Before I started university my social anxiety was probably at its peak. I was overplanning, overpreparing and catastrophising every little thing, worrying I wouldn’t make friends and/or that I’d have a lonely time. Before moving into my halls of residence, I remember cursing the fact there was no Facebook group setup so we, the flatmates to be, could start chatting and getting to know one another, like a friend had had when she’d started a few weeks earlier elsewhere. (Little did I know that that would be a blessing in disguise.)
The day before, I felt like a bag of worms; nerves, excitement, anticipation all squiggling around inside my stomach and from my head to my toes. The buildup was quite excruciating – after the rollercoaster that high school was*, I couldn’t wait to move away. Then the ‘Day Of’ came and I felt something alien and unfamiliar.
(*that would have been nowhere near as bearable had I not had my core group of best friends – you know who you are.)
I thought to myself: I don’t know anyone I’m about to meet. I have absolutely nothing to lose. I can just be completely myself. No masks. No weird awkwardness. No anxiety. It all just melted away. I woke up that morning and it all dissolved, like the moment you drop a bath bomb into the water. That feeling of surrender felt like the explosion of colour and wild fizzing as it bursts into a beautiful unique marbled painting on the water’s surface, the end result you can’t possibly predict. Anyway, I’m getting sidetracked by flowery metaphors.
So I got into the car that morning with my dad, buzzing with this sense of anticipation, but this on this occasion it was expectation-less. I didn’t know what was going to happen and I was completely ok with it. I felt like for the first time in so many years, I’d returned to my body, my authentic Self. I was open to receiving fun, joy and newness without the need to defend myself, by chronically living in a threatened state of ‘survival mode’. I felt lighter. I felt taller. (It’s difficult to describe without sounding like you’ve taken a dose of hallucinogenics, but I can confirm that was not the case.)
After a last minute dash to Tesco to grab some pots and pans I was missing (that sadly were probably never used, sorry dad), we finally arrived on campus. You probably could have charged your phone from the amount of electricity bouncing off me at that point. But that evening, after dad left me to my own devices with a teary goodbye, I met the people who would become some of my closest friends to this day, over 8 years later. I met the bunch who I’d have the time of my life with during one of the most pivotal periods of my youth away from home. I met the group of friends I never saw coming, that I never knew I needed. You guessed it: by expecting nothing, I actually received everything.
It’s hard to describe the amount of luck we had in those halls, if not impossible. The odds of you ending up with two or three friends in your corridor are probably the most likely. But to end up with having a circle you’re still close to now that made up the majority of your floor; there’s some kind of alchemy involved somewhere there. Without getting too mushy here, we had the most insane luck and have friendships for life borne from the legendary top floor of block 3E/4E (and beyond) and I’m still so grateful to this day for whatever forces brought us all together. No forms of distance, time or events have seemed to separate us yet – and since the science says once you’re friends with someone for 7 years, it’s for life, it looks like we’re happily stuck with each other!
What I’m saying here is that strange, weird, beautiful things happen when you release all forms of expectation. When you let go of the anxiety of what might happen, when you stop living in the land of What If and emigrate to the planet of The Beautiful Unknown. You aren’t ruled by the restricting forces of anxiety or fear; you are open to anything could happen and are far better equipped to live life as it was designed to be lived: freely! Once you release yourself from that cage of projected worry that’s mistakenly trying to keep you safe, you are much less a canary in the coal mine (if that’s not too dramatic an idiom) but better yet, a duck to the water, or as free as a bird – take your pick (there are actually so many bird idioms/metaphor/visual-language-related-things out there, guys).
So especially now while life is all things unpredictable and unknown, try letting go of all said things. They’re too heavy to carry around constantly and you deserve a break. It’s much easier said than done, but what happens if you’re curious about it to begin with? What happens if you decide to try letting the restrictive forces of control fade away like that bath bomb? You may find that life becomes less like a relentless march but more of a gentle, easeful flow. Think about the soundtrack to your life being more Enya, less My Chemical Romance. And then go from there…
Expect nothing = receive everything.