Pulling Out All The Stops

Forewarning: I’ll be talking about somebody else’s circumstances, only to immediately turn it around and talk about myself, only to attempt to make it universal by the end.  You’ve been (fore)warned.

Someone I know was recently let go from her job.  It was a job she liked, didn’t love, and was doing until the next chapter in her life began.

Being let go sucks.  There’s no other way around it.  I remember working as an editorial assistant at a publishing house — a gig that was originally a co-op internship but then morphed into a part-time position — knowing full-well that I might not have a job after a major project was completed, and still feeling that crushing disappointment when the director pulled me into his office.  I finished his sentence for him and laughed it off and made some innocuous comment about the bad economy and packed up my cubicle.  It was the softest blow you can ever receive in the working world, and I still felt weighted down as I waited for my train to take me home.

“I’m sorry”s make you feel worse, disparaging remarks about your former employer provides a temporary and negative relief, and blindly swearing that it’ll all be okay does nothing.  The person in question and I had talked about our plans for the future, and when it’s a right time to do anything.  I decided to edge dangerously close to Clichéd Response #3 and responded with:

“Sometimes the universe pulls out all the stops to put you on the path you were meant to be on.”

I said that because I had used that exact wording with said person a few weeks ago, to describe my situation a year or two ago.  One of my overused stories these days is the story of me being a former ECE teacher.  Pre-K was my bread and butter, but I also was a substitute teacher, a teacher for 3-year-olds, and a teacher for 1- to 2-year-olds.  I quickly learned that, as much as I loved the children, I was brutally unhappy.  There were days when I’d walked through the door of my apartment and just burst into tears, prompted by nothing more than I was finally home and away from my classroom.

I recognized on some level early on that I needed to leave.  In the beginning, I didn’t know what the future would hold after I quit, but I knew I needed to do it.  And yet, there was always a reason to not quit: that “aha!” moment when a kid gets what you’ve been trying to say, those hugs in the beginning of the morning, the parents who take the time to let their appreciation be known.  There was always a reason to explain away how I felt, always a reason to stay on just another month, another season, another year.

But sometimes the universe pulls out all the stops to put you on the path you were meant to be on.  And sometimes said stop-pulling absolutely sucks.

My time in the early education field got bad.  Laughably bad.  Literally laughably bad: there were some days when things got so stressful, so impossible, so downright toxic, that I would laugh out loud, because there was nothing else I could do.  After a really, really, unbelievably, so-bad-they-wouldn’t-believe-it-if-I-put-it-in-a-movie day, I curled up on my bed and decided that, no matter what, this was my last year.  I didn’t have the chutzpah to just walk out, but I could give myself a deadline, a hard-set date with no going back.

As if to make sure I didn’t back out, the rest of the school year was the type of stuff nightmares are made out of.  Again, literally: I was having nightmares of the very things going on in the school.  There were days where the only thing that could keep me centered was a downright ritualistic countdown of the remaining time.

And so I quit.  It took going through the worst of the worst to finally say, “I’m not renewing my contract.”  Anything less, and I probably would’ve stayed on “one more year”.

As much as I miss the kids, quitting was the best thing I ever did.  Sometime during my preschool tenure, I discovered yoga as a means of finding a bit of peace and calming (two things that were seriously missing in my life), and I ended up returning to school to become a registered yoga teacher.  Before my training was over, I already was teaching.  Within two months of graduating, I was teaching at four separate studios and volunteering my time at a services center, with classes steadily adding on with each passing month.  I remember talking with my husband about one particular class and one particular set of clients.  He looked at me and said:

“I know you once felt you were meant to be a preschool teacher.  But I think you were meant to be a yoga instructor all along.”

I don’t regret being a preschool teacher.  In fact, I think I needed to be a preschool teacher before I became a yoga instructor: before teaching little kids, I saw yoga as a way to stretch, and I only had a vague understanding of what meditation was.  I needed to turn to yoga at my lowest point.  I needed to get that gift of a little peace of mind — albeit temporarily — in order to have that passion to give that gift to as many people as I can.

My best friend once dreamed of living in Chicago.  She deeply loved the city; she was a Boston girl, but her spirit had a Chicago flavor.  It was nothing more than a pipedream: she had a steady job and a good living situation in Boston.  Yes, the job was soul-crushing, and rent is absurd even in neighborhoods like Dorchester, but it was something guaranteed.  Then, one day, her job was unceremoniously scrapped, with no proper jobs at any other company to replace it.  After a few weeks of failed interviews and temp agency disasters, we both realized that this was her opportunity to finally move out.  She dropped the job search, packed her bags, and has been living by Lake Michigan ever since.

I’m a big believer that we’re all meant to be on a very specific type of path, something that weaves in and out of countless other people’s paths, and for very specific reasons.  The reasons might have nothing to do with our own personal lives, but they’re still important reasons.  And I believe that, if you’re meant to be doing something else, the universe (or God, or fate, or the Powers That Be, whatever you feel comfortable labeling) will make sure every obstacle is thrown in your way until you’re inevitably bounced away from what you were doing and into what you were meant to do.

There’s a quote from Memoirs of a Geisha that has always stuck with me: “We lead our lives like water flowing down a hill, going more or less in one direction until we splash into something that forces us to find a new course.”  And — call me a pretentious little pseudo-philosopher — but that “something” was meant to be in our way all along; that the downhill course etched out for us was never the one we were supposed to be on for any length of time.

On the flipside, I think we’re also meant to be on the wrong course initially.  There’s something to learn going down the wrong roads that we wouldn’t get if we followed the directions to a T.

This is a whole lot of blog for one little comment on a Facebook page.  And I’m about two paragraphs away from shifting into some dangerous territory, like “screenplay of Signs” dangerous.  But, hey, that’s my belief system, as convoluted and slightly psychedelic as it is.

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