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À la Nike
Learning to take the leap amidst the fears
I clasped my phone. Hands shaking. Feeling – even hearing – my heart pounding against my chest. I hit ‘Share’ and immediately put my phone down. Who knew hitting a simple button could be so exhausting?
You see, I've always considered myself a perfectionist. It’s something that’s dictated both what I do and how I do it. And that Mafe would have never done this. But I suddenly committed myself to an experience that my old self would have deemed full of potential failure (in all caps and a few exclamation marks included).
Still, I smiled a huge smile.
Twenty years in the making, I’m beginning to fulfill a dream, and it’s damn exciting.
I took my first yoga class in college (which feels like lifetimes ago). It was hot yoga, which, if you haven’t tried it, is basically like doing yoga – or anything really – in the middle of Times Square in mid-July. I dripped in sweat, my legs shaking, waves of nausea threatening; inches away from strangers surrendering to their own fate. Then, unexpectedly, as the class ended and we all lay on our backs in (non-ironic) ‘Corpse Pose’, there came bliss. A pause in time where the world disappeared, and I was left floating in a peaceful void.
In that fiery hell of a room, I had found a heaven.
From then on, wherever I lived, yoga studios became my refuge. Dreams of Teacher Training in luscious Bali or Costa Rica followed. Yet unlived.
Why? Plain ol’ myriad of ‘logical’ reasons that someone with ‘responsibilities’, building a picture-perfect life (read: cookie-cutter, boring, uninspired) told herself: ‘I have a corporate job, I can’t take multiple weeks off. A gap in my resume? Could you imagine?! If only I could.’ But this, but that, but no.
Truth is, back then, with no kids and the opportunities I had, I damn well could have.
Truth is, I was afraid to break from the mold.
But I’m not here to talk about the coulda, shoulda, woulda’s. I’m here to talk about the: what are you doing about your dreams now?
Because now I know. The Magic? It’s there, in the leap one takes, amidst the fear, into our journey towards passion.
We have to – à la Nike – JUST DO IT.
We have to just dare.
They say becoming a mom changes you. Literally; physiologically, neurologically. I for one was hoping to magically regain the ability to digest lactose. Alas, no luck there, but something else did happen.
I started to wake up to my own life and question what picture-perfect actually meant, for me. Fear-cells rapidly decaying, I began to let go of the expectations I had for myself and of the need for certainty over the future.
For starters, I knew that if I was going to be away from my son, it better have been for something that also filled me with joy; and the seemingly-successful, stable yet stifling, brick-path I was on, clearly was not. New courage-cells blossoming, I dared step sideways onto the mushy wildgrass. I quit my job and joined the Yoga Teacher Training program of my dreams (albeit virtually mid-pandemic). And soon a new world began opening itself to me. I got the opportunity to reopen and manage the community’s three (dare I say ‘hottest’?) hot yoga studios in LA. But it left little time for play, so this yogi stayed within the confines of P&Ls and studentdom.
Now, a couple years and another baby later, there’s been another wave of questioning – and mutation – and I’m finally taking the steps to become a yoga teacher there. Step one involves getting some practice under my belt, teaching free classes to friends until I’m approved to be on the regular schedule.
So there I was, phone in hand, ready to rally friends to my second private class.
The first one had been an ‘exclusive event’ with only two invites extended: to my husband and my yogi work-wife. On paper, a baby-step. In reality, a momentous occasion. A ripping off of the band-aid, speaking words in the hot room for the first time. I started to uncover a new voice; one which had been there, dormant, for so long.
Now, I’d envisioned taking another baby step, inviting a handful of friends. But I was overcome with a thought that sent chills up my neck - what if I went ‘all out’?
I knew that if I thought about it too much I’d psych myself out. So I quickly created an Insta story with the class info and sent it off to the world.
But it wasn’t easy.
From the very beginning, there were fears lurking, whispering, ‘You’re too old to start now.’ ‘You’ll never be as good as them.’ ‘What if you say all the wrong things, what if you freeze. That would be so embarrassing.’
Imposter Syndrome making a nice cozy home for itself in my stomach.
The thing is, for as long as I can remember, I grew up striving for excellence, control being its loyal sidekick. All tests needing to be A’ced, overthinking every decision, no coloring outside the lines. If I’m honest with myself, it likely stemmed less from intrinsic motivation, and more from the dopamine hit of external validation.
Either way, that me would have never stepped into teaching feeling anything but OVER-prepared.
But as a mom of two young kids, with not enough time to even pee alone (I see you mamas), being ‘prepared’ started to take on new meaning. If I was going to avoid getting stuck in the paralysis of perfectionism, I had to learn to jump and be ok with falling – even very publicly – or becoming a teacher would live on as nothing but a line on the bucket list.
And so, ‘over-prepared’ was replaced with ‘prepared-enough’.
Instagram story out, I was going for it and I invited failure along for the ride.
It didn’t matter how many people actually came; it could be a packed room, a handful, or none. What mattered was the undeniable energetic shift I created inside myself when I put it out to the world.
Three days later, I found myself in the hot room facing four friends; sweaty, probably awkward, half of me having a private conversation with myself, testing whether I knew what pose came next (cheat-sheet keeping me company nearby), while the other half of me attempted to speak words out loud. I don’t think I even looked at my friends once and I did the whole practice myself too (a big teacher no no here). But it also felt better than I expected and I had so much FUN.
Today, with only a handful of classes under my belt, I’ve gained significantly more than simply memorizing a 30+ pose sequence and remembering to look up… I’ve given myself a hard time, but I’ve also given myself grace. I’ve laughed at myself for the gibberish words I’ve said, and those left unsaid. I’ve made myself vulnerable and still walked out of the studio head held high, always more energized than when I walked in.
I’ve discovered a new me.
And I’m so grateful to have given myself the chance.
Since becoming a mom, I’ve slowly been able to let go of the perfectionist in me. Maybe it’s science. Maybe it’s the blissful new perspective on life. Maybe it’s just that each day becomes an unpredictable shit-show in itself. Whatever it is, I’ve dropped the safety-blanket that protected me against my fears. A safety blanket that also caused severe auto-immune paralysis my whole life.
Instead, I’m discovering a new world of living boldly. No matter how big or small an act may appear.
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