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Finding Christina Helene

I quit my job. I quit my city. I quit my current life. I quit to live out my dream.

We each have one great passion in life. Some are lucky enough to have that passion also be their career, the passion that brings home the bacon! For me, I thought for a long time my passion was dance. It seemed like it should have been. Everyone in the arts is so damn passionate. Don’t get me wrong, I still to this day love dance and adore movement. But something about dance also made me very sad. Was it the two dimensional world of staring at myself in the mirror critically every day? Possibly. I found more enjoyment in movement exercises like yoga or gaga, where the focus is more on sensation and three dimensions. Honestly, though, I think I had a hard time being inside all day. I couldn’t conceive of a life where I spent the entire day in a box. A four walled room with a mirror – it reminded me of a child’s science project.

So what did I do to avoid this box life? I went through various jobs, doing what I could while I had unavoidable medical surgeries every six months that didn’t allow for me to do anything but the occasional odd job, or not work at all. On the other side of the worst of those surgeries, I found a position in a yoga studio in Los Angeles, YogaWorks. The city of angels, where most go to find fame, I moved for love of a boy. I really enjoyed the multi-dimensional aspect of working in the yoga studio. Here I could be paid to be active, talk to people and work on the computer. I loved jumping up to clean the studio floor after a sweaty popular class of 90 students and I loved it just the same after a Kundalini class of just five. I loved managing the egos of LA yogis as they fashionably waited to get into class. I loved making connections with students from literally all walks of life, all backgrounds, all cultures. I loved managing my small team of staff. We were a family. We were happily working hard to make ends meet in the studio and out.

I loved that job until the day I was laid off. Instead of moving on, I took a lower position in the company to hold out for a position in the corporate office I’d had my eye on for some time. I didn’t have to wait long. A month later I was out of the studio and into the corporate yoga world. If you have to go into the corporate world, I would say this is the best way to go. Everyone was friendly, everyone brought their dog to work with them, and many of us did yoga everyday. One minute plank challenges on the hour, every hour, were a must to keep our eyes from melting into our screens. Everyone brought healthy food with them for lunch or bought over priced, more expensive than airport food for lunch from trendy locations on Main St. Santa Monica. No one smoked cigarettes. If a cigarette was smelled from outside, the whole office was sent into fits. This is what it is like working in the yoga world.

All in all, this was a dream job, in a wonderful environment. One I look back on fondly. When I first moved back to corporate, I loved having my own desk and a space I could keep my coffee cup every day. But the hours upon hours I spent sitting at a desk staring at a computer screen began to weigh down on me, tearing at my soul. This is not what I was supposed to be doing once my medical issues were fixed. Yes, I had health insurance and a full time job – that was something hard to find in economic times where companies were not hiring full time or hiring at all. Many of my friends worked two or three jobs just to stay afloat, paying into Obamacare for their insurance. I was able to pay rent and put away about $500/ month into savings.

I worked hard. I didn’t play much. I didn’t eat out. I didn’t take PTO or any vacations. I was saving. What was I saving for? At the time I thought I was saving for graduate school. My choice to save and not spend my savings or use my PTO burned me out. I learned a very important lesson in these years. Taking mini vacations and travels to other countries is very important to keep the spirit alive. I was sinking in quicksand of hard work. Over work. I would work for hours off the clock, thinking this hard work will pay off! Someone will notice, and this company with no upward movement will notice and a door will open for me! I unnecessarily came home every night and took hours to unwind, thinking about work and problems I wanted to solve. Everyday, my unhappiness grew inside me, like a tumor, deep deep within.

One day, a close friend came to visit from her graduate schooling in Virginia. This friend was one of my closest roommates in college and she knew me better than most people, even my boyfriend at the time. We took a long walk to a bar (quite the feat in Los Angeles) and talked all the way up to the bar and through our pint. She asked me what would make me happy. What do I want in life? I told her I was working toward graduate school, and I’ll be fine. She said “stop making excuses. What do you really want?” I don’t know why I thought what I really wanted was so hard to admit. “You don’t go to grad school unless you really know what you want to go for. Grad school is hard. It’s not under-grad – full of play and discovery. It’s hard work. Don’t go unless you really know what you’re going for. Now, what do you really want?”

She knew me back in college. I had a scholarship to dance in New York City, and then an apartment set up for me in Buenos Aries to teach English after that summer. Everything came to a crashing halt the day of my accident. As I spent the next few years in a blinding depression, I lost sight of possibility, hope and courage. I lost my sense of drive and confidence that anything is possible.

“I want to travel” I said, confidently. “I want to leave for a year. I want to take the trip that was taken from me.” My friend nodded, all knowing, as if waiting for me to finally come to this conclusion on my own.

Life throws us curve-balls. That was a hard lesson to learn, one I badly needed, being someone who was always able to overcome her curve-balls quite swiftly and without anything but a few scratches on the surface. My accident was a deep, dark gash that reset the clock. I fell off the side of the cliff for a few years too many, and now I had a choice. Sink or swim on into the unknown. I choose the unknown.

No longer set out for Argentina, I chose New Zealand. Why? I never wanted to travel to an English speaking country. But, being in the twilight of my twenties, it was now or never to get the holiday work visa for either New Zealand or Australia. My love for the outdoors and hiking pulled me to New Zealand – the land of the long white cloud. I had no idea if I would stay in New Zealand the full year I was allotted, or have the courage to venture off into greater worlds of the unknown. All I knew was I had to quit my job. I had to pack up my adorable one bedroom apartment. I had to say good-bye to the love of my life (my slinky kitty I named Whiskey), and I had to say good-bye to my boyfriend. I have the world to see. I have a passion to be fueled or fulfilled. I have experiences to live and a history to write.

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