Blessings in Disguise: From Day Job to Purpose

image from ®GreenBiz

image from ®GreenBiz

"What is needed is an anti-career — a throwing off of the shackles of obligation, approval and mindless activity in order to enter deeply into the dynamics of co-creation. To make your work sacred is to believe in what you do, to do a good job as its own reward, and to feel proud not by comparing it to the work of others, but by feeling good inside, filled with integrity, neither fatigued nor drained of energy."
—Rick Jarow, 'Creating the Work You Love'


I've always been an artist who NEVER liked certain conventional ideals including the word 'career'. That word, thrown around by co-workers seemed best for the stroking egos and the puffing of chests that people to do in order to stake their position, or to establish an importance or worth in comparison to others. I just never had that connection to work via title. For me, it has always been about what I got to do for the day. I had to do something that had an element of fun and identity I suppose, but not position. Identity in the way that what I did all day at work, in some form had to resemble something I might actually do on my own time. By definition, 'career' —"an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person's life and with opportunities for progress", to me, depends on what your personal belief of what progress actually is. Rather than climbing ladders, I believe that the concept of saturation feels more accurate, so that outside of the practical, my 'jobs' would ideally support me and MY LIFE internally.

Before falling like Alice down into the rabbit hole of the yoga industry, I worked as a graphic designer, for roughly nineteen years. My initial decision towards graphic design was purely a practical one. As a young visual artist, who loved to make things, but never had much love for typography, it still seemed like a reasonable idea to land a job where I could learn to create my own art exhibition cards rather than eventually being at the mercy of someone else. Miraculously, a position at a greeting card company in Hoboken fell onto my path that provided computer training. It felt like a valid investment in my artistic future, so I took it. After a couple years there, I moved on to a Manhattan design firm with more creative opportunity, that specialized in entertainment design. There rather than raises, I was inspired by the schedule of my then musician husband to negotiate shorter work weeks. I started at five days per week, then dropped from five to four days, then from four days to three. The extra time was to benefit me, my art practice, and to live out a philosophy towards a quality of life to which I subscribed. 

My permanent three day per week schedule provided lots of time to be me and creative on my own time. In spite of my earning half the salaries that my full-time co-workers were making, my four days spent free from my cubicle, were without a doubt —priceless. My job was not my life or who I was, but instead merely a means for me to support myself and my creative life. With less time at the office, I immediately noticed that I was requiring less sick, or mental-health days. Catching less colds and having less stress made perfect sense and felt relevant to me. Then, also having read, 'Creating the Work You Love' by Rick Jarow, I began to trust my instincts that hinted towards alternate ways of looking at 'work'. I was clear and invested in my world and the balance of art making, exhibiting, selling artwork and the support of that with a permanent part-time position complete with health care and benefits. It was a good hustle for a long time. The health benefits I had then happened by accident. I would not have ever known to be forward enough to propose that as a concept. To keep me available, my boss had proposed this arrangement which allowed me a freelancer’s lifestyle, without my having to constantly hustle up work. I knew this was rare.

Like many offices, my job environment had its own issues with politics, mis-management and typical dysfunction, however in the middle of that, I had a sweet set up with in my semi-creative employment situation that was quite okay when things were good. In sixteen years, I learned valuable skills and many lessons concerning my abilities and strengths in efficiency, trouble shooting, organization, planning, managing and working with people. I also made a few lifelong friends and peers that are now considered family. For the most part, being able to be creative took the edge of off of the office politics. I found that my ability to play and experiment with extravagant designs, whether chosen or not by our clients looked good in the mix of presentations. In this, I was able to create a fun distraction and purpose for myself within an environment that was in many ways confining. And that was key.

Anticipating the needs of our clients and creating more strategic, yet simply designed and innovative invitations and mock ups that appealed to my own sense of play, was an attempt to maintain personal interest and it went a long way towards my own entertainment and the vitality of my participation— LOL! For it has been through the experience of my five-year-old self that I continue to feel that all things are better when you can entertain yourself — as much as possible. No matter what's happening, any fun you can muster is important. It makes things light and allows time to fly. With this attitude, I soon realized that I had been strengthening my value to my co-workers for the time being. This was an interesting surprise that filled my pockets with more purpose. I became less interested in the company overall. My focus fell on my co-workers, art directors and supervisors. While I had no interest in being promoted to their positions, what occurred to me was that my tasks in support of them would be a worthwhile experience for me. With that ideal, and better use of my time and efforts, my 'career' began to transition towards a genuine support of others in their efforts. I soon began to work towards making their days a bit easier and with that, the job that to me had felt quite limited, began to open up. Or, maybe it was I who had begun to open?

While remaining true to myself and my interests, then focusing in the spirit of service and helping others, my time at that particular job became more bearable, less burdened, and in my mind more valuable and more interesting. By adamantly prioritizing time for myself—art making, reading and yoga classes, eventually my interest in art therapy was rekindled. Having dropped out of that graduate program many years before, I was inspired to return to it through a certificate in the Creative Arts Therapies. While completing the requirements for that certificate, I combined an art project with breath work for my final project with the adolescents suffering severe mood disorders and mental illness, with whom I worked. The discoveries from that thesis prompted me towards competing a yoga teacher training soon after. Enamored by a deeper understanding of the human condition and purpose in general, I was blessed with the unexpected downsizing and lay off from that graphics job! As I look back in hind sight, though I was not entirely aware back then, but that was a paramount and revolutionary transition. I had learned what I could while at that job and it was time for me to move on. That event thoroughly challenged the valuable skills that I had achieved as well as the level of trust that I had yet to strengthen. My life began to progress in ways that I could not have imagined. It was and still is often scary, but my work ethic and sensibility required a new environment and construct in which to be me... and with that, I began to teach yoga.


Teri Gandy-Richardson