On Shifting Identities

There’s something so comforting, even peaceful about not being the center of everything. Being at the center demands more, expects more, and leaves you depleted of being able to form your own identity. Your identity starts to be defined by the way others see and perceive you, or at least by what you think they see and perceive. Sometimes this feels good, usually at the beginning when you feel extra important. Maybe you have a platform to express things, share things, secret things even, and don’t feel so bound up in yourself.

Then, time happens. The lure of being important starts to fade into an obligatory gnaw that because you’re important, you must have something inspirational and profound to share. I am loved, and created by Love. That’s important, but not sexy. It’s not charismatic and loud. It’s a softer, gentler identity that comes from a much deeper place. And, I think I’ve been gravitating to that place more, and more.

When I found out late last night that I would not be teaching my final Monday yoga class, a slot I’ve had for nearly a decade, I felt like I got punched in the gut. Tears welled up. My countenance grew flat. I felt like someone or something had died. How could I just leave these people hanging? I’d promised to be there, to teach my final class and say goodbye! What will they think? They’ll be sad and disappointed!

It hit me laying in bed: I am sad and disappointed. I am struggling with letting go. I am not sure how to fill that void. My identity as yoga teacher is dying.

All last night, I felt so blank. Wrestling with the sudden change, even though I knew it was imminent, was far scarier than I’d anticipated. I went from, “I’m going back to school,” to, “I may not be able to teach the same classes,” to, “I may not be able to teach at all.” Gulp. The thought that kept replaying in my head was, “Who am I if I’m not a yoga teacher?”

I am loved, and created by Love.

Teaching yoga has given me great purpose. It’s given me community, and support, and grace, and space that I’ve desperately needed these past 10 years. As much as I’ve taught, I’ve also been taught. So, what happens when that space disappears or has to change? What happens when this thing that has made me feel important and needed suddenly floats away, as a fond memory rather than a daily reality?

I awoke this morning feeling a deep sense of peace. Love came upon me and reminded me that my worth isn’t dictated by a job, or numbers, or by whether or not I get to say something profound to my last yoga class. Of course, there will be students who miss me, but they weren’t the ones that placed me or my position on a pedestal. I did that. I felt important waking up everyday to lead a class and share my heart. I felt heard and seen. But, I also felt that my capacity to guide was being limited by my status quo.

I know my students will surely move on. As I am adjusting to a very new schedule, they, too, will adjust to a new teacher and class. They may even learn something new and amazing that I didn’t offer. I know that I will be learning many new things that remaining in what felt safe and important could no longer give me.

I don’t know that we ever really change identities. We shift and move through the peaks and valleys of life, with different people, different jobs, different situations. We may love a certain hobby during our 20’s, and then develop a new one in our 30’s. A job that gave us satisfaction, may turn into a burden. Likewise, things we never expected to want, may become the object of our deepest desires. But, through it all, I’m realizing I don’t need to make everything so damn monumental. Monuments demand great expectations. And Love only demands that you show up as you are.

The void created from not teaching (or not teaching as much) gives me the opportunity to feel less responsible to make something profound, and revel in the little bits of life that are already entirely profound. I get to be poured into, rather than trying to always fill others. Peace comes knowing that the act of teaching may cease in some way, but the Teacher is still there. She isn’t dying completely. Maybe her title will change, but her wisdom remains: I am loved, and created by Love.