Learning to Shake It Off

By Alisa Tanaka, Guest BloggerOctober 28, 2015

image via livwithvision.com

In the weeks leading up to Taylor Swift’s release of 1989, I cringed every time I heard “Shake it Off” on the radio. At first I thought it was because it quickly became one of the most overplayed songs ever. 

But I later realized that it was because I’ve never been good at shaking things off and letting go. I was too sensitive for that. I cared about what other people thought of me, no matter how much I wanted to have that I-don’t-care-what-you-think-I’m-just-going-to-do-me attitude.

I didn’t like the song because I interpreted it as Swift saying that it was easy to let things go. And that made me angry because for me, it wasn’t.

A few months ago, I realized I needed to renew my passport so that I could go abroad to teach English. I followed the instructions, and sent my passport on its merry way in July thinking that (since the website said routine service could take anywhere from between 4 to 6 weeks) I would get my passport in time to arrive at my destination in mid-September.

6 weeks came and went with no sign of that little navy blue booklet. It was then that I was contacted and told that I had made an error in filling out the paperwork, and therefore, they could not proceed with my application. 

That error cost me money and time that I did not feel I had. Add to that the fact that I was constantly asked where my passport was, and my stress level escalated almost every day. My frustration and my lack of income made me an increasingly unpleasant person to be around. The more I tried to distract myself and focus on other things, the worse it was.

Mid-September came and went, and still no passport. And then I had an epiphany of sorts.

Wishing for the paperwork to be processed faster wouldn’t make my passport come any faster. I had no control over what was happening once I sent the paperwork off. That was what infuriated me. But my anger wasn’t helping me. And because I had no control or any way to do anything about it, I shouldn’t worry about it.

It was only when I realized that I had no control that I started being able to focus on things for longer periods of time and relax. And it was only when I relaxed and began to accept that I had no control over when my passport would be renewed that it showed up in my mail. 

Learning to let go and accept what you cannot change is one of the most difficult things to do.

Learning to let go and accept what you cannot change is one of the most difficult things to do. When things don’t go you’re way, you’re bound to get frustrated. But unfortunately, there are some things that are just beyond your control.

If you can do something to change the situation, do it. But if you can’t, do your best to accept it and move forward. Easier said than done, yes. But focusing your energy on things you can’t change and wishing you could turn back time and fix your mistakes won’t give you the power to do that, no matter how much time you spend wishing.

Instead, focus your energy on taking the experience and learning from it so as to avoid making the same mistake in the future. Mistakes are inevitable. You can either spend your time wishing you could change them or learning from them and improving.

Only then will you truly be able to shake it off.

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About Alisa

ALISA_TANAKA_writer_bio.jpgWhile the phrases “passionate mental health advocate,” “bilingual college graduate” or “confused 20-something” would all be accurate ways to sum Alisa up, she doesn’t want to settle for just one of them. When she’s not working, she dreams of traveling the world (having already traveled to/lived in China, Japan, Ireland, England, and Australia), writes her blog, plays with her puppy, watches copious amounts of Netflix documentaries, and curls up with a cup of tea and a good book.


Every girl is a work in progress. If you need more help, click here.

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  • commented 2015-10-29 03:27:31 -0700
    I feel the same way. I have the habit of holding on to things and trying to make things work that I have no control of and it frustrates me when I can’t control it but slowly I’m starting to learn that I can’t control everything. This article actually helped me with what I’m going to be facing today.

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