I used to have a “real” job

Some people are surprised by this fact.

They think I was born a Yoga Teacher.

Au contraire. I was a Business Consultant first.

Ya, I’m not really sure what that means either.

It’s said that consultants are sort of good at a lot of things, but not really good at any one thing.

I worked for a company called Synergy Consulting. It was a small, Sacramento firm which contracted solely with State agencies. I was the 96th employee.

My projects included the Department of Health, the Department of Child Support Services, and CalPERS. My responsibilities ranged from Business Process Reviews (making maps for a current workflow and identifying potential inefficiencies or dead-ends) to Data Conversion Mapping (matching pieces of information in one system to their correct location in a new system) to Training (Hi, Department of State Workers, I’m going to train you on this new computer system I know nothing about).

Feeling like I knew nothing was something I was pretty used to. I mean, I faked it for a while. We can do that, you know.

For six years, Synergy (later acquired by AMS, later acquired by CGI) was a wonderful place to work. I was surrounded by people much smarter than me and I knew I would grow because of it. It paid well, I had health insurance, and at the time, job security. My dad was proud.

And yet. And yet.

By the end, I dreaded going to work. I arrived late and left early. The best thing about my day was my outfit.

To boot, for the last year and a half I was running the studio and teaching 10+ classes a week.

My health was declining due not only to physical exhaustion, but also the disparity between my personal integrity and my actions. The body takes on what the mind/heart cannot handle.

I actually thought of closing the studio. Sometimes we imagine it would be easier to completely deny a dream than it would to allow for the changes that would take place should that dream become reality.

Even though I dreamed of devoting myself to the studio and teaching, the lifestyle changes required in order to do that seemed too large. To ask my husband to financially support the family (at least for a while) seemed unreasonable. Wouldn’t it be easier to shut that part of myself off, to do the responsible thing.

Thankfully, after much discussion and a near break-down, I decided to retire as a consultant. Every day I am thankful for this decision. (I am such a better yoga teacher than I ever was a business consultant.)

My health gradually improved, my confidence increased, I was more willing to take risks, I was engaged and participating. Not that there haven’t been bumps and unexpected turns, but that’s living, that’s life.

So I’m wondering about you. What dreams do you have? What small step could you make toward that reality? How does your body/spirit respond to denial? Or if you’ve taken a big risk in your life to follow a dream, what has that been like? Even a small victory, like painting the bedroom the color you’ve always wanted.

Part of the richness of life is sharing and telling our stories, being heard. Thank you for listening to mine. I hope to hear from you.

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24 Responses to “I used to have a “real” job”


  1. 1 Traci October 28, 2010 at 5:34 am

    Wow…”how scary” is my first reaction. What is scary, you may ask? First, what you did seems so scary – and you brave. But the question itself is scary…and the answer maybe even more. The patterns or conditions of life push, pull and drag us along if we aren’t awake. If we aren’t ready and willing to jump off the tracks. Back to David White’s discussion about the frontier – the first step is the hardest – the step you don’t want to take. It might be that step is just actually asking yourself the question “what is my dream?”…maybe that is the place to start.

    Thank you for sharing this story and for asking the question – as scary as that might be! xoox

  2. 2 Diane October 28, 2010 at 5:41 am

    Bet your Dad’s really proud of you now!! Look at what’s happening every day, every week, every month and year over year. Constant growth fostered by you stretching to foster our growth….and hopefully your deciples will build upon your wisdom.

  3. 3 Madeleine October 28, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    Good lord, what if you had closed the studio? Now that’s a bone-chilling thought worthy of Halloween season. boo!

  4. 4 Kelley M October 28, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    M-you inspire me. I have been toying with some big changes too. Ones that would change our lifestyle, our living arrangements, our finances, and hopefully/ultimately our happiness but I’m scared. There are too many unknowns. A friend of mine wisely said recently that life is made up of one choice at a time. First you make one decision and then see what happens. Other decisions come up and you take care of those one at a time too. Yes, you will make bad choices but who’s to say you aren’t already settled into a bad decision now that feels “comfortable and safe.” Which is where I’m fairly sure to be stuck. I am still only 15% interested in actually pursuing these changes but I have some feelers out that may increase this to 25-30% soon and then it’s only up from there. I guess you can say it’s a small way of setting some possibilities “in motion” and hoping that they will turn into “for sures.” I’ll try to keep you posted. Big huge yoga hugs.

  5. 5 Laura October 29, 2010 at 12:34 am

    I’m so glad you followed your dream–your yoga studio is one of my favorite places. I’m hoping to think of a dream to follow before next February–I dont know what I want to do next. Ive gone from Bank Teller to Accountant to Massage Therapist back to Accountant. When this “real job” ends I want to do something other than trade it for another “real job”–I haven’t taken many risks in the past few years soooo it seem like the time is ripe. But I’m scared. My small steps right now are to follow a couple of non-job related dreams (running, making a website, etc.) and to wake up my creativity. I especially love the part of your post where you say the best thing about your day was your outfit–so funny and I relate to your dread of going.

  6. 6 Elizabeth October 29, 2010 at 1:34 am

    I was just noticing that I have not been sick since April for sure and probably since the beginning of the year (and the same goes for Atlas). For years I was sick almost every other month or colds/flus just lingered on forever. In the last year or so, I was beginning to suspect that my body was trying to tell me that I needed to make a change – it’s clear that I was right.

    Definitely not to say that I don’t worry/get stressed now, but it feels different, and life feels more right.

    Thanks for sharing your story!

  7. 7 Tracy October 29, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    Your story inspires, Michelle! :o) Sometimes the scary things can take us home. I haven’t had “real job” in a long time. I have chronic fatigue, which is a daily challenge. My yoga & meditation practices have helped me get my life back where medications did not. I’m meds free and doing a more holistic approach to healing. But it makes full-time or even part-time “traditional” work hard. 4 years ago I started a shop on Etsy to sell my handmade creations–work at my own pace, keep healing. Things went well, until the financial crisis hit. Cut to long story, I close my shop this summer. What next, is the question I’m exploring. It’s been a stressful year–My Dad had a heart attack (he’s alive & well now!), I had 4 colds and bronchitis, and now my hair is thinning for all the stress it seems. Right now getting some health back, right now just appreciating each breath. I am glad to be here to read your story. Wishing you well, happy & keeping fearless! ;o) Happy Weekend ((HUGS))

  8. 8 Callie October 29, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    This is just so appropriate and timely to how I am feeling right now. Feeling stuck in a job, a career, that I do not get any soul satisfaction out of and my body is rebelling against. I feel stuck at the point of not even being able to identify what else I might be good at or can support myself doing. What are my dreams, how do I find them? Those questions are really difficult for me right now. It is inspiring to read your words and know there is hope.

  9. 9 Jennifer Souza October 29, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    Thiis a very timely post for me. But first I wanted to say that I never knew, way back when over off Freeport, that you were considering closing. I always thought you were considering the consultant work :-)
    My husband and I are going through this now. He has to move back to Brazil by the end of the month due to visa issues, and I need to stay in Sacto until May 2011 to finish grad school. He can’t make nearly the money he was making here, and I don’t speak Portuguese (yet!)we’re in quite a quandary financially but can feel the divine touch of the spirit of the universe urging us along. even though it wasn’t our choice, it does feel like the right time.

    So your post is very timely. Take a risk. Follow your dreams. Do what feels right, even if it scares you.

  10. 10 Jennifer Souza October 29, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    *ENDING….I always thought you were considering ENDING the consultant work.

  11. 11 Laura October 29, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    This story hits to the heart of my life. I’ve always taken the safe route. I’ve taken jobs for insurance or more money, ignoring my instinct to say no. I’ve watched this story come to life from afar. Seeing a yoga studio open on Freeport, flourish, connect with people the way I always thought a yoga studio should. I knew the person behind this studio gave up another, probably more comfortable life to make this happen, but they followed their dreams and were rewarded with success. I’ve envied this story, wishing it could happen to me. This is my daily struggle. I’ve been laid off for the second time in my career and I am back looking for the same jobs that I’ve always had and never loved. I question myself about everything. I have an opportunity to do something different now. I am eager and excited about this opportunity. But, I still question it. I want to take this road now and hope I have the confidence to follow my heart.

  12. 12 blogasana October 30, 2010 at 12:23 am

    Such touching comments… thank you for your honesty.

    @Traci – YES SCARY! But essential, right? To not ask? To not know? Mmm, is that living?

    @Diane – you are sweet. And such an important part of why I made the leap… an inspiration yourself!!

    @Mad – I know, huh?

    @Kelley – I’m exited to hear more and I trust that “the next right thing” will present itself over and over.

    @Laura J – Such a scary thing. Hopefully the small steps help you feel more grounded. It’s interesting to hear how many people resonate with this–as you said the time is RIPE! I’m excited for you.

    @Elizabeth – Isn’t that amazing? And Atlas too?! Wow. I remember hearing about this at the retreat… what a year it’s been! Congrats.

    @Tracy – Isn’t the body so bold!? So not subtle. I love your “sometimes the scary things can take us home.” Heart melting. I know that ‘next thing’ will reveal itself.

    @Callie – It’s so hard to feel stuck. I hear you. Just asking those questions might open new galaxies where new energy and ideas and opportunities can flow. I know your yoga practice will support that too!

    @Jen – Oh gosh… so much going on! Ah, love…you two are so adorable and I’m thinking of the book Committed (Gilbert’s follow up to Eat Pray Love) — they had to be apart for a bit and travel to all these places to stay “legal.” I look forward to hearing your story.

    @Laura B – Maybe acknowledging your little risks (like leaving a message!) — the small ways you put yourself out there. Small risks build trust and courage… then bigger risks might not seem so unmanageable. I am eager and excited for you too.

    • 13 Callie November 10, 2010 at 7:42 pm

      Quite amazing that just verbalizing my desire to find something fulfilling is quickly leading me there. My boyfriend had an idea, it awoke a passion in me that I hadn’t realized was there, I did some research and I have an interview for a position on Thursday! Even if that doesn’t work out, I now have a new direction to head and will be able to move that direction and hopefully by next fall be moving on from this work life that I find so sad. Thanks Michelle!

      • 14 blogasana November 11, 2010 at 3:29 pm

        callie – that’s amazing! as you said, verbalizing it can open doors we thought were walls. i look forward to hearing about how it unfolds. kudos for asking the question, being honest about the answer, and trusting even the smallest movement in a different direction. xoxo

  13. 15 Miranda October 30, 2010 at 5:27 am

    I’m in the middle of painting my yoga room and bedroom pale lavender with cream ceiling and dusky purple trim – first time I’ve painted a room in my house a color other than white, and first time I’ve had a yoga room (the room is the ex TV room of my ex … another recent huge leap for me). Thanks for sharing your story and asking the questions.

  14. 17 tami October 30, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    thanks for sharing your story. it may well inspire a post about my career change.

    last to arrive and first to leave? check
    “Feeling like I knew nothing was something I was pretty used to.” – double check
    stomach ache for years? check

    i’m so glad to have met you. not only do you give me so many things to think about and in ways that challenge my usual thought patterns, but you’re willing to share the hard stuff to help others.

    • 18 blogasana November 4, 2010 at 6:23 pm

      i’m sad that we relate on this, but glad that we both took the risky steps to make it different. i am endlessly grateful for you, too.

  15. 19 Bob November 2, 2010 at 5:50 am

    Ah, to live up to our full potential. What a terrifying thought. It is our own fear that holds us back. In small and large ways I am recognizing that fear, and staring at it in the face. Each day, with this self-examination, my own fears have less of a grip on me (so I hope). This post is such a good prompt for thought, and two things came to my mind. First, our fears are largely our own — constructed through our own conditioning. However, often we perceive our external environment as reinforcing our fears (e.g., through criticism or judgement by others – intended or not). It is important to reflect on our own internal processes, which includes how we perceive. Second, this reflection on external factors contributing to our fears has caused me to reflect on whether my own words or actions or even thoughts contribute to the fear or anxiety of others. Ahimsa. Can I conduct myself in a manor that never impedes or impairs someone from recognizing and realizing their full potential? Thanks Michelle, for your inspiration.

    • 20 blogasana November 4, 2010 at 6:27 pm

      bob, your musings are so rich. living to our potential *is* a terrifying thought, huh!? i’m reminded of a riddle david whyte tells… why are we so afraid to claim our own happiness? because if we did, large parts of ourselves would disappear. yikes! thanks for adding to the conversation…

  16. 21 Kelley M November 5, 2010 at 1:13 am

    I want to add that Bob’s comments are amazing and really bring some points home to me. Thanks Bob. This reminds me to hop over to your blog and catch up with you.

  17. 23 Geanette November 10, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    Funny! I’ve been wanting to read this post since the day you published it. Timely how today I sat to read it. My dream has been nudging me for quite some time now. My day job or “dream funder” as I called it, just to tolerate the idea that I was doing something I’m so sick and tired of, is going away. My last day of employment is Dec. 3rd. Talk about the universe pushing me to the cliff. Your honesty is brilliant! Thank you for sharing your fears and internal chatter. I am afraid of what will happen next but I’m calm because I have the grounding and support of wonderful teachers, such as yourself!

    My dream is the next step! To become a Marketing Mentor/Agent for yoga studio owners as well as owning a studio of my own in a thriving area, probably not Sacramento, where I can provide support to cancer patients, survivors and everyday people who need yoga. Ha! There… I said it ;)

    Thank you! Thank you!! A Ba-zillion times…THANK YOU!
    I honor your courage.

    XOXO

    • 24 blogasana November 10, 2010 at 6:28 pm

      wow, g – this is HUGE! sometimes dreams don’t wait for us.. they are a force so strong they will come through no matter what. it sounds like that is what’s happening!! i’m so excited for you. can’t wait to hear more…. big supportive hug!


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