How to let go?

Anyone who has once held a responsible position will tell you that the hardest part is letting go. As a former board member and current Advisory Board member of AEGEE-Leiden I fully agree with that. You start your term with the best intentions, you care, you sacrifice, you give and you learn. And then, one day, a new generation will stand up, take over, and before you know it all there is left for you is to do is watch from the sidelines and –if they ask for it– give advice. They might make the exact same mistakes you did and even though you know they have the right to, at times you will be tempted to intervene… How to let go?

“It is always hard to let go of your tasks, your position, lots of tears might be involved. However, I have to say it is always a pleasure to see how my successors are doing well. When they are following my previous work it feels great, but every single thing they improve or every completely new idea they come up with makes me feel very proud.”
-Marko Grdošić, AEGEE-Zagreb

The beauty of responsibility
You are elected for a position. You held your speech, you tried to convince everyone that you are the right person for the job. They trust you with it, which fills you with pride, and you start working with endless enthusiasm. You respect your predecessors and you try to be better than them. After a few weeks you realize that you still have a lot to learn and that you have to grow into your position. You make mistakes and learn from them, and sometimes you will think you’re the only one who really understands what it is like. You’re probably right, but it’s okay. All you need for a little reward is seeing that, even if they don’t show, the people you do it all for are thankful.

I enjoyed being in the board and I was relatively sad that it ended somehow so fast. I wanted to share every little detail I had learned, so they wouldn’t make the same mistakes as I did. It took some patience to start trusting the new board, but eventually you let go and see that everything still works!”
– Mayri Tiido, AEGEE-Tartu

Letting go
Just when you feel like you have fully grown into your position and you are starting to see some results, you have to start looking for successors. In the beginning no one seems good enough. You’re afraid they won’t be able to handle the responsibility – you already concluded that they don’t know what it is like. But then you realize this doesn’t mean that they are not fit for the job. You didn’t know either. And of course they will make mistakes. You did too. The only thing you can do is prepare them as thoroughly as possible and give them all the trust they need. So you do the best you can, and to your own surprise it makes you proud to see the enthusiasm in their eyes. They make new plans, great plans, some things you didn’t think of yourself and some you don’t agree with. And although you are still convinced that your way is the right way, you know they have to seek for their own. You watch them with a smile, while the moment of stepping aside is coming closer.

“You feel like the old and grumpy one whenever you want to remind your Antenna of old decisions or traditions. It took me one year to find my spot in the Antenna again, but looking back now on my time as president I realize that I learned a lot and it helped me to develop my skills through experience.”
– Annika Lüdeking, AEGEE-Heidelberg

The aftermath
Your successors held their speech, they tried to convince everyone that they are the right persons for the job. Everyone trusts them with it, which fills you with pride. You take some distance – for many reasons you feel it is the right thing to do. But now you are curious about how they are doing and what you see makes you proud. They are outgrowing you, which is good. And you will see that even though you taught them to seek for their own way, they will come to you for advice and you feel honoured because you know it is not because they still see you as the authority, but because they value your opinion. You feel proud when they follow it and you are not offended when they don’t. Slowly you begin to realize that letting go is not about whether you trust your successors or not, it’s about knowing that you prepared them the best way possible.

Written by Marije Arentze, AEGEE-Leiden