Winter 2015: Akaya Windwood’s Response to “Letting Go of Worry” Essay Winners

Akaya Windwood responds to the winners of the Winter 2015 "Letting Go of Worry" essay competition.

Dear Leah, Rechanne, Noah, Carolina, Melanie, and Margaret,

Deep congratulations!!! Kudos to each of you for having the courage to put your hearts and thoughts in writing and then offering them to the world. As a writer myself, I know how challenging it can be to do so, and I salute you as winners, along with everyone else who took the risk of participating in the contest.

What a wild ride your essays were! I laughed, cried, sighed, and smiled as I read your inspiring words. My partner Kim had to be very patient as I said time after time: “Wait wait! Listen to this one!” I ended up reading each of your essays to myself and then out loud to her—you are SUCH GOOD WRITERS!

Rather than try and write to all of you collectively, I’ve chosen to make a few comments to each of you specifically.

Here’s what stood out for me in your responses:

Carolina, the journey you intend to take from fear and worry to hope, security, trust, and confidence makes me so proud of you. Your family is lucky to have you as a teacher. I am awed by your wisdom. You are completely right—let’s throw away all the negativity that we let get under our skins.

Margaret, I agree that worry is not our fault, and it makes no sense to judge ourselves or others for worrying. What’s important is that we can choose whether or not we will allow worry to run our lives. I love your dream that the world wake up one day and instantly have insanely high self-confidence, and that we can do that through replacing worry with gratitude. I think that one of these days you should be President of the World!

Melanie, I completely agree that the state of the world is more important to worry about than the volume of one’s hair ;-). Although I must admit there was a time when hair volume mattered greatly to me—my high school pictures attest to that! I’m not sure I want worry to define any part of me. However, if it did, I would want it to motivate me to make a positive difference, just as you would.

Leah, like you, I’m not sure if we can ever fully stop worrying. I still get nervous, especially when I’m trying something new. But these days I use that as a signal that I want to do my best, not as a way to amplify my fears. I think it’s perfectly fine to be scared—we’re human after all. For me, bravery is acknowledging that we’re afraid, and acting anyway. I’m so glad you are committing to being courageous!

Rechanne, my heart broke as I read about your uncle. His story is the story of so many folks who rose from limitations. I have similar stories in my own family. I am touched by your six-year-old self who knew the truth and offered it with such sweetness to your grieving mother. I believe you when you write that you will be strong and bold, and that your life will be happy and fulfilling. I share that prayer for you.

Noah, I appreciate how you refuse to stay on the surface of things and insist on looking deeply into the essence of your father. He is a good and solid man, and your capacity to accept him as he is, is a testament to your own essential goodness. What a gift it is to meet someone as they are rather than only see them through the filter of what we might want them to be. I love that you equate the process wherein worry becomes passion and power to mental alchemy. Brilliant!

I hope you all won’t mind that I took the liberty of sharing your essays with my sister Barbara, who really is the genius whose wisdom started all of this. Her words about worry shaped my essay, which in turn, shaped yours. I asked her if she would add her voice to this conversation between us all and bring it full circle. She agreed, and writes: “I am astounded by the wisdom of these young adults and honored to be part of it. I am learning from this to never underestimate the power of a well-formed thought and to be very conscious of the words that you may think, write, and say.” As I said in my first essay, my sister is very wise.

Thanks again, to each of you for sharing your insights and reflections. I am reminded once more that the world is in very good hands—yours. Please keep writing, please keep offering your gifts. We are so very fortunate to have your voices as we collectively create a world that has space and appreciation for every person’s wisdom.

From my heart to yours,


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