“So, what do you do?” Hell if I know…and that’s OK.

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Ace Wheelworks in Somerville, MA.

“I took a ten year break before I started teaching again, so you got lots of time…”

…the friendly young bike shop dude (and yoga teacher too, I learned) assured me yesterday. Yesterday being the first day of 2015 to venture outside without an ankle-dusting puffy coat and subzero-proof tundra boots ill-designed to work with the measly pedals on my snowed-over mountain bike. But glory be to God the temps in Cambridge hit nearly 45 degrees so shoveling out the bike and getting it to the shop for a good look over lifted my spirits higher than they’ve been since landing in my new town six weeks ago.

But as friendly bike shop dudes will naturally ask, in the spirit of getting to know their customers, out it came: “So, what do you do?”

1.2015 side plank

a variation on Vasisthasana. Literal translation in Sanskrit as “most richest pose”, it’s one of my favorites. The balance between grounding and massive opening makes me feel more alive than ever.

Long pause on my end. Because right now, I’m not teaching yoga. Not visiting the two studios-per-block-in-the-mecca-of-fit-young-college-kiddos-who-practice-daily asking for a job. Nor am I completing the final piece of a lengthy, pricey, and butt-kicking advanced certification process that began months ago and is literally right there – at the tip of my yoga mat.

“So, what do you do?”

A year ago, within a month of moving to Greater Philly, I would have proudly said I teach yoga, puffed up with pride over locking in classes at two studios within a week of arriving. The year before that, I worked my way into three studios in Princeton, NJ, and Newtown, PA, intent on proving to myself, the yoga world, and anyone who’d ever considered rolling out an eco-friendly 68″X24″ rubber mat that I, Shannon Brady, was a kick-ass yoga teacher. In under three years time I’ve stretched, sweat, and spiraled my way through a 200-hour immersion in a Berkshires ashram, grunted through several week-long boot camp style trainings, humbly endured countless hours of constructive criticism (“that cue didn’t land Shannon, say it another way…”), and reshaped my once-lanky runner girl frame into a yogi with visible triceps. Before landing in Cambridge January 25, I defined myself in two words:

Yoga Teacher.

Then something happened. Actually a series of things happened. And I became more than a yoga teacher. Much more:

  • A daughter who’s mama needed her. Right after the new year my beloved Dorsey (technically my stepfather, but we never used that term. He was Dorsey, my papa) passed away. My mama, the family central figure armed and ready to solve any impending crisis – my past divorce, my sister’s unexpected Christmas Eve visit to the ER, her late mother’s financial planning – needed me. And with a sense of love and gratitude I can’t fully describe I lent my hand and my heart to manage the memorial service details; helped temporarily block the painful isolation of residing alone for her first time in 30+ years; and simultaneously laughed and cried at the long chronology of images in dusty photo albums that hadn’t been opened in years .
  • A wife and relocation expert. Our move to Cambridge came as a result of an exciting new executive position with an internationally-based company. One office in Cambridge, the other in Barcelona, and my man hopscotching between the two leaves little time to fumble with address-forwarding or license plate changes. Pile seven feet of snow on top of the already-challenging details of moving to a new state and priorities start to shift. Time for me to park the teaching and drive the settling-in process! Not defining myself solely as a yoga teacher has elicited a few giddy surprises though – a lazy Sunday with my husband reading the Boston Globe and eating pineapple instead of teaching a packed 9 AM power flow class; a spontaneous shotgun trip to his global office in Barcelona – for example.
  • OK with not knowing. As I struggle daily with two opposing voices – “you’re a teacher, make it happen!” and “you’re on the right path, even if you don’t know how or where” – I’m realizing that when I heed the second voice, I’m at peace. And OK with not having a sound bite-ready response to the “what I do” inquiry these days. Because I do a lot of things – blog, handstands, hug, eat pineapple, publish articles, love up rescue dogs, overanalyze food labels, yoga – and don’t know what one “what do you do?” label I fall under. And that’s OK.

“So, what do you do?”

After replying that I’m not really sure what the hell I’m doing, my bike shop pal broke into the most genuine of grins and replied “Awesome!” Which is just what I needed to hear.

So…if you’re hung up in a transition, or trying to fit neatly under some dreaded “do” label, let it go. You do a lot of things. Be cool with that dear friends.

Xo

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