Like many women in their early 30’s, I spent my time chasing a corporate career, determined to ‘be somebody’. At the recommendation of a friend and in desperation to find balance, I tried practicing yoga. It changed my life. After learning the basics, my confidence grew and I signed up for a 40-day yoga challenge that involves 90 minutes of daily practice, with breath and meditation. That experience opened my mind and heart and had me questioning beliefs and customs I’d grown up with. I had a clear head and an open heart; it felt like a renewal of my soul. At the end of the program, my teacher held a potluck and encouraged us to bring vegetarian food. Vegetarian? I’d grown up with beef and bacon as friends, what did eating meat have to do with yoga? I asked around and learned many yogis choose to not eat meat, supporting the idea that one should live their yoga, including non-violence, or ahimsa, as it’s referred to in Sanskrit.
I wanted to learn more, so I read a lot and researched. I watched a documentary on YouTube called, ‘Earthlings’ that illustrates the way humans use animals in our lives. I buckled in tears watching it, watching animals suffer. I felt responsible. I felt greedy. I felt misinformed and I felt an overwhelming sense of compassion towards all life. What I thought was just a phase of removing meat from my diet has resulted in 5 years of a meat -and cruelty-free, diet.
Around the same time, I bought a home. I had gorgeous mature maple trees in my backyard, they must have been close to 90 years old. I woke one morning to find one of these majestic giants lying on top of my house, ripped from its roots. As the crew cut the broken limbs away from my house, it bled red sap. I felt this overwhelming sense of compassion. I saw that this tree, which looked so strong on the outside, was in fact, hollow on the inside. It was a metaphor for how I was living my life and presenting myself to others. I was humbled. I cried for that tree. It must have been dying for several years but I hadn’t noticed – or hadn’t looked close enough. In that moment, I felt interconnected.
I remember reading the book, “The Legacy of Luna” by Julia Butterfly Hill. Julia is a woman who climbed a 1000-year-old California redwood tree out of passion for the environment, to save the forest from clear-cutting. She writes about the tree and her relationship with it. She stayed in that tree for two years. Two years! Inspired, I asked myself: what do I care about so much that I would sit in a tree for two years? What was my tree?
I recall learning about the forest and mining industries while growing up, but nothing came to mind with regard to education around the environment or its impacts. I’m not sure the majority really cared back then – or rather, we didn’t realize the damage our lifestyles would cause to impact our world. Like many in my generation and those before mine, I was part of a throw-away culture. I didn’t care in large part because I had no reason to care. Landfills were where you sent stuff to die, after all – and while many of the coffee cups lying in the heap may have been mine – up until a few years ago, I hadn’t ever given it much thought.
A few years ago I lost a friend to cancer. A friend who had planted over 2 million trees in his life! His life inspired me. I knew I wanted to make changes – to live a life of community and contribution. A seed had been planted, so to speak.
I’ve since left my corporate job and its high-paying salary, moved to another city, and taken a job in a non-profit environmental organization. I work with an amazing group of people who mentor me and others in living a greener life by walking gently on our earth. I’ve heard the saying, “Your vibe attracts your tribe.” Through this job, I’ve learned to garden and to compost. I am more connected with nature. I bike to work and brush my fingertips on the trees as I pedal past. I’m engaged in community. Good vibes.
All of these small steps combined to change me. It wasn’t an all-or-nothing transition. I have loads to learn, but I’m engaged and I recognize and respect the interdependency of life beyond my own. My goal to “be somebody” has changed, and I’m grateful for its shift. I aspire to inspire others.