I am 27 years old. I have lived abroad in France for work, study, and pleasure, and I have directed international conferences and published two academic articles and academic journals (one currently in Harvard University), aside from six others which, today, have a combined reference audience of over 1000. I share this not to boast. Totally, from what I’ve said above, you’ve gathered that I have deep roots in academics. In fact, my family and friends see me as just this: a scholar.
Yet, here’s the catch: All my life, all I have ever wanted to pursue is Yoga Teacher Training. I’ve daydreamed on the Seine teaching yoga in Paris, and in Berlin whilst waiting on a bench for my boyfriend to leave the German archives, I’ve imagined myself holding workshops on meditation, the cakras (or chakras), prenatal yoga. While backpacking in Australia, I imagined myself hosting a yoga retreat in Byron Bay…
I held back because of my legacy to others. In December 2018, I remember having a conversation with my father around leaving academia for Yoga Teacher Training. When he asked why now, I struggled to tell him that I always wanted to — that, in essence, my game plan was to pursue yoga as a career. He didn’t understand — neither my family members nor friends could understand why I would want to pursue a life that they believed was “beneath” me. I was told that I wouldn’t make a living, that I had wasted so much time and money in school, and for what? So, I decided not to pursue it. Once again, I chucked my dreams for myself — my highest self — under the rug and forced myself to hold my head high.
At the beginning of January 2019, I asked the universe for a sign. “Please,” I remember closing my eyes tightly and saying these exact words: “Give me some sign I can’t ignore that will push me towards yoga, and force me to stop caring about others’ perception of me. I do not want to keep holding myself back.” Two days later, my uncle passed away.
The shock of his passing made me realize two things:
- Living life for others is painful and, heck, it’s hard. All I was doing was making others feel comfortable in their image of who I was.
- Life is short. And what a waste it would be to live for others.
What I’ve come to realize through my scholarship and personal experiences is that most of us are conditioned to think, behave, and move in alignment with values or ideas which are not our own. I grew up wanting to make others feel comfortable, and this sense of comfort encompassed many areas of my life. The bigger picture: I was afraid of losing love. I didn’t want to hurt others because I was afraid it would hurt me too. Yet, what has happened as an outcome of “people pleasing” is that I’ve significantly hurt myself. This has shown itself on a physical level (eczema, rashes, drastic weight loss) and a mental level (stress, frustration, confusion).
Living in bliss for me is being my authentic self at the expense of other people’s comfort. No longer can I negotiate this. I am blessed to find this trait in my longtime boyfriend, who continues to be an example for me of how to live life in accordance with your values. Here’s a recent lesson I’ve learned: Surround yourself with people who fan your flame. Indeed, it’s not easy — I would be lying to you if I said otherwise. I’ve had to make the choice to let go of friends, ideas, food, social gatherings which misalign with my highest self. I’ve also gotten comfortable in making others — especially my family — uncomfortable with the way I show up.
I echo what my yoga mentor has said: Through this journey, I am chiseling at my legacy, in hopes of finding my true self, my pure essence. The legacy I choose to create now will be one which I decide. And I do it all for me.