First, I just want to say: if corporate culture is your cup of tea and you love your office job, then that is amazing! If working for the man truly aligns with what brings you joy, more power to you, and I am genuinely happy for you! For everyone else, read on.
The Back Story
When I was 25 years old, I quit my corporate job in the fashion industry and became a full time yoga instructor. I have a Business Administrations degree in Fashion Merchandising, and after graduating college, I landed my dream job. My job allowed me to travel, it paid very well, I had amazing benefits, and of course every girl’s dream, it provided me with a very generous monthly clothing allowance. 🙂
My job in fashion was something I’d dreamed of doing since I was a little girl, and from a societal stance, I was the picture perfect image of success. I had money. I had a career. I had financial freedom. I had goddamn HEALTH INSURANCE. And it was GOOD health insurance.
I was able to pay off my student loans by the time I was 23. I was able to save up enough money to buy my first house by the time I was 24. And don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for everything I was able to “accomplish” at such an early age. On the outside I was happy, but on the inside I felt incomplete.
When Corporate America Becomes Soul Sucking
Over the course of a few years, the more I worked and got promoted, the less passion I felt for the work I was doing. I didn’t hate it. It wasn’t hard. It was just, plain and simple, unfulfilling for my soul.
I knew deep down (and had always known from the time I was a small child) that my profession needed to be something that allowed me to give back to the world. I wanted to help people. I wanted to make a difference, an impact.
Around the time I became a working adult, I began really taking to my yoga practice. As the daughter of a long-time-yogi, yoga had always been a part of my life, but this was different.
I was going through a very difficult time and I needed it. Emotionally I was a disaster, although from the outside I “had it together”, on the inside, I felt lost. I was drinking and partying too much, eating like shit, not sleeping enough, not taking proper care of my body, you know… the basic lifestyle of every early-20-something. So I found my mat. Every day. It became almost cathartic. I showed up. I practiced. I cried. A lot.
This process of returning to my mat every single day is what I believe saved me from myself. From going down a road that would have been very difficult to return from.
Somewhere along the line, as it always does if you’re practicing yoga, something inside me began to shift. I couldn’t turn off this feeling that I needed a deeper connection to my practice. So when I was 22, I decided to go through my first yoga teacher training. Of course it was life changing and inspiring, and I knew from that point on that teaching yoga was something that I was meant to do.
For the next 2 years I taught a few classes a week, while still working my full-time fashion job. And yes, it made a huge difference! I felt more fulfilled, more like I was living out my “purpose”. But again, that feeling deep inside of me crept up, and I knew that I needed more. I wanted to teach more. I wanted to spend more time making art and doing things that made soul feel alive.
It took me about a year to work up the courage to quit my corporate life and pursue my passion. There were months of going back and forth in my head, trying to convince myself that I was crazy for giving up this thing that society, and everyone around me, told me was so awesome.
I was “living the dream”. But in reality, it wasn’t my dream anymore.
My dream was to spread love and positive energy into the world, to connect with people and to myself through the teachings and practice of yoga. And don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t an easy decision, but often in life, the right choice is the more difficult choice.
I struggled with attachment to my current situation. I struggled with letting go of my financial freedom and my new shipment of designer clothes each month. I struggled with the fear of no longer having a steady paycheck, or health insurance, or stability. I mean after all, let’s be honest, yoga is not the most lucrative career choice. The reality is, I was taking a huge pay cut, but you can’t put a price on happiness.
Now That I’m a Free Bird….
Fast forward 6 years. I’m 31 years old as I write this article, and I do work, but it doesn’t feel like I’m working all the time. And yes, there are things I do to supplement my income aside from yoga, but I’m not chained to “the man”, and I can diversify my time as I see fit.
If I’m feeling burnt out on teaching, I can take some time off to reset. If I want to spend a few months focusing on other things I enjoy doing like art or writing, that’s my choice.
I am my own boss.
I joke all the time that I’m retired. And although I’m not technically retired by definition, often times it feels as though I am by the fullness of my life, and the time and space I have very intentionally created for myself.
So when I say I’m retired, what I really mean is that I’m retired from the bullshit.
I’m retired from the corporate structure.
I’m retired from the hamster wheel that is how we are taught to live at a young age.
I don’t have to show up at 9am and work until 6pm.
I don’t have to answer to anyone but myself (which some days feels even harder than when I did have a boss).
I only have to stay true to myself, and continue to do what aligns with my spirit and my truth.
I’ve been teaching yoga for 9 years now, 6 years “full-time”. My work these days mainly consists of teaching private yoga sessions, a few public classes, and a few corporate classes.
My freedom is now in my ability to choose where I go, what I do, and who I spend my time with. I may not make as much money, but I feel happy and I feel like I am living my life’s purpose. I can teach at festivals, and travel the world without having to ask permission for my OWN time off.
I can connect with others on a deeper level, and dedicate time to connecting and learning more about myself. I have more time to show up and take care of me, so I can show up and take care of others.
Find a way to do what you love. What gives you life?
If you can let go of this ideal to be “successful” in the way society tells us to be, you can “retire” from corporate America at any age. Anyone can do this. It takes hard work to feel like you’re not working. It takes trusting yourself.
It takes believing that if you can just make the leap, the net will appear.