Swimming Against the Tide: Forensic Scientist to Full Time Yoga Teacher
"No one else can ever tell you what you truly want. You are the only one who knows. Stop following what's expected. And dare to go after the life you want" - Kute Blackson, You Are The One.
I remember the first time I realized I was "smart." It was 4th grade when I won the geography bee. It was a simple competition where you compete against your class, then your team, and then your grade etc. I made it past each round not even thinking twice and I ended up winning the entire thing! After that came the advanced classes in middle school, honor roll, being apart of the International Baccalaureate program in High School, National Honor Society and the list goes on.
College wasn't an option in my home. It was kind of an unspoken expectation. I literally did not know what I wanted to be when I "grew up" so I submitted 2 applications and got accepted to both schools. I ended up selecting North Carolina State University which was an hour and half away from home and my first step towards independence.
I entered college undecided. "First Year College" was the major that was listed on my school papers. It felt good to know I was not alone when it came to not knowing what I would do with my life. We had courses designed with activities, personality tests and more to help us decide what we were most best at and interested in. I remember taking a quiz and seeing Dentist on the top of the list. “Hey, I can do that! I'm good at science, they make a lot of money and only 8 more years of school and I'd be free!”
I selected a biological science major with a pre-dental track and was on my way. It wasn't until I spent some time shadowing dentistry my 3rd year of undergrad that I lost the spark of interest. “Eh this just isn't for me,” I remember telling myself at the end of my shift.
That following summer I spent studying abroad in China. My first time out of the country and a real taste of freedom. I did some "soul searching" and after returning decided that my true passion was in forensics. I then flipped the script and decided I would work in a crime lab and solve crimes through DNA testing.
Post grad and forensics
After obtaining my B.S. I went on to pursue my masters in Forensics. Halfway through the program I got a job as a technician in a crime lab. I finished my degree, became an analyst, and unfortunately due to the lab closing I was laid off a year and a half later.
During the 6 months I was unemployed I hit one of the lowest points in my life. Battling depression, suicidal thoughts, overwhelm and more. I felt so alone and I honestly don't think anyone knows just how rough this time was for me. This was also the time I began a true relationship with Christ in a new way. In addition, I started a journaling practice which also helped me process all of the thoughts in my head. It is also the time I found yoga.
I was browsing through Instagram and saw a post by LauraSykora on the popular page. I saw her doing this cute headstand pose and thought, “hey I can do that!” I then began to pour so much time and energy into my practice that I became an entirely new person. I had goals to reach for and loved the feeling I felt after hitting my mat. My yoga practice gave me something to work towards.
I ultimately ended up getting back into science and found a job in a medical research lab for Duke University Medical Center. Fast forward a year later I was able to return to forensics. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter, that lab shutdown as well and I was back at square one. Two layoffs before 26 was tough. I felt like a failure. I questioned what I should be doing with my life. Am I even going down the right path?
This was the time I realized I must have multiple streams of income. I can no longer allow someone to have this much control over me. I started my website, freelance writing for a blog, and got into creating natural hair videos on YouTube. It was also during this time of being free to create authentically that I realized I truly wanted to work for myself one day. I wasn't sure exactly what this would look like but I had a taste and knew eventually God would make it clear to me.
Like I had done before, I was able to pick myself back up and get another job in the crime lab. I ended up leaving North Carolina and moved to northern Virginia. Here I would spend the next 4 years continuing to work in forensics, completing a yoga teacher training program and finally come to terms what I was meant to do. Lead others into a life of prioritizing self care through yoga and wellness!
Taking the Leap
I did the work, saved tremendously, and spent time expanding as a yoga teacher and growing my personal business. I got rid of things that no longer served me and did not spark joy, as Marie Kondo says, and ultimately I quit my job!
I honestly had reached a crossroad. I was to a point where I could no longer risk spreading myself so thin. It's impossible to give 100% to so many things. Balancing my full-time job, teaching regular classes at a yoga studio, running my business, all while trying to remain a good partner in my relationship. My self care was suffering. I could continue to push but the truth remained that burn out was the ultimate destination. If I didn't jump off this sinking ship and make a decision to swim to my personal life boat I too would go under.
Of course the pressure to remain a scientist was there. Wanting to make my family proud and honestly being a woman of color in the sciences is rare. Out of the 5 labs I have worked in, 4 of them I was the only African American Scientist. I felt like I had something to prove on behalf of my community. I was also in the process of developing an a new method of extracting sperm from Sexual Assault Kits. One that my name is included on the patent. One that could potentially make me a lot of money down the road but it’s about more than the money. I made my mark. I was here. But I honestly was not happy.
I then had to shift my mindset to that I am still making a difference in what I’m doing now. I can show little brown girls that you can do both and do what ever your heart leads. Let go of the fear and just do it anyway!
I made the official decision on the last day of 2018 although I knew for the 2 months prior deep down what I was going to do. I put in 4 weeks notice at my full time job and started my new life as a full-time creative wellness entrepreneur on 02.01.19.
When I shared the news with my friends, my best friend Kendra said, “I think it's amazing how you worked so hard to get to where you are and how in your struggle you found something that freed you.”
This is so true. The lowest part of my life brought me to yoga which provided my path to freedom.
This first month has been amazing. My face literally hurts from laughing so hard and smiling so much. I haven’t complained at all and have truly moved from a scarcity mindset to an abundant mindset. The same week I quit my job I had a client purchase a 30 session pack of private sessions which reminded me I can do this. I believe God was blessing my obedience and will continue to do so.
So what now?! I am growing my business as a yoga teacher, meditation instructor, and Reiki practitioner. You can work with me 1:1 in person or online or set up group event for your corporate or personal needs. I also have officially launched my online membership programs Elevate and Elevate Elite where you can access online yoga classes, workshops, meditations and more.
Further, you can support me by donating towards the cause. My goal is to help individuals across the world find mindfulness in their everyday lives through yoga and wellness in order to live a life of intention.
Look out for more yoga, more writing, more videos on intentional living, and more workshops on self care.
Swimming against the tide will be a series devoted to following your dreams in spite of adversity and obstacles in your way. “Stop doing what is expected and dare to go after the life you want". Follow my journey and stay connected by joining my wellNESS tribe!
With love and light,
xo Vanessa Michele