I burned my books

Last night I held a ceremony in my backyard.

I started by honoring the space and setting an intention.

And then I slowly and methodically burned hundreds of pages of notes that I took while getting my master’s degree and working on my doctorate.

These notes spanned in subject from ethics and justice to the treatment of sexually transmitted infections to studies on the behavior of bisexual women.

They represented years of my life, hours upon hours of dedicated studying, reading, writing, listening, discussing… the summation of a graduate degree and then some.

Even though I dropped out of my doctoral program to pursue a career in sex and relationship coaching, I had a lot of trouble getting rid of my notes. (I had even more trouble dropping off my texts books at Goodwill, but that’s a different story).

I think it’s because I was afraid I’d missed something. Like suddenly one day I’d need a note from a behavioral health class I took in 2013. Or that I’d forget a specific theory and would need my notes to jog my memory. Or a million other excused I made over the years.

As I watched the billows of smoke pour from the papers and up towards my house, I couldn’t help but feel free.

As every highlighted page, every graded assignment, each sticky note… so urgent at its birth and now well past its expiration date… burned up before my eyes, it was as if all the anxiety, sadness and stress I had experienced during those years was being released.

No longer would I move this box of papers from house to house. No longer would a whole cabinet in my office be jammed with journal articles and hand-written notes from years past. No longer would I need the security of the safety net those notes represented.

I realize now I was afraid of letting go. Letting go of the physical anchor that I thought connected me to my education.

The truth is that my education isn’t something that I can burn up, or let go of, or give away. The things I’ve learned inform everything I do, from coaching to writing this blog post.

Everything I say and everything I am is a product of all of my lived experiences, whether they were recorded on paper or not.

I am a great coach because of my dedication to my craft and my devotion to my subject. Not because of the letters behind my name or the certificates on my wall. (Although the work I put into getting them certainly helps).

At the end of my ceremony, as I was warming my hands by the embers, I felt a renewed calm.

A pain I had been experiencing in my back completely dissipated, and I was felt with a sense of sleepy contentedness. I faced a fear, took a massive action, created a change.

Sometimes the thing we’re holding on to for safety is exactly the thing we need to let go of for freedom.

What is it that you’re holding on to? How can I help you to release it?

If you’re ready for a massive change, visit www.caitlinvneal.com/apply and jump in.

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