Letting Go of Your Painful Expectations

Between 22 to 29 I put more than 180,000 miles on my car. Pacific Coast Highway to the Eastern shore of Maryland, and a lot in between.

Once a week, I drive five hours a day to get to and from my graduate program. I wake up at 4:45 on these days. My classmate think this sounds awful, but I cherish my time on the road.

I do some of my best reflecting, listening, and learning in the car. Sometimes I pop in old mix CDs and think about being 16 listening to that same CD in the parking lot of my hometown airport where my friends and I used to watch the planes come in at night. We’d sing and laugh, and talk about how it will be when we have our own places and get married one day. We'd muse about what adulthood would be like.

Nearly 15 years later, It brings smile to my lips thinking back on those times. I can still feel how it feels to be young and excited about the possibilities, the mysteries of the unknown.

It’s fascinating to look back and take stock in how much changes in those years.

I’ve watched friends find their callings, battle addictions, get married, lose parents, have children, come out, pay mortgages, and grow up. I see old friends, who were wild back in the day, find total happiness and contentedness in parenthood. It’s amazing how much life happens in those quick years between 16 and 29. Real life, in all of its beauty, messiness, darkness, and joy.

As I approach 30, I find myself grateful for the messiness that has happened in my own life. For the first time, for the trials, and the (many) errors.

29 is such a strange place to be. Straddling the gap between the wonderlust years of the 20s and walking through the doorway of who we are meant to be.

I still feel a stirring in my soul as I think back on times driving up and down the coast, playing guitar, running on what felt like the edge of the world.

But there’s a beauty in letting go, letting go of the expectations we had for ourselves, the expectations others had for us, and leaning into who we really are.

Embracing our good parts, our less helpful parts, and reconciling the two.

Acceptance and reconciliation are two words that were never in my vocabulary. Their absence led to a never-ending cycle of driving and striving.

I took for granted what I labeled as the “soft skills” of empathy, connection, social intelligence and intuition, and instead pushed and pushed for more scientific pursuits.

As I enter my 30th year, I have vowed to live into my gifts and strengths, to accept my weaknesses and areas for improvement, and to challenge the narrowly constructed expectations I had for myself.

What are the limiting beliefs you have about yourself?

What are the stories you play on repeat, the stories that you “have to” be or do x, y, and z?

How did those beliefs come to be?

Can you let go?

Letting go is one of the hardest things you might ever do, I know it was painful and difficult for me. I've continued to be amazed at the ease of life now that I have let go. Life still has sharp and painful edges, but the daily anguish of holding so tight onto one ideal is no longer there, and there is tremendous freedom in that.

What is it you need to let go of?

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