There’s a hint of fall in the air here in Minnesota. The evenings are getting cooler, I can sleep with the windows open, and we’re now in the midst of the Minnesota State Fair - the 12 day celebration that marks the end of the summer. (Seriously, it’s amazing, and yes, the rumors are true, you can get just about any type of food you can think of on a stick.)

I love the season of fall for many reasons, but one of the biggest is that it’s always felt like a time of reset. I chalk this up to having been in school for something like 24 years of my life, and thus September always meant “back-to-school” time. New year, new beginnings, and the close of summer life rhythms.

I honestly find September more of a natural period of reset and reflection than the beginning of a new calendar year. For me, September feels like a more natural and easy time to institute desired change, or make subtle pivots in my life and work.

So throughout August this year, I’ve been more intentional about preparing for that natural reflection that comes with fall, and instead of jumping into September full of new things I’d like to add to an already bursting schedule, I’ve used part of my August to reflect on what things I can let go of in my life and work to make room for something new. 

Let’s be real: Letting go can be hard. Whether it’s letting go of a loved one, of a career dream, of a life plan, of a part of yourself that was once fulfilling, but is now not serving you - whatever it is, letting go can be difficult. On occasion, it’s simple and straightforward and easy. (I LOVE it when that happens.) But letting go is often tinged with some form of sadness or even grief.

When I pondered this question of what I can relinquish to make room for new things, a surprising, somewhat painful conclusion emerged. I’ve felt the urge to pivot my work for some time now, and after some reflection, its became clear to me that I need to let go of some pretty significant portions of my career identity. 

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been doing speaking and training workshops on trauma, stress, and resilience primarily in early childhood for several years now. I’ve written a book on the topic, have my PhD in child psychology, have around 10 years of quantitative and qualitative research experience, and have an entire YouTube channel I created to talk about topics in child development. I’m what some people would call an “expert” in the field, though I personally like to avoid that rather loaded term. 

Basically, I’ve been building this career for a while now. And though it’s hardly been a “traditional” path, it’s been reasonably straightforward, or at least coherent. Though I can certainly see value in that work for myself and others, I’ve pretty consistently felt the tension of being pulled in a different direction. And I’ve reached the point where can’t fully pursue that new direction while also sustaining momentum in the being a “child development expert” direction.

I need to let go of the things that aren’t serving this new direction of my work. 

Simply put: I don’t want that career path anymore. It’s not bringing me the joy it once did, in part because it’s painful to be struggling with infertility and have a career that’s focused on child and family life. 

Besides that, I am a multipotentialite (aka: someone with diverse interests and skills across a variety of domains), and a process-focused person who will likely go through many career iterations.

I love the process of doing something more than the product it creates. I’m more excited about how something works than what it is. I love applying a process to lots of different fields, topics and ideas rather than diving really deep on one particular type of work. I love learning new things, jumping into a new problem or a new context, figuring out the best way forward, and then moving on to the next challenge. I love using my various skills in data-gathering, synthesis, communications, and video-making to help others’ expertise and passion shine. I really enjoy the process of helping others do what they love, get to know their audience, and tell their stories. It’s where my energy is and it’s where I need to go next.

To me it feels like a large shift, and a pretty scary one. Public speaking on child development has been a primary source of business income for me for the last few years, so to turn away from that in favor of something which, to this point at least, has been less lucrative, seems a bit foolhardy.

But...I don’t want that career path anymore. It’s not where my energy is; it’s not where I’m being led.

And what the heck is the point of going through the challenge of building your own business if you build something you don’t actually want?

So I need to step away from this part of my career, and turn to something new. I need to close that chapter to make room to begin a new one. I’m turning my focus to the things that bring me energy and joy in my work. I’m packing my bags, taking what I’ve learned along the way, and heading out into the next big adventure.

That’s a lot to let go of. And there’s a sadness and a healthy dose of fear that accompany it. But there’s also excitement that I’m making room for new passions to ignite, new ideas and creative sparks to flow.

And I can’t wait to see where that takes me next. 

What about you? What things in your life could you let go of to make room for something new? 

I love, love LOVE hearing from you. It's a highlight of my day to get an email from one of you about your story or your reflection on these questions. So go ahead and hit reply, and tell me what you're thinking about when it comes to letting go. 

More on Honestly series

Time for a little realtime honesty...

Currently, I'm on a writing retreat with a dear friend, and though parts of it have been lovely, I've also been really sick (who gets a cold in the summer?!) after getting home from a big trip, which happened right on the heels of a couple of big work weeks.

In short, I'm pretty exhausted and overextended. I wanted to get more writing done this week than I'm going to be able to do. I'm going to have to learn how to be okay with that, even though it's frustrating. Yet again, it feels like I'm letting myself and others down because life had other plans. All I want to do is just do good work and make cool stuff, but it feels like that goal is the can that keeps getting kicked down the road. 

I share this because I suspect I'm not alone. I suspect many of you reading this have struggled with not being able to meet your own expectations of yourself or your time. I'm here to say I get it, and I struggle too. But also to tell you - and myself, so listen up brain! - to cut yourself a little slack when life intervenes. Sometimes you have to let the things you had planned go a different way, even when it's hard or frustrating.

And then take a deep breath, (and in my case then cough a lot,) and keep putting one foot in front of the other. 
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