04 Feb 2016

“You’ll Never Work a Day in Your Life”: One for the Dream-Chasers

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“We should catch up! Do you want to meet for coffee at 3:00 on Wednesday?”

“I can’t. That’s when I practice.”

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“We’re going hiking on Saturday afternoon. Wanna come?”

“I’d love to, but that’s a teacher training weekend.”

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“How was your day?”

“So emotional! We talked about what beliefs hold you back in reaching your potential. Everyone cried. I had to work so hard to keep the day on track. It was so incredibly intense… It was awesome.”

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We’ve all heard it: “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Anyone who’s ever chased a dream knows that’s total crap.

When I walked away from a well-paying-but-soul-crushing job two years ago to pursue my dream of teaching yoga full-time, I knew I was gambling. I was recently divorced, had a mortgage, and still had a mountain of student loan debt from grad school. My job allowed me to comfortably support myself as a single woman. But it was killing me.

kenwyn_alexander-6063So I jumped. I stepped away from comfort to chase my dream of teaching yoga full-time and leading teacher trainings. And I’m so grateful I did. I love what I do. I get to interact with amazing, heartfelt people every day. I get to design workshops and curriculums that combine the best of what I love. For the most part, I set my own schedule, and most days I stay in my pajamas until 2pm.

My dream-chasing job is amazing, and I love it.

And I’ve never worked harder in my life.

I wake up in the morning with a mile-long to-do list. I hit the ground running, answering emails, updating teacher training curriculum, putting out new content. Most of the work I do, I don’t get paid for directly. Rather, it is an investment in a bigger dream that has provided me with financial abundance for two years. My income comes from events, like workshops that take 2 hours to teach and ten hours to prep. Or teacher trainings that require six months of prep work for a scant 200 hours in-person with my incredible trainees. Every new project is a gamble. Will I put in all this time–time I could work on other things–only to see it fall flat? Or will all my hard work pay off abundantly again?

Moreover, every new project is a deeply personal statement about who I am. “See this? This training is an amalgamation of everything I believe to be important about teaching yoga. It is vulnerable and personal, and I hope you like it.” Everything I undertake has as much emotional risk as financial. Everyday is an exercise in courting rejection.

Time and scheduling are constant challenges. Most of my classes, workshops, and trainings happen on evenings and weekends, when my loved ones are free to hang out. I constantly have to say no to invitations because of work obligations.

And I never stop working. At the grocery store, I chat with people about my classes. At parties, I talk to long-time yogis about joining my teacher training. I live my work all day, every day. I never get a chance to turn off.

And in my line of work, the “blood, sweat, and tears” thing is literal. At least the last two are. I hit my mat every day to maintain a steady practice. I flip and fall out of handstand. Sweat drips in my eyes as I flow from Down Dog to plank. I fall out of arm balances and narrowly avoid a faceplant. I practice this way because it makes me a better teacher. I want to understand my students’ experience on the mat and teach with compassion. I want my students to know that I’m with them on the journey.

And there are tears. In my teacher trainings, people’s “stuff” comes up. I think, in order to be a 12036962_10208003422229602_3727597809236749657_ngood teacher, you must recognize the barriers that prevent you from being fully yourself. To stand in front of people and offer something you love is a deeply vulnerable thing. Yoga teachers must do their own personal work to be able to hold space for others. And as the facilitator of that work, I must do my own personal work, as well, doubly so. My career keeps me in constant relationship with my own baggage, in an effort to effectively lead people through their emotional processes.

On top of all that, I always strive for more. There’s always another project, another idea, another dream to chase. Just this week, I announced a 300-hour advanced teacher training that I’ll lead on top of my yearly 200-hour training. The growth of Birmingham’s yoga community excites me, and I hope to see the quality of teaching in the Magic City continue to elevate. I’ll do my part to help make that happen.

This is the reality of the dream-chaser. We never turn off. We never finish. We never sit back and rest on our successes. We sacrifice time with loved ones in service of our passion. We take emotional and financial risks to offer what we believe in. We do it because we believe it’s worth it.

This yoga teaching gig is the best one I’ve ever had. It lets me live my dreams. I plan on working hard for what I love for a long time to come. Every single day.

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2 Responses to ““You’ll Never Work a Day in Your Life”: One for the Dream-Chasers”

  1. Marilyn Regan says:

    I love you blog! I am still a fairly new yoga teacher, almost two years, so I am still building my teaching practice and working a 40-hour week job. Although I am not experienced enough to do teacher training and 2-hour workshops at this point, I need to begin to think of how I can expand my teaching and cut down on my insane full-time job. Your blog gives me inspiration to do this. I live in Boston and there’s lots of competition here, but I am holding my own and I am not that young anymore. Therefore, I am gearing myself to older clientele who have never taken yoga and think they are too old, not athletic enough, etc. I’ve got to get moving myself and make it happen.

    Thanks and Namaste.

  2. Lara Lee says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. My teacher must go through similar experiences
    and I pray blessings to you both for undertaking the paths you have. I would be lost in the
    forest without a path to follow. Much love to you both. Lara