Sometime last week, I was sitting on the corner with my best friend, enjoying some Sufjan Stevens and just taking in the scenery. I’ve always loved trees and growing up in the Caribbean, I never got to experience the beauty of fall and the change of colors. Somehow, my mind began to wander to how freely the trees give in to change, how sweetly their leaves turn color and encourage beauty while they’re at it, and then how ready they often are to let those leaves fall in preparation for the winter.

In observing all that, I noticed one little tree that was still bright and green, while the others had vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows. That small tree reminded me of the old me. It might be a little strange, but follow me. I use to struggle with letting go more than anything else — even when letting go was for my own good because the relationships, friendships, habits, and addictions were things that would weigh me down and cause my branches to break like a tree that holds on to its leaves during the snow. I tried to find an excuse for this little tree holding onto its leaves, and all I could think was, “It’s getting cold. Why would it want to shed all these warm, cozy leaves when it can just keep them and stay warm?”

And that’s how I use to look at life. I saw the cold, rough path that was ahead of me, and I decided that I did not want to go through it alone — not without my friends, not without the things I was addicted to, not without my leaves. So I would go through my rough weathers holding on to these things that were rotting — friendships that were one-sided, relationships that were toxic and habits that helped me cope, but were unhealthy, not realizing that all that weight just caused my limbs to break when the stress of life was added to my situation. It wasn’t until I was at a place where I was so broken that I absolutely COULD NOT hold on to these things any longer that I realized the beauty of letting go. I began to see that what isn’t growing is dead, and for a long time, that was me. I was emotionally and spiritually dead because there was no growth happening in my friendships and no growth in my walk with Christ.

Now, I try to find beauty in all situations while still being aware of the mobility of the essential things in my life. I take time to admire the colorful mess that change can be, but try to mimic the trees and allow what’s dying to do so gracefully. I’ve accepted that in the times when you may think you need loads of people and distractions the most because it’s hard and it’s cold out, so you need your leaves, you may just need to let them go for the sake of your branches — for the sake of the things that will matter the most after the cold winter is over. Get to know your branches. Separate the temporary from the more permanent things in your life and try to make decisions that won’t be harmful to the things/people that matter the most. I‘ve accepted my branches as my self-esteem, my mental health, my family and my best friends. And I let go of the things that threaten those things because when spring comes around again, my branches are what sprout luscious, green leaves again. Not everyone is going to agree with the choices you make, but you have to look out for yourself — that’s important.