Whoa. What a year it has been.
I moved countries, bought a business, sold a business, and 14 months later, I have now returned home.
It has easily been the most interesting, intense, and eye-opening year I’ve ever had.
For two and a half years, I day dreamt, prayed, envisioned, and planned my move to Mexico. I wanted to teach yoga full time and be my own boss. I imagined being immersed in a yoga community, teaching classes, and hosting retreats. I imagined the kind of home I’d like to live in and how it would feel. I was excited to have daily access to an ocean, sunshine, and fresh food all year around.
And you know what happened? All of it happened. All of it. I was the owner of yoga studio. I was hosting retreats, and teaching classes and workshops. I lived in my dream house; there was lots of light, glass doors, and I could see the ocean. I was able to surf during sunrise before work. And I was even able to go to work with salty hair and in my post-surf towel-poncho (yes, it’s a thing and it’s awesome) and that was normal.
Sounds pretty good, right?
Before I continue and sound like an ungrateful asshole, I’m not. I know how lucky I was to have had all of this at my fingertips. I know how lucky I am that I have the freedom to choose where I live, what I do, and how I do it.
This intense year was woven with some major life lessons. These lessons caused me to pause, reevaluate everything, and pivot.
1. We’ll never know what fits until we try it on.
We’ll never know what fits and how it affects us until we try it on. This goes for everything, from relationships and locations, to lifestyles and careers. There are a lot of things we think we want or think we’d like to do, but then we actually try it and realize it’s not a match. Plain and simple.
Things I thought I wanted and thought would genuinely enhance my life…didn’t. Those things were being my own boss, having daily access to the ocean, living in a warm climate, and working in the yoga industry full time.
It’s not that I thought these things were more important than my core values, but it turns out these “important additions” don’t matter to me at all. Living in Mexico and working in the yoga industry full time wasn’t a fit. It didn’t suit me (for a lot of reasons).
2. Having a passion be your full time gig isn’t always the right choice.
My passion for yoga crashed and burned pretty quickly when my entire life revolved around it. I love yoga, I really do. I practice daily and it’s some of the best self-care out there. But turning a passion into your sole stream of income isn’t always a good idea. It, like, really kills the magic of it, man.
The amount of creativity, passion, and curiosity I had for it when it was my side gig was tenfold to what it was when it was my main revenue stream. Prior to this year, I did it simply for the joy of it and how alive and connected it made me feel. And of course there is no job out there that we’ll love doing 100 percent of the time, but I think it’s important to have things in our lives we do purely for that reason—for joy, to feel more alive, with no strings attached.
Do I love the practice of yoga and meditation? Yes, very much so. It’s damn good medicine and I can’t imagine my life without it.
Do I still want to teach yoga? Yes, eventually. I’m currently taking a much needed break to just practice and listen.
Do I want to spend the enormous amount of time it takes to have a financially supported career solely in that industry? No, I do not.
Deep love and admiration for a practice does not necessarily translate into a passion for the industry it is contained within. And that’s okay, too.
3. Being your own boss is not all it’s cracked up to be.
Being your own boss does not necessarily equate to more freedom. I won’t get into the challenges of being a business owner and living in a foreign country, as that’s an entirely separate conversation on its own.
What I will say to the many people who have reached out about being their own boss and living in paradise for the purpose of more freedom is: I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that will most likely not be the case.
Being in charge of hiring, firing, staff, marketing, finances, legalities, and all the little fires that arise in a client-centered business is not exactly a recipe for freedom. I know—that’s what teams are for. But let’s be real. I know very few people who can hire a full team to distribute the workload for a small business right off the bat. People who are their own boss work more hours than any other people I know. (Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s good to be aware of when we choose our lifestyles and careers so that they are grounded in reality and not fantasy.)
To be your own boss when your primary motivation is to not have to check in with a higher up or for more freedom isn’t a smart or sustainable, in my opinion. If you’re not extremely committed and want to make a difference in the industry that you’re in, you’ll be on your way to burnout in no time. I’m speaking from experience.
Being my own boss was not satisfying or motivating for me for two main reasons:
- I could not care less about who’s in charge or if I’m the boss. The daily work we do is way more important than who’s in charge.
- I’m not as passionate about the yoga industry as I thought I was.
It’s not that the industry of yoga is a bad place or that I think there’s anything wrong with making money through yoga. It also wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the business side of things or putting the blood, sweat, tears, and hours into it. What I realized is that I just don’t care enough about the industry for it to be my entire career and sole focus of my life’s work. (For the people who advised me to not worry about the industry and finances and just focus on my teaching…I simply disagree and think that’s naive.)
If my next step eventually leads me to being a business owner as a byproduct of opportunities, great. It will be welcomed with open arms, more experience, and discernment. But it is no longer an end goal.
3. The time, energy, and amount of care we can give is limited.
To quote Mark Manson:
“We all have a limited number of f*cks to give; pay attention to where and who you give them to.”
As I learned what I don’t really care about this year, it fortunately became crystal clear what it is that I do care about.
Health care. That’s right, health care. Six years ago, my own heath crisis was the catalyst that sent me into the vast world of health and wellness. It led me to particular schools, places, programs, and certifications. As well, it opened me up to the worlds of kinesiology, nutrition, yoga, mental health, and a variety of health modalities and practitioners.
Preventative health and health care is what I have genuinely cared about consistently for years. In the shortest of explanations: I give a lot of f*cks about health care. From access, to policy, to education, to patient care.
I care about how debilitating life can be when we don’t have it. I care about how small lifestyle changes have huge impacts. I care about understanding health and disease in more depth. I care about educating others. I care about research. I care about being involved in health care, global health, and health care access. I want to contribute to it and be a force for change.
“Developing the ability to control and manage the f*cks you give is the essence of strength and integrity. We must craft and hone our lack of f*ckery over the course of years and decades. Like a fine wine, our f*cks must age into a fine vintage, only uncorked and given on the most special f*cking occasions.” ~ Mark Manson
Our time is limited. Our energy is limited. Our attention is very limited. I think getting crystal clear on our values, what we care about, and what we are willing to spend our precious time and energy on in this life is one of the most important keys to living a soul satisfying life. Forget talks about blindly following our bliss. I think a better focus is asking ourselves questions such as: What are you willing to sacrifice your time for? What do you care about so deeply that it gets you out of bed and makes you want to do something about it? What do you want to learn more about and get involved with? We can’t do it all, so where do we want to make an impact? What kind of legacy do we want to live and leave behind?
It was time to pause, re-group, and pivot.
I decided to sell the studio, leave Los Cabos, and pursue something that I’ve been consistently interested in and into which I am more than willing to put in the blood, sweat, tears, and hours: naturopathic medicine.
Meeting a naturopathic doctor years ago completely changed my life in the best way possible. Once my health drastically improved, I knew that someday, I wanted to study naturopathic medicine. If I could assist one person in the way my doctor did for me…well, I can’t imagine anything more soul-satisfying.
I’m so thrilled that someday has arrived. I’ve been accepted into the four-year naturopathic medical program at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto. I’ve been drooling over the curriculum for years and I am—beyond words—excited to pursue a career as a naturopathic doctor.
Happiness isn’t in a location, career, or person.
Joy doesn’t only exist outside the nine to five. Or on a beach. Or within being your own boss. I think sometimes we just forget how happiness is found in the most utterly ordinary things.
I’m so thankful this year helped me narrow down and specify what’s important, and clarified that all the other stuff is just an extra bonus. For me, the important stuff is doing meaningful work that I’m proud of and enhancing others’ lives. It’s having face-to-face conversations with my loved ones, in person. It’s being surrounded by people who love and support me. It’s having access to the communities I want to be a part of. It’s savouring the moment. It’s making time to drop in, lean in, and just listen. I can make my home anywhere when my core values are taken care of. There’s no perfect place, job, or situation.
It’s about finding what fits, and that’s just trial and error.
In this information age and social media society where we can get too caught up in how life looks or comes off to others, I think we sometimes forget the most sacred and meaningful part of our lives is right here, right now. It’s during the sunrise or catching up with a friend over coffee. It’s being there to celebrate others’ accomplishments. It’s reading a book by the fire. It’s watching a movie with your sister and her pup.
Everything we do and create is temporary anyway, so cultivating a sense of joy in the simplest and most ordinary things grants us invaluable access to more joy, more peace, and more life satisfaction.
So, here’s to quitting a job and moving to paradise.
Here’s to leaving paradise and returning home.
Here’s to taking chances and leaning into uncertainty.
Here’s to honouring our values, knowing when to say yes, and when it’s time to say no.
Here’s to this fascinating, unexpected, and wild ride. And here’s to all the people we get to experience it with.
Author: Alexa Torontow
Image: Author’s Own
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron
Social Editor: Nicole Cameron