Sunday, 19 September 2010

Work life balance

So it’s time to confess as to what’s been going on off-the-mat.
In August I started talking about some “uncertainty” which had cropped up in my life. At that point my boss had told a colleague and I that in all likelihood that our company would cease to exist within the next couple of months (or in the very least, our division of it). I won’t go into huge detail because it’s not very interesting, but I work for a clothing supplier – we are the intermediary between high street stores and factories in India, Turkey, Bangladesh and Hong Kong (or more accurately, we deal with agents in those countries, who then deal with the factories). So there are a lot of people in the loop! If you stop and think about what an average garment costs in a high street store, consider that the retailer puts between a 50% and 85% markup on the price THEY pay us for it (and that figure’s a lot more for designer clothing, I’m talking about cheap high street stores), and then consider that everybody in the chain needs a piece of the can imagine how little the factories earn. Anyway I digress, the fact is, times are tough out there and the stores want cheaper prices. So it’s starting to make sense for them to work directly with agents in the countries producing the goods. I suppose eventually they will cut that out too and deal directly with factories, but what it means is that even if things pick up in our company soon, the industry has fundamentally changed and it would only be a short reprieve.

The upshot of this was that my boss quietly suggested we go away and “see what’s out there”. It was kind of him to forewarn us, I for one had no idea the situation was that bad until he took us for coffee and came out with it, and this is when I went into my “intrigue” stage where I felt sure that something would come up. And guess what?
Scouting around on the internet looking for vacancies (and this complicated by the fact I was looking to change the field I work in), a seemingly random chain of thought led me to the website for a brand I remembered from the trade shows I used to work at in my previous job. And what do you know? They were advertising a job that looked right up my street. So I applied, and then found it impossible to apply for anything else, as nothing else hit the mark like this one did. But it turned out that the person managing the recruitment was away on annual leave, so I had to try and be patient (can you guess that I failed?!). A few weeks ticked by, and then I was invited for an interview. All seemed to go very well, there was lots of laughter, I thought I detected that they liked me, and was thrilled when one of the interviewers told me that I had “good energy”. I did however discover that the job involved a lot more travel that I had understood, and would mean driving to visit customers probably 4 days in every week. Did I mention I am kind of afraid of driving? Also it goes without saying, a heavy travel schedule would seriously affect my ability to get to the shala every day to practice. Add to this the fact that although I worked in sales for a designer for 5 years, the sales part of my role was almost a sideline alongside running the office and doing a million and one other things. I have never been a straight-forward sales rep (in fact the idea of it used to make me cringe!), I have no idea whether I’ll be any good at it...though I like to think I will be. They suggested I think very carefully about whether I would be prepared to make the changes in my life that the job would involve. I nodded and smiled but I really wasn’t sure.

And then I stepped out into the sunshine, got straight on the phone to my Mum and filled her in on what it would involve. “Oh no, you wouldn’t want to be doing that,” she said. But before I realised I meant it, I started to say that maybe I could...that how can you ever get over the fear of something if you never try it? I was using direct experience from my yoga practice to understand that I have gone from being someone who said “I will NEVER stand on my head. NEVER!” to being someone who does it every day, has found peace there, and actually enjoys it. Surely is this applies to a seemingly impossible yoga posture, it applies to everything else too? So after thinking about it for a few more days I emailed my interviewers and told them that I had given it careful thought, and while the prospect would certainly be a challenge, it was one that I was very excited about. And as for my mum’s concern of “But you wouldn’t be able to go to your yoga!” I quickly realised that not going ahead with a job application because it might interfere with my shala practice would be COMPLETELY missing the point. At that point I let go of my attachment to going to the shala every day, and it was only in doing that that I was able to write the email as I did.

I won’t bore you with all the details but I waited a few weeks, took a psychometric test, read the emailed results with great interest, watched and waited as my current role shrank away to almost nothing, and then with great relief last week attended a second interview, which began with me being told that I was being offered the job. Ha! We then proceeded to spend several hours going through the results of the psychometric test so that they could ascertain “how best to work with me, because everybody is different.” My new boss also suggested that as it seemed a lot of my good qualities come from my yoga, that it was very important that I schedule my appointments AROUND MY YOGA!! Now, although she’s said this, I still have in mind that my daily routine will cease to exist, and my shala attendance may become more sporadic. But that’s OK, I have come to terms with that (at least in theory), but how amazing is to have an employer who fully supports your pursuit of a daily yoga practice?
Having been given a contract on the spot I was able to go straight back to work and hand in my resignation. As I explained to my boss the lovely eco/ethical credentials of my new employer, he nodded as if he’d seen it coming. He explained that he has realised months ago that it “wasn’t very good karma” for me to go to yoga every morning and then come in to work and shout at Indian factories all day (because sadly that is the reality of my current role...). Instead I am to work for a splendidly lovely Scandanavian company who have a large section on their website dedicated to corporate social responsibility – in fact, it seems to be the thread running through the whole company. They are involved in several specific projects including building and completely supporting a school in Burma, working with former streetkids in Delhi and say on their website: 
We do not think we can save the whole world. But we are proud of this project, and we believe that no one can help everyone but everyone can help someone.
This makes me happy. It helps that I really believe in the products I’m going to be selling too, and that business is booming, even in these tough times! I am still waiting for a lot of the details to understand what I will be doing, which areas I will be covering and how the job actually works, but I do know this: In three weeks time I leave my job. I have a few days off to prepare and then I am off to Yoga Thailand for a retreat which, happily, I booked and paid for before I knew that my job was hanging in the balance. When I get home from Thailand I will start my new job. Exciting times! But - can you sense a “but” coming on?
BUT – all of this is making it incredibly difficult to BE in the present moment. I just want to finish my crappy boring job and move on. I want to be in Thailand! I want to know more details about my exciting new job! And whaddya know? My practice has gone nuts on me too. I had a mini meltdown over garbha today (another one!) and came out of the mysore room whining to my teacher that “I hate it!”. I feel kind of crazed half the time, I am getting irritable and angry more than normal, my temper is frayed. I spent all last week feeling dizzy and like I was about the float away – self diagnosing that I had too much Vata I spent the week eating heavy and warm things, lots of Indian food, and now I feel heavy and lethargic (I think I took it too far!). I know, I know, that this time will zip by and that all the things I want will come to pass sooner rather than later. But my impatience is getting the better of me! And I think this was the problem with garbha today...I recognised from what Kino taught in her workshop that I think I should be able to do it NOW just because I want to. But we all know it doesn’t work like that! If a friend was telling me all of this I would be saying that three weeks is nothing, this time will pass, and just to breathe and take each moment as it comes. Funny how easy it is to be wise on someone else’s behalf, and so impossible on your own, isn’t it? But at least this is true: I trusted that the universe would provide, and it did. Now I just need to accept that the universe is spinning this out on it’s own schedule, that this is not something I can control, and I just need to let things move along at normal speed.

P.s. I’ll tell you who the company are once I’m actually there (or when they’ve taken the ad for my job down off the website!!)


  1. ahhh, the inevitable de-construction before the re-construction. Sounds perfect!

  2. Fantastic news!!!!!! Congratulations! Go Mel x

  3. Brilliant news and to be working for such an enlightened employer who supports your yoga practice because they see it will benefit the company. Go Mel go

  4. CONGRATULATIONS!!! I love this post! You've handled the whole process so well, very yogically (is that a word?) ...All the best in your new job, but first - HAVE A BLAST IN THAILAND!! :) xxx

  5. Congratulations on your new job, and it *is* amazing to have an employer who supports your yoga practice! I loved these lines:

    "But at least this is true: I trusted that the universe would provide, and it did. Now I just need to accept that the universe is spinning this out on it’s own schedule, that this is not something I can control, and I just need to let things move along at normal speed."

    You've got your answer to being in the moment right there - just breathe and relax, all is coming ;)

  6. Thanks everyone!!
    Jaime not sure if I have handled it totally yogically (hellzyeah it's a word!) but writing it down helped me to see that I can think of it in this context.
    And Danielle...thank you for quoting back to me the words I wrote almost unthinkingly. Somehow reading them back helped them to actually make more sense than when I wrote them!
    Oh and don't think you won't all be hearing more about Thailand very soon!!! :)

  7. Fantastic news, well done you! Your future employers sound great. Also, how nice that your current boss did the right thing by giving you all some warning - so many companies don't seem to do that for their staff.

  8. Thanks love! And I would point out that in doing so he potentially saved himself from redundancy payouts but that may sound ungrateful.... I did embarrass him the other day by telling him in a hippie-type way how grateful I was to him for forewarning me, because I'd never have looked around otherwise. He is a good guy really, I am very lucky!

  9. My corporate experience wasn't the best but I know there are some companies out there who have integrity. We all work too much and live too little anyway!