Last month, I reflected on completing a 300-day streak of the New York Times crossword. Doing the crossword every day—and getting better at it over time—helped me reinforce my growth mindset: that each of us has the ability to learn, to grow, and to get better at something new. But the last 65 days of my push to the one-year mark taught me something else: the power of letting go.
The last couple of months, between Day 300 and Day 365, have been difficult. We moved back home after fourteen years of international education. We rented a house that we had to furnish from scratch. We’ve changed jobs and the kids have started a new school. We’ve reunited with our extended family and friends. It has been a whirlwind couple of months! And I found myself up at midnight, after another long day, frantically completing the crossword while my family peacefully slept. I noticed I was no longer enjoying the fun of a crossword puzzle. The crossword became just another daily chore to accomplish, with the background angst of my almost-one-year streak hanging in the balance.
It made me think about how sometimes we are poor judges of what we should pursue and hold onto in this life. Last year, my therapist said to me, “We become avid collectors of things we don’t want.” It also reminded me of a great quote from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, when he writes, “When the farmer has got his house, he may not be the richer but the poorer for it, and it be the house that has got him.” What an image, that the house has got you, rather than the other way around! And it’s certainly how I felt about the NYT crossword streak. The streak had got me.
This experience taught me that it is important for us to take a step back once in a while and audit everything in our lives: our possessions, our routines, our thought patterns, our behaviors. We shouldn’t just hold onto something for the sake of holding on. We shouldn’t stay stubbornly until the end of a really, really bad movie (yes, this is a Cake reference). We should be okay with letting go.
So, I resolved to push myself to Day 365… and then I purposefully let the streak go. It was wonderful to ignore the Monday crossword completely and allow that golden star streak to disappear. It felt really good to watch my New York Times crossword streak “go by like a house on the side of the road,” as the Red Sox radio announcer Joe Castiglione says about called third strikes… As Taylor Swift says, “You know when it’s time to go.” Thank you and goodbye!