I think a lot of us, at one time or another, were under the impression that there is a linear progression to life. We envision growing up and somehow arriving at a point where we can stand still for a while. A point where we are settled and officially grown up. As it turns out, that is an unrealistic expectation. We are never really officially grown up and life really doesn’t allow us to stand still for very long. But I think there’s a benefit to that. As we go through life, our experiences shape who we are and lead us to our next chapter. And the first step to coping with our expectations and the pressures we feel from ourselves and those around us is to try and let go of what we think things should look like.
When I was a kid I remember my parents asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up. When I was eight I wanted to be a child psychologist. By the time I was 12 my parents thought I should be a lawyer because I always had something to say about everything. In the end I wound up getting a Bachelor of Science in Recreation Therapy working in mental health, then I went on to the field of fundraising, and then corporate communications, which inspired me to get my masters in communications. And now in creating Om Healing and Wellness, I’m combining the things I have avidly researched, practiced, and had a passion for – empowering people to find the tools to live the life they most want to live, to teach them to advocate for themselves, and to help them to improve their physical and emotional health through tools like mindfulness, yoga, meditation, and nutrition. On the surface all of these career paths may look unrelated, but when put in the context of the rest of my life, these transitions make sense. And in each of these professions, I have found the common thread of relationship building, communicating, advocacy, and helping others.
Particularly here in New York, we tend to view what we do as our identity. Transitioning through different points in our careers can be stressful, even if it’s a change we want.
Particularly here in New York, we tend to view what we do as our identity. What we do somehow has a status associated with it and sends a message to ourselves and others, albeit stereotypical at times, about who we are. That can be tough when you are in between jobs, or you aren’t happy in your job, or when you aren’t sure what you want to do next. Transitioning through different points in our careers can be stressful, even if it is what we want. There can be a period of questioning ourselves and those moments can come and go, cropping up even when we think we are settled in the choices we’ve made. And then if we get busy and neglect the things that ground us, we can really get out of sync as we struggle to resist the pressure we put on ourselves to figure things out and live within the parameters of the linear path we think we should be striving for. Recently I had an experience where over the course of several weeks, I stopped doing as much yoga, I was sporadic about my meditation practice, and I was scheduling pretty much every minute of my days. It all came to a head for me when I was asked if I would present at a conference. I was honored and excited and said yes. Then, as is common practice, I received an email asking if I would forward my bio. I thought yes, absolutely. And then I went to send it. When I looked at the bios I had, none of them seemed to fit who I thought I was anymore, even the one I had written just a few short months before. Some bios were focused solely on my past career as a communications executive, some focused on my new life as a yoga therapist, and a mash-up of the two didn’t seem to make sense. And then the identity crisis came. Who am I? What am I doing? Is there something else I should be doing. Have I made the right choices? And of course my monkey mind, you know, that part of your brain that is responsible for unrealistic self-judgment and feelings of doubt, answered with a resounding no you don’t know what you’re doing and your choices have been horrible.
Our stories are constantly evolving and we get to tell them but we won’t be in a place to do that in a way that makes us feel good about our lives if we are neglecting the practices that keep us grounded and healthy along the way.
Because I had let my foundation of self-care slip and I wasn’t doing the things that allow me to operate in a way that is best for me, one innocent question had sent my thoughts into a tailspin. There were things in my career that I was proud of, that I didn’t want to let go of, that I saw as a part of my identity. What was driving my inability to let them go and to be at peace with where I am now? What made me think I had to choose and let go of any of it? Was there a way to tell my story that would integrate what I did then and what I was doing now? Lastly, and most importantly, I asked myself why I felt so shaken as I hadn’t felt this way in a long while. I looked at my calendar and realized that I hadn’t practiced yoga in nearly two weeks. How could I have let this happen when I have a pretty clear sense of what I need to take care of myself and I credit yoga and meditation with some of the most profound changes in my life including a better ability to cope, to be less reactive, to make better decisions, and to quiet my monkey mind, which was now going bananas. Ok I couldn’t resist that one, but seriously, the answer, is life got in the way. And by that I mean I got in my own way. Now that I recognized what was going on, I decided to take action. The first thing I did was sit down with my calendar and plan out when I was going to practice yoga for the next week to get back on track. I put it in the calendar as if it were any other meeting or appointment and that made me feel a bit better right away. I like visuals and am comforted by lists. And then I got to work crafting a bio that would give people a sense of who I am now. I edited the paragraph over and over until it felt right. In the end it was a great exercise. It allowed me to reflect on things I had accomplished, to re-energize my focus on what I’m doing now, and to think about where I’d like to go.
Our stories are constantly evolving and we get to tell them but we won’t be in a place to do that in a way that makes us feel good about our lives if we are neglecting the practices that keep us grounded and healthy along the way. We get to say this is where I’ve been, this is where I am now. All of it matters and it has brought me to where I am today. We all have the ability to look at life that way and that is a gift. I think we just need to remind ourselves of that sometimes.