March 6th, 2009 - Tracey L. Kelley
Gray half-walls paneled in soft felt surrounded me. Just barely enough haven to hide. I wore headphones most of the time anyway, editing sound.
I had more salary and benefits than I'd ever earned in my life. My commute was exactly 10 minutes. I enjoyed this work—program director for a national radio program, training and managing people in audio storytelling. My entire professional life reached an apex. Every skill I learned up to this point of midlife utilized.
I wanted so much for this to be it.
A year prior, on a whim, I decided to expand my yoga practice by becoming a teacher. Six months prior, I banded together with new writer friends after a long hiatus from this community and haphazard creation attempts. On this particular day, I stared at the fuzzy monochrome cube I'd tried to make cozy. Random poster art. Winding tendrils of leafy philodendron. Big box store framing around loved ones.
For once, I actually had a plan. I contributed 17 percent to my 401K each pay period. I intended to stay at the company at least a decade. This career destination, while not easy to navigate, was finally routine.
But I was…different. With my hippie boho ways, mostly vegetarian diet, and tendency to pad barefoot down halls ribboned with dizzying patterns of industrial low-ply carpet. Each new breath taken in yoga pushed out stale fragments of unknowing and made space for becoming. The change I thought I didn't need happened anyway.
Isn't this where I should be?
My continued yoga journey etched fissures in the façade of a projected self "at this age." The competent corporate professional, eye on a retirement reward. Awaiting a recognition moment with a 10-year gift from a promotional catalog. Believing this was the trade-off for security.
On an ashen cloth panel behind my computer screen was a cobbled papier-mâché sun and moon, crafted during a team-building exercise. I picked away at disintegrating flakes of faded watercolor during conference calls. Soon, only withered balloon forms remained, taped to the end of a paper clip hanger. Curious, I brought a fragile rubber end to my lips and blew. It expanded to a bright blue ball.
Through my ongoing yoga practice and teaching, a more organic identity emerged, tempered by both experience and a beginner's mind. I developed a heightened ability to straddle expectations with actual reality. Gusts of life tested this balance. Marriage problems. Familiar depression but unknown treatment. A corporate layoff in 2013. Afterward, a year in school to learn new skills. Months in therapy. Trepidation and defiance as I re-entered the gig economy. A costly yet impassioned investment in a commercial yoga studio. Its closure three years later. Debt. The creation of a small press. A debut of non-fiction in 2019.
Fissures widened to cracks, cracks to chasms.
No opportunity to hide who I am.
And not in a superficial #authentic #bestlife #blessed type of way. It's the hard stare in the mirror, each imprinted forehead line and stray chin hair accentuated by glaring morning light. Yoga enabled me see the beauty in this actualization. It taught me that failing happens all the time when you attempt different things. I'm comfortable with this now. When I fall, on the mat and in theory, I'll get up and walk away clean. Eventually. I'm secure in this knowing.
I've accepted my experiences won't have an apex. As a writer, teacher, and entrepreneur, these are essential characteristics to embrace on this forever journey.
The walls are down now.
No place to hide.
No need to.
Tracey L. Kelley shares stories, teaches yoga, and helps people listen. Her award-winning writing appears in a variety of forms, including essay, short story, online, magazine, broadcast, and podcast. She's the author of the 2019 release, One Moment of a Single Day: Essays with photographer Lynne A. Kasey; a developmental editor for other people's projects; and a facilitator of interpersonal communication workshops. Learn more at traceylkelley.com.
Tracey encourages you to volunteer a mere four hours each month to help someone realize their potential. Please find a local Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter and become a Big Brother, Big Sister, or Big Couple to a child or teenager who will benefit from your insight and attention. Oh! And one more! The Yoga and Body Coalition, committed to supporting yoga that is body positive, accessible, and reflective of human diversity. The Coalition believes yoga is not only a tool in personal transformation "from the inside out" but also a critical social justice component.