career / expat / health / learning / transitions

Have you ever needed a lifestyle change?

Have you ever woken up one morning and thought, “Geez, how the hell did I ever end up here?”

I had a plethora of those moments. I was in a staff meeting when this realization came to me. Staff meetings were early (8am on a Monday). The meetings would start off with humor. I’m sorry there is nothing funny to me about staff meetings at 8am on a Monday.

“So, since Cinco de Mayo is coming up,  I figured this would be the perfect joke. How many Mexicans does it take to change a light bulb? Actually it’s just JUAN. Hahahahahaha!”

I looked at everyone laughing at the table. Everyone was smiling and having a good laugh. I was unsure if it was nervous laughing. You know that kind that people do when you fake laugh because the people who sign your paycheck are in the room. Or maybe it was a real belly laugh because it’s funny to make fun of people with Hispanic names. But, I was seething. I was angry and I thought, “Dear God! Why the hell am I here? And aren’t racial jokes in a meeting at the workplace a civil rights violation?”

I recounted this story to some friends of mine and a lot of them just shrugged their shoulders and told me to relax because I take things too personally. At that moment, my intuition was screaming, “How the hell did you end up here, Nicole? We need to go. You’re a brown girl with a Spanish last name. You’re a target. ” I had people close to me say, “Suck it up. That’s life. At least you have a job. The joke is actually really funny.”

For some reason, I couldn’t just shake it off. I really didn’t belong there. I was living a fast-paced lifestyle when my personal well-being needed a slow-paced lifestyle. I was launching a small business while working a day job as an event planner. I wasn’t really sure what ARTYOGAPLAY would look like, but I just knew one thing. I had to get out of there and I needed to make a new space for a new life. I can’t be in an environment that felt like my own personal and spiritual prison. I was trying to transition out of event planning while teaching yoga and art in the evenings and weekends. Honestly, I felt very scattered and frustrated.

So, how do you enact change in your lifestyle?

As a recovering achievement junkie, this is actually really hard for me to do. I hate quitting things. It makes me feel like I am a failure. I will over-try, over-work, and over-obsess about my work because I want to succeed. And, I just knew I couldn’t live my best life possible if I continued showing up to cubicle land. I had to create the lifestyle and the work I wanted. Becoming an entrepreneur is not an easy process for me either, but I had to just take the leap and try.

1. Be grateful.
While I was slowly building ARTYOGAPLAY and working in cubicle land, I talked to someone who made the transition from the corporate grind to the entrepreneur life. This person gave me some very good advice, “Be grateful for everything you learned in these jobs. Just give thanks. And, get the hell out of there.” I reflected on the things I learned. How to keep billable hours. How to track expenses on a monthly basis. How to be efficient with the two assets that most businesses care about: time and money. I also learned that you don’t even have to be the smartest or hardest worker. There are people in cubicle town right now who waste their time watching buzzfeed and gossip all day and they never seem to get fired.

2. Be honest about your personality and the kind of environment you want to work in.
I learned a lot about myself. When I was undergoing treatment for my depression, anxiety, and PTSD about six years ago, I was pretty much forced to do this.

I must continuously reflect on what works and doesn’t work in my life. I have the journals to prove it. There are so many resources out there. You can work with a psychiatrist and go to therapy. I went to a therapy program specified for women who were addicted to success and achievement. To uncover my creative self, I have also read and worked through Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” six times. I even did an art therapy program on how to deal with my emotions in a visual art journal.

I am an introverted and sensitive person with a lot of ambition and tenacity. I also take my time when I am doing a new project and if needed, I will hustle to meet a deadline. I like working with small groups of people preferably maybe 2-3 people. I actually enjoy having long meaningful conversations with interesting people who travel and read books. I can’t stand office small talk. There were so many times the only significant thing a female colleague would ask me was where I bought my pants or where I got my haircut.

I enjoy working with creative people who are hard working and are open to new ideas and progressive ways of viewing the world. I don’t find racist jokes funny in the workplace and I find the 8am staff meeting aka “dog and pony show” one of the most antiquated and unauthentic ways to highlight what is going on in a company. I think meetings should only have 2-3 people and they should only last for 20 minutes with an agenda and important topics and or actions that need to be discussed. Life is too short to be wasting away your time and resources to be doing things that make you unfulfilled.

3. Be real when it comes to what your contribution to the world is going to look like.
My work has to be meaningful and beautiful. I need to know that when I grind it out late at night or early in the morning that my work is solving a social problem or inspiring others to expect more out of their lives.

Who are the people I am helping? Is it so young kids learn about nutrition and have access to a good education? Is it so an inner-city school kid can get dressed up and watch a professional orchestra perform for the very first time? Is it so my yoga student can learn how to breathe slowly and manage their anxiety in a practical way? Will my students learn how to uncover ways to be creative in a fast-paced hectic world? Can my students practice being mindful while they are going through a difficult time in their personal life? I have to be doing work that I am proud of and I have to work with people who want to make significant changes in their lives through real action.

If you don’t remember what that truly is, try to remember what you did as a child or when you were in college. Think about the things you did when you didn’t have to worry about other people and long before you had to face the corporate grind.

Life is so short. And life changes all the time. Each day, we have to make choices to enhance the quality of our lives. Don’t stay stuck. Discover how you can lead a better version of your life because you are worth having a beautiful and magical life.

One thought on “Have you ever needed a lifestyle change?

  1. I recently learned from one of the people on my hiring committee for my current job that when he called my last boss for a reference check that my former boss talked more about himself than me. My current colleague said to me he thought, “oh, now I know why she wants to leave.” My current boss is great – she talks about how to make folks successful and to give them stuff to do so that they are successful if they’re not fully performing at the time. I still work in cubicle land but don’t resent it. As long as I know I’m contributing to a team (sometimes successful meetings take more than 3 people and 20 minutes in my work), I don’t mind. I don’t think, however, I’ll ever be able to escape gossipers, though. They’re everywhere.


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