Updated: Sep 13, 2019
Being in your mid-twenties today is like being a fish on a dock. The will to get back into the water is strong, but every external force is keeping you from diving back in. You just have to flounder on a washed-out pier until something, or someone, decides to send you back beneath the waves (or, alternatively, onto the grill).
It would be easy to say we control our fate. Every move I have made since high school has been done with intention and with one goal in mind--to succeed. To be the gatekeeper of my own fate. When I was 18 and full of optimism, I made the decision to move to Los Angeles. Alone. Knowing no one. I thought maybe I'd pursue filmmaking--a subject I knew very little about, apart from my limited experience making music videos with my mom's old camcorder. After spending some time in California, alone, and in desperate need of sustenance that did not consist solely of kale, I learned very quickly that I was one of hundreds, no, one of thousands, who dreamt of directing films. And we were all concentrated in one area. None of us standing out from the other.
So there I was. One of thousands. One of thousands who would likely fail. "So, I'll be a film critic," I thought. As if the most logical answer to not being able to direct films was to critique those who could. The biggest problem with this notion is that I saw no value in my own opinions.
In my sophomore year of college, everything seemed to be slipping through my fingers. Even with my interest in film, I was so wrapped up in inevitable failure that I had yet to declare a major. I had a handful of friends, but none of whom I could trust. I withdrew from an economics course because, in my mind, admitting defeat was far more noble than be told that I had failed.
So there I was. Three thousand miles from home. A fish on a dock gasping for any bit of life I could inhale. Holding that air in my lungs like a loved one you can't let go of. At this point, anxiety had grown to be a close friend. One I could never trust; one who thrust itself into my life when I knew I was better off without it. It was an unwanted, and clingy companion. One who talked me into meltdowns rather than out of them. The only thing that saved me, in the throes of a panic attack, was this: breathe.
It seems so simple. 99% of people don't even have to think about it. They just go about their days inhaling and exhaling. Their bodies know how to calm themselves. Mine didn't. When it finally clicked, everything happened at once. A flashback you only see in the movies--a shy little girl who cowered at the thought of speaking in front of a small crowd. A preteen who smiled with lips pursed to hide the braces. A teenager who was maybe too thin and definitely too self-conscious. A young woman who always believed her ideas should stay in her mind. The memories spiraled through my head, quickly like the tornado from The Wizard of Oz, until finally, they froze, stood in my mind like stagnant air, and then dissipated. Everything good--my mother's hug, my sister's laugh, the wagging of my dog's tail--washed over me. It all came from a breath.
This is what led me to pursue a certification in teaching yoga. The practice of allowing the breath to control the body and ultimately the mind. I can't say I owe the last ten years of my life to yoga. It has, however, given me control. Control over my breath, control over my paralyzing anxiety. The will to go on. The power to slow down. The courage to put my thoughts down on paper, and to share those thoughts with friends, and with complete strangers. It gave me the confidence to morph those thoughts into stories and to put those stories onto the screen.
It may be a huge stretch, but it's possible that, even if we flounder, we can make it back to the water by focusing on our breath.