The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.
That’s what we’ve been taught anyways, right? In any geometric problem, you can count on this unwavering fact. But, in our spiritual life or our physical reality, things aren’t always so linear.
When it comes to our goals, dreams and desires, most of us have a specific destination in mind – we know the number we want to see on the scale, what title we want in our career, or the qualities we desire in a partnership. We each have our own vision of what success looks like and what it takes to get there (linear line, remember?). But, as we travel the path in pursuit of our goal, it’s inevitable that we’ll confront obstacles, challenges and setbacks – in fact, if you aren’t rubbing up against some level of resistance on the journey to your destination, you’re not dreaming big enough, my friend. Your challenges and setbacks are a sign you’re on the right path.
There’s a difference, however, between challenges and setbacks and a straight up detour. Unlike a challenge that will give you some push-back and will require more effort to get through, the more effort you put into a detour, the further off course you’ll feel. As much as we try to run toward the thing we’re after, we’ll find ourselves being pushed in another direction entirely.
A few months ago, I wrote a blog about celebrating personal successes and the positive psychology behind it. In this blog, I listed some of my big wins that had once been goals, but something I realized this week is: the detour became my destination.
If I really think about it, I have rarely, if ever, accomplished the things I set out to do by design. More often than not, I took a few (or more) unexpected turns and had some incredibly humbling moments that brought me to my knees before I could trust whatever new path I found myself on.
When I didn’t land what I thought was my dream teaching job straight out of college, I took a teaching position with Reading High School. It was my adulting “back-up” plan until I heard back from another school. As it turns out, this was the dream job where I could leverage my creativity and team teach an interdisciplinary humanities course.
5 years later, the dream job turned sour. Working alongside an emotionally abusive co-teacher became too much for my mental health and I moved back to Philly with hopes of teaching in my hometown. I hadn’t planned on not finding a teaching job when I moved back, and when I couldn’t, I took on a job filling anesthesia carts at Wills Eye Hospital, where my then-husband worked. The job paid well and was mind-numbingly easy to do, but I was unfulfilled and grew increasingly depressed. A few months later and I was so unwell, I checked myself into Friends Hospital.
Hitting that rock bottom, the kind of detour that lands you in the how-the-hell-did-I-end-up-here?, became the impetus to find out what would fulfill me. I began searching for non-traditional jobs that would allow me to connect with people, utilize my creativity and make an impact. I eventually started working at Athleta, a company whose vision and mission I still stand behind, and I joined a gym a few blocks away (but on the basis that they had the exact Stairmaster I needed to work out on. No joke). Overtime, I made my way into group fitness classes and one night, after several months of being a regular in my instructor’s class, she asked me, “Have you ever thought about teaching fitness?”
I’ll never forget that question, the one that started me on this path. It’s a detour I might not have taken without her questioning. It’s a path I didn’t realize was an option. It’s the one that brought me back to my roots and ultimate purpose: teaching.
Even now, as I reflect on these last several months, I realize how necessary the detours were. From stepping into the role as Studio Manager and applying for the role of Master Trainer to finding out I didn’t get the role of Master Trainer and ultimately making the decision to step away from being a Studio Manager – as difficult as some of those paths were, they’ve brought me here: a place where I’m softer, more compassionate and more trusting, but also deeply driven by and hyper-aligned with my values.
If you had asked me 10 years ago what the destination was and what I would be doing now, I would have told you teaching. But, I never could have predicted I’d be teaching fitness. Never in a million years would I have thought I could be this fulfilled in what I do every day.
If a year ago you had asked me, “What’s the destination now that you’ve found your passion?” I would have told you, “My purpose is to teach teachers”. Not getting Master Trainer took me to my knees and was a devastating detour. At the time, I questioned if I even had a path. It took a lot of leaning into the discomfort, being OK with not knowing what was next for me, to finally arrive at this place where I realized the destination was even bigger than teaching teachers.
My mission is about impact and teaching teachers, students – virtually every person I come into contact with – how to evolve their body, mind and spirit. I realized my mission is beyond how many people are in my class. It’s beyond an 8-count or how to teach a choreographed set of moves.
Without having an exact destination in mind, with only a broader vision of the impact I wanted to create, I took a leap, left my role as Studio Manager…
and I’ve landed.
This Sunday I’m leaving for YTT Facilitator Training with my counterpart, Dona so that we can lead a Yoga Teacher Training at Fort Washington in the Fall of 2018. Together we’ll get to lead students and teachers on a journey that expands far beyond the physical asanas.
Last December when I completed my YTT, I figured I’d teach yoga “someday”, but over the last few months, I’ve been nudged onto this path and only now can I look back and see how each detour was opening the way.
Life doesn’t always go as planned and getting lost is what allows us to open the door to the unexpected.
There will be times in our life where we’ll feel lost or without purpose – perhaps we’ve lost our job, haven’t found the right relationship or simply don’t know how to change a habit. In these moments, while the feeling is real, it’s important to remember you are never lost. You are always somewhere and that somewhere, that detour, is a needed moment.
I’m entirely convinced that every experience I’ve had, especially the particularly painful and shitty ones, was necessary. If I hadn’t struggled with my body image and an ED, if I hadn’t lost two siblings, if I hadn’t struggled with severe depression or major personal setbacks, I doubt I’d be able to fully connect to people in the way that I do or create the sort of impact that is aligned with my bigger mission.
I also get and mad respect that in the moment you feel lost, it’s overwhelming and it’s hard to know where the detour will land you. In these moments, allow your hard times to soften you and the uncertainty of the path to guide you and you will find that the detour is the destination you didn’t know you were waiting for.
PS: catch me at classes this week before I’m off to training. I’ll be gone Sunday, March 4th through Wednesday March 7th.