionally and became out of alignment with who I really was and what made me happy.

After graduating with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Race & Ethnicity, I had planned on attending Vanderbilt University to receive a Master’s of Arts in Medicine, Health & Society. I thought having a master’s degree when applying to medical school would increase my chances. of acceptance. I was trying to control my path so much that I completely forgot to ask myself if that path was making me happy. Throughout the program, I took the MCAT three times, without achieving the results I believed were good enough. Needless to say, I switched careers path and applied to schools to obtain a doctorate in public health. Once again I obtained a full ride at the University of Tennessee, but within a few months, I was not happy with school, research, and became anxious. I had no idea why I was feeling that way and would become mad at myself because I felt I had no control over those feelings. I was not letting them come out. I believed I had become a failure for wanting to quit such an amazing opportunity and for leaving behind the title doctorate after my name.

I never did anything without letting go of the “how” and expectations. I knew what I wanted and thought I could achieve it by thinking linearly. It was not until I quit the doctorate program and switched to a master’s of science program in communication that I started to find alternative ways of handling my anxiety. Once again I was trying to control something without letting go. I started to meditate, trying out yoga, and teas. I failed to let go of that control, to feel the anxiety, and to sit with my thoughts. Nothing was working, until I started to focus on things, activities, and people that made me happy and allowed me to forget about those anxious feelings and beliefs of failure. It has taken approximately 2 years to understand that I am in control of my thoughts and feelings, and being happy now with what I have will attract more happiness than if I try to control when or how to be happy.

Looking back now, I would tell my high school self to just let go of the need to be perfect, the expectations, and the “how”. Instead, do things out of pure joy. Letting go would had saved me so much anxiety, but now I understand that it was a lesson I had to go through to be able to share it with others and help them through their own healing journey.