One of the first things Eric said to me this morning was, “this is the first day of the rest of your life.” Yesterday was my last day of work at CSU. It was weird, but also right. A lot of people assumed I was some mix of excited and scared, but fear has nothing to do with it at this point. Yesterday felt a little bit like my birthday, a little bit like the first time I left home – which I also did at nineteen years.
I first came to CSU 19 years ago as a graduate student in the English M.A. Communication Development program, a program that doesn’t even exist anymore. While a graduate student, I worked as a tutor in the Writing Center, as a Writing Teaching Assistant, and as a Graduate Teaching Assistant. After graduating, I taught various Composition courses, did lots of coding and web design, was a web project manager for a bit, was an editor, a web manager, and eventually the department’s first Communications Coordinator. I created our first blog, had a big part in redesigning the website not once but twice, had interns and a budget. And then it all got to be too much.
There were seven years somewhere in the middle I spent working in a super toxic situation. The person in charge of a big project I worked on is a narcissist. I used to call him that as a joke, and then one day I looked it up in the DSM-5 and realized he fit the description exactly. As hard as that experience was, as awful as that time was, I learned a lot from it. I learned how not to treat people. I learned how to deal with someone constantly abusing me without lashing out or hurting myself. I got lots of therapy, and started practicing yoga and mediation. When my strategies of self-care and coping stopping working in the face of the abuse, I hit my breaking point.
When that happened, I was going to leave CSU. My plan was to quit altogether. Eric talked me down from a ledge, suggested I write up a new job description. I did, explained I could no longer continue to work as I was but that I still had a lot to offer. They agreed and I stayed. It worked out okay, but the workload just kept growing, and even though I said regularly to those in positions of power that it was too much, that it wasn’t sustainable or healthy, nothing really changed. The stress and overwhelm impacted both my mental and physical health. When I turned 50, I thought about how I’d probably work another 10-15 years, and I couldn’t imagine doing what I was for that much longer. I knew I couldn’t keep going.
To be fair, the job had never been my “thing.” It was confusing though, because my thing IS teaching and writing, and the position allowed me to do something that sort of looked like that. And yet, I was doing those things according to someone else’s agenda, fulfilling someone else’s purpose, meeting goals that weren’t my own. It never really felt like the right fit, like an exact match. It always felt like a shoe that was half a size too small, or using a fork when really what you needed was a spoon.
After what feels like a decade of prep, months of having little to no time off because I was teaching my own things in addition to my CSU work or completing various teaching certifications, almost eight years of showing up to write regularly here, hours and hours of what career change coach Laura Simms calls a crossfade — “a transition period where your current and future careers overlap. Your current career fades out, and your new career fades in,” I finally was able to make the choice to leave. To be clear, I can only make that choice because my husband has a full time job he doesn’t plan on leaving, I can get on his health insurance, we own our house and have a really low mortgage, we can pretty easily modify our spending habits, and we don’t have kids. It’s a choice I can make because of my privilege. That said, I’ve also worked since I was 14 years old, and NONE of those jobs were pursuing my own purpose. That, finally, is what I intend to do now.
I don’t know if I’ve shared it here yet, but my new job title is: Contemplative Practice Guide. I am going to specialize in yoga asana, meditation, and writing as practice. I am going to teach in person and online. My mission remains the same as always, to ease suffering — in myself and in the world. My intention is to hold space for those cultivating the foundation of a sane mind and open heart, embodied compassion and wisdom. My hope is that from that foundation we can work together to make things better. Along with teaching, I’ll still be writing a lot, maybe even finish one of the books I’ve been working on for so long.
This Sunday is my final day of my last module of my 500 hour yoga teacher certification. That means for the next few days I’m focusing on putting together my capstone class I’ll be teaching. It requires that I create a 40-45 minute sequence that includes something from all of the modules so it’s a pretty big deal. After that, I’m going to circle back and finish my certifications from Curvy Yoga and Yoga for All. Then I’ll spend the summer cleaning and decluttering and repairing and painting our house, planting and maintaining the garden, reading books and taking naps, cooking (I want to learn to make bread, in particular), with one trip to Oregon to visit my family. I’m going to be researching places where I can teach locally, as well as considering the online platform I want to use for some classes I’d like to offer in the fall. I’m going to put together a new website that’s more focused on my “work.”
So that’s a little about where I’ve been, how I got here, and where I’m headed. As always, I can’t thank you enough, kind and gentle reader, for being here. For showing up, for listening, for offering encouragement. I am so grateful for you.