I recently joined a program called the A-List Blogging Club and Bootcamps started by Leo Babauta, the uber successful blogger and now published author. One of the key things they stress is “What’s your story?” and how to relate that on the “About” page of your blog. That’s what people really want to know—why should I read your blog, buy your stuff, or whatever. So that, combined with today’s intuitive reading, I did for myself, has prompted this piece. The reading said: you have knowledge that can help others through teaching, writing or speaking and that that is your mission. Most importantly, it stressed that sharing in this way would help other and myself to heal. At that point, finishing the reading for myself, I got choked up as I felt emotion arising. So here’s my story:
I had been a professor. As the child of immigrant parents, who had less than a high school education, becoming an educator was a big deal. Finally, in my 40s, I was able to buy a car for the first time. I was able to say my profession with pride, knowing that the average person had a respect for a “professor.” Artist and yoga teacher, which I “was” before, did not have the same prestige for most.
I left the job as a professor, after six years of soul grinding, loss of self, autonomy and joy. It was painful staying and leaving. I had no plan but to just dive into the unknown with a deep sense of trust. While still employed, I went to a yoga retreat at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. The teacher, Sofia Diaz, a highly intuitive, free-spirited yogini, placed me and a few women into a group she called the “rebirthers”. We were going into a “second blossoming, a renaissance” she said, as we sat in a small huddle, surrounded by the larger circle of women. Our perplexed but pleased smiles to each other in the group said it all—somewhere inside, we already knew that.
I left that retreat clear on the fact that in a few weeks I must announce that I would not seek tenure. I felt clear and empowered in my decision. Friends, well meaning, and family, and even the administration said, “No don’t do it, don’t just quit.” They encouraged me to do the tenure process and then see. Feeling confused again, I did as they urged, got tenure and left. In the terrible economy of 2008, I packed up my little Hyundai to the brim. A dear friend, an army brat who had moved many times as a child, had to come and repack the car as I couldn’t fit anymore in, she did it and managed to close the doors.
Driving slowly into the woods of Massachusetts, on the gorgeous winding Route 2, the Mohawk Trail, I could see nothing but belongings in the rear view mirror. I arrived at my hill-town and hid out.
At that point, I was “homeless”. Now don’t get me wrong, I never was sleeping over the warm subway grate on the sidewalk. I managed to avoid that. Looking back, I realize my own resilience and can see the humor.
I pulled into the long, rocky driveway, arrived at the little cabin on top of a hill, just outside of the small New England hill-town. Through the woods, on one side, there was a large open field with barn like structures. It was the town fairground. Next to that stood the cemetery. Behind me, an apparently uninhabited house, and across the street, muddy woods. I was to live in the Witch’s House for the next few months. I’m not being rude; she called herself a witch and she was. In her 50s or 60s, she had thick wavy, silvery hair and wore long skirts and floaty dresses. She looked like you would expect if you had any awareness of New England witches! She had a twinkle in her eye.
The skid into homelessness was avoided by moving into her wind driven, handy man built house. It stood on piers, the cheapest and most expeditious method; it was the first house he ever built back in the 60s. A hand held 3 inches off the house’s wooden floor, would be chilled by the draft streaming in. Five or six inches off the ground, the air became pretty toasty thanks to the belly round black wood stove with the “nipples”, as the Witch called them.
I had found this house by what you would call serendipity but I know it was “guidance”; you see, I know we have this “sense” and can develop it. It’s our own inner knowing—intuition. Often, I would feel a physical pull to do something, go somewhere that led to—viola!—just what I needed. Some of the things that happened to me were so convoluted they go beyond the realm of chance.
I had given up my lease in the park-like apartment complex I lived in when I was a professor. It expired at the end of August, perfect for me not to return for a school year. I had been officially declared to be suffering from “depression and anxiety” and given a medical leave. Not knowing where I was headed when I didn’t renew the lease, no new job, I knew I needed to be far away from where I was.
I had already scouted out the area I loved in the hills of Western Mass.; my nearest friends were 1 hour or so south. I felt physically called to this region. For years before finally leaving, I had dreamed of moving there. Fantasies of a simpler life called to me. I literally took out all the books in the library system that had to do with cabins and small homes. I would sit and just drink in the images of rustic cabins.
I had been desperate to leave the unhealthy situation at work. Looking at an image of what could have been the interior of pioneer cabin, I thought, “I don’t mind if I don’t have electricity, or plumbing. That would be fine.” That’s how desperate this city girl got. Be really careful what you wish for.
So finding the Witch’s House was all intuition. Having no savings but the sick leave payments to look forward to, I made a call. There was one yoga studio in a little central town in the area. I called the owner and asked her, sight unseen, did she need a vinyasa yoga teacher. “Yes in fact, it’s funny one of my teachers is leaving, and she teaches vinyasa style. I am looking for a teacher.” Whoa ok. “Well I really don’t have a place to live,” I said, which was the primary reason I called. My hunch was that the yoga teacher would be able to help. She invited me to come and visit her for a few days, and she also wanted another roommate! It would prove to be not far away enough for me, living in close quarters with two others. I asked her if she know of anyone who needed someone to house sit their place, that they would be away and wanted it cared for. She paused, “No, I really don’t know anyone… Oh wait, there is one woman whose often looking for someone to stay at her place. It’s way out in the woods I think.” “Perfect,” I said.
How the next eventful few months transpired is for another chapter of the story. Your takeaway is “don’t panic” when you may be losing a job and or your housing. If you are trusting, flexible, and have a huge amount of resilience, you can survive and, in fact, learn a lot about yourself. Most likely you will unearth strengths that you were completely unaware of. They will become active tools that you can use—’cause now you own them! One of my discovered strengths is that I am a survivor. Ask anyone who knows me; I was notoriously anti-physical activity (aside from my vigorous yoga, which I love.) More of a reading, park strolling, meditating kind of gal, I’d say. Well I ended up taking a real life Pioneer Woman 101 course (ok it was only seven days of hell, call it an intensive).
Kala Viv Williams, left a blistering, tenured career in academia. She eventually returned to her original loves and now blogs here. A graduate of the “Mindfulness Yoga & Meditation Training” program at Spirit Rock, she is a certified yoga teacher, educator, and intuitive mentor with 17 years of experience. She is currently working on a book about her experiences tentatively titled “Meditations on Unemployment,” or “The Zen of Unemployment”—vote on best title choice please! This article is an excerpt. Find her on Twitter or Facebook.