But that’s just an avocation…

YS8“But that’s just an avocation, not a profession.” Someone previously close to me, no need to name names, said this to me years ago as I pondered the idea of teaching fitness full time. As a profession. 

In between long stretches of ass-time in a desk chair scrolling through emails and squinting at little boxes of statistical information on membership spreadsheets, I escaped to the fourth floor of the Athletic Club I worked at to lead other office warriors from area businesses through 60 minutes of planks, crunches, squat jumps and anything else that got them to connect with their physical bodies. For many, that noon hour would be the first time to feel any physical sensation from the neck down. They’d go back to work with a glow, a few beads of residual sweat (or a lot), a refreshingly achy set of worked-over thighs and a realization that, yes, I am alive.

And I’d go back to my ergo chair and keyboard fantasizing the rest of the day what it would be like to give this gift of mind/body connection all day long. Of what it would be like for this to be my profession.

But that other voice, for many subsequent years, won out. That’s just an avocation, Shannon.

Eventually, the voice within grew louder. My reason for being was beginning to crystallize. In yoga-land, we often refer to this as our Dharma. Or, in other words, our calling. Or our purpose in life.

After moving out of a painful relationship and into a healthy supportive one, my Dharma found its way outward. In the form of teaching yoga. Interestingly, I didn’t seek out yoga. It found me. It found me in the following manner:

  • a torn gastrocnemius muscle after completing the Portland Marathon meant no more pounding on the asphalt. The peak-conditioned heart and lungs needed an outlet, however, and Power Yoga provided it.
  • a broken heart couldn’t handle any competition, judgment, or team-oriented anything. I wanted to be left well alone, already. The warmly-lit room, meditative breathing, and encouraging, comforting words from the various instructors in class drew me back, again and again.
  • an exciting journey across the country to build a new life, with a new man, in a new town had me seeking community in earnest. Again, yoga delivered – new friends, similar life experiences – all working toward an effortless crow pose.

And one day, that was it. I needed to share everything yoga gave to me. I needed to live my Dharma. And I am doing it today. I am not the best instructor. I am not the most experienced instructor, nor the most intuitive, but I am learning, growing, and sharing what I know every day.

As my profession. Not an avocation.

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I don’t live here anymore. And that’s OKAY.

NJ Transitaaron-mccoy-pike-place-market-and-puget-sound-seattle-washington-statephoto (26)Been traveling a lot in the past three months. Moving a lot in the past three years. And changing a hell of a lot along the way. And for the first time in three years, I realize, I don’t live ‘here’ – in Seattle – anymore. And that’s OKAY.

It’s more like I’ve been in a perpetual hotel, racking up enough points to provide a lifetime of the card-key entry and room service sort shelter. But this is by no means a negative. Quite the opposite, actually. You see, prior to following the sweet boyfriend to the other side of the country, I’d spent my entire life in that mossy little corner of the world known as Seattle. Sure, I’d traveled overseas as young as 16, studied in England at 19, rubbed my palms on ancient bas reliefs in Cambodia’s Angkor Wat before I turned 40, but I’d never lived outside of Microsoft/Boeing/Starbucks/we-started-recycling-WAY-before-you land. I felt so worldly there. So privileged, and so dumbfounded by anyone who’d choose to live anywhere else.

Until I moved. Not vacationed, or got assigned temporarily, but moved. But still, in some little way, until recently, I felt like I still lived in Seattle. It’s taken three years to move on already…

First stop Baltimore. A brief two-month stint that opened my eyes and soul in awesome new ways:

  • The steamy hot late summer air and a refreshing community of faces that didn’t look exactly like mine (white). How cool it was, for the first time in my life, to be the minority riding on the local bus. And it was OKAY. Way better than OKAY!
  • Strolling along the Inner Harbor – mat slung over my shoulder – daily to and from a Bikram class (August in Baltimore will prepare anyone for a 105-degree yoga class). Rewarding my 90 -minute hot yoga effort with a fabulous new addiction to scoops of Heaven from Pitango Gelato.

Oh God, the PIZZA. Onto Princeton, NJ. So many new experiences here as the man’s job sent us to a state filled with unexpected surprises:

  • Not everyone wears a gold chain or calls it Joy-zey. And those that do? I love them the most. The pride residing in home-grown Joy-zeyans is infectious. I initially cowered as friendly ‘strangers’ greeted me with smiles and how-ya-doin’s at Starbucks (yes, this Seattle girl can locate every Starbucks in every town, and continues to savor the little piece of ‘home’ in every sip of her Grande Pike Roast), but eventually peeled off my wary outer layer and learned to open up a bit more.
  • Our temporary apartment (year-only lease please) had its quirks (the lone smoker upstairs relegated to the outdoors by his partner meant a perpetually-sliding balcony door all hours of the day and night), but was blissfully close to the gorgeous environs surrounding Princeton University. I mean, I just felt smart walking around there. With yoga mat slung over my shoulder, of course.
  • NJ Transit swiftly transported me on a near-weekly basis into my version of Utopia – New York City. Good Lord, and I thought Seattle constituted big city living. Chelsea Market’s One Lucky Duck (best smoothies on the planet), Laughing Lotus (yoga flows gone wild – gimme more!), watching tykes play baseball in Central Park, I could not get enough.
  • I ate Dominos? Never again. There is pizza. And it only exists in New Jersey. Okay, and maybe Italy. Everything elsewhere is bad dough and mystery sauce.

Philly. And beyond. Not just NJ’s neighbor. Big changes here:

  • It began with a mission to circumvent NJ’s pesky income tax. Hence the move to another 1-year-only lease in Bucks County. Nondescript apartment, this one even smaller with upstairs neighbors that eschewed smoking but instead housed a pet elephant.
  • New Hope may neighbor NJ just the other side of the Delaware, but there’s no place quite like this. Funky. Kitschy. Artsy. Charming. Welcoming. Anyone and anything went here. Which is why we came here. Again and again. Copious pours of wine on the deck at The Landing typically started our weekend cavorts. Views high atop Bowman’s Tower were well worth the climb.
  • A new, and hopefully final, move to Exton, PA recently has me fussing with the GPS once again, and leading me to some cool little places along the Main Line and the Septa Train station to get my city fix in Philly.
  • Eagles fans are not too happy when I flash my Seahawks card in line at Starbucks. Big football fans here, as I have seen more than a few monster trucks on the road with Eagles mudflaps.

I’ve been back to Seattle three times since October – to clean out a storage unit, carve turkey with family, and visit friends and yogis and troll my favorite coffee shops and hills around town – and still love it unconditionally. But unlike visits back ‘home’ last year, and the year prior, I don’t live here anymore.

And that’s OKAY. Here’s to a New Year, a New Adventure, and a New HOME. Wherever that may be.