One day, I made a decision that would begin a process of transformation. I decided that I deserved a better life. I had spent too many years looking at my friends, peers, and colleagues with envy. As I shared recently, comparing myself to others paralyzed me and made me feel “stuck” with a life I didn’t particularly want or enjoy.
Honestly, my lupus diagnosis probably deserves most of the credit for getting me unstuck.
Although I had great health insurance, I didn’t have a lot of money sitting in the bank to cover all of the doctor visit copayments, prescription coinsurance, and recommended additional treatments that were not covered by insurance (such as acupuncture and visits with a nutritionist). Then I had to resign my position due to my illness and lost access to my free health care. I was forced to pay $500 a month for COBRA—plus all the copays. Somehow, with a lot of prayer and assistance from short-term disability, I survived those first 18 months after I got sick.
When I returned to teaching, I noticed there was a shift in my attitude. I still loved my students, but I began to realize that I needed to prioritize my own physical and financial needs. I wanted to try all the complementary medical treatments my doctors recommended and knew that would require more money than I was making as a public school teacher. I also wasn’t very inspired by my colleagues or work environment. One day, I made the decision to leave teaching behind. I wanted more, but I wasn’t sure how to get it or whether I even deserved it. I was afraid.
I had only ever wanted to be a teacher. What would I do next? How could I convince people to hire me? I had missed out on the “dot.com” and “hi tech” opportunities that flourished in the years after my college graduation, and didn’t feel very marketable. The job search books suggested that I do informational interviewing, but I didn’t have any people in my network with whom to connect that had access to the kinds of jobs I would have wanted. I had a lot of reasons why I couldn’t get a better job—excuses fueled by fear. As a result, I didn’t apply for as many jobs as I should have, and I didn’t talk with as many people as I could. I just was too afraid. I couldn’t even verbalize the exact kind of work I wanted to do, which made it even harder for people who wanted to help me.
My job search was focused on practical matters. I wanted a job that challenged my intellect and gave me enough money in my bank account to meet all of my needs and some of my wants. I also wanted to leave Philadelphia and move closer to my family in New York and New Jersey. That’s all I knew, and that’s all I had the courage to desire. Fortunately, it was enough. I began applying for positions, and accepted one that met my limited criteria. In my first two years there, I was able to pay off my car early, take my first international trip, and bring my mom with me on a business trip to Chicago.
Things improved a lot with my new, more interesting job and higher salary, but I still wasn't satisfied with my career. I remember reading this great book I Could Do Anything ... If I Only Knew What It Was. That book probably saved my life. It helped me to understand a couple things about myself: First, I came face-to-face with my fear of success (how ironic for someone with two Ivy League degrees). Second, I realized I had been living to please others instead of doing what would make me happy and fulfill my mission in life. Third, I am a “skimmer.” There isn’t going to be one thing like law or medicine that I want to study for thirty or forty years and master. I have many interests, and am happiest when I pursue them all. Skimmers know a little about a lot things—skimming the surface. [I also wrote about this book earlier this spring.]
In January 2009, I attended a mini yoga retreat. I did a number of reflection activities, including identifying the people I admired most. When I looked at their characters, I noticed that they were risk takers and innovators who then convinced the world of their beliefs. Risk taker and innovator were not words anyone would have used to describe me at that time. As much as I wanted to be like my role models, as much as I envied their success, I was terrified.
I also was encouraged to dream and write down a vision of what my ideal life would be in five years. My teachers urged me to be really specific about how my life would look financially, professionally, physically, spiritually, and relationally. That was the first time I acknowledged my dream of becoming a yoga teacher and opening a studio. I also knew that I wanted to own my home. I wanted to save a lot of money in case I ever needed it, and I wanted to travel A LOT.
The retreat instructors didn’t stop with helping me create my five-year life plan. They took me on a backward mapping process that resulted in me thinking of three things I could do in the next month to get started toward my vision. I came up with some rather doable things, like looking at apartment ads. This planning process rooted in my deep-seated dreams was the key to unlocking profound change in my life, and releasing the fear that had been crippling my progress. It didn’t take much courage to do the things that I had planned for the first month. Once I made some forward progress, then I started to feel more confident and proud of my accomplishments. That provided the motivation for me to go for more.
I knew I didn’t just want to get my own place. I was ready to leave the Tri-State area for good. I wanted to move to Washington, DC—a move I had desired for 20 years without taking any action to pursue. I summoned the courage one day to ask my supervisor to allow me to transfer to our DC office, and was thrilled when she agreed. I also wanted more responsibility at work and sought out a promotion. Six months later, it was mine. That’s how it began. I took really small steps toward my dreams that each required a little bit of courage. It was terrifying, but I did it anyway. With each small victory, my courage grew, and I was emboldened to go for more.
I am so grateful for the wakeup call I got during that mini yoga retreat. It awakened dreams that I had long ignored as well as the courage to take steps toward making them happen. As a result, five years later, life looks almost nothing like it did. I live in a new city, have new friends, own my house, teach yoga classes, and am working on opening my yoga studio in the next few months. Yes, the five-year vision is almost a reality. More importantly, I have discovered what it means to have courage and take risks. Faith in yourself and God are the foundation for moving forward with determination. As I say at the end of each class,
May you listen to the still, soft voice within your heart,
Crystal Moore began her wellness quest in 2003 after being diagnosed with lupus. Her quest has led her to embrace yoga, faith, exercise, healthy eating, and relationships. Share her journey.