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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"I learn by going where I have to go" ~ Theodore Roethke

"Ask yourself, and yourself alone, one question: Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn't, it is of no use." - Carlos Castaneda

Before you read this I just think you should know - everything I wrote here I basically said out loud in front of everyone in my teacher training last month and I almost completely lost it in front of like 20 people. I am NOT a public crier. I am not an emotionally demonstrative person about stuff like this. Excitement? Yes. Geeking out over something awesome that I love? Yes. Tearing up during a public discussion? Um, no. I was like "oh I'll just share my reasons for wanting to teach" and then suddenly I started choking up and was like WHAT IS HAPPENING I CAN'T CONTROL MY BODY THIS IS NOT ME AT ALL. I will never secretly and internally make fun of public criers again because apparently now I am one. So that happened. 

On the morning of our second-to-last day in LA last month, Noah gave us a short assignment in which we were asked to write about why we felt called to teach. For those of you who know me, you know that I was a teacher for several years - during and right after college I was the music director for a Musical Theater camp in Minneapolis and to this day it was the most rewarding thing I've ever done. I loved it to the point where I felt guilty depositing my paycheck, because I couldn't believe someone would pay me money to have so much fun. Unfortunately, the paycheck I deposited was not large enough to cover all my costs, so I was working part time at a shoe store while also trying to figure out how to make my life more stable.

But, for a lot of reasons we don't need to get into here, I started to feel embarrassed whenever my answer to the classic cocktail party/ high school reunion/ running into my parents friends at the grocery store question "So, what are you doing these days?" was "oh you know...I'm still figuring things out." So I decided to get my shit together and enter the muggle world - I left my awesome job and went back to school for my MBA and somehow ended up in corporate healthcare.

Now, don't get me wrong I think it was the right decision for me at the time. When I interviewed for internships during the winter of my first MBA year, I realized that I just could not get all that jazzed up about consumer packaged goods (which is what I actually thought I wanted to do) and the only interviews where I felt passionate and genuine were those that centered around making people's lives better. 

I interned at a large healthcare company that summer, and accepted an offer to work there full-time after graduation. I wouldn't say I knew immediately that it was the wrong choice, but I definitely had this overwhelming shock of "what am I doing here, how did this happen...?"

At first things were basically fine, but over time it became increasingly clear that this just was not the right place for me to be. It certainly didn't help that we started going through what felt like endless rounds of layoffs and re-orgs during which some mentors and close friends of mine were let go. I tried everything - positive re-framing, changing my attitude, putting in 110% effort, staying positive - but every week my anxiety level just increased. I started having panic attacks in the morning and there were times I totally broke down on my way out the door, or I would turn to Ben while packing my lunch and say "I can't do this anymore."

I'm not trying to be dramatic...I'm really just tryingt to make a point about how you know when something is not the right fit. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a very positive person and that I tried so, so hard to make this work. I have nothing against anyone that I worked with. I got along very well with my boss and she was incredibly supportive of my professional development. My team and my colleagues were all smart, wonderful people and I learned a TON from my time there. But, I was straight up miserable.

Anyway, it was around this time that I started subbing for my friend Laura's class more regularly. I was still kind of on the fence about whether or not I wanted to be a teacher, but I was happy to step in and take over classes while she was out. It didn't take long for me to remember how much I love teaching, and how rewarding it is to receive positive feedback from your students or watch them have an 'a-ha' moment. That was when I decided I need to to do my teacher training sooner rather than later, and signed up for Noah's program in LA. 

Practicing some General Sequence action on my porch

I am having trouble figuring out how to put this into words, but when you've spent literally years in the wrong environment trying to squeeze your round self into a square peg, convincing yourself that you are the problem, it's kind of an otherworldly experience to feel like something just fits. It was like the first hit of air after holding my breath underwater for ages.

Morning hike in LA with YTT friends

Again, that sounded super dramatic. But basically, YTT reminded me what it felt like to be on the right path - and simultaneously, I knew that the path I was currently on with my career was the wrong one. It's not that the path itself is inherently bad - for some people it's a great choice and it's the right thing for them, but I knew that it wasn't right for me. Could I have been successful there in the long term? Sure, maybe. Would I have ever been happy? Definitely not.

Literally the week I returned from teacher training and my little revelation in LA, I was called in to interview for a position I had applied for right before I left town. I'd been looking for a while, but had only applied to a select few positions and had actually turned something down that didn't feel quite right. This position, however, was one that I was so excited about I wouldn't even tell my parents what it was for fear of jinxing it. Not even kidding.

And now it's my job. I'm back in the arts, which is where I always wanted to be. I'm learning how to teach yoga, which I am also extremely passionate about. I just feel very, very fortunate right now.

random shadow because, why not
In Chapter 18 of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says to Arjuna that "it is better to engage in one’s own occupation [dharma], even though one may perform it imperfectly, than to accept another’s occupation [dharma] and perform it perfectly.” (Bg. 18.47). No matter how good it looks on paper, even if you're successful at it, it is never a good idea to travel down a path that is not your own. Unfortunately, it is so easy to convince ourselves to stay on the wrong path - to feel like if we just try harder, or do something differently or change something about ourselves, that we can make it work. But if it's not right for you, it will never work, and sometimes it takes a hit of oxygen to remind us where we have to go.

So I guess all I'm saying is...if you're miserable, if something doesn't feel right to you, don't put that on yourself. Don't be afraid to walk away from something even if it sounds great at cocktail parties. And find a path with a heart.


  1. i got literal chills reading this! good for you, i'm so happy that you took steps to get out of a situation that didn't suit you. i cannot wait to see how this new position in the arts pans out and i'm sure you are going to be a fabulous yoga teacher as well!

    1. Awww...thank you! It's really great so far :)


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