“I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.” -Lewis Carroll.
5 years ago today I returned to California after two grueling years of grad school in West Virginia. As I look back on that time, I can’t believe how different I am from that scared little girl who had no life plan, no job prospects, and had just about given up on her dreams… oh, and she couldn’t touch her toes.
After 18 years of schooling, the only thing I knew how to do was be a student. When the outline, discipline, and well-organized system of school was taken away from me, I floundered. During my last months of grad school I was told by some of my dear teachers and mentors that perhaps a vocal career wasn’t the right path for me. Perhaps I should just chalk up my 6 (expensive) years of college and 2 degrees to life experience and move on. I returned home dejected, a black cloud of fear and self-loathing hanging over my head. After 6 months of introspection and turmoil, I realized that, while I may never sing on the Met stage, I had something worth sharing. I began to find voice students and started a small vocal studio. I began to find solace at a local yoga studio and attended classes daily. I began to shape my life outside of the ivy-covered walls of the education system. In truth, I began to find myself. I was no longer the girl struggling to be what my teachers wanted. Freed from the pressure of seeking success, I found myself suddenly successful. The more my body and mind opened up, the more my voice opened up. As I began to experiment with this body/voice relationship, I wanted to learn more…to become my own teacher in a way.
Only a year after graduating, I attended a month-long yoga teacher training program which will always stand as the greatest turning point in my life, and my voice. I learned more about myself in those 30 days than I had learned in all my 23 years on this Earth. I was changed. Some things altered in an instant, some things took the next 4 years to unravel, but unravel they did. After that program, I couldn’t go back to the person I was before, even if I wanted to. Physical, mentally, and spiritually, I was altered–for better or worse.
It was as if my life was a giant puzzle. These years of transition and personal exploration tore apart and mixed up all the pieces and I had to try to put myself back together again. It took time, but I feel like I’m starting to see the pieces clicking into place. I am starting to realize the changes in my physical, vocal, and mental strength. I am beginning to find my confidence and recognize my place in this world.
When I think back to that girl, staring out at the ocean in Santa Monica and wondering what her life would be like, I am grateful for the struggles she faced. Without the challenges, without the criticism, without my inner world imploding on me, I would have never been pushed into the loving arms of my yoga practice; I would have never found joy in the struggle that is classical singing; I would have never started my teaching careers; I would have never found myself.
Though I’m grateful for the pain that girl went through, I could never go back. I am a different person than I once was. Oh, and I can touch my toes now.
#MayIBeginYoga2015 challenge day 27: pascimotonasana/forward fold. As a yoga instructor and all-around California girl, I spend much of my day barefoot. My main focus which purchasing a shoe is ease of removal. If I can’t kick them off in seconds, I’m not buying them. Though all this barefoot walking creates a lot of wear and tear on my toes, they’re so much happier when they’re out in the open. As a newborn, I hated being swaddled. I would kick and kick at my blankets until I had a foot free. They needed air. They needed freedom. As a child, I only put on shoes when it was absolutely necessary…walking barefoot or in sandals even in the winter. The hardest part of my years of grad school in West Virginia was that I had to wear shoes every day…real shoes…waterproof snow shoes that didn’t let in air or sunshine. The first thing I did when I returned home to California was take my shoes off and walk barefoot through the sand. I swear I heard my feet let out a soft sigh of relief. Happy feet come from happy yogis. Happy yogis come from California.