I grew up in a tiny town in Georgia with no neighbors, no noise, and no knowledge of anything outside of that little bubble. It was clear that my life was not going to stay that way; I went on my first trip out of the country to be a foreign exchange student in Mexico when I was 15. After my first experience with a completely new culture, I had a strong thirst for more. In college, I went to Egypt for two and a half weeks and loved every second of it. I got to visit a mosque during prayer service, cruise up the Nile River for three days, and touch ancient hieroglyphics. After all of these experiences, that little bubble in the south was never going to be enough for me. I had seen first hand just how big and diverse the world was, and I knew there was much more out there to be discovered.
While earning my degree in English education, my best friend–who you Pure Up, Buttercup readers know very well, Whitney–had moved to Oahu, Hawaii. I was lucky enough to go and visit her twice while she was there. The second that I stepped out of the Honolulu airport for the first time, I just knew I had to live there. So, in May of 2012, I graduated from the university, and in June, after sticking around to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers at a music festival, my brother and I moved to Hawaii. I became a high school teacher for three years before realizing that my teaching skills and personality are better suited teaching yoga.
Five years have flown by, and so much has changed. I left for Hawaii with a desperation to renounce everything that I had ever known and completely start over. I cut ties with everyone I knew with the exception of my family and a few very close, very true friends. I packed my life up into two suitcases and fled in search of the slow pace and salty taste of the island life. It was the biggest decision that I had ever made, and yet it didn’t really feel like a decision at all. It felt like going home.
I welcomed change and growth as I dove into a completely new and fascinating culture. Both came quickly, and soon when I would return to the mainland to visit, I found myself in a bit of culture shock witnessing the constant flow of life. Did anyone take time to just be? Did anyone sit with herself and listen within? I never planned on moving back. I never even wanted to visit. I went a full two years without returning to see my family.
I had changed. And change was good. I met the most diverse people who taught me what it means to be compassionate. I learned to practice yoga and meditate. It was like waking up, like I had been sleep-walking my entire life. Now I knew that I could actively participate in my life rather than just having things happen to me. I learned the power of my choices, right down to what mindset I wanted to have each day and how I interacted with others. I learned that I always have choices, which can be both empowering and daunting because of the responsibility it places on the self.
Spending five years in Hawaii was the greatest honor of my life thus far. She gave me so many gifts; an amazing partner to spend my life with in a wonderful man named Travis, one of my best friends who brought yoga into my life, and a higher vibration of consciousness are just a few of those. I also spent a month learning to teach yoga, which was honestly the most exciting and incredible month of my life. I met so many wonderful people who were instrumental in teaching me what it means to truly live my yoga. Now, my career is fulfilling because my students are so receptive and eager to learn, which is rarely found in a high school student. I spend my days helping others find peace of mind, release from tension, and knowledge of their own existing strength. If these gifts are all that come of my time in Hawaii, I can consider it time well spent.
Oddly, and to my great unexpectation, deciding to leave Hawaii was just as easy as deciding to move there in the first place. It started with a seed planted in my mind over a year ago, and came to fruition a few months ago in December. Suddenly, Travis and I just knew it was time, and everything in our lives started to align with that knowing. My yoga business came to a screeching halt after we moved to a new house with no internet in November of 2016, my favorite dog and most loyal friend got sick and died in the matter of one week, and suddenly the place that had felt like home for so long was the loneliest place I had ever been. But when I start to rationalize why an “I would never…” turned into a no-brainer, I see that nothing in life is permanent, and why would we want it to be? That would be equivalent to yearning for stagnation.
So I’ve landed back in Georgia with a pocket of the best memories of my life coupled with some of the biggest struggles I’ve ever known that combined to make me this better version of myself. The most delicious part of life is our ability to evolve, learn, and grow. What else would be the purpose of all of these experiences? I am currently living in Georgia in the same house where I grew up while I wait for Travis to be able to join me here on the mainland in July. I am teaching private yoga sessions, as well as restarting my live online yoga classes, which are currently available to all through Google hangouts. I think I’ve finally learned the lesson, “never say never,” and I’m okay with that. At the end of the day, all we can really do is listen to the callings in our hearts and souls, even if the mind disagrees or continually feeds us doubt. Here’s to new experiences, even in the most familiar of places.