Let It All Go: On Shedding Expectations and Fear
Sweat rolls down my forehead, leaks into my eyes. I can see drops all across my arms and my yoga mat.
“Hold your plank for just ten more seconds,” the instructor says, her voice steady in the midst of what I’m pretty sure is an introduction to what hell feels like.
The room is at, what the website says, a *comfortable* 102 degrees, and holding this plank on a Thursday night feels like finally hitting my breaking point. I’m about to collapse onto the mat—walk straight out of the room if my legs can still hold me up—and never go back to Sweat Yoga. Avoid driving by it on my way to Wednesday night happy hours downtown in case somehow they drag me back in.
“Eight seconds,” the instructor says, in that annoyingly composed tone. “Eight seconds, to think about the shit that’s being thrown at you. Seven seconds, to prove you’re stronger than it.”
I’m still holding on. Eight seconds to think about the days and the expectations that make me feel like crying myself to sleep at night. Seven seconds. Keep holding on, like I do every morning when the tears are dried and life keeps moving forward.
When she finally lets us drop to the ground, I collapse onto my mat. I’m glad that the room is dark, and nobody can separate the tears from the sweat on my cheeks.
“Let it go,” the instructor is saying. “Breathe out, and let it all go.”
There are a few things that happen when you graduate college. You celebrate school being finished. You send out job applications with big dreams and starry-eyes. You get rejected and ignored. You send out job applications, and LinkedIn invitations, and cover letter after cover letter—you dream about cover letters—you start losing steam. You want a job. You want a job so badly.
You get a job. You celebrate. You go to your first day in a new pencil skirt with starry-eyes. You love it, for a while. Some days you hate it. Sometimes you wish you could go back to that time when you weren’t tied down to your desk, even though that’s all you wanted. You start losing steam. You want a new job, or to travel, or to do what that girl on Instagram is doing. You want that other life so badly.
And it’s not that what you have is bad, or that it isn’t what you expected. It’s that there are so many reasons to tell yourself that you’re doing something wrong. That you didn’t choose the right path.
You’re young, so you should be traveling the world. You’re new, so you should be exploring all your options. Date whoever you want, for as long as you want, while you can! Spend your money on experiences you want to have, while you can!
But you’re getting older, why aren’t you looking for someone to marry? But you’re getting older, it’s time for you to get serious about your 401K. Stay at the job for two years, minimum. Don’t spend all your money on that plane ticket, you have rent to pay.
You’re doing it wrong—I hear it like background music to everything I do. When I was first pushed out of the nest into the real world, my family and friends and professors and motivational books told me to follow my own path. To do what felt was right.
But now that I’ve been living in it for a while, they make me think there’s a different path I should’ve been following all along.
I chose a stable job and a city close to home with plenty of friends I already knew. I chose consistency and working in the background toward a much bigger dream. I chose to prioritize paying off debt and building a savings account. I chose to live in a way that would minimize anxieties and give me hardly anything to fear.
But I can’t help but feel like I’m missing out on adventure. On challenges. On cool trips to see spectacular cities and meeting people who make me question everything I thought I knew about life. I feel like I’m missing out on a bucket list, putting it off until I have this amount of money or these successes to add to my resume.
I feel like I am crumbling inside, because I don’t know how to change my life. Because for a long time I wasn’t sure I wanted to. I’m coming up on the anniversary of the day I left college, and when I thought I’d be moving along a path I planned to stay on for a while, instead I feel panicked—not knowing at what point I can wander off to start a new one.
That’s how I ended up in a hot yoga class with a person I’d only just met days before. Just inching a toe across the line of the routine I’ve watched my life become. I wanted to try something new, meet someone new. Maybe try being someone new, who didn’t always feel worried that I was letting myself down.
“Let it all go.” That was the theme of the class. You’re letting your fear go, your inhibitions go. You’re sweating your skin off in a room full of people you don’t know, attempting to get in and stay in positions that make you more than a little uncomfortable. You’re breathing in heavy breaths and blowing it out with loud sighs and moans. You’re feeling a little silly and a little exhilarated but mostly just hot.
But you hold the positions. And you breathe through them. And you prove that you’re strong.
Until you don’t, and you fall out, and you lay like a lump in corpse pose while everyone else is trying hand stands.
“Go to your own flow.” My instructor says that whenever she sees or hears someone struggling.
So I do. I let it all go—the expectations, the judgments, the fear that I’m doing something wrong or making myself look silly. I hold the wrong pose in the wrong way and I take 500 water breaks.
I go to my own flow. And when I’m home that night, feeling loose and sore and still just a little bit overheated, I wait for the wave of panic to come over me. The one that tells me I have to wake up in the morning and keep walking the same road that I don’t even know I should be on.
But for once, it doesn’t come. I fall asleep as soon as I crawl under the covers.