Just over 13 years ago I left a successful corporate career to become a yoga teacher. Less than 2 weeks ago I closed my longtime yoga studio to run a more mobile business and free up some time to follow the evolution of my dreams. I call it living my life. Other people call it brave.
I don’t feel brave. It’s more that I have to keep following my path. I have to keep moving forward. Isn’t that the logical thing to do with life? Am I just supposed to stubbornly or unthinkingly stick with something that once fulfilled me but that I’ve gradually outgrown? How does that make any sense at all?
When I left the corporate world, a lot of people thought I’d lost my mind. A number of friends and colleagues literally sat me down to discuss my decision, expressions of barely concealed horror and disbelief on their faces. To not only leave a successful career, but even more shockingly to leave it to teach yoga?! (Bear in mind that yoga was not at all the ubiquitous, mainstream activity it is today, back then). In their eyes, I was obviously throwing my life away.
In my eyes, it was the only rational choice. I came into adulthood craving money, status, beautiful clothes, great trips, and all the trappings that prosperity affords. But then things started to shift. As soon as I started practicing Taoism at age 26, my values began to change. Slowly but surely, I changed. My late twenties and early thirties were a continuous trajectory of almost effortless upward mobility, but the more “successful” I became, the more I enjoyed all the things and situations that society says we should covet, the less I cared about them. As I gradually became more compassionate, more present, more real, and more in touch with my own humanity, all the things I used to want grew meaningless.
I considered how much the work I was doing contributed to good in the world. Not at all. I considered how much it actually mattered, aside from the inane stroking that my ego got from being a young success. Not at all. I considered the future and how fulfilled I would be 10 years hence, in upper management, living the dream that society seems to think we all should want. I saw that future and I thought…if that’s to be…kill me now.
The future did not look bright. The future looked boring. Mind-numbingly, soul-destroyingly, boring. A future of work that didn’t fulfill me, didn’t contribute to the world in the way I wanted to, and unquestioningly would lead me into a life that every cell of my being rebelled against. With 33 years left in the work force before the traditional age of retirement, I chose change. For me, it wasn’t brave, it was survival.
So I became a yoga teacher. I’ve spent the past 13 years contributing to the world in a way that makes sense in my heart. Instead of shopping at high end boutiques, I now shop at discount stores. Instead of traveling internationally, I’ve become an avid hiker, kayaker, and camper. I’ve learned to live more simply, but with Taoism & yoga as my trusted guides, also far more joyfully. 13 years after becoming a yoga teacher, I’m so glad that I chose to heed my inner guide so long ago.
Now, less than 2 weeks after yet another life-altering work transition, my heart is singing! I can’t see the future, but it sure looks bright. I don’t know where exactly my path will lead, but I know I’ll be fine. That’s not bravery. It’s living my life. It’s trusting my heart. And isn’t life too short and too precious not to live it; to truly, passionately, live it?