I graduated from OSU in 1999 Summa Cum Laude, and then continued on at OSU to get my teacher certification the following year. After this, I moved to Kentucky with my boyfriend (who was a graduate student at UK) to teach high school art. Life was great – full of possibilities and adventure. I thought I had found my calling and was going to make such an impact on the world teaching children about my passion. What an awakening my first year teaching. It was utterly awful! I cried so many times after school – almost daily. At 24, I was barely older than my students, I had no idea how to discipline them, and the students treated me as a fellow student, not a teacher. I was lost and stressed out all the time. I ended up being laid-off after my first year teaching, and found a job at a county high school about 30 minutes away.
That summer between jobs, my boyfriend and I got married – I was officially an adult with a career and a husband. Things at work improved for me a bit, as I learned how to structure my classes better. I still struggled often and found myself unhappy much of the time.
Sometime around this point in my life I began to practice my yoga videos again. I bought more Rodney Yee videos, and yoga became a regular practice for me. It allowed me to be introspective while I was physical – a new concept to me, as I always thought I had to do intense cardio or lift weights to get a workout. I was drawn to yoga as I didn’t need to be “good” at it. No one was competing with me, although I could see my own personal progress the more I practiced.
Finally I decided to go to my first yoga class – an Ashtanga yoga class that was 90 minutes long. After that class I couldn’t walk for days, I was so sore. People were doing the craziest, bendiest poses I had ever seen in my life! It was like watching an acrobat at the circus – they were so advanced and I felt so inadequate. I took away some good learnings, though – Ujjayi breath and some basic posture corrections, that to this day I reference. But I realized that Ashtanga was not for me.
I continued my yoga practice with my videos at home, and it became part of my life – until I injured myself in a skiing accident in 2004, which took me out for months. During this year my husband and I had many struggles, which I won’t go into detail about, but things were not going well. Life was falling apart around me, and I was drowning in it. Work, home life, my identity, all in a downward spiral, like a riptide carrying me out to sea to be swept away forever.
I made some terrible decisions during this period of my life, which I still feel shame and guilt over. I tend to think of it as an out-of-body experience, as I was not myself (although I try to reconcile this feeling even now). I lost a tremendous amount of weight and struggled with my eating, as my relationship with my husband fell apart. My body seemed like the only thing I could control. Just before my separation I was 5’6” and 112 pounds – my “goal weight.” To my friends’ dismay and concern, I hit size 0, the skinniest of my life. I worked-out like a fiend – getting up at 5 for my yoga practice, going to the gym after work to do cardio and lift weights. I had gotten breast implants in 2001, and finally in 2003 reached my Barbie/Playboy Bunny goal of what I thought I should look like. I was never really pretty in school like some girls are – you know the ones who look effortlessly beautiful and never have a pimple or appear to have any flaws? (I always dressed a little different, dyed my hair, and wore crazy makeup to try and fit into my role as “Artist.”) With age this changed. This obsession with my looks gave me focus and purpose. It was the era of Paris Hilton, encouraging women to be sexy and stupid – and wear pink glitter. I followed this path, and liked the attention I got. I felt beautiful and fit into what society deemed pretty for the moment. I was not healthy – mentally or physically.
In 2004 I decided to call it quits in my marriage despite our marriage counseling, and moved back to Columbus. I was lost in life, living with my friend, and broke. It was a bad place in my life – I wasn’t being creative, I had lost my yoga practice, and I didn’t want to go back to teaching. I found a job as a substitute teacher (which I actually loved), but I once again became depressed and decided this time to see a counselor to help me through my depression and divorce.
Counseling helped immensely. I made the choice to start fresh – move to California and live with my sister, where I would go back to school for a degree in Fashion Design. I would be the artist I always wanted to be! The plan was made – but just like so often in life, plans change. During this time I also met a man (eventually becoming my current husband) – a fellow teacher – and everything changed. My move to California was off. I stayed with my decision to go back to school, and applied to the Columbus College of Art & Design.
My passion to be an artist pushed me through school. It was, to this day, the most difficult thing I have done in my life. Barely sleeping for the next 3 years, I persevered taking all studio classes (which is pure hell), and forcing myself to my limits. CCAD is known for how hard they work their students, and take a sense of pride in having a large number of Freshmen drop out. They only want the students that can “hack it” – those that will sacrifice everything to be a successful artist. I was one of the strong ones – I sacrificed it all, and somehow I didn’t suffer from a mental breakdown (although a few anxiety attacks put me close to the edge). Thanks to my boyfriend and parents I was able to push through. My yoga practice during this time didn’t exist – as really anything outside of work and school barely existed.
I graduated from CCAD as Valedictorian in 2009 – my parents have never been so proud of me as in that moment. I was proud of myself – I did it! I grabbed life by the balls and wrestled it to the ground. I may not have been the most talented, but I worked the hardest to get to the top. I was proof that hard work pays-off. I felt amazing!
Until I didn’t.
I graduated during the recession, and couldn’t find a job after graduation. Lacking confidence and feeling unworthy, I began to spiral again. I felt like my accomplishments didn’t matter. I continued substitute teaching and waitressing (my second job I had to get during school just to pay the bills), and applying for jobs. Finally I got an interview at Abercrombie & Fitch for a contractor position in Technical Design. I landed the job, and was on my way to my new career!
3 months later I was hired full-time for La Senza as a Technical Designer for Panties. I couldn’t have been happier.
Until I wasn’t.
The first year in my new career was amazing – I learned so much and loved my job. I was happy! I thought I had it all, with an amazing boyfriend and a loving family (his family as well as my own). My boyfriend and I were married in 2011. I became a stepmom to his three wonderful children, in a new career, and happy overall. But over the next couple of years work responsibilities increased, and the hours got longer and longer. I was the first one in the office on my team, and the last one to leave at night. The lights would turn off on me at the office, and I sat in the dark, completing my work as best as I could for the day. Misery quickly set-in, no relief or end was in sight. The miseries of corporate America became apparent to me at this time. I was the hardest worker at college – I could hack it, I knew I could!
Then one evening in 2013 something unimaginable happened – my four year old niece, Berkley, became ill and suddenly passed away. She was sick with a virus for less than 24 hours, and no one knew about her unidentified heart condition. Her heart gave out as she was napping at home in the afternoon. This was a really dark period for my sister, and so hard on the whole family. It was a wake-up call for me. Life is precious, and sacrificing my life, my relationships, for work – for some corporation who doesn’t know me from the next person – is not the answer.
As I fell back into yet another spiral feeling the loss of my niece, and coming to terms with not having any children, I turned back to my yoga practice. This time my Gaiam app and once again Rodney Yee videos. Here I discovered many other teachers and a whole new world of yoga. Yoga was literally my savior – a major mental breakdown was in my future without it. Eventually I began to attend classes when a new yoga studio, Mat Happy, opened up in my town. I was in love instantly! The sense of community, kindness, and passion for yoga came through with every teacher, and every class I took. My practice progressed from one class a week to 5 or more classes a week, within the year.
Work became a bit more manageable as my bosses changed, and my workload lessened (thank god for these people in my life!). I was happy once again – fit, active, and learning so much at work on how to be a better communicator and cultivate relationships with difficult personalities. Eventually I was promoted to Senior level, and was part of a great team. It took so many years to get to that place, but things were good – my hours were normal, and I had an amazing boss that understood work-life balance. I wasn’t being too creative in my job, so I started doing some pet portraits for people. It was my creative outlet – allowing me to feel like my true self.
Life was once again good and I thought I had found my path. I decided in 2018 to enroll in Yoga Teacher Training. As I said, I could be a lifelong student, so it was no surprise that I wanted to add this to my repertoire of schooling.
Then in the Fall of 2018 La Senza was up for sale. I had a terrible boss (nice person, but terrible managerial skills with no technical design experience) who was recently hired in the Summer, and it felt like everything was falling apart once again. I prayed that the business would go under and I could get a severance package. I was done with corporate life and company politics. I was over bad bosses and their micromanaging. I just wanted to breathe – to work at being a yoga teacher and an artist – to escape the madness of my work place. How to do this was a complete mystery, however.
Sadly La Senza was sold off to a private equity firm. Happily, my boss moved positions and didn’t stay with La Senza. She moved back to New York. I thought – well maybe things would be OK?
Many employees left the company, and my team grew smaller and smaller, with no chance of back-filling any positions. I was teaching yoga one day a week, which I loved, but work was crazy. I was doing the work of 3 people, as was my entire team of 3 that remained.
I decided it was time to make my own career path. In the Fall of 2019 I enrolled in an online course to start my online business. I continued my job and teaching yoga weekly, but things just got worse at work. Holding on for the paycheck feels terrible – I wanted to leave badly, but couldn’t bring myself to do it out of fear. I survived several rounds of lay-offs in early 2020, and then COVID19 happened. We were furloughed in March, and left to hang in limbo indefinitely. No paycheck from the company, and only the hope of getting unemployment (along with several hundred thousand other Ohioans).
Finally the day came where I jumped on a call with probably 30 others, only to be told they were eliminating our positions and they were restructuring the business (not really a surprise). I cried from relief, from grief, from pain, from suffering, from joy, from sadness, from uncertainty. I cried for the sleepless nights, the hours my husband had to listen to me complain about bad bosses and too much work. I cried for everything I had been trying to deal with through my yoga practice, meditation, and journaling. I had so many tools in my toolbox to deal with these feelings, but it is still so damn hard.
Thank God, the Universe, Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, Allah – all of them! I am free from these confines that work has imposed on me. Not without fear and doubt, however. As I sit here writing this, with fresh wounds from the loss of my job, I realize what an opportunity life has presented me. It is so easy to become wrapped up in ourselves – all these external things in life that we allow to become our identities – our titles in life like designer, boss, wife, mother, artist. These are all external things that are a part of me, but they do not tell you who I am. They don’t show you my soul, my higher Self.
I am just that – I am me – a creative, loving, joyful soul. I am connected to everything and everyone. All of my life experiences lead me down this path to find my true dharma – my soul’s calling. This is not created by the things around me, but comes from within my soul. I share my knowledge of where I have been, and where I am going, as my path is ever evolving. It is a work in progress, that will change and morph over time.
As I progress on my spiritual journey, I learn to look within. I realize that all these things I was doing, goals to attain, and extreme hard work, were not the answer. The American Dream is a myth – working the hardest doesn’t equal success. Money doesn’t equal success. “Success” is a smokescreen designed to hide us from our true Self – the child within us that believes in fairies and dragons, magic and spirits. Our inner being is mind connected to body, connected to soul. This is our true authentic Self – the inner child that lives within each of us.
Creative Souls Art & Yoga is here to help inspire you and find your authentic Self – your inner guide, inner joy, inner passion – through learning these tools of yoga, meditation, creation, and self-expression.
It is my hope that Creative Souls Art & Yoga can help you on your journey by providing tools, practices, and community to support each other. The more we connect as a community and to our true Self, the more we look within to find strength, abundance, love, and guidance.
May you be happy, healthy, free from suffering, and at peace. Namaste.
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