As I write this, I’m sitting in the UC Santa Cruz dining hall, watching new students filter in and out for their first meal away at school. Living in the dorms for a second year, I have a front row seat to the energy and buzz around freshman move-in, something that feels like a blur whilst in it, but unfolds like a display from an outsider’s perspective.
Things that were likely lost on me in the excitement of moving away for the first time are now stark differences from the routine that I’ve now fallen into here: the way new students wander aimlessly around the dining hall as opposed to bee-lining for their favorite station, the way they look panicked as they try and decide who to sit with and where, the way they fumble with the IDs laced around their necks in a clumsy attempt to not lose them. Undoubtedly, I displayed all these signs of newness not-so-long ago, but in the moment I wouldn’t have been able to point out what was the status quo and what wasn’t for the life of me.
It’s interesting to me now just how quickly I adapted to life here. Moving back for a second time felt like a nearly seamless transition. Within 24 hours my room was unpacked into a near-replica of last year’s, I’d hopped on the bus to downtown to pick up some things I needed, and I’d hung out with one of my closest friends (that I hadn’t even known existed on move-in day last year), and headed to the gym. A year ago, all of these things seemed intimidating, confusing, and terrifyingly out of my routine- but today they’re parts of life that hardly require conscious thought at all.
Coming to see life this way is remarkably comforting. Before moving away last year, I was paralyzed by the fear of being thrust out of the familiar. What would I do without my yoga studio to harbor me whenever I needed support? What would I do without teaching? What would I do without my car and its ability to effortlessly transport me wherever I wanted to go on a whim? What would I do without my gym and my friends there? How would I navigate the different food, different schedule, different people? The idea of trying to shape a new life, seemingly entirely, seemed like torture of the purest kind.
But slowly, a new life unfolded and become the new comfortable for me. I found a new routine, and soon that routine felt like home just as much as my old one had. I found new friends to turn to, new sanctuaries to run to, new hobbies and ways to challenge myself outside of teaching yoga in the way I’d grown familiar with. I quickly came to realize that my greatest fear- that I’d lose my identity as a teacher after being torn away from where I’d become one- was greatly misplaced. The way I taught and shared the lessons I learned shifted and evolved, but never strayed from their intention in my heart.
This was perhaps the greatest lesson moving for the first time taught me: alignment with purpose goes with you anywhere you go. When we connect to our intention on the purest level, when we connect to the space in our hearts that desires service above all else, it doesn’t matter the circumstances we’re placed in. Opportunities for service are everywhere, no matter how in or out of routine they feel.
This, of course, came with the greater realization that my purpose is not about me. Teaching may give me an identity and a sense of self-worth that fills me up, but it is never really about that. The reason teaching makes me feel this way is how it touches people’s lives; when I see students find new revelations on their mats, when I hear that something I wrote spoke to someone in some way, when I can help guide someone towards a new path or possibility. These are the things that serve my higher purpose, and these are things that do not have to be contained within the space of a yoga class.
Understanding this helped me appreciate the seasonality and fluidity of life, something that simply didn’t occur to me before moving. I used to love the seemingly endless rigidity of life. I loved that no matter what time of year it was, I had consistency with as minimal change to my schedule as possible. I loved that I knew exactly what I would be doing every day, from morning til night, no matter the season or time of year. Things like holidays or vacations or special events only served to make me anxious as they pulled me away from my familiar: I knew what I liked and what made me feel good, why should I change that for anything?
Now I’m coming to see the beauty in allowing life to not always be or look the same. Life should not be forced into one constant form when the world is constantly (and beautifully) transitioning in so many ways. Winter, Fall, Summer, Spring….they come and go with so many swift changes that the natural world handles with nothing short of grace. How silly is it that I revel in the beauty of the trees changing with the seasons, and yet try to hold myself to a single rigid standard throughout all of them?
Life has seasons, too, and so often they’re aligned with the natural ones of the Earth. There’s times like Winter, where it’s cold and dark, for going inside- for rest and solitude and reflection. There’s the Summer, where the days are long enough and warm enough for adventure and escape. There’s the Fall and Spring, for transition and release and blossoming. How could I expect my life to look the same throughout all of this? How could I expect one form of life, one routine, one expectation to hold true against the natural way of life?
Looking at life this way has relieved me of a burden I was carrying for seemingly my entire life. I was carrying around so much sadness during times of change: sadness because I saw everything as a finality. I thought I would move away to school and in doing so abandon my identity as a Just Be teacher. I thought I would move away to school and never be welcomed back to my communities. I thought I would move away to school and have life never feel the same kind of “normal” again.
And while I’ve definitely grown and changed, I’ve now been faced with the reality that the seasons welcome us back nearly seamlessly. My Falls and Winters may have their own uniqueness to them now, but Summer still had that familiar sense of home and belonging it always did. I still spent my days at Just Be and taught and took countless classes. I still hiked in the familiar hills around my childhood home. I still cooked meals with my loved ones. The routine I’d thought was gone forever just found it’s true home in one season of my life, and that was okay.
There was so much less sadness involved in moving this time around. Sure, it’s always sad leaving family and community, but I knew it would be waiting for me in another season. In its true season. And I knew I wasn’t abandoning my only form of home, I was simply shifting into Autumn’s home, shifting into school and the friends and routine that fell into place there. Life would look different than I was used to in the moment, sure, but it was the natural ebb and flow of life guiding this transition, not some punishment of stolen routine.
Yes, school has begun. I’m welcoming back this season of life, this season of change where the trees shed their leaves of summer and I shed my routine of it. This season of becoming purely a student again, of gaining new perspectives again, like picking the leaves off the trees as they fall down around me. This season of laying my roots down in my home for the cooler months of the year, of preparing for another season of self-reflection and exploration without the expectation of having to formulate a class around it.
I’m welcoming it, embracing it. Embracing the changes in life in hopes that it will help me be at peace with the changes that happen within myself every day – both in body and spirit.