This raw life: my journey into teaching yoga.

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go?" Alice asked.
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," replied the cat.
"I don’t much care where –"
"Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.” 

I remember the day I decided to chase after this yoga profession... 

I was working for an insurance company in Chicago’s financial district, and I genuinely enjoyed my job. I adored my bosses. My entire life, I sought stability, and here it was, finally. I felt like I could breathe again. I was safe.

Yet, my career in business left me feeling deeply directionless. I often questioned why I blindly pursued larger profit margins for this company, why I wore stifling business clothes, and why many of my co-workers sauntered around the office, chronically lifeless...

I was on a business trip in Connecticut when it hit me.

I suddenly realized that if I wanted a life that feels like me, a life grounded in reality, through humble bare feet and no makeup, a life that reflects my heart and aspirations... I must chase after it with my whole heart.

It was the middle of my yoga instructor training, and I felt a deep, unbudging desire to pursue yoga as a career. Some people say, “You are called to teach yoga.” I definitely felt called. It felt as if there were no other option. I recall feeling scared, and, well... a bit annoyed.

I had a degree in Economics and was on the fast-track to management. Teaching yoga was not the plan! I had a beautiful (read: expensive) apartment in Lincoln Park, Chicago. I got off work every day at 4:00pm, then indulged in yoga and cooking dinner with my roommate. I also had a really cute (read: expensive) tonkinese kitten.

Life was so good....

So, some context is important here:

When I was little, my family survived on cereal, food stamps and a lot of laughing. Being a kid was great. My mom let us run around barefoot, climb trees and just be wild. But, we were dirt poor and certainly under nourished. As we matured, my mom re-married an alcoholic, which lit up her own alcoholic tendencies. Sadly, I inherited these tendencies and I still battle with moderation.

My teen siblings and rebellious mom began doing drugs and drinking together. My house morphed into a teenage party house, full of sex, drugs and 90s music. There was never peace, and there were many violent fights between my mom, siblings and step dad—blood, punching, the whole lot.

I recall coming home and stepping over kids passed out all over our place—cigarette holes every where in the carpet, toilets broke for days, pet feces in every corner, watching my pre-teen siblings on acid, hallucinating.

When I was 15, the madness stopped because my mom died of breast cancer.

My mother’s death was, ironically, the birth of my potential. When she died, the chaos was gone, but more than that, I was liberated from the limitations of my family dysfunction, in a way. I was free to not only dream, but to do.

My family was fractured and dispersed. I was a good kid, so my grandparents took me in. Thank the universe. My poor 18 year old brother and 16 year old sister (with a new baby) were forced to just figure it out, find jobs, and make a life from nothing. They still are finding their way, and doing an exceptional job.

My aunt and uncle later stepped up, and so generously offered me the gift of college. I am forever grateful for this gift! It changed my life. I knew it was a big deal and dedicated myself to making it worth their investment. I wanted to leave Indiana, see the world, make a difference, and never depend on anyone for money ever again.

In college, I struggled. I worked twice (or thrice?) as hard to catch up to the educated kids around me. Moreover, I worked through a mean eating disorder as I learned how to take care of myself and process the past. I busted my ass for my degree, to prove to my family (and myself) that I could do it.

...and now here I was, living this great “ideal” life, working in a towering sky scraper with a view of the Willis Tower. Yet, suddenly, I was willing to throw myself back into a world of instability and poverty?

My inner critic was like: “Really? You’re going to take a 75% pay cut and live life like a frugal gypsy, with no guarantee that you will ever make a living doing this?

And my bashful heart had big ol’ puppy dog eyes and said:

um, yes.

I did not realize that this would would be just one of endless leaps of faith I would need to take to bring me to where I am today. This journey of teaching yoga is just a series of leaps, risks and failures long before stability and reward.

I digress, back to the airport in Connecticut:

I crunched numbers, scribbled potential, and drafted my website. I imagined revenue streams and built myself a timeline. I thought of all the possibilities and desperately tried to figure out how I could make a living teaching yoga every single day. The numbers added up in only a few scenarios, so I knew that if I really wanted this, it was going to be tough.

I learned quickly how this journey would test me, and almost break me, but I told myself to give it just one year.

If, after a year, I did not see a sustainable way to make a career I love work, then I would just go back to the desk. There was nothing to lose, and yet, everything to lose. 

So, I went the way of my heart. I took the leap. I saved money, left my job, and just went for it.

This is part one of a three-part series of Adrienne Kimberley’s journey into yoga as a lifestyle and full time profession.

Adrienne now leads her own 200 hour Teacher Training program: The Craft of Teaching Yoga. The next program begins January 28, 2016.