The other night, while watching The Graham Norton Show, I decided to heat up a mug of milk in the microwave in order to make some hot cocoa. With marshmallows, of course; I’m not a savage.
As it turns out, the mug I was using – a BB8-themed Star Wars mug – doesn’t work like most of the other mugs in my collection. Typically, I don’t have to worry about the mug getting too hot because the handle doesn’t heat up in conjunction with the rest of the mug. Therefore, I can usually grab the mug with my bare hand and it won’t burn me, even after being in the microwave for 2-3 minutes. But I must be a novice when it comes to mug dynamics, because with this particular mug, the handle did, in fact, heat up.
Unaware of this fact, I grabbed the mug with my bare hand and lifted it out of the microwave. While the mug was clutched in my hand, suspended in midair, searing pain surged through my fingers. My first instinct was to tighten my hold on the handle, which only made the burning worse. By that point, I had two options. Either let the mug continue to burn me as I set it safely down on the counter-top, or drop it, likely break it, and save my poor hand from continued suffering.
In this particular instance, I chose to bite back an agonized squeal and set the mug carefully on the counter. Mercifully, I managed to get my hand under some cool water and there wasn’t a lasting, significant burn; it just stung for a bit afterward. The eventually finished cocoa did help soothe the pain, in that regard.
But sometimes, things don’t work the way they’re meant to. Hot cocoa cups get too hot to hold and fingers get hurt in the process. And sometimes, it’s okay to let go.
I mean, the whole mug situation aside, letting go isn’t always a bad thing. “Letting go” doesn’t have to equate with “giving up” – I mean sure, sometimes it does mean that, and people let go or give up for no good reason at all. However, there doesn’t have to be shame in recognizing when something just isn’t going to work, especially if, in the long term, it’s only going to cause harm or further difficulty. Letting go might result in shards of glass scattered on the floor or a puddle of hot milk at your feet, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not a proper solution if it’s done within reason, like to prevent something worse.
I am, generally, a proponent of honoring commitments, and following through on any sort of project or task that I’ve set out to do – and, often, it is best to see those obligations through. But there are a handful of times where things got tough, situations shifted, circumstances changed, and I would have been better off dropping something rather than seeing it through to the end. Take my high school AP Government class, for example; I took it because history is usually a strong subject for me, but it was insanely difficult, I didn’t understand a lot of it, I barely scraped a B, my stress levels skyrocketed, and I didn’t even bother taking the AP test at the end of the year because I knew I wouldn’t score high enough to earn credit. Pride be damned, I should have dropped down to a non-AP class and it would have saved me a lot of time and frustration.
And while sometimes the “correct” solution is only made clear through hindsight, other times, it is obvious when something isn’t working, and it can’t be helped in the end. Sometimes, consistent hard work won’t earn the desired results. In those cases, what else can you do but let go, when continuing on will only make matters worse? Letting go doesn’t have to mean giving up – and often, it can even take more courage to let go than it does to persevere.