Ten months ago if you asked me why I quit my 9-5, I would likely have given you a dishonest answer. It was not because I did not want a stable, competitive salary, with health benefits, a retirement package, and 4-5 weeks of paid vacation. I worked with wonderful LAUSD teachers who empower and inspire the youth. I was aware that as a 32 year old, I was on a career track most early 30’s educators would dream of. Yes, I had it all. Then why was I unhappy with my job?
Employment at Facing History and Ourselves was the career I had spent most of my youth preparing for. During my interview, I remember mentioning to my future bosses that at the age of 23, when I participated in my first Facing History teacher training seminar in San Francisco, I told my best friend, Hasmig, who was with me, that this was what I wanted to do: train and mentor teachers. It was because of that inspirational week with the organization that I geared my career toward education, got a master’s degree, and ultimately, taught at the international high school level. This was gratifying for several years, but at some point, I felt myself stagnating and desiring more leadership, so I applied to management level jobs. This led me back to Facing History: I got the job I wanted as a Program Associate and had so much to be happy for in that 9-5 (well some evenings and weekends included). So, why did I quit my secure job?
Everything came together two weeks before September 5th, 2015. That was the day I had requested time off for my 3 week vacation to Europe. I was supposed to go back to Barcelona, see my friends, visit Norway and return. Parallel to this, weeks before completing my yoga teacher training I had started to feel empowered to do more. I did not quite know what that was, and I knew that financially it was not the most keen decision to quit my job and travel for four months. Discovering a one month meditation program in Nepal, however, tipped the scales and I decided to take the leap and sublease my apartment (which ended up being a huge mess, but that’s besides the point). Despite the doubts associated with making such a big decision, all in all, this was feeling like the right thing to do. Yes, it seemed crazy and rash, but I knew deep down that this decision gave me the freedom to create the future I truly wanted. On the surface, it was silly to quit a meaningful job with awesome co-workers, but I followed that inner voice, the one that kept nagging at me that I was not in the right place and that I should pursue what I was being called towards, which was yoga and a life of seeking. Looking back, it was the perfect union of many variables that contributed to where I am now. I believe that the creation of Stega: A Perfect Union with my best friend is the reason why all this happened. Of course, I could not have predicted what would happen, but I knew there was some direction in my unsettled state, some deeper purpose.
It can be easy to ignore that nagging voice. The way we conduct our lives makes it seemingly impossible to listen — truly listen. As we try to plan our existence around 6 digit salaries, a mortgage, and a retirement fund do we tend to lose focus on our purpose? When the former becomes our main focus, then yes, we find our life energy being directed to actualizing those goals, but does anything deeper, more innate, get lost? I know that my decision making can appear to be based on “idealistic thinking” and many would criticize my life choices. I’ve come to the realization that I thrive on a certain level of uncertainty and doubt. These healthy levels of not knowing give me the freedom to create what I want: a leisurely lifestyle combined with purposeful work. There are days that I work more than my 9 – 5 shift. The constant struggle to find a substituting gig or a private yoga client is not easy. Renting my apartment on AirBnb is not the ideal form of income, but at the end of the day, I have been the happiest I’ve known myself to be.
One last story I’d like to share is from around April of 2015 when I first had a feeling that I would not stay with Facing History, despite my love for the organization and my team. I was in charge of hosting Carl Wilkens, author of I’m Not Leaving, to the schools I worked closely with. He was the last American who left Rwanda during the genocide, an activist.
As he shared his inspirational story with teens and teachers, his experience reignited a passion that I had lost during my years of teaching. I knew that somehow I wanted to be Carl one day and share my experiences and stories from the field. I told this to a very motivational teacher I worked closely with, Merri, who was standing right next to me at that moment. I wanted to be out there creating, serving and doing good. I did not know at the time that Stega would be born. But for now, I truly believe that this baby I am in charge of co-creating with my childhood best friend was one of the main reasons everything came together the way it did.
Here’s a key lesson in all of this: often, the answers we are looking for to justify the actions we take, do not come to us until a later time. It’s difficult to trust intuition and those hidden truths in the face of uncertainty and so much change. For me, it’s important to be accepting of the consequences of my choices as long as those choices are made for the right reasons and guided by my intuition.