Learning to Let Go


Learning to Let GoI’ve been going to dance fitness classes for about a year now. I don’t go regularly, sometimes a few times a week, sometimes only once or twice a month. But I absolutely love this fun and unique workout, so I try to go as often as possible.

When I started these classes, I was a terrible dancer — timid and uncoordinated. I jumped around awkwardly, peeking over my shoulder between sets to see who was laughing at me. I didn’t dare take my eyes off the instructor. I stared her down like a hawk, desperately awaiting my next move.

I gradually began to notice that I had become a little too dependent on watching the instructor. I became so hyper focused on watching and trying to imitate that I was not really getting into it; I wasn’t putting my whole body into the moves, only half focused on dancing and half on watching. And, of course, as soon as I stopped watching, I forgot. And then the next time I went to class, I would have to watch and learn all over again. Kind of how you use GPS to get somewhere, and can’t for the life of you remember how you got there, so you have to use GPS the next time too, and the next…

I pondered this conundrum for an entire class and well into the following week.

The next time I attended class, I made a point to let go a little. I felt comfortable enough with the dance moves that I let my gaze move from the instructor to the mirror in front of me. I watched myself and noticed that I wasn’t really putting my whole body into it. I wasn’t putting my heart into it; I wasn’t giving it my all. So I focused on trying to do just that. I gave each move a little extra “oomph.” I squatted a little lower, shook my booty a little faster, flung my arms a little wider. And it felt GREAT. Any time I was unsure of the next move, I’d glance at the instructor quickly, then back at the mirror. I made up a few steps or marched in place for a few beats then jumped right back in when I could.

I started to understand what it felt like to OWN the moves and not just experience them second-hand. I started to actually dance and not just follow a routine.

While I was teaching myself to trust the dance moves at dance class this year, I was also learning to trust myself in other areas of life: at work and as a parent. 2019 was a pretty significant year for me in terms of stepping out of my comfort zone and learning to stand on my own two feet. I made a conscious effort to put myself out there in many different ways and figure things out as I went along. It was thrilling and exhilarating, and terrifying and exhausting all at the same time. But I survived. Actually, I thrived.

I love to watch others and learn from them. I like to ask questions, take notes, make sure I’m doing everything “right.” But there comes a time when this is no longer appropriate or good. There comes a time when we have to stop watching and start DOING. We have to take our eyes off of those who have come before us and start to make our own way. We have to stop mimicking others’ actions and start choreographing our own. We have to listen to our own hearts, use your own voices, find our own way.

Of course, we’ll make mistakes, take a few missteps, and screw things up from time to time, but that’s how we learn, how we grow, how we improve. And eventually, we learn to trust ourselves. We learn to trust in our ability to stand on our own, to figure things out as we go, and, most importantly, to improvise.

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Haley McManigal
Hi there! I’m Haley, a middle-aged-momma to Lukas and Laney, and wife to Dan. I’ve lived in East Tennessee my whole life, and I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. After moving all over Knox County and surrounding areas, my family has settled in Hardin Valley where we intend to stay at least until the kids graduate from high school. My son was born in 2017, changing my life forever, and my daughter completed our family in 2020. I work as an architect and project manager at a global design firm. I think it’s pretty cool that I get to meet with people from all over the world from my home office on a daily basis. I am happiest when I’m able to strike just the right balance between home and work life. But my family is my greatest treasure and my most fulfilling role in life so far is Mommy. My favorite things are reading, writing, cooking, exploring, and making things. I don’t have much free time these days but when I’m able to squeeze in a few of these activities it really pays off. I love being a part of Knoxville Moms and I cherish the opportunity to share this journey of motherhood here with you!


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