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January 19, 2019

Connecting the Dots (Part 3): How I Went from Being a San Francisco CFO to an Athens Yoga Instructor

1.2 to 1.3 A Death in the Family (June 2008)

This is part of a series called Connecting the Dots: How I Went from Being a San Francisco CFO to an Athens Yoga Instructor. The series begins here.  If you missed it, the last installment is here.


June of 2008 is the month my father died at the age of 66. My father was a good man who lived a fairly straightforward life. He had a single job his entire career, working as a test engineer for Lockheed Space and Missiles (now Lockheed Martin).  He married his first girlfriend, my mother, in his 20s, and after their divorce when he was 55, he never had another relationship. He had strong ethics, high integrity, and he was an extremely stable person. He was also, unfortunately, an alcoholic, and this disease took a huge toll on his health.


After his death, my younger brother and I went to empty out his house. Going through his home was a window into his inner world, and in many ways, it was a depressing exercise. He had so many unfinished projects, so many unrealized dreams, so many small, heartfelt attempts to change his situation. We found letters, bank statements, printed emails, his notebook where he recorded events of the day. And we could trace the threads to where he began to give up on life.  By the end, he was resigned and ready to die.


I think it was Joan Didion, the American author who wrote “The Year of Magical Thinking” who said “Death changes your phone book.” She’s right. It does. My father’s death was complicated and messy, and in the end, I stopped talking to most of my family for several years. For me, that was the healthiest response, and those years gave me perspective and a chance to sort things out on my own.


This whole situation left me reflecting a lot about my life. I was living comfortably in San Francisco working as a freelance finance consultant. My job was lucrative enough, but it didn’t energize me. And my life was comfortable, but it was predictable. I started thinking of having more free time. I had no clear goal-just a sense that it would be nice to work less. And so, a few months after the death of my father, I decided to scale back my work schedule, and I went from working five days a week to four.


When I connect the dots back, it all fits together. My father’s death made me reflect. I couldn’t have articulated it clearly at the time, but it was like I had been sleep walking, and I started to wake up. The security of working five days a week had become less interesting. And I wasn’t talking to my family so I didn’t feel I needed anyone’s permission to work less.


When I went from working five days a week to four, at first it was disorienting. I didn’t know what to do during my free day. But I adapted, and I spent the extra time figuring out what I really enjoyed doing. I would hang out in the park, meet friends for lunch, create art projects, read, surf, waste time, relax, all types of things. This space to explore was important for the next step in my transition. It became one of my dots. Upon reflection, I think it is probably critical for anyone who wants to change their path. There has to be space for creativity and new ideas to come forward.


With more free time, I eventually decided I wanted to sharpen a skill. I went back and forth between getting a certification in the Enneagram, a system of personality typing I had been casually studying for years or doing Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training. In the end, I decided on Kundalini Yoga, and in October of 2008, I went to my first day of training.


Next: 1.3 to 1.4: 40 Days and 40 Nights of the Cleanse (Feb 2009)

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