Yesterday I witnessed a teary eyed mother saying goodbye to her first-year college student. As a college professor who is also a mother, I feel a deep connection to this parent and want to applaud her for having the courage to let go, however painful it may be. This made me think about the phenomenon of “letting go” and how it can create fear and anxiety before we reap the benefits. It takes serious courage. But without letting go at crucial times, we stagnate and tread water. Growth requires leaps of faith.
In my own process as a musician, letting go has been central to my musical development. I’ve already written about my battle with physical and psychological tension. Letting go of it meant first acknowledging it, being willing to “start over,” and stepping into it (sometimes falling). So often, I witness students hesitant to claim their power in this important way. Perhaps it’s because of a fear of being judged, failure, or being discovered as a fraud. I get it. But, meaningful work requires vulnerability. Those of us with more experience sometimes wish that we could speed up this process for our students and may even get impatient waiting for breakthroughs. But like the butterfly, these types of processes take time. Every student is different. We can model vulnerability, we can demonstrate brainstorming and ways to step into life, but at the end of the day each person has to decide for herself when she is ready.
Honoring the student’s own process is at the heart of my teaching philosophy. It’s a messy way to do it. Sometimes it takes much longer for the student to figure it out. But what it offers is transformation, the development of the inner voice, and a deep connection to the making of art.