I believe one of the hardest things to ever let go is the expectation of who you thought you should be.
I am 28 years old, and I am in the process of letting go of something I never thought I would. I am letting go of the person I spent 28 years thinking I’d become. I am letting go of the expectations set before I was even in the womb. I am letting go of the story of my life that I didn’t write.
Part of me feels like I am completely giving up on myself. I know there are a ton of worn-out composition books from my childhood with scribbled dreams — dreams I will no longer touch. I know a tired-eyed student is looking up at me from her eighth version of a resume, wondering, what am I doing all of this for then? I know there’s a young, hopeful romantic who is writing poems by moonlight and mourning the loss of love not yet found.
Letting go of who I thought I would be by now, feels a lot like disappointing a million different versions of myself. Letting go of who I thought I would become also feels a lot like disrupting the screenplay of society. Letting go of “me” feels like a bold protest against the expectations that were thrown at me since hearing my first fairy tale.
Of course, I never saw my life as one-dimensional. There were always two ways my life would go. As a doe-eyed girl with a soft heart, I thought I would be married by now. I thought I would be celebrating my child’s first birthday by now. I remember it clearly. I was 13, it was summer, and I was sitting on the floor of a hotel room in Rome, Italy with my parents on vacation. I had journaled out my whole life before bed. First would be a boy (so he could protect the sister to come).
Then there’d be a dog, of course. I had names picked out, too. We’d all live in a fenced-in house with tons of windows to let in the Florida sun. I’d stay at home with the kids, much like I remembered my childhood with my mother, and I’d write against the natural light in the natural break’s life would offer me. I’d be a bestseller by 30 — a mix between the emotional-alchemy of Nicholas Sparks and the world-building of J.K. Rowling (minus the wizards).
I sat on the floor of that hotel room, gleefully reading my hopes to my parents and the stars outside the window. I was convinced of my desires, and this fueled my lungs for years to come. Then the feminist in me started to grow up. Then my mother also started offering advice (I’ll always cherish) about making sure, whatever I do, I am capable of being independent of any man — including a future husband. She saw my doe-eyes, and she was protecting me from surrendering to a love story without being able to write my own story.
So then came the second dimension that was already well established, the career woman. As the person who had always made the study guides and led group projects, it was a seamless adjustment. With my insatiable desire to people-please, that meant anything below an A growing up was unacceptable. The first C I ever got, I hid from my parents for three weeks (and I was almost 18). Still, I got into a great college and learned to balance my education with a part-time job, internships, leadership positions, and, of course, a social life.
I was determined at this point, to not only find the love of my life but to build a life that I loved leading at the top of the corporate ladder. New York City was always on my mind at this point. New York would be where I’d make it. It’d be the city where I’d have a corner office (the one with the natural light). By 30, I’d be inching to C-suite with a salary equal to my male colleagues. In all versions of my story, I still thought I would be married by then, too.
And these are the stories I’m currently letting go of because they are no longer representative of who I am. I spent my entire life imagining a love life that could fill a million pages, and so it’s tough to admit to myself that — at this point in my life — I don’t have space for it. I have been single for five years and on an endless search for love with many, many empty rooms. Recently, I found myself ending the search as this new path started to get paved. As a life-long romantic, it’s hard to comprehend that this isn’t the right time for me to be looking for love, much less thinking of that sun-lit home in Florida.
And then there’s the disillusion with corporate life. I am not near the C-suite, but I also no longer want to be. Along the way, I diverged as I watched myself change under the fluorescent light of daily routines behind a screen. Yes, it is admittedly very millennial of me. Still, I was the first of my friends to dive into the spiritual wellness trend when I started to wobble between anxiety and depression. In an effort to “find myself,” I set off to become a yoga teacher. I started researching and writing about new modalities from coffee shops instead of joining friends at brunch. I would meditate on a cushion instead of schmooze at a networking event. I was unraveling the story I had built for myself as the smell of incense filtered through my senses. And, yeah, I guess you could say it was a spiritual awakening that broke me open.
Once I got curious about the universe, I got curious about myself.
I’d look at my resume and ask myself, who is this serving? I’d scroll through LinkedIn seeing friends and acquaintances in roles I once thought I wanted, and I’d feel numb to the letters that formed their titles. Sure, there was a little envy for friends who have houses while I still live with a roommate and half a wall in the city. But, in reality, the idea of settling into one space right now absolutely terrifies me. No longer do I aspire to be standing on a stage speaking to a crowd about the latest industry trends. No, I want to be on stage, talking to a group about how to unravel your stories and express your most profound truth, much like I am doing now, here, and to you.
I’m nervous, yet excited, about letting go. I have to accept that what’s ahead will be a little more dirt than glamour. I have to accept that the road I’m on will be less about financial stability and more about stabilizing my breath amidst the chaos. I have to admit that this path might be a lonely one, as the rest of the world continues writing the traditional stories I once thought I would be a leading part of. I also have to accept that I cannot plan my way anymore. This is the hardest part, letting go of the safety net of preparation. Each step forward now is about one thing: trust.
I know there’s a lot of change ahead, and I am doing my best not to hold my breath before the pivotal moment — or the plot twist — arrives at my doorstep. I have been preparing myself for quite a while, but now it’s about rewriting the autobiography I had in my head to leave extra space for magic. So, here I am at 28 years old, letting go of every expectation I had for 28 years about who I am and where I thought I’d be.
And it’s wild, right? Letting go of “you” is a wild act. It’s bold. It’s risky. It’s unnatural and untamed. Letting go is a fierce decision made in the Self to be free of limiting beliefs. It feels uncomfortable ( in a good way). It feels uncomfortable because I’m forced to bend the way I used to think and shift the way I use to act to fit into this new, fluid reality. And as I do, I realize that I am strong enough to bend without breaking. I am like water, learning to flow independently through crevices rather than in a one-way stream.
What’s ahead for me? Who knows. When I decided to let go, that meant letting go of needing to meet a specific version of myself at the end of this journey. As a Type-A overachiever, this is a sharp divergence from my nature. Yet, my heart rate doesn’t increase when I think about it. There’s something so beautiful and serene about trusting yourself, one step at a time. There’s something so reassuring about knowing that you’re supported and protected by following what feels right.
I am no longer simply following my heart. I am carving out a path for my soul.
And at this moment, I let go of any version of who I was and who I thought I’d be. I release you, I forgive you, and I love you.
And at this moment, I walk freely.