More About Me (a mini manifesto)
My violin teacher used to joke that I aged backwards. I saw Yoyo Ma play the cello when I was three and became hell-bent on picking up an instrument myself. Thinking it was a phase, my parents ignored my repeated requests until I turned three and three months, when they finally relented and let me play the violin.
I went to a private hippie school, Rivendell Elementary founded by well meaning folks who knew that kids were special. Not as a collective, but as individuals. Named after the home of the elves in the Lord of the Rings, we took classes in a church, shared lunches, and learned an individually-paced curriculum. We ran through the park sprinklers in the summer and ventured to Sky Ranch in the fall. We paired up for reading time and learned Spanish and German. Not only did we learn to write in cursive, but in italics. Rivendell is still around and has since cleaned up a bit, moved into an actual school building, and offers a catered lunch option. But these ideas coupled with the early yoga "PE" classes form the basis of my philosophy that each person is totally, fantastically special. It also explains my restlessness and constant desire to learn more. My clearest memory is from my first year at Rivendell, in pre-Kindergarten, when I was asked to help rebuild the bridge to the park that had washed out in a rain storm because I had waterproof shoes. Who asks a four year old to fix a bridge? Someone who knows that four year old can handle the job (or possibly a criminal, but I'd like to focus on the positive).
Junior high school is unkind to everyone. Since we've eliminated polio and the black plague, I suppose we need some form of horrific and unifying terror, but wow, I wish that we all moved to a Kibbutz when we were 12. Coming from my utopian elementary, I was particularly poorly suited for the cultural affront that was Boltz Junior High. There was no sharing, no fitting in, nothing individually paced, and all teachers were called by their last names. Already fluent in Spanish and German I spent my days memorizing the helping verbs and re-reading Animal Farm. I felt, as Oliver Sacks so boldly suggests, as an Anthropologist on Mars. My seventh grade geography teacher was truly exceptional and agreed to call me Lady Kwinn since I was required to call him Mr. Colburn. (While you may believe that everyone thinks their teacher was the best, Mr. Colburn was actually invited to the Oprah show a year later because he was actually the best.) From Mr. Colburn, who taught acne-riddled teens the countries of the world year in and out, I learned that you have to be excited about what you are doing, or no one has any fun.
I consider my high school experience to be much like Fight Club, in which case I've already said too much. I loved theatre and anatomy, experimenting on animals by day and stage managing or improv-comedy-ing by night. Two important lessons here: I know what it is like to kill a chicken (both slowly by injecting it with testosterone and quickly by breaking it's neck) and I know what it is like to be the "straight man" in comedy for a long time. I was not funny.
On a family trip we happened to drive by Colorado College at which point I involuntarily cried out, "This is where I'm going to college!" much to the chagrin of my parents, who hoped I would attend a Catholic school in the midwest. I believe the spirit took me on that day solely as a mechanism for survival. In high school I took class every period (including lunch and 9th hour after school). I loved art, music, dance, choir, theatre, and AP classes, and I was completely unable to say no to anything. Case in point: my triple major of anthropology, neuroscience, and pre-med came crashing down on the 4th of July when I synthesized green caffeine and broke more than $300 worth of glassware in the same day. The block plan changed the way I studied and probably kept me alive. It was my first true experience of failure, as well as the place in my life I revisit most often in my dreams wishing to shake myself and tell me that learning a year of organic chemistry in seven weeks is illogical, impossible, and definitely criminal.
Once I graduated from college I realized that I was off of the education train, unemployed, eating my weight in Hershey's miniatures, and a total abject failure in life. I was not a doctor; I was singlehandedly keeping my parents' couch from launching into orbit. Thinking I might become a nurse, I researched nursing programs and stumbled upon a master's of nonprofit management program instead. It took just as long but didn't require putting needles in other people, something I learned I didn't like whilst injecting chickens with testosterone years earlier. I floated along to California where I worked during the day, studied for my master's at night, and secretly studied yoga in my spare time. Alternating between work-a-maniac and couch-weight is a pastime more common than I would have thought.
I returned to Colorado and worked at several dissimilar jobs, most of them concurrently. My soon-to-be (and now ex, isn't life grand?) husband deployed to Iraq for his Year in the Desert and I experienced my first Year of the Kari (self aggrandizing elf that I am). I finished my master's degree and was confronted (by my husband to be) with the following question:
"Well, if you're not happy, then what DO you want to do with YOUR LIFE?"
I vomited the answer as quickly as I had when I first saw CC years earlier.
(But I still didn't do it)
I wanted to stage manage, teach yoga, and write. Instead, I spent my days traveling around the country trying to recruit other people to come to CC. Fabulous in so many ways (like it kept me busy 80 hours out of the week), except that it was neither teaching yoga nor writing. At first heart-sick, then head-sick, then body-sick, I felt my inner and outer worlds collapsing. I felt betrayed by a lover who had saved my life so many years before and it was a long, slow breakup.
So I scaled back. I drew serious lines in the sand about morning wake up calls, mandatory vacation, and soul-fulfilling work. And the most surprising things happened.
1. I found myself at a prenatal yoga teacher training and knew by the instant relief that it was my Next Right Thing.
2. I worked hard, but didn't feel overworked because the things I knew I had been missing came together and opportunities sprouted out of thin air.
3. I had the scariest health crisis of my life and knew that my body was showing me the last straw on overwork.
So now I teach yoga, and I write. To me, yoga is what happens between the poses. It is a mistake, gently transformed into something sacred. I feed my addiction for learning by listening closely to each interaction. I spend time in the thick silence of vacant spots on my calendar. I read. I practice. I breathe.