By Sara DiVello published
I was 31, the head of PR for a $750 billion financial services company, and I was making a six-figure salary. Then I gave it all up to teach yoga and write. It was as simple and terrifying as that.
For nearly 10 years, I slogged through brain-numbing, red-tape-filled, dismal days in an industry devoted to nothing more than the altar of making money. Because of this, I ended up leaving my financially lucrative, comfortable career because I felt like my soul was being eroded.
Beyond soul-erosion (which is obviously hard to measure), the fundamental problem was that I worked a high-stress job in a morally bereft industry, and I traveled constantly. I was exhausted. This sucked time away from my family, friends, and fiancé, who also traveled a lot for work. At one point, we kept our suitcases by the door, which was was easier than repeatedly dragging them out of storage in our tiny city apartment.
Because of the stress, I turned to yoga for solace. I'd run to class after work, late and stressed, jittery from too much coffee, and harried from another frantic day of putting out fires. Then I'd focus, breathe, and unwind for an hour-and-a-half, floating out calm and rejuvenated.
A wise voice inside of me said that I wasn't doing what I should be doing. But I was too busy to listen. I had a career—and I told myself that was enough.
For a long time it kind of was. I'd grown up poor, living in hand-me-downs, constantly worrying about money. I was the first one in my family to go to college and I worked my way through. I majored in more-likely-to-get-a-job print communications, instead of my-heart-yearns-to-write-books English. I didn't have the luxury of book-writing dreams. I had student-loan reality.
What I learned is that the problem with tying yourself to what you think you "have" to do instead of what your heart yearns to do is that a chasm grows between the two. Decades can disappear into that chasm, while the inauthenticity of living a life that you know you shouldn't be living chips away until you're worn down to an unrecognizable fragment of yourself.
I hit a low point at a branding summit, which took place high in the Colorado mountains. Dizzy from the altitude and exhausted from back-to-back day-long sessions followed by late, wine-soaked business dinners, I woke up in the middle of the night with no idea where I was—literally or figuratively.
I desperately wanted to be back in my little apartment, snuggling with my fiancé. But I was 2,000 miles away on a mountain, and he was in London, also on business. Between our schedules and the time difference, we hadn't spoken in days. I'd told myself we were a power couple, but at that point, it barely felt like we were a couple at all. Something had to change.
I continued seeking solace in yoga. Back home, I enrolled in yoga teacher-training as a way to deepen my practice and seek greater solace. I had no intention of actually teaching—I hadn't busted my butt working my way through college to do work that didn't require a degree. I told myself that I had to stay in my career.
Meanwhile, the financial industry was rollicking on unsteady tracks. The cutthroat culture intensified. When my new, less-experienced-than-me boss unceremoniously announced at a company-wide meeting that she'd taken over a major initiative I'd been leading successfully for months without so much as a heads-up, it was the last straw. I gave my notice.
So I decided to take the summer off, teach yoga, regroup, and then, I thought, go back to my high-powered, PR career. By this time, I was married, and my husband enthusiastically endorsed my plan. But my childhood-born fears about money gnawed at me when I thought of quitting my job. I reassured myself I could supplement teaching with consulting work. I was determined to pull my own weight.
My first morning home, I roamed aimlessly around the apartment, feeling lost, alone, and untethered. Trying to stay calm, I busied myself searching for teaching opportunities.
I arrived to teach my first class—armed with 12 pages of notes. I was so nervous my teeth chattered. That hadn't happened when I gave presentations at work, striding to the podium in a suit, high heels, and a face covered in makeup. But now there were no high heels or a podium. I couldn't hide under a suit or makeup. It was just me, barefoot, bare-faced, in yoga clothes...terrified, and, perhaps for the first time, authentic.
At my lead, a class of stressed people breathed, focused, and unwound…floating out calm and rejuvenated. It felt exhilarating to be part of that—a link in the yoga lineage, helping others.
Summer passed, and I kept teaching. I never went back to work. Then I wrote a book about finding what you want to do, as told through my zig-zag journey. Now I teach nationally on using yoga as a tool to find balance, direction, and fulfillment. Every day isn't perfect. But there's a deep-seated contentedness when you're doing what you're meant to do, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.
Want to ditch the 9-to-5 too? Catch Oxygen's new show Quit Your Day Job on Fridays at 7/6c. Keep an eye out for Marie Claire executive editor Lea Goldman as she advises women on how to be their own bosses.
Follow Marie Claire on Instagram for the latest celeb news, pretty pics, funny stuff, and an insider POV.
Sara DiVello is an acclaimed yoga teacher and author of the best-selling book, Where in the OM Am I? One Woman’s Journey from the Corporate World to the Yoga Mat, NIEA winner for Best Memoir, selected by Shape Magazine as a best book, and chosen by Working Mother Magazine as one of the top eight memoirs of the year. Sara teaches and speaks nationally on using yoga tools to find life balance, direction, and fulfillment. She has appeared on CBS and the Huffington Post Live, as well as in Forbes, USA Today, Boston Magazine and more. Sara’s classes are welcoming, nourishing, and transformational—offering students of all levels the possibility to step back, breathe deeply, and profoundly experience wellness, balance, and calm. Sara was also selected as one of seven Athleta Brand Ambassadors in the country, and provides free health and wellness events to the Boston community.
The Queen Will Spend Her Reign's 70th Anniversary at a Sandringham Cottage for This Heartbreaking Reason
It’s a tribute to both her late father and her late husband.
By Marie Claire Editors
Prince William Is No Longer “Reluctant” to Become King, Says Expert
The idea of taking the throne used to weigh on him, but he’s “accepted” his role now.
By Marie Claire Editors
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's Wedding Day Chemistry Gave “Goosebumps” to a Reporter Covering It
"It's really clear they were deeply in love with each other."
By Marie Claire Editors
Power Players Build on Success
"The New Normal" left some brands stronger than ever. We asked then what lies ahead.
By Maria Ricapito
Don't Stress! You Can Get in Good Shape Money-wise
Yes, maybe you eat paleo and have mastered crow pose, but do you practice financial wellness?
By Sallie Krawcheck
The Book Club Revolution
Lots of women are voracious readers. Other women are capitalizing on that.
By Lily Herman
The Future of Women and Work
The pandemic has completely upended how we do our jobs. This is Marie Claire's guide to navigating your career in a COVID-19 world.
By Megan DiTrolio
Black-Owned Coworking Spaces Are Providing a Safe Haven for POC
For people of color, many of whom prefer to WFH, inclusive coworking spaces don't just offer a place to work—they cultivate community.
By Megan DiTrolio
Where Did All My Work Friends Go?
The pandemic has forced our work friendships to evolve. Will they ever be the same?
By Rachel Epstein
Your (Not So Official) Guide to Returning to the Office
Allow us to help you you figure out work attire, meetings, and how to get through a conversation with that guy from marketing without letting on that you forgot his name (I want to say it’s...“Rod”? “Rob?” “Rorb?” It’ll come to me eventually.)
By Gabrielle Moss
What Travel Exec Ruzwana Bashir Wears to Work
The founder and CEO of experiences booking website Peek.com has the chic casual look on lock.
By Megan DiTrolio