My Journey, Pt. 3: Aligning (aka when I discovered yoga and moved to LA)
Here's the thing: once you start to get into alignment with your path, thing start to happen that would blow your mind. Once I made the commitment to God that I would TRY for a better life without fear of failure, it all started to happen.
I soon made the decision to go BACK to beauty school to get my Cosmetology license. Which was slightly crazy. I couldn't explain it, but I felt a calling SO strongly that this was the right move. I knew exactly where I needed to go, without a doubt. I had no idea what I'd do afterward but I knew that I knew that I knew. So I signed up for another school, another student loan, and quit my job to have a schedule that works.
It felt like a "last chance" kind of move. By taking the leap, doors opened up for me. I gave the same commitment to school as I did to the weight loss. I showed up with my game face on and found out that I was pretty dang good at doing hair, making clients feel beautiful, and being a leader amongst my peers. I made friendships here that I will forever treasure. We laughed, we complained, we powered through, and we did some rad hair. Everyone there was going through their own struggles, and we were all there for each other. As I continued to transform over the year-ish that I was in school, I was supported by my fellow students and amazing staff that had me feeling like such a rockstar.
Nearing time for graduation more doors began to open for me. I still didn't know where I was supposed to be with this Cosmetology endeavor, but I could feel that something big was brewing. I started to see signs everywhere, angel signs if you're into that... numbers and other significant things literally everywhere I looked. I knew that I was being guided and that I would be taken care of. Opportunities that some people only dream of were knocking; particularly one in New York and one in LA.
Around this time was when I first discovered yoga. I had joined a local gym where I basically hung out (walking) on the treadmill on occasion, since the weight started pouring off and I finally was motivated enough to step foot into a gym. I signed up for a yoga class one day out of the blue. The teacher was a tiny little white-haired lady who seemed to be a life-long devotee. Though I felt we had nothing in common, she was sweet and a little mysterious, and I liked that I could actually DO the class. I had been to some way-over-my-head Body Pump classes that were utterly embarrassing, especially working out next to all the Barbie's in Dallas, TX! So I went back to yoga a few times and then began to explore other options, which led me to a heated power yoga class that almost killed me! I will never forget walking in to the steamy room for the first time; scared to death and still the largest person in the room by far, I snuck to the back corner where I thought no one would see me and rolled out my mat. I could hardly breathe at first, but somehow powered through the 60 minutes. I loved that in yoga class it was encouraged to take breaks, listen to your body, go at your own pace. No one was going to yell at me for not keeping up, or call me out, so I felt safe. I left the studio that first day in a shaking puddle of sweat, literally like I'd jumped in a pool, and went home hooked. This was it!! It was my sport!! After all these years, I had found something that I could actually get behind.
I went back again and again, feeling my body get stronger every time. Beginning to nail some poses I didn't think I would ever get in to. Experiencing how incredible it felt to lay in savasana after pushing myself past my own limits, and letting my brain release so much. If I missed a day, I could definitely feel it both mentally and physically. It was in that same sweaty room that I heard the voice of God more clearly than I ever had before.
As the time to make decision about NY or LA came closer, I was under so much anxiety. I was thrilled to have both options, but it would be a major life-changing moment either way. I was down for the challenge but couldn't see how it would possibly happen, logistically. Honestly, I was leaning towards the NY opportunity heavily since I had a realistic place to live with a friend-of-a-friend kind of thing, temporarily at least. I had never even been to California, nor had I any desire. But I couldn't shake it, and the job recruiting me was very persistent. I began to pray harder and harder for clarity, and one day it came. I was in a blissful savasana when I saw a vision of myself so clearly it was shocking... I was sitting peacefully meditating by a body of water... with palm trees everywhere. California. The image is still so clear to this day. The "me" that I saw did not look like the "me" in the mirror... I only saw myself from the back, but I was tall and thin... with long, blonde hair. Never in my life had I had long hair. But I knew that the girl in the vision was me, and I knew that I knew that I knew that California was in my future. On top of the vision, I heard the words, "Don't worry about anything. You're going to have everything you ever wanted."
I rushed out of class wiping tears and made it to my little red Mini Cooper shaking, a total wreck, just literally bursting with emotion of what had just happened. I made it home and began to share the news, that I was going to move to Los Angeles! This news had mixed reviews... but I knew that I was going. I didn't even feel I had a choice after the experience I'd just had. I somehow managed to pack up my Mini with as many comforts as I could and began my very first (one-way) trip to California.
I followed what I thought was going to be a dream come true. Never having stepped foot in California before, I arrived completely enamored and way to ecstatic to admit how truly terrified a part of me was like never before. I had the peace beyond understanding that we've all heard about, at least 90% of the time... the other 10 percent I felt like I was going to vom or something worse. I proudly checked into a hotel and did a little sight seeing and a lot of apartment hunting on my first weekend in LA (Pasadena to be exact) while I waited to report to my new job on Monday! They had agreed to provide me with a corporate apartment for a month until I found a suitable place to live, which shouldn't be hard to do on a microscopic budget in LA, not knowing any hope of a roommate.... HA! My dream move very rapidly turned into a nightmare on a scale that this small-town girl had never imagined.
I reported for work as planned on Monday morning, which turned out to be located at the makeshift "corporate headquarters" in the owners' condo. "Is this the right address? I'm probably doing something wrong..." I thought as I drove myself into the heart of a deeply Asian community where street signs were NOT in English and it didn't seem that people drove on the right side of the streets... Yup, it was right alright. The small startup business that I had met with and attended a trade show with just weeks prior had been nipped down to two employees: me and a product development girl who later saved my life. The corporate apartment I was promised? Never happened. The lump sum that was negotiated as a relocation fee? Not. a. dime. The owners left the country two days later, for two weeks, and their only form of contact was through their assistant who seemed to hate me upon contact.
I had seen about a dozen apartment options that were probably more scary than the reality that was setting in about my new dream job. And then I realized that I really had no cash to even put a deposit on an apartment until I got a paycheck from the owners, who were... yep, out of the country for a couple of weeks. So I checked myself in at the Travelodge in Pasadena. Weekly rate. Gulp.
I found out a LOT about myself in that first month being in LA. I realized how far away from home I was. I faced the facts that I had no one to call to come and get me, or even take me out for a meal. No one cared that I had to wash my clothes in the Travelodge or sleep with one eye open, scared that my car was going to get broken into or better yet, my room in the back of the second floor that had my little boxes of belongings with nowhere to call home. I found my grit. I prayed a LOT. I learned how to put my game face on.
My weight loss continued as I was not only too stressed but practically too broke to eat. I literally spent $20-30 per trip to Trader Joe's and got really creative with fresh produce. I swear I survived mainly off avocados and salsa... and I walked. All the time, every evening, I walked and I walked and I walked. I had no money for regular yoga classes, although I'd splurge every now and then. So I just walked! This became my meditation. My friends from home couldn't believe how great I was looking! It was nice to hear compliments, but I was so afraid of what they'd think if they knew the reality of my situation.
My lone coworker turned her chair around in our shared dining room/office/corporate headquarters one day as the evil assistant left us for a couple of hours unattended and looked me right in the eyes and said, "You're going to be ok. You're not crazy, they are a little, but I've worked for them for a long time and you're going to be ok. Let's find you somewhere to live." And so she did. I truly believe she was an angel. She was able to find me the most darling apartment by the end of the day. I met the owner who asked me about my story and literally let me move in with the agreement that he'd HOLD MY DEPOSIT CHECK until I got paid. Miracle. Probably one of the nicest landlords I ever had. So I used the last of my Target gift card to go buy an air mattress and a blanket, and I moved in to my very first California apartment.
Over the next few weeks, my angel coworker was so kind to befriend me, treat me to dinner here and there, and even take me to The Makeup Show, where I had yet another angel cross my path... I randomly met an owner of a small Lash Extension company that I'd heard of from my days back in Dallas when I worked my way through Cosmetology school at a lash boutique. She invited me to send her my resumé if I ever wanted to pick up some days at her boutique on Melrose in West Hollywood. HELL YES. I emailed her the moment I got home. I promptly received a response that she was actually looking for a Brand Manager to help her expand her wholesale division, if I was interested. Two days later I put on my best dress and walked myself down MELROSE PLACE for a formal interview. After we chatted, and then I filled her in on what brought me to LA, she said that I could start immediately. YES, LORD. I have never cried such tears of relief. I called my sister and tried to explain to her that I had just landed a job on the same block as Alexander McQueen, across the alley from Oscar de la Renta. Now THIS. This was LA.
I happily commuted every day from Pasadena to Melrose Place and soaked in every single minute of it. I was the happiest person on the planet, stuck in traffic, sneaking pics of the Hollywood sign and classic cars left and right. I once had to go pee in the bridal suite at Oscar de la Renta because I didn't have a key to my building and the person who did was late for work. So many happy memories came out of this time in my life. Those memories that will forever feel like a little tug in the gut that make you want to shed a tear. Emotions so complex that I couldn't begin to explain. I was riding the wave, but so confused about why I was brought to this point. I was having the time of my life, but there was something soooo not right. This was not my happily ever after.
So I prayed and I prayed and I prayed. I thanked God for this wild ride and all the lessons I was learning, all the experiences I was having, and all the angels that had helped me along the way. I prayed that my talents not go to waste. I prayed that God would show me my next step. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I had not come this far to do what I was doing. I cried myself to sleep a lot on my freezing cold air mattress, just out of sheer confusion. And eventually the answer came. I had to move. I needed to regroup, find a more suiting career path, and it was abundantly clear that it was not in LA but back in Louisiana. As confused as anyone, and frankly broken-hearted at the thought of leaving LA, I knew loud and clear that I was being called to the city of New Orleans. To be continued...