It's no secret that I do things differently. It's different to be a yoga teacher at 16. It's different to start a blog about your deepest secrets. It's different to live in a single dorm at college and openly admit that you aren't seeking the "normal" college experience. Clearly, I have no qualms about living my life the way I want to live it, even if that means going against the social grain. But something I've come to realize is that while I have no problem admitting when things aren't right for me, I have trouble admitting when things are right for me.
Although I entered college knowing that I'd made some fundamental changes to the "college experience" because it was what I'd decided would best suit my introverted nature, somewhere in the back of my mind I believed that I'd make some reparations once I got here. Sure, I'd be living in a single dorm because I valued alone time, but I figured I'd get to school and suddenly have a ton of people occupying it, even if they weren't my roommates, because college is all about getting to live with your best friends all the time, right? And although I never partied at home, and don't have a particular desire to party anyway, I figured I'd get on campus and end up going to a few here or there, because that's just what happens, right? And I told everyone I'd be taking a sabbatical from teaching yoga in order to get acclimated and focus on school, but a week in I found myself turning in an application to teach at the rec center, because that's just what I do, right?
I got to school, started living a life I'd specifically crafted to who I am, and suddenly felt the need to modify it based on arbitrary standards I'd set for myself.
And in fact, I started to feel guilty about it. I spend a lot of time alone here, because it's something I genuine enjoy and find beneficial to my personal health. I like eating breakfast alone and reading a good book before class. I like going for a walk in the woods with a good podcast or some rare silence for company. I like unwinding at the end of the day in the comfort of my room. But every time I'd enjoy these things, I'd start to feel guilty.
Everyone else refuses to eat until they can get their roommates or friends to join them. Everyone else seeks out other people for fun in their free time. Everyone else unwinds with their friends. I felt, in the form of a guilt that I carried with me throughout my day, that I was wasting the opportunity everyone glows about: meeting the most interesting, valuable, exciting people of their lives in university.
I felt guilty in another way, too: I felt as though my identity as a teacher was fading the longer I spent away from teaching. Since getting certified, the longest I've gone since teaching was a few days. Now it's been a month. Teaching had become one of the biggest parts of my identity, and I was struggling to feel the weight of my self-importance without it.
In secret- and this was the source of guilt- I was kind of enjoying the time off.
Turns out, it's kind of nice to have free time. And turns out, three classes doesn't sound like a lot on paper, but the time outside of the classroom far outweighs the time inside of the classroom. I'm used to cramming my schedule from morning until night with high school and teaching, with barely any room to breathe, and suddenly having a little bit time left over to read a book just for fun or go for a walk or- heaven forbid - do nothing at all was completely foreign to me. Sometimes I get to the end of a day of lectures and studying and think to myself, "I just don't see how I could do this well and teach at the same time."
Surely, it's possible, because plenty of people make it happen every day, but it's definitely not easy. I've never been one to make my life particularly easy, and having this opportunity to focus in on one part of my life has been a rare insight into what life can be when you're not stretched to the seams with commitments. In fact, it's opened me up to other parts of my life that I've allowed to slip a little: I'm reading more. I'm writing more. I'm seeking out new topics to write about and new venues to share them through. My creativity, which was once solely dedicated to new flows and playlists and themes of classes, has now expanded to encompass different parts of my life that I used to wish I had the capacity to explore.
This past weekend, I turned to my boyfriend and said in a whisper, as though it was some dark secret I was harboring, "Can I tell you something? Since I haven't been teaching, my practice has gotten a lot better."
It's true. When I was teaching the most, my practice fell to the wayside. No matter how much you love your job and make it one of passion, it's still work. And it's tricky to leave your job and go do it on your own, for fun and self-growth. Or if I did practice, I was constantly thinking of cues, wondering how I could teach this or teach that. I'd taylor my practices to what I thought I could effectively teach and not to what felt good in my body or I thought would best serve me.
Without those pressures- that I'll openly admit I put on myself - my practice has felt freer. Lighter. Stronger.
It's taken me back to the roots of what it means to be a teacher. Someone recently reminded me: yoga healed me. Yoga changed me. The fact that I teach it is just me repaying what I've been given. In order to be a true, powerful, masterful teacher, I need to be humbled by my practice time and time again. I can't attempt to make it a science or an obligation. I have to first be a true student in order to be a true teacher.
But I've also been reminded that although I'm not teaching asana, I'm still a teacher in other capacities, and arguably still a teacher of yoga in its broadest sense. I'm still spreading its teachings every day through my writings on my journey of self-acceptance and self-exploration. That's the yoga. Not the down dogs. Not the handstands. Not the chaturangas. Not even the savasanas or the meditation. It's the willingness to go inward and to explore- and ultimately, the greatest way we can teach is by living our truth and embodying authenticity in who we are.
I still strive to do that every day. Hence, I am still a teacher. I have not lost my identity because I've "lost" my job.
And while I recognize that I'm happier exploring college on my own and using it as an opportunity for finding myself first, and that I'm happier taking time off from teaching and focusing on my own practice and growth, I've still been feeling guilty.
I'm afraid to admit that I'm happy. I'm afraid to admit that I'm really someone who needs to do things "differently." I'm afraid to the world that I'm happy not doing something that I really and truly love. I'm afraid to admit that I kinda don't want to go out and make a ton of friends right now. I'm afraid to admit that this is my life, and how I live it is entirely up to me one hundred percent of the time.
I recently started reading "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck" by Mark Manson. If you haven't read it- do it. I've read probably hundreds of self-help books, and this is by far one of the most accessible, realistic, and applicable ones I've ever read. Because there's no bullshit. There's no fluffy stuff. There's real-life, nitty-gritty stuff. And if there's anything I've learned from writing a blog whose manifesto is "talk about the shit you don't want to talk about," it's that it's the gritty shit that makes a difference in people's lives.
The premise of Manson's book is this: we've been trained by our emotions and society to give a lot of unnecessary fucks. We care about the kind of car we drive, the kind of house we live in, we care about the size of our flatscreen TV, we care about the social status our job gives us, we care about what other people think about us all of the time, no matter how happy we are in what we're doing. And because we give a fuck about everything, we're exhausted all of the time, sad all of the time, anxious all of the time, and we can't figure out what's truly important to us.
So here's the idea: stop giving a fuck.
It's not apathy, it's choosing what to waste your energy on. It's choosing to admit that not everything needs your full dedication and attention all of the time. It's choosing to give a fuck about the things that really light you up, to give a fuck about the things that you're passionate about, the things that make you feel like you're really living life. So I've decided: I don't give a fuck about what college is supposed to be like. I don't give a fuck how other people are experiencing college. I don't give a fuck about who's eating lunch when and with who, about whether or not I'm the only one in the entire damn forest, about whether or not people are going to view me as more or less important based on the status of my teaching career.
Here's what I give a fuck about: I'm happy.