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October 18, 2020

A Seasonal Surrender: Why I’m Leaving my Old Self Behind.


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The woman I will become is waiting.

She stands with open arms, anticipating the moment I will embrace and embody her. When I close my eyes, I can see her tender yet tenacious smile. When my mind falls silent, I can hear her footsteps between my heartbeats—stable, strong, and sultry. 

The first strides toward her created mass confusion about who I am. You see, I didn’t realize that walking toward her also meant walking away from who I was. I found myself stuck, faltering, and between two seasons of my life. 

In my late 20s, I realized I didn’t really know myself. As a recovering people-pleaser, I built a lot of who I was based upon who I thought other people wanted me to be, rather than on the foundation of who I truly was. 

I needed to find my way back to myself and my truth. I wanted a glimpse of who I was underneath all the labels I wore—teacher, wife, daughter, dog mom, friend, and yogi. I yearned to sit in the messy piles of my heart buried beneath perfectionism, and I was eager to put down all the ways I had been trying to prove my worth to others—and especially to myself. 

The journey to myself began by committing to daily meditation—I thought a practice of being still and silent with myself would be a good start. However, the more I grew to know about myself, the less I understood.

Therefore, I sought out advice from those who walked this path before me. I spent afternoons wandering through bookstores, grabbing any piece of literature that spoke my language of personal growth. I listened to podcasts that inspired me, and I sought out the wisdom of those who seemed to be comfortable in their own skin. Most importantly, I found an amazing therapist and a spiritual healer, both of which led to filling more journal pages than I thought possible.

I was on a relentless quest for my own authentic, true, and genuine self: me.

In all of my self-studies, I heard a similar thread: let go of what doesn’t serve you in this moment. It was difficult to look around my life and see the habits I stayed in because they were comfortable rather than beneficial. I vowed to myself to engage in behaviors, surround myself with people, and follow routines until they no longer supported my growth—and I did, for the most part.

Two years ago, I began disrupting routines I had followed for years. I allowed friendships to fizzle out, I tried new exercise regimens, and I left a career in education I was so proud of—all in pursuit of one thing: my truth.

Around this time of deep unraveling, I was convinced I had found it—my purpose, my passion, and most importantly, myself. I was in a new career, teaching children’s yoga in schools and developing mindful content. I was surrounded by people who held the same values and goals that I did. I even went a step further and began my own yoga business. 

I felt empowered enough to stand on top of a mountain and declare, “Here I am! I have arrived.” 

The truth is, I had found myself. But I had only found myself for that season of my life. 

To understand what happened next, it helps to remember that in nature, every season serves a purpose. In the fall, we become most vibrant and colorful before we move on to shed what no longer serves us. Winter offers a quiet stillness, a soft and sweet surrender to rest and recover. Spring plants hope for what is to come and offers us the opportunity for a fresh start. And in summer, our hearts dance between sunflowers, vibrant and strong.

Similar to the seasons, each phase of our lives asks us to evolve into different versions of ourselves. However, I thought I had found my forever self and that this found version of me would weather all of the seasons of life. But she was my summer—bright, breezy, beautiful, and bold—ready to be seen and celebrated. 

Summer is always too brief. The days melt like ice cream over sweet cones when we are not paying close enough attention—mine did too.

Soon, I entered another season of letting go. More of my labels were stripped away, but instead of friendships and a career, it was a marriage, my dog, my house, my new career, and a state I called home for half a decade. My hands trembled and my voice shook as I stepped toward who I would become next.

I quickly learned that the transfer of seasons is not always as graceful as Mother Nature makes it appear. This transition was one of my messiest. I held onto every semblance of my summer days, and I tirelessly captured every soft petal in my hand, grasping it for dear life until the first frost came demanding its release. I was so worried I was letting go of my true self—the person I had so proudly proclaimed to have found. 

I know I am not alone in resisting my own seasonal surrender. 

I think of new mothers looking longingly in the mirror searching for their pre-baby body, freshly graduated college students mourning their youth at their first job, and the way joy and pain share tears while driving a U-Haul truck carrying the contents of your life.

Rachel Brathen said, “Life is made up of a collection of moments that are not ours to keep.” In the same way, we are made up of versions of ourselves we are not meant to cling to. We are not meant to shove new souls into our old bodies, and we are not meant to put our old soul into our new bodies.

During seasons of change, it is normal for us to question who we will become and how the world will receive the new version of us. However, these fears and this identity actually have nothing to do with us—they have everything to do with how people perceive us. If this external version of ourselves is what we chase, we will remain lost in the illusions of others.

The part of me that craves certainty and approval recognizes that choosing to stay the same, maintaining my formerly impeccable people-pleasing record, and preserving my image is much easier and far more comfortable than becoming more true.

But another part of me—the wilder part of me that seeks authenticity—questions, “How will I know who I am if I stay the same? What if I cannot be who I was while also remaining true to who I am?”

Life is meant to change us, and we are meant to change with it. Some of the seasonal shifts, like death and divorce, leave us stripped to our branches. While seasons of falling in love make us hopeful for what is to grow in empty yet fertile fields. 

It is the same momentum that moves us forward that also asks us to leave something behind. This process is as challenging and painful as it is essential. But we can bravely choose to do it—because when we stop growing, we stop growing.

Over the last few months, I wanted the old me to return. As I release her, I am hit with pangs of sadness, fear, and a tremendous amount of pride. I know who will take her place is the person I need right now. I continually remind myself that the woman I find here will not be here forever. Instead, she will remain for however long she needs to. As she, too, will be a skin to be shed for who I will become after her. 

I must unfold, and I must completely surrender who I was in order to become who I will be. I must die, so I can be reborn. Like the turn of a season, this evolutionary phase is a slow progression that unfolds over time—not something instant and visible—but something quiet and felt. 

I will shed this layer. And when I do, what I’ll find underneath is simultaneously softer and stronger than before. She may be harder for others to recognize, but she will be more familiar in my own heart.

My next summer will be just as sweet, although it will look entirely different.

A whole year, and perhaps a lifetime, will have happened in between.

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Julie Strittmatter  |  Contribution: 2,485

author: Julie Strittmatter

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