Prius Owner Purchases 23rd Bumper Sticker
(An Onion-style article, originally published in Summer 2015)
As soon as 38-year-old farmer’s market enthusiast Becky Newman laid eyes upon a clever kale-themed bumper sticker for sale at her favorite booth, she knew she had to purchase it. She simply couldn’t resist the sticker’s playful pun, “Oh, Kale Yeah!” and the clever way in which the letters were formed with kale leaves. But upon leaving the booth and heading back to the parking lot to pack the trunk of her Metallic Green 2007 Prius with the 5 bags of organic produce she had just purchased, she began to experience a bit of buyer’s remorse. “Well, I already have bumper stickers that say: ‘Eat More Kale’ and ‘Under The Influence of Kale,” but this one was just too punny to pass up (get it?) And besides, if there are two things you can never have enough of, it’s leafy greens and cute bumper stickers, right?” she said with a wink.
Then, as Newman began to search for an empty spot on the tail end of her hybrid hatchback to strategically place the sticker, she started to think that maybe you can indeed have enough bumper stickers. And at whopping total of 22, she had way more than enough. “I remember it all started with an Obama ’08 sticker, right on the lower left corner of the bumper, then an “No Farms, No Food” one on the other side to balance it out, and I guess I kinda went a little crazy after that. Oh, well,” she said with a giggle.
Her colorful display of stickers ranges from the spiritual, “Coexist” and “Namaste,” to the feminist, “In Goddess We Trust,” to the occasional piece of cutesy humor, “Don’t Like My Cattitude? Call 1-800-Get-A-Dog.” And since finally giving up dairy products and eggs 6 months ago after many failed attempts, Newman has started to build upon the newest subsection of her sticker collection: veganism. “Yeah, I guess people already get the point that I’m a vegan and an animal rights advocate when they see my other kale stickers and my personal favorite that says ‘Eat Your Veggies, Not Your Friends,” but seriously, how badass would my little Prius look if it said ‘Oh, Kale Yeah!’?” Newman asked. “So to answer your question, am I really gonna put this bumper sticker on my car? Oh, kale yeah, I am!” she snickered, as she proceeded to stuff a handful of raw goji berries in her mouth.
After arriving home and stocking the fridge in her studio apartment with enough organic fruits and veggies to feed a family of five for two weeks, Newman was spotted trying to peel off her “Obama ’08” sticker. “I did seriously consider just slapping the new one somewhere near the gas tank, but I didn’t want to become one of those people who covers their entire car with stickers,” she said. “So to compromise, I decided that the old Obama one can go. I mean, I do have an Obama 2012, and I got a Bernie 2016 one as soon as they were released. So, out with the old, in with the new, I guess!”
Area Fifth Grader Plagued By Standardized Testing Woes
(An Onion-Style article originally published Spring 2015)
Springtime brings an air of excitement and wonder to students at the Jackson Elementary School. Recess is typically a little warmer and longer, there’s more space to play after all the snow melts, and there are more exciting field trips and outdoor events for students of all ages. Unfortunately, springtime also brings on a soul-crushing series of statewide standardized tests for all students in grades 3-5. And on this particular Wednesday morning, a fifth grader named Abigail Williams was currently frozen with anxiety and self-doubt as she struggled to determine which bubble to fill in for question 5 on the multiple choice reading comprehension session.
“I know it can’t be A) because that’s just obviously, like, SO wrong. I mean, even my sister who’s in second grade would know that,” she said as she erased a stray mark she had mistakenly made in the bubble. “And I guess it could be B) or C) cause they both kind of express the main character’s feelings. It’s just, like SO hard to choose between them. So now I’m thinking it must be D) which says “Both B) and C).” She sighed. “But seriously, this crap shouldn’t be this hard for me. I mean, I read at a tenth grade level, I’ve gotten perfect scores on my report card every semester since Kindergarten, and I just passed my private middle school test and interview with flying colors. UGH.”
As Williams started to shade in the D) bubble with an intensity and ferocity she usually saves for swimming the 50 meter backstroke for her town’s swim team (where she proudly holds the record for fastest girl in her age group) she became plagued by sharp pangs of doubt and mistrust and immediately put down her pencil.
“The idiots who made this test are probably trying to trick us into thinking it’s both B) and C). They want us to choose D). Well, I’ve got news for you, test makers, I’m on to your little tricks and I won’t let one silly question fool me into running my perfect academic record. I’m going to Harvard just like my dad did, and I refuse to let a wrong answer on this dumb fifth grade test jinx me into getting A-Minuses now instead of straight A’s, ” Williams said with a self-righteous smirk as she thoroughly erased her previous answer and carefully shaded every last square millimeter of the previous bubble.
After re-reading the passage for the third time, Williams determined that the main character of the story was more “hopeful” than “optimistic,” and after quadruple-checking her answer, she handed her test to her teacher, Ms. Silverstein, with a smile that exuded perhaps a bit too much confidence and self-assuredness.
As Williams then took her seat and pulled out the latest 800 page novel she was in the middle of reading, she began to rethink her answer. “Dammit. The character was totally both hopeful and optimistic. Maybe they weren’t really trying to trick us after all.” She then asked Ms. Silverstein if she could have her test back to fix one of her answers but was met with a firm “No” from the especially stern, veteran fifth grade teacher of 13 years.
“I just hope that my new private middle school doesn’t see the results of this meaningless little public school test,” Williams muttered as she began worrying about how this one small question might impact her PSAT/SAT scores, her chance at being named a National Merit Scholar in 2021, and her dreams of running for president some time in the 2050’s.
Call It A Night: A Farewell To The Swellers
(originally published Winter 2015)
Sometimes it takes a band breaking up for you to truly appreciate how special they are and how much of an impact they’ve had on your life. Such was the case with bands like Thrice and Moving Mountains a couple years back, and such is case with The Swellers now. All three are examples of bands that weren’t really on my radar until a little later in their career and didn’t truly become favorites until they were almost ready to call it quits.
I discovered Thrice a little late in the game, during my junior year of college when they released Vheissu, and their early work never resonated with me quite as much as their last few albums. Their music was present in my college and post-collegiate years, but never in the captivating, all-consuming way that other post-hardcore/emo acts like Thursday and Taking Back Sunday were. After putting Thrice on the back burner for a few years, I became blown away by their last LP, Major/Minor, and subsequently started to appreciate their back catalog even more. And then about a year later, they announced their farewell tour, which I was lucky enough to see in two cities. I had a similar experience with Moving Mountains; I stumbled upon them a little later in their career, when they opened for Thrice (oddly enough) in 2011. While I was never a huge fan of their post-rock heavy debut, Pneuma, their last two LPs have now taken their rank among my favorite albums of all time.
As far as The Swellers, they’re a band I’ve liked quite a bit since I first saw them open for Paramore back in 2009. Much like Thrice, their music had a pretty decent presence in my mid-late 20’s, but for whatever reason their albums never quite made the transition into heavy rotation on my turntable. That all changed when I heard The Light Under Closed Doors for the first time last year on a road trip through New England and New York that involved me meeting up with friends and seeing Taking Back Sunday play in five different cities. The hundreds of miles I drove that week were soundtracked almost exclusively by The Swellers, Saves The Day, and of course Taking Back Sunday. I developed a deep appreciation for The Light Under Closed Doors; “Big Hearts” served up an instant shot of nostalgia, hope, and joy at a time when I was getting hit pretty hard by what I like to call my “quarter-life crisis, part deux,” “Becoming Self-Aware” quickly became one of my personal anthems, and “Call It A Night” honestly made me weep. When I arrived at my last destination on the trip—Portland, Maine—I immediately drove to one of my favorite record stores and purchased the album on vinyl. It has definitely been in pretty heavy rotation ever since.
Right before I went on my TBS road trip and rediscovered the Swellers, I reconnected with another thing from my past that I had kind of abandoned: long-distance running. After dabbling in cross country during my high school and early college years, I set goals to train for longer races in my mid-20’s, which ultimately led to injury and burnout. Then, after practicing yoga for a few years, I developed a renewed sense of appreciation and ease with running longer distances, which were always set perfectly to long pop-punk/emo playlists of the Saves The Day/Taking Back Sunday variety. I’m especially particular about the tempo of the songs I run to; I need something to both inspire me and keep me going at a steady pace. So after my long road trip, I decided to try running to some Swellers songs, and the rest is history.
I’m not sure if it was the songs themselves, the fact that I interspersed them with songs from another one of my favorite bands—Weezer—or the sense of freedom and rejuvenation I felt after taking that much needed break from life to go on the open roads, but I was running faster and longer without the feelings of burnout, strain, or defeat that had always plagued me. I ran to my Swellers/Weezer playlist for weeks on end until I did what I had always thought of as the impossible: complete a full 13.1 miles. I’d like to think that the familiarity and personal connections I had with the songs— especially those on The Light Behind Closed Doors— and the feelings of pure joy and exhilaration I felt from associating them with my long drives across New England were what encouraged me to literally go the extra mile to achieve my goal.
A few days after I finished my own personal half marathon, I learned that The Swellers had decided to break up and were planning a farewell tour. Even though I had only been to two of their shows and felt like more of a casual fan than a diehard supporter, I was hit by a wave of loss and sadness when I heard the news. Their music had only recently made a significant personal impact on me, and now I would only have one last chance to see them perform. I’ve seen a fair number of bands from my teenage and college years break up, and I’ve gotten teary-eyed at several farewell shows, but perhaps because of the particular place I’m at in my life right now, this farewell felt more bittersweet than usual.
The band’s decision to break up coincided with my decision to transition out of a full-time career I had been immersed in for the last four years. I was working as an independent contractor, teaching yoga to adults and children, and the struggle to make ends meet without burning out became too much. I had experienced an intense moment of clarity during that recent long-distance run when “Becoming Self-Aware” popped up on the playlist. I realized that while I will always feel grateful for the freedom and flexibility my career offered me and the amazing people I met in the many classes and workshops I taught over the years, I was no longer in love with the work I was doing and needed to move on. Shortly after making this decision I read an article by The Swellers’ drummer, Jonathan Diener about the challenges of being in a mid-level band, and I drew a lot of personal connections to their struggles on the business end of things. Even though I had experienced a brief, blissful period of “selling out” my classes at a big corporate yoga studio chain—akin to a major record label in some ways—I was pretty much always a mid-level yoga instructor. Much like a band who tours extensively, I put far too many miles on my car and too much wear and tear on my general well being teaching too many classes just to pay the bills. This simply wasn’t something I could do full-time through my 30’s. And while it felt like a relief in many ways to give up several of my classes, it was a bittersweet departure. Months later, I’m still at a bit of a crossroads, caught between careers, working part-time jobs and attending school part time, but still very much hopeful and optimistic for whatever my next step might be.
A few days before I saw The Swellers on their farewell tour I took a mini road trip up to Portland, Maine to fill out grad school applications and write my personal statement. I needed the time on the road and the change of venue to clear my head, and Portland seemed like the perfect place, since I’ve considered it my home away from home for years. It was also the place where I bought The Light Under Closed Doors on my last major road trip, so it felt extra symbolic. A good friend of mine teaches yoga in the city, so I took her class in the morning, which was honestly the first positive, bullshit-free yoga experience I’ve had since stepping away from my full-time job as an instructor. After class I sat at my all-time favorite cafe, just down the street from my favorite record store, and the many words and paragraphs of my personal statement just came pouring out. The process of writing that essay helped put my past in perspective and calmed many of my fears and anxieties about whatever my future might bring.
I put the finishing touches on my essay just hours before seeing the Swellers play at a unique venue just two doors down from the apartment where I said goodbye to my 20’s not too long ago. It was like VFW Hall meets old school Italian Wedding Hall, and perhaps due to its oddly charming, DIY/celebratory ambience, it just felt like the perfect setting to bid farewell to a band that always did things themselves and persevered despite never quite becoming a household name or selling out a tour. I went to the show with my brother, his girlfriend, and one of my best friends who also recently quit her full-time yoga gig. Each member of our group is currently in a weird transitional place in life; like the members in the band, we are getting ready to say goodbye to certain things that just aren’t working for us anymore, and we’re optimistically bracing for the changes we’re about to face.
While at first I was overcome by nostalgia for the carefree, post-collegiate life I lived right down the street from the venue, and then by a grim, depressing feeling that my younger, happier days were behind me and that it would all be downhill from here, that feeling changed when The Swellers took the stage. They plowed through a pretty impressive, comprehensive playlist with a genuine gratitude for their fans and a love for their work. The energy with which they played began to transform my woeful pessimism into mindful positivity. I’m mindful about the fact that it will be challenging to switch careers, move to a new city, and return to school in my early 30’s, but I’m trying to maintain a positive outlook, and I know that these challenges will all be for my benefit.
I’m sure each member of The Swellers will find some success and happiness in whatever their next adventure might bring them, and to loosely quote one of their most memorable songs, I’m sure they’re “on [their] way to better things.” Their music re-entered my life at the perfect moment, and it played an important role in guiding me toward some better things for my future. While I didn’t get to personally say goodbye or thank them after the show, I’m truly grateful for this band and for what they’ve created. And the fact that I got to see them play one last time at such a pivotal point in my life made me happier than I could have imagined.
The Record Store In My Living Room:
A Profile of My Childhood Home In Vinyl and Paperbacks
(originally published in the fall of 2014/an assignment for a nonfiction writing course I took that semester)
The lofty ceilings and massive windows in the front room of my childhood home, a rather modest, dark brown Victorian on Wildwood Ave. in Newton, Massachusetts, welcomed me right in with overwhelming embrace that I would quickly find myself lost in soon after moving in at the age of seven. This sun drenched room, a more laid back haven in contrast to the darker, less comfortable, formal living room just around the corner, could have easily been mistaken for a record store or a room in a library. Three towering bookcases filled with records and stereo equipment stood side by side, directly across from the smaller of two bay windows, overseeing everything else in the room with their heightened prowess and impeccable organization. There was another slightly less impressive, but still very full and well organized bookshelf next to the simple oak computer desk that housed an eclectic collection of novels, coffee table books, and works of children’s literature, many of which I would read from cover to cover. Aside from my own bedroom, this multipurpose front room that displayed a world of music and literature was where I spent most of my time from middle childhood through adolescence, fueling a lifelong passion for reading, writing, and record collecting that could have easily turned into hoarding had it not been for the borderline obsessiveness of my mother’s neat and orderly ways.
My mother, with her keen eye for detail and design, took pride in decorating this front room in a way that made it almost as inviting and aesthetically on-point as the formal living room. Soon after we moved in she replaced the garish, blue floral wallpaper and chintzy grass-green carpeting with a more subdued, earth-toned coating for the walls and refurbished hardwood floors that gave the room a rustic, yet refined ambience. She took great pride in her redecorating skills, marveling at how the room “went from a cheap white wicker porch furniture set up with a green astro-turf rug and floral blue 80’s wallpaper to warm, sponged orange-beige walls, a hardwood floor, and upholstered furniture to match” and at how “it made a strong first impression of our home.” The rows of records and books remained a prominent fixture in the room through the various renovations and redecorations it would undergo over the years, and they continued to draw me into delightful new realms of discovery and introspection. When I wasn’t staring at the rows of David Bowie, Rolling Stones, or Beatles records, searching through rows of alphabetically arranged spines to discover a new potential favorite album, I could be found curled up on the rather small, but comfortable patchwork sofa that matched the earthy tones of the walls, lost in the pages of a book or writing and illustrating one of the many stories I started but rarely ever finished.
The rest of the first floor was marked by a more austere formality, save for the cozy breakfast nook and kitchen table, where my younger brother Greg, my younger sister Jill, and I would gather for nightly family dinners in our younger years. As we moved into adolescence, those family dinners gave way to more D.I.Y. meals, eaten either at the cushion adorned breakfast nook or in front of the TV in the living room (a late 90’s addition to this once bleak space that slowly softened and brightened its museum like austerity). The adjacent dining room, which for years was all but untouchable with its gleaming mahogany furniture and built in cabinets filled with china we never used, didn’t become truly functional until our last couple of years in the house, when my ailing grandmother came to live with us. During these years we would often have relatives stay for dinner, necessitating the spaciousness of the formal dining room, which slowly began to take on a more relaxed, lived-in quality, and it felt as though Greg, Jill, and I had come full circle, returning to the more organized harmony of the nightly family dinners we were accustomed to in our younger years. My mother has fond memories of our final years eating in the dining room, saying, “it was a very special time in our family because it brought us all together before everyone started moving on to college and adult life, and it gave Grandma great happiness in her last few years.”
Despite the dining room’s rejuvenated functionality and the fact that the once formal living room had now become the place where we spent most of our time with Grandma, the rest of the first floor still remained secondary in my introverted world to the front room, which in my high school and college years became the place where I did most of my homework, while distracting myself with the somewhat legally questionable habit of music downloading in an era when Napster and Limewire reigned supreme. Greg, who was two grades behind me, would occasionally venture into my scared space at the desk to either kick me off the computer, ask for help with his homework (i.e. beg me to write his papers for him), or borrow music from me. “I remember hearing Jeff Buckley for the first time ever on that computer when we first got Napster,” said Greg, “and it opened up the floodgates for tons of new bands that I still listen to today.” He also added, “But I usually had to stay up extra late to download all that stuff and kick Jill off AIM or you off Napster first.”
Although the music industry was experiencing some major woes during the last several years I lived in the house, with services like Napster putting a dent in record sales, I still collected records thanks to an early exposure to my father’s collection, which sparked my affinity for all things vinyl. The classic rock records and 80’s bands I listened to in my earlier years gave way to an onslaught of emo and pop punk bands that I became enamored with in high school. When I wasn’t buying the hard copies of these bands’ albums (which I stored in bookcases in my bedroom, mimicking the arrangement of the room downstairs), I was spending hours on end searching for free songs on the family computer, not stopping until I had obtained a full album’s worth of downloads or a complete, carefully curated mix CD. The hours I had spent curled up on the couch trying to craft a fantasy novel or reading the latest R.L. Stine thriller as a preteen had now given way to long stretches of time sitting on a well worn swivel chair, deeply entrenched in music-related message boards and downloading services, cursing at the hopelessly slow, unstable Windows 95-operated Dell desktop and wishing I had saved enough money to buy my own laptop instead of squandering my savings on CDs and records.
During the unfortunately frequent times when the computer was being occupied by other members of my family, or when my house became overrun with relatives, I would retreat upstairs to the comfort of my own room, whose location changed as often as the seasons, it seems. I was the only one among my siblings to occupy four different bedrooms throughout our fourteen year tenure in the house, initially switching with Greg because I ended up preferring the warm spaciousness of his carpeted, east facing, sun drenched room to my colder, more cubicle-like, shadowy lair, then years later in high school when I decided it would be way cooler to occupy the basement and have a space for my friends to hang out in now that we were all too old to use it as a playroom. Finally, right before heading off to college, I decided to be generous and swap rooms with Jill, who, without complaint, had always been relegated to the smallest, most oddly shaped room in the house, which lacked a closet and was barely big enough to fit a twin bed and a bureau. Although Jill claimed, “the room really never felt that small to me because I was pretty small for most of the years I slept there,” she admitted, “I did feel kind of grown up when I moved down the hall, like I had graduated or something.”
I spent the majority of my years in the shadowy, lair-like bedroom that would later become my sister’s, plastering the walls with a constantly shifting cast of posters that always seemed to hail Morrissey and Rivers Cuomo as the undisputed Gods of indie rock and the various collages I took pride in piecing together. It was not uncommon for the dulling parquet floors of my bedroom to become strewn with papers and magazine clippings and marred by streaks of spilled paint, much to my mother’s chagrin. “Sometimes it felt like I was fighting a battle between teaching you how to become a little neater and more organized and just letting you be creative and do what you love,” she said. While she focused on the lack of organization and cleanliness within my room as a whole, she failed to appreciate how I brought a keen sense of order to my most prized possessions, filling every possible ounce of shelf space with CDs, records, and books, all of which had to be arranged perfectly, and all of which I was constantly in the process of reorganizing. I may not have cared about tidying up the piles of laundry or trails of paper that almost always littered the floor, but I did care very much about bringing order and logic to the objects I truly valued: my music and my books. It would be sacrilege to just stick the new Joyce Carol Oates novel in the middle of a shelf full of classics, just as it would be to file the latest Weezer album in with all the classic rock records. In the chaos and confusion that often accompanied being the bookish introvert (a.k.a. Black Sheep) in an often full house of people who expressed themselves more outwardly and ebulliently, my bedroom and the books and music I curated within it were sometimes the only things that gave me a sense of order and security during my formative years.
Several years and several moves later, my brother and I have both found our way back to our parents’ house for a temporary stint. Not the home we grew up in; my parents sold that house shortly after our grandmother died. But in many ways, despite being in the twilight of our youth, some of our childhood patterns still persist. We’ll share music from our respective laptops in the reading room, which evokes a smaller version of my formerly cherished front room and houses a much more modest collection of my father’s records, CDs, and DVDs. My father laments the lack of access he has to his records these days, saying, “in some ways I miss how all those records were readily available for browsing and able to listen to at any time. But after we moved and renovated the new house, and after technology changed, they sadly kind of fell by the wayside, but I still can’t let them go.” The books and records that I’ve amassed over the years are mostly relegated to boxes in the basement, along with my father’s collection, but my newer acquisitions sit proudly upon the shelves next to my bureau, overlooking a floor strewn with debris from my latest artistic endeavors. And while the various life experiences I’ve had since adolescence have to some extent helped me come out of my reclusive shell, I will still retreat to my private little world of music, literature, and creative pursuits whenever I need some peace of mind, reenacting a ritual that was cemented more than twenty years ago in that lofty, sun drenched front room in the house on Wildwood Ave.
Confessions Of A Jaded Yoga Teacher
(Or, Why I Quit The Full-Time Yoga Game)
*Originally published in 2014
Somewhere amid the endless stream of asana selfies, the preachy social media posts about self-care, ahimsa, and various other “yogic principles,” the desperate pleas to get someone to sub one of my weekend classes when I was ill or had an important family event to attend, the hours spent in traffic, praying I’d make it to the studio on time for class, and the uncertainty of whether my next paycheck from X studio would actually cover this month’s rent, I came to realize that this career I had chosen and had relied upon as a source of stability and purpose would ultimately lead me toward burnout and frustration if I kept it going the way it was. Almost six years after I began teaching my first public class, teaching yoga full time was not only no longer paying the bills; it was also no longer fulfilling me on a personal level like it did during the first few years. When you have to teach more than 14 classes a week and put countless miles on the odometer to make ends meet, it starts to wear on you and leads you to question whether you can keep doing this at 35, 40…or, god forbid, 50.
Don’t get me wrong, I still sincerely love teaching yoga. Like any job, some days and some classes feel better than others, but I love the overall sense of spontaneity and variety that’s inherent to the job. As much as I’ve bitched and moaned about having to drive 20 miles in rush hour traffic to teach some of my weekly classes, I deeply appreciate the diverse communities of strong, interesting people that I’ve been lucky enough to meet by teaching at many different studios throughout the greater Boston area. I also appreciate the downtime that my job has given me over the years. It’s pretty awesome to be able to enjoy a leisurely lunch or coffee talk session midday with a friend, to take a yoga class at noon during the week, go for a midday run, or even better, take a midday nap, which is something I became a real pro at. These are all things that I would definitely not have the luxury to enjoy if I worked a traditional 9-5 type of job.
But with great freedom comes great responsibility. And responsibility is something I’ve always struggled with. It became challenging for me to remain consistent with my class schedule. Certain time slots and studios just didn’t work out, and I’d find myself subbing out or dropping classes, and in many cases leaving studios altogether. As yoga teachers we definitely have a responsibility to our students who show up faithfully, and this can honestly be hard to uphold when you commute 45 minutes each way into the city to teach a 90 minute class with 3 students that ends up paying you $15. Yes, we can spend our time, energy and money marketing ourselves, taking countless trainings to improve and refine our teaching, and be patient, faithful lapdogs, hoping that studio owners will notice our loyalty and reward us with more classes on the schedule, or better yet, that coveted, ever elusive “full time” status at their elite, big city studio. But frankly, I didn’t have that kind of patience, loyalty, or desire, and I realized I was never going to be that skinny, effervescent, but slightly icy, fancy fashionista prototype of a teacher that sadly seems to prevail at those elite studios at which I tried to teach. Full disclosure: I did sort of have a full time gig at an “assembly line” chain of studios for about two years and I quit before they could fire me because it didn’t feel authentic for me to teach in a formulaic way or to uphold their shiny, fluffy, new age BS agenda.
It shocks many of my non-yoga friends that the evils of the corporate world definitely still permeate the yoga world and the business of yoga; they’re just oftentimes hidden beneath a thin veneer of new agey bullshit and “yoga speak,” which I feel is worse in some ways. I wish I could find a career that’s completely free from bullshit, but alas, unless I’m missing out on some kind of miracle out there, such a job doesn’t really exist. And if I’m gonna have to ingest bullshit, I’d rather have it served to me in a no-frills, upfront manner, instead of hidden in some kind of kombucha, kale smoothie concoction in a mason jar that has the word namaste printed on it over the image of a lotus flower. Don’t tell me to “be myself and shine my light and teach from my heart” and then tear apart my class because I “talked too much” or didn’t teach the “required” number of sun salutations. And don’t talk to me about yogic principles like speaking with integrity, avoiding gossip, and being humble when you’re a studio owner who exudes the bitterness, pettiness and competition of a middle school girl with all your social media posts. Talk about not practicing what you preach. If I knew I was going to end up work with a bunch of catty, bitter women in a gossip mill of a studio I would have kept my job as a teacher’s aide at an elementary school, where at least the bullshit was served in more of a tell-it-like-it-is kind of way.
I do realize that it’s possible to move beyond the drudgery and drama that accompanies a full time schedule of studio classes by “advancing” or branching out in the field of yoga teaching, just as it is in pretty much every career path. I’ve had friends and colleagues go on to open studios, start successful teacher training and mentorship programs, or broaden their horizons to incorporate teaching practices like ayurveda. Those are all lovely, lucrative directions that I’m sure I could venture into if I had the passion or inclination, but the truth is, I just don’t. I’m not a super spiritual, philosophical person, I’m not an “anatomy geek,” a “health freak” or an entrepreneurial type. I’m more of a bookish, music and pop culture geek, writer type who was drawn to teaching yoga after a rather failed attempt at elementary school classroom teaching. I love the art of teaching, whether it’s leading an art lesson to a group of third graders, teaching a workshop to a group of after school professionals about how to bring yoga into the classroom, or teaching a group of 15-30 adults a 60 minute vinyasa yoga class at a local studio. I think I will always maintain a love of teaching no matter what the discipline or where life takes me, but I think it’s time to drop to part-time status with the vinyasa yoga after having led a group of type-A, high energy suburbanites in an overheated room through the 10,000th sun salutation of my career. Teaching warrior 1 and warrior 2 over and over again, day after day, just doesn’t have the same allure it did a few years ago.
I love deconstructing the warrior postures just as much as the next yoga teacher, and I love speaking to the benefits of the practice that extend beyond the physical postures in ways that aren’t super technical or esoteric. The practice of yoga asana has been invaluable in helping my legit ADD self to slow down and find ways to ground, calm, and be still. It has also helped my sometimes over analytical self connect to a more light hearted, carefree way of being. Perhaps most importantly, it has allowed my shy, reticent, uncertain self to find a little more human connection and confidence. But that’s about as far as it’s gone. I’ve barely even dabbled in meditation, yogic philosophy, or ayurveda, and quite frankly, I’m not finding those things to be interesting or relevant right now. I haven’t done a lot of work to market or sell myself as a yoga teacher or to carve out a niche that makes me “stand out” and gets droves of students to flock to my “sold out” classes. I don’t wear Lululemon (I don’t even like the company and can’t justify spending upwards of $100 on fancy yoga pants, but that’s a whole other article), and I don’t feel the need to cram my Instagram account with pictures of me in such fancy clothes, or worse, in my undies, doing scorpion pose and crazy contorted backbends (shapes my body can’t really assume safely at this point anyway). Those sorts of things just aren’t my cup of caffeine free organic green tea. And I prefer a strong cup of black coffee to be completely honest.
I guess my point is that I don’t really enjoy “selling” the so called yogic lifestyle, either in a superficial or a super serious way. I like teaching group classes on a part time basis, I love the feeling of taking a nice deep, slow, challenging flow class as a student, but I don’t like having to walk the walk and talk the talk in all its different ways in order to market myself as a yoga teacher. My sense of humor is often sarcastic and sophomoric, I have a penchant for the dark side (as opposed to a bunch of love, light, namastes, and flowery emoticons), and I love to indulge in a fair amount of unhealthy foods, alcoholic beverages, loud rock concerts and trashy TV. I realize those things are considered to be rather out of alignment with the yogic lifestyle, and I’m also okay with their presence in my life. For me, it’s not a “guilty pleasure” to have a glass of red wine late at night, to see a band play until 1AM, or to polish off half a bag of chips while watching back to back episodes of “Supernatural.” It’s a normal part of my everyday life that I accept. I also realize that it’s not a requirement that all “serious” yoga teachers exist on a steady diet of quinoa, kale and green smoothies, along with daily mediation, readings of hindu texts, and instagram posts of themselves in a bra and panties doing fancy handstands in their kitchen. I just realize that after years of trying to embrace a more so called modern yogic lifestyle, it just wasn’t something that was resonating with me or something that I could do with integrity. I’d rather have a slightly more 9 to 5-y type of job that actually pays the bills, teach a few classes a week as more of a hobby, and go home and enjoy my TV watching, junk food eating, wine drinking, pop culture, punk rock lifestyle in a carefree, unattached way.