In today’s episode, we look back at the beginning of Nicole’s 30s when she hit rock bottom with her career and identity. At the time, Nicole’s self-worth was directly tied to her journalism career but as job security in journalism was threatened and old trauma started creeping back in, she found herself at a crossroads in her career. Tune in to hear the significant moment when she realized she was causing her own misery, and how that realization gave her the spark of hope to take the leap of faith she needed. Learn the biggest, bravest choice Nicole made that led her to a job where she could fully be her authentic self.
“I just decided to follow that I was going in the direction of valuing myself.”
“Every piece of our story is important — every piece of transition, of challenge and change that feels terrifying.”
“If you’re someone who’s listening here and you can relate, you can relate to that place where you might be feeling really challenged and not aligned…
“That was the first time in my life I realized how deeply I was creating my own suffering…. I was the reason I was crying all day long. I was the reason why I felt like such a victim of my circumstances.”
“I realized that I was actually the one who was making myself miserable – that I had tied my own identity and my stories about my own life so deeply to my work, that I couldn’t detach that from myself.”
“Things happen when you start to release all the stress, the identity, and the feeling that your self-worth is tied into…you start to follow what your intuition is laying out in front of you, and you start to get surprised by what can happen.
“I learned in that yoga teacher training that the most important thing when you’re starting to follow your pathway of purpose is to start to follow things that want you to be who you are, fully.”
“At the time, I really felt like yoga was pulling me in, but looking back, what was calling me forward was a job where my job was to be myself. My job was to be authentic. My job was to be fully and wholly, powerful Nicole – in all realms.”
“This transition for myself was the biggest, bravest thing I had ever done, and the most challenging, in terms of my self-worth because I had to now detach myself from my job being my worth and my value.”
So I’m back, and you know I originally titled this episode, “Things I wish I knew in my thirties”, and I will say that my 30s were a time of seismic change – and as I was reflecting upon all the learnings and all the changes I had during that era, I felt like I would be just doing myself and all of you, a disservice, to call it that.
So really what I’m sharing first, are the things I wish I knew before I quit journalism – because in the first half of my thirties, I made some pretty big changes. So I’m going to get into it in today’s episode.
We get to go back in time today, to Nicole, and I am remembering that moment where I had my thirtieth birthday party with a lot of my friends at one of my favorite cocktail bars in Seattle. During that era and that time, if you had gone back and told that girl all the things that would happen before she turned 40, she would not have believed you and she may have pieced out. She might have said, “No thank you, I do not want to be part of that”, or she probably would have been like, “Wow that’s way more than I ever expected”. I think that is the truth for any of us, whenever you have one of those big decade birthdays, and when you look back, life has changed so much more than you ever expected or ever could have anticipated, and that’s actually one of the things I love about those big shifts in those big eras when looking back.
My thirties were such an era of change that I could not have predicted. And really, I would say my biggest growth for myself and my self-worth came during this era, and the lessons that I learned during that time continue to resonate for me today, in my 40s.
Back when I was 30, I was starting to feel like my life and my self-worth being tied into my job, was a pretty raw deal. I didn’t realize that was exactly what was going on at the time, but I knew that things were not right – I felt like things were pretty rough. I had entered my thirties feeling really good. I had a boyfriend who I was really into, I had a job that I actually really liked, I had moved out of home and garden and covering the lamps – and I was now covering features full time and I was getting to write about relationships. I interviewed one of my superstar authors, Jhumpa Lahiri. I was getting to do really amazing projects. This was also the time when the recession hit in 2008, and newspapers were feeling the brunt of this, and we started to hear rumors of layoffs.
So layer in me, loving my job, getting to go to yoga 3 to 4 days a week. Feeling really happy in my life, with this rumbling that we might get laid off or things were really going to change after the recession hit. And the newspaper did go into layoffs. I was senior enough that I didn’t lose my job, but I did know people who had gotten laid off.
And I was starting to feel pretty nervous for myself because management was starting to make some changes, and then they did. What they did is they looked around at all of the people who had jobs they felt weren’t as essential, and they decided to move some of us – in my case, because I had such a rich news background – they decided to move me back out to hard news. The exact opposite thing that I had wanted in my life, and they gave me some options, they said, “Nicole, you could cover the state legislature. Go to Olympia, which is a hundred miles away, Monday to Friday every week, and cover the state legislature” – which was a very prestigious job – it was simply not a job I really wanted. “Or you could cover the suburbs.” I chose the suburbs. I did not want to commute that much to take out the things that made me happy, like yoga and my friends, to cover something on politics which I wasn’t really interested in at that point, anymore. So they moved us around. And this is the first time I was starting to feel a stirring of like it might be time to leave newspapers. I was now having to work night shifts again, and I was starting to have to cover cops. All of my experiences around trauma and death in my twenties were starting to come back, and I so I thought this is not possible for me – I really do not feel like I can do this. I started to look around, and during this time I was feeling very stressed out because my self-worth was so deeply tied into my job. My identity was so enmeshed with journalism.
I literally thought I was going to spend the next thirty years of my life as a journalist, and I was now in a position where I was considering no longer being a journalist. I didn’t really know how to deal with this and it was really, really challenging for me. I had no guidance. I had no mentorship. I had no support from people who had done it before, so during this time I was feeling really stressed out. I was looking around and found a job that felt like it might be possible, I might have the skill sets. It was to write about food for the local food co-op. And so I applied for the job and I got myself all really excited about it. I felt like, “Well, this is actually going to be the perfect fit for me; and one of my closest work friends also applied for that job. It turns out we were the 2 finalists for that job! And ultimately, she got it.
Nowadays, I thank God that I did not receive that job because it really was a turning point for me at the time. That was probably rock bottom for me. I did not know how to deal with my life. I did not know what was next, but I knew I couldn’t cover the suburbs forever. And I really was ready to go. During that time I actually started to pay attention to, “Okay, what do I really enjoy, what do I really like to do?” The only answer I had at that time was that I really liked yoga. It was the only place where I felt connected to myself.
Sometimes I would cry there over the stress I was feeling from work, then I would come out feeling better. It was the place where I felt happy. It’s the place where I wanted to go pretty much all the time, and I didn’t really have any other place in my life that felt so safe, as my yoga practice.
During that time I had been practicing pretty steadily for a few years, and one of my yoga teachers had suggested to me that I go to yoga teacher training. And I thought in my head, “I really don’t want to be a yoga teacher, being a yoga teacher seems crazy. I hear they don’t make any money. That just doesn’t seem like something I want to do. I don’t really want to stand up in front of a room, I’m a journalist”. But there was something in me. And this is the first time I really started to heed what it felt like to follow my intuition. And my intuition said that I should just go for it – that I should just figure it out and go to this yoga teacher training in Mexico. Somehow I got the gumption up to apply for it. I signed up for it and I paid for it, and I said, “Okay, here I go!”
When I went there, it was the first time in my life that I realized how deeply I was creating my own suffering. It was the first time I really started to see and understand that I was the person who was making myself pretty miserable. I was the reason I was crying all day long. I was the reason why I felt like such a victim of my circumstances. I promise you, going into that training I really thought it was my editors, my fellow reporters, and the journalism industry that were making me miserable. And after that experience, I realized that I was actually the one who was making myself miserable – that I had tied my own identity and my stories about my own life so deeply to my work, that I couldn’t detach that from myself.
So once I came back from that, I thought well, I still don’t know if I really wanted to be a yoga teacher. I didn’t actually feel like I knew what the next step was out of journalism. I will say though, that I came back to work with hope – and when I had that hope, and that spark of hope was in there, I decided to follow it. I decided to follow the little pebbles that were being laid out in front of me. At the time I came back, there was a new yoga studio that was being built 3 blocks away. One of the teachers I had practiced with for many years, was opening the studio. So literally within the first week of getting back from that yoga teacher training, I decided to follow the pebble that said, “Go down to that yoga studio and knock on their door and see if they are actually still looking for teachers”.
Looking back now, I realize how naive I was. Usually, studios are bringing in established teachers, people that they know. Known quantities. But there was something in me that felt a little bit bold, and so I went there, and I knocked. And the teacher who was there was doing the buildout, so it was a big mess in there, but he said, “Oh hey Nicole, sure, email our other co-owner and we’ll see if we can get you in” – and so I did.
They put me in as a sub and actually created a space for a new teacher spot. Essentially a new slot on the schedule, where I could teach. And within two or three months of that yoga teacher training, I was now consistently teaching at this brand-new studio. These are the things that happen when you start to release all the stress and all the identity and the feeling that your self-worth is tied into – all the things that you’re wrapped up into and around your job, or what your value is – and when you start to release it and you start to follow what your intuition is laying out in front of you, you start to get surprised by what can happen.
After that, I started to teach 4 classes x week, while also working at the newspaper. Those 4 classes were so intense. The first time I ever taught a class was by far one of the scariest moments I ever had. I was teaching the 06:00 am class on a Monday, and when I showed up there, I was shaking in the teacher area, and I thought, “Oh my gosh Nicole, are you really going to stand up in front of a bunch of people and tell them how to do yoga poses. Are you sure that you know how to do this?” And yet there was still something in me that said, “This is where you need to go. This is what you need to do”, and by then I was starting to listen to that little voice. I was starting to understand that it was saying important things to me and that when I ignored it, I was ignoring something that I would really regret later.
And so I did it. I went in shaking and sweating into this class. I taught that class, and I continue to teach more and more classes all the time – because the biggest thing I learned in that yoga teacher training, and what I still teach to people to this day, is that the most important thing when you’re starting to follow your pathway of purpose is to start to follow things that want you to be who you are, fully. I’ll say this again in another way. What I learned in teacher training was that I was creating my own suffering. And then I also learned that I was hiding. I learned that I was not really showing up as my full authentic self and that I was afraid to show up as my full authentic self. Not only in work but in many areas of my life. Until that point in my life, I was the type of person who kept a really tight-knit little circle. I didn’t really share myself very openly. I wasn’t very vulnerable about the challenges I had in my life. My dearest friends knew everything, and then nobody else knew anything. But when you are teaching, and you are standing up in front of the room, sharing authentically and vulnerably, who you are – it is the most powerful thing that you can give people. It’s not actually about the poses. It’s about who you are and who you are being in front of the room, and this idea to me was really groundbreaking.
I didn’t understand until that time in my life, how much I had been hiding behind walls. How much I was hiding myself from the world. And now I was here, in this practice, where I would stand up in front of twenty or thirty people at a time, and really have to learn to be vulnerable – to be myself – to share from a place of where I was challenged. Where I was growing and being myself, fully. The more I started to teach and started to understand that I had to really own my self-worth, and my own power to teach well, that I started to get into the space of wanting to do this all the time. And all that time, I thought it was yoga. You know at the time, I really felt like yoga was pulling me in, but looking back, what was calling me forward was a job, where my job was to be myself. My job was to be authentic. My job was to be fully and wholly, powerful Nicole – in all realms. And the more I had this dichotomy of work, where I didn’t feel like I could be myself, and this job as a yoga teacher where I felt like I could be – the pull to become a yoga teacher really grew strong, and I started to listen to it more. I went to another yoga teacher training, and I was feeling that pull and finally made that decision that I was going to leave the newspaper and teach yoga full-time.
I remember that moment where I went into my editor’s office. I was still covering the east side at that time, the suburbs, and I went into her, and I said, “I’m here to give two weeks’ notice”. And she just had this look on her face like, “Oh my God…”, like they knew it could potentially be coming. They didn’t really realize I was going to do it, and that many people in the newsroom said I was the very first person who had ever left the newsroom to be a yoga teacher. And I was really proud of myself because I knew it was right. Although let me be clear, it was also one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. I was leaving behind my health care, I was leaving behind my 401K, I was leaving behind a steady paycheck. In the world of yoga, you’re not paid high wages at all, you’re really on your own. You’re an independent contractor. But I had accumulated enough classes and enough studios to make it work. I had saved a lot of money, and I said, “All right Nicole, this is worth it. It is worth you taking this risk to see what’s next”.
I took that leap, and when I left the newspaper, I was 33. I really took myself onto a whole new journey of being a yoga teacher, full-time, for many years. And it is at this part of the story, where I really want to pause. I would say that this transition for myself was the biggest, bravest thing I had ever done, and the most challenging, in terms of my self-worth, because I had to now detach myself from my job being my worth and my value.
I was now starting to follow a calling. I’m starting to follow my purpose and feeling really clear that that really was my purpose, and then also not knowing where it was going to take me because I didn’t have a clear direction. All I was going to do was teach yoga. I didn’t have aspirations to open a studio. I didn’t even really know how I was going to make the whole thing work. I just decided to actually follow that I was going in the direction of valuing myself, and by doing so, that is actually what led me to so many other pieces of writing my own books, getting married, and becoming a coach.
But this transition was a really key point. If there is someone listening here, who can relate to that place where you might be in a job where you’re feeling really challenged, and not aligned with what’s going on there. And you know it’s not working for you, and yet you know there’s still some other calling that’s out there…. I hope you can also see that I didn’t just very dramatically quit my job and leave. I allowed myself a lot of space and time to sort through this, to start to really test it to see if this is the right next step for me. I didn’t do anything from a reactive place. I was really clear when I did it. And that’s not to say I wasn’t terrified, because I was actually absolutely terrified the whole time! But that transition was really thought out and I was very intentional throughout the whole piece.
When I was really clear, and I was, “Oh my gosh…”. There was no holding me back. There was no way I wasn’t going to do it. I just had to find that right time, and I promise you all – me leaving that paper opened up the doors for some of the biggest and best changes in my life, that were really necessary to get me to the next stage. And one of the things I hope to get you to by hearing my own story is that every piece of our story is important, every piece of transition, challenge, and change that feel so terrifying. Because when I tell you these things, I can tap back into the feeling I had in my editor’s office when I was giving notice. I can tap back into that moment where I was teaching my very first yoga class and I was so, so scared. And I look back on that Nicole, who was freaking out, with such gratitude because she learned so much in those moments about how to be bold for herself, about how to own who she was, and to really own that each part of her journey was really important.
So if this is resonating for you, and you’re feeling like that transition has happened for you, or you’re curious about that kind of transition, or you’re really just wanting to know what it feels like when you start to follow your pathway to purpose – when you start to follow the pebbles and you’re really starting to follow your intuitive place, DM me on Instagram and let me know. I’d really love to hear because I truly think sometimes with these stories, we feel really alone, and I see this a lot for high-achieving women – where they feel alone in the choices that they’re wanting to make. I really want everyone to feel connected and clear that none of us are ever alone in this journey, on this pathway, and that there’s so much still ahead.
Share your thoughts with me. Thank you so much for being part of the story, and we will get into other pieces of the story, next in the series.