Yageshree Moodley | August 2019
I drifted through the hall, moving through time. It had been almost two years since I opted out of a full-time actuarial career. Now I was surrounded by over a thousand dedicated actuaries. My hands gripped the plate tighter than necessary.
I found refuge in a familiar face and squeezed in alongside the Executive Sponsor of my last major project. After a warm catchup, he introduced me to the person next to him. She looked confused, “So you’re an actuary but a yoga teacher?”.
I almost choked. For years, I had been saying the exact same thing to myself. How can I be a successful actuary, but give it up to practice and teach yoga? How can I enjoy yoga but long for spreadsheets? The word “but” became the border between the conflicting (conflicted?) parts of myself.
It was also necessary at the time. It allowed me to navigate what appeared to be mutually-exclusive worlds. The neat compartments offered a safe space for both identities to grow within the same person. The problem was that I felt like an interloper, not quite belonging in either world, and not good enough in either role.
The self-imposed pressure to “pick a side” lead to my resignation from actuarial work – to study, practice and teach yoga and counselling. I enjoyed this for about a year, until I realised that this also wasn’t ideal. I missed the routine and regular interaction at the office. My yoga practice suffered from becoming a job – there was so much admin and travel required, just to teach one class at R250 per hour. Illness and injury became highly disruptive. Most surprisingly, my mind started to hunger for something to analyse. It started viewing my Lifeline clients as problems to be solved, which was really disrespectful. That’s when I realised that it was no longer ideal to split myself.
And so now I live in both worlds. Or as Dave says, “I’ll take a little from column A and a little from column B”. I no longer feel alone in this. Everyone in the Percept team is “both-and”. Kelly described being both an actuary and mother. Njabulo is both a data scientist and DJ. Jodi is both a consultant employed in the private sector, and a public health PhD candidate. And so on.
“both / and” invites us into a space where we see nuance, mystery, and even paradox as fertile places for growth and transformation”
We are all multi-dimensional beings. We often feel conflicted, stretched between at least two roles that embody our highest values. Inclusivity, at an individual level, is the gradual shift from “either-or” to “both-and”. Once we can allow both, then we can learn to celebrate the “and”, really treasuring it as a unique perspective. It takes courage to cherish this in another person, and perhaps even greater courage to cherish this in myself.
So, in that moment when someone spoke my struggle to me, I reminded myself of all this. Doing both makes me better at both. “Yes,” I replied quietly, “I am both an actuary and a yoga teacher.”