If you’ve never seen it, A Christmas Story is a movie about a kid named Ralphie in the 1940’s who wants a Red Rider BB gun. The story takes us through the ups and downs as Ralphie sets his intention on getting the BB gun for Christmas. Throughout the story, Ralphie comes across many naysayers, including Santa himself, each telling him he’d shoot his eye out.
This year, as I was watching airing after airing of the movie, I began to think about how single pointed focused Ralphie was even with all the naysayers. No matter how many times he had been told what “could” happen, he came back to the point. Even in moments of distraction like the kid standing behind him in line to see Santa and the Wizard of Oz characters floating around the department store, Ralphie was always able to come back to his focus…his intention.
Eight years or so ago, I walked into a cushy job at Oxford University Press. So cushy was this job perceived to be that outsiders gladly told me that I could have this job for the rest of my life. Just a few shorts months into the job I was miserable. This wasn’t a job or environment that I wanted be in at that moment let alone for the rest of my professional career. I began looking for a new job in publishing with little or no passion for another situation within the industry. What’s that thing about insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result? Hmmm…yeah.
The job itself wasn’t particularly challenging and I could do it with my hands in namaste behind my back. The people however were a challenge. “Lifers” who had been with the institution for twenty, thirty, forty years who were always more than happy to tell me that I couldn’t change this procedure or that process because…”it’s the way we’ve always done it.” Great…more naysayers, I thought. After a couple of months of making procedural changes where I could and slashing hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses, I slipped easily into the not-for-profit world of publishing…arriving to work after nine…leaving like a shot at five to go to practice yoga.
Yoga was my salvation and while, at the time, I was practicing a style that probably wasn’t the best for me (you know the one…the one whose name shall not be mentioned out of fear of copyright infringement;) it offered me an escape. In one particular class during that period…the teacher began to talk about fears and suffering and how our practice allows us to confront our fears and suffering on the mat and then be more courageous out in the world. Yeah…pffft…I shrugged it off.
As I began to share the idea of my leaving this job, the naysayers thought it was a terrible idea. What if I couldn’t find another job? Why would I want to leave the safety of this cushy job? Was I insane? Hmmm. I always find that as I near moments of change in my life that the naysayers and Yeah But-ers, as I like to call them, become louder…reinforcing, what at times seems like, this deeply ingrained fear to try something different…to chuck it all and start over. Sometimes they’re external sources, and sometimes it is our own inner voice beginning to be swayed by the external voices. And when the voices become so loud, they begin to drown out our own intentions and focus.
I’ve long had a passion for wine. (What else would someone whose name is derived from the God of Wine have a passion for, eh?) Next to my desk sat the Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson the foremost reference book on wine. I would thumb through the tome on my lunch hours learning about wine and, I won’t lie, trying to determine what to drink next. After months of waffling back and forth about leaving my cushy job, sharing what I was thinking of doing, getting morose feedback, I tendered my resignation and knew what I was going to do.
I left the job in February and I enrolled in Sommelier Society of America and took supplemental course work at French Culinary Institute. I learned about varietals. I learned about terroir. I learned about Old and New World wines. I experienced flavor profiles. Along the way I began to meet many people who were in the midst of the same sort of change as I was. They were singly focused on learning as much as they possibly could. It was exhilarating to meet so many people who, despite the fear of the unknown and where they might end up, had begun to take steps on their own path. Toward the end of the six month program, I landed a job with an event space in Soho, The Culinary Loft, that specializes in culinary events; food and wine. I quickly stepped into planning events and while not necessarily always putting my wine education to use, I was now doing something I thoroughly enjoyed. Six years later, I have the privilege to work alongside awesome celebrity chefs, meet Royals and political figures, and in general help people enjoy and let go. Most importantly, while not without its bumps, I haven’t regretted a single moment.
Two years ago, I began making another shift. Having practiced yoga for umpteen years, I stepped into yoga teacher training. I never intended to teach yoga at the time. In fact, I was thoroughly resistant to the idea. Reflecting back it was my own little naysayer telling me a story about how I couldn’t do this. I now find myself teaching a number of studio classes and a number of privates a week. So much for my own little naysayer.
The world behind the corporate desk was very rewarding on many levels. Today, though, I have the awesome opportunity to be doing two things with my life that I love and in the process bringing happiness and joy into people’s lives. And that doesn’t suck…one bit…in fact, finding what you love to do and doing it is an exhilarating experience.
In the end, Ralphie got the BB gun. And just as with Ralphie, getting what you want, is not without its downside. There’ll be bumps and scrapes along the way. But I didn’t shoot my eye out; nor did Ralphie. I for one am happy that I moved past the naysayers, including myself, and took the step.
Sometimes the naysayers are other people. Sometimes the naysayer is ourselves. We have a choice to be paralyzed and miserable by “safety” or we can begin to make the changes and shifts that will start to set us back on our path where we find joy and happiness. Yeah, sure, you may shoot your eye out, kid…but then again, maybe you won’t.