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Letting Go Of What Once Was

Yoga Santosha Blog Letting Go

Letting Go Of What Once Was

JUNE 15, 2018

Letting Go Of What Once Was

It’s been three years since I was laid off. It was a good day, it was time for a change, but it was also a hard day. I wasn’t just walking away from the seven year career I had built, but also the identity that came along with it.

The next morning, I woke up with nowhere to be. Instead of feeling purposeless I felt purposeful; it was my time to figure out who I was and what I wanted without the shadow of a career in big oil. I boxed up my work clothes and shoes, knowing this journey wouldn’t require blazers, heels and pencil skirts, and they stayed in those boxes until recently.

A few weeks ago, I went out with my girlfriends to a beer tasting followed by dinner. We agreed to dress up a little to celebrate spring and our girl’s night out. When the time came to decide what to wear I was stunned. As I pulled out the dresses I once wore for nights out as a “business woman”, I felt like I was going through someone else’s belongings. The colours and fabrics felt both familiar and foreign. I imagined the woman who once wore the clothing that I was now hesitatingly pulling out of boxes was sophisticated, put together.

I’m not that woman.

I’m not a mess, most days, but it’s been a while since I rocked a three inch heel.

As I stripped down and stepped into the first dress, I pulled it up over my shoulders and stared in the mirror at a woman from another time. Instead of the sense of power I used to feel wearing my work clothes, I felt like a child in her mother’s closet; just not my mom because she prefers denim and flannel.

I decided on a teal dress. I tried it on for the first time in too long and thought it would do, but the night of the event it somehow felt shorter and lower in the front than I remembered. I would have to use a stick on bra to give me some lift since it had an open back.

I felt like a party girl from 2005. It was all forms of wrong.

I changed quickly into a go-to Christmas party number, stepped into my springiest peep toes, and without so much as a full body scan in the mirror, I ran out the door.

An hour later, someone took a post-beer tasting photo of the six of us. When I looked at it, I barely recognized myself.

Who was the girl in the red dress?

That can’t be me.

Two days later, all my old clothes lay scattered in a pile on my bed. I held them up without as much as a semblance of nostalgia. These clothes didn’t belong to me; they belonged to another girl from another time. I held onto my work clothes because I figured there would come a time when I would wear them again. It took me a long time, and a lot of money, to build up a professional wardrobe and I didn’t want to start fresh when I started my next career, but instead of feeling powerful when I wiggled into my old skirts, I felt like an imposter.

Instead of acting like a catalyst to propel me into career 2.0, these bundles of fabric kept me anchored to a different time when I was a different woman.

I couldn’t help but wonder, what was I holding on to?

Who wants to be the person they were three years ago? I love her, but I don’t want to go back.

Change is rarely easy, but it is almost always worth it. The opportunity to reflect on our attachments can be a gift. The ability to see what anchors us in the past is the only thing that can propel us forward.

Attachment is like a boat anchored at sea. Sure, the boat feels like it’s moving when there is chop in the water, but the feeling of movement is an illusion. Only when the seas are calm, when the mind is calm, can we really notice that we haven’t moved at all.

Only when we remove the anchor can we move forward.

Since I packed up my closet, I got a call for an interview. Is this a coincidence? Maybe…

Maybe not?

Thinking that I would be the same woman after three years of growth was foolish, but it wasn’t until I pulled out all those clothes that I realized how much I really changed. In that moment, I had two choices: go back or move forward.

Play dress up or start over.

I guess when put that way, I only had one choice.


-Ashley Atkinson

Ashley is a surfer, yogi and writer living and loving in Calgary, AB. She aims to write the way she lives – freely and unapologetically.

Read more of Ashley’s essays at or follow her on Instagram @anothergirlnamedashley