How I Found My Calling: The Misadventures of an Overachieving Perfectionist

Meet (and develop a major crush on) Abundant Yogi's newest writer

by Samantha Pollack

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All my life, I’ve been plagued by one question.

What do you want to do with your life?

Until this year, I honestly didn’t know.

I just knew I didn’t want it to be boring.

In my upper middle class, suburban upbringing, there was one life plan. Get good grades so you can get into a good college. Go to a good college so you can get a good job. Get married, have some kids, try not to turn into your mother, sigh with resignation when you realize you have anyway.

I’ve seen this movie. Wake me up when it’s over.

Throughout my unfocused academic career, despite (or maybe because of) being pegged as a “gifted” child, I thought school was a big fat joke, because it was so easy for me.

My teachers seemed satisfied by my good grades and obedient behavior, so they more or less left me alone. My parents exposed me to everything from ice skating to horseback riding, but were stymied by my quick mastery – and subsequent loss of interest – in everything I tried.

I wrote grammatically perfect, cookie-cutter papers that came back with scarlet A’s in the margins. I wrote in red spiral notebooks about how lame my parents and teachers were, and how much I wanted to make out with Ben.

I went to a good college because that’s what you do. I didn’t make many friends, for a variety of reasons. I took courses in astronomy, statement logic, philosophy, and art; I was the essence of undeclared.

Even though I enjoyed my coursework, the question loomed larger.

I pulled all-nighters writing 10-page papers the night before they were due. I sat in coffee shops and wrote awful, sad poems about feeling alone. In my journal, I marveled at the amount of trash one human would generate in her lifetime, and crafted elaborate theories to explain my cat’s odd behavior. (I was smoking a lot of pot back then.)

It was in the service industry, where being “good at stuff” actually paid cash money, and the people were irreverent and hysterical and lie-down-in-the-street-for-you loyal, that I finally felt at home.

I loved that life – but nobody wants to wait tables forever. It’s the ultimate “means to an end” job.

There’s a stigma: you weren’t smart enough to get a REAL job, so you’re doing this. You must be dumb, or lazy, or both. The longer you stick around, the more insidious this idea becomes.

And then you get trapped by the money.

I still hadn’t answered the question. So I stayed at the restaurant…for ten years.

I wrote about being a depressed twenty-something with no direction and a string of toxic men. I wrote slightly less awful poems. I brought my journal to the Boston Common and sat in the grass and wrote about California.

With my days free, no direction, and money to burn, I spent all my afternoons at a fancy-pants ladies’ gym. I ran and stretched and spied on the trainers, wondering what their job entailed, how much money they made, and whether I might like to try it.

Turns out, I was just as good a personal trainer as I was a server. Plus benefits and a 401K.

I enjoyed my new profession enough to ignore the emotional and physical exhaustion. I loved it enough to outweigh the constant, unforgiving pressure to be super fit and thin. But after four years of hustle, I realized that my new lifestyle was just as unsustainable as my old one.

In fact, I felt more certain than ever that I wanted more.

I wrote about not sleeping and feeling stuck. I wrote about fitness and food and different workout techniques, and how my stomach always hurt. I wrote long, dark scrawls about depression and how it was a bottomless black well that had no way out but through.

Then the Universe threw down the gauntlet.

In October 2009, I was dragged against my will to a personal development workshop. My friend was the facilitator, and she’d managed to lure another friend there as well.

And that’s how I found myself sharing my darkest, most personal thoughts with a complete (but very cute) stranger.

Of of all the places he could come from, he came from Asheville, North Carolina. Which, unbeknownst to anyone, I was secretly obsessed with. A quirky mountain town full of artists and hippies, where an overworked Bostonian could disappear and start over, Asheville had tugged on me for years. And then I met the love of my life and discovered that he already lived here.

I thought love at first sight was bullshit. I thought romance was dead, and men were rotten to the core. (The Universe tends to overdo it when trying to make a point.)

In September 2010, I left my friends, my cozy apartment, and my 401K. I came to Asheville with nothing but a man who loved me and a cranky old cat.

It never once occurred to me to research the job market. I was so burnt out from my years in corporate fitness that I didn’t even try to find work at first. I just sat on my front porch, writing and watching the leaves turn. I read 1,000 page novels and made many gallons of pumpkin purée. I learned to cook collard greens, Southern-style.

I put my writing out to the world in the form of my first blog. I wrote about moving and leaving everyone and everything I’d ever known. I wrote about being a displaced Bostonian in the South, and about my brief and disastrous return to the service industry.

I went back to school at The Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN) and became a certified health coach. I took it upon myself to learn everything I could about running a business, from developing the tech skills, to exploring the intersection between entrepreneurship and personal growth.

I learned how to write for businesses. To create web copy for a sales page, and craft a blogging strategy with measurable results. I wrote some more about fitness and food, and how much I hated America’s unhealthy food culture. I wrote lots and lots of recipes. I learned how to craft and develop my voice. People liked it.

Entrepreneurship seemed like the one profession that fit my innate skills: I’m smart. I can write. I live to learn. I’m a problem-solver. I love to figure shit out, and if I don’t feel challenged every day, I lose interest with a quickness. The only thing missing was hustle.

The truth is, I didn’t really want to build my coaching practice. I wasn’t inspired.

And BOOM. Even with my own website and LLC in place, the question was back:

What do you want to do with your life?

After a few years of denial and avoidance – that website was really expensive – it finally dawned on me.

I want to write. Duh.

My whole life, I missed something crucial. I discounted the one thing I was best at, that brought me consistent joy, because it came so easily to me. I never understood it to be a valuable skill, because it didn’t require any hard work or suffering.

As soon as I stated this out loud, my disjointed experiences and struggles suddenly shimmered with clarity. I had to go through all that crap, so I’d have stuff to write about!

One problem though: I had no idea where to start. So, I winged it. I rewrote my résumé, gathered my favorite pieces, and started applying for every job and freelance gig that caught my eye.

Until one day — after MANY unacknowledged submissions — I found this: A holistic blogger needed to write about wellness, entrepreneurship, and communication skills, for a clientele comprised of coaches and yoga teachers….wait that’s me!

At first I thought they were just another coaching service for woo-woo entrepreneurs who felt icky about marketing and monetizing their services. I thought it would be all sunshine and rainbows…and I was worried.

Thankfully, I was wrong.

In a culture that’s saturated with abundance affirmations and unrelatable success stories, Abundant Yogi is the ONLY coaching platform I’ve seen that openly acknowledges the struggle endured by so many yoga teachers, personal coaches, and wellness service providers.

I wish I’d found them years ago.

The programs at Abundant Yogi address a knowledge gap – business skills and critical productivity secrets you don’t learn in teacher trainings or coaching certifications.

But beyond that, they show you how to integrate those skills in a way that still feels like YOU, so you can build a sustainable, lucrative business — without burning out or selling out.

It’s the perfect balance of positivity and practicality, and I’m so grateful it exists.

Not just because I’ve finally found a team that feels like a fit, and a writing mission that I love — I’m grateful that you have access to such a well-designed, genuinely helpful resource. I’m grateful (and stoked) to be a part of that.

I never fit in at “typical” jobs, where self care isn’t important and no one cares about the fact that I have insomnia or struggle with perfectionism.

On the other hand, I haven’t quite fit into most coaching communities, because my reality has never lined up with all that perpetual sunniness, and it makes me mad. (I’m a New Englander; I take my sunshine with a side of snark.)

From my very first email exchange with Kraig and Kris, the founders of AY, I made a promise to myself:

Throughout every step of this process, I vowed to be ruthlessly authentic. Every email, every writing submission, every phone call. Unfiltered Sam.

I was asked to audition for the job through writing, and became one of two staff writers chosen out of a pool of over 500.

Whenever I got nervous or my inner critic started in, I recommitted to this promise. I told myself  that no matter what happens, it will be the right thing, because I am grounded in who I am.

And what do you know? That’s exactly what they were looking for.

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Samantha Pollack
Samantha Pollack traveled a winding road through personal training, health coaching, and the restaurant business, before hitting her stride as a full-time writer. In 2010, she bid a fond “peace out” to her demanding career in Boston and relocated to the mountains of Asheville, NC. Since then, she’s launched (and more

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Read 5 comments

  1. Kris Ward

    We love you, Sam!

  2. Meriah

    P.S. I also love to write. Just need a way to focus and get more committed to it.

  3. Meriah

    You just shared my story. It’s a little eerie. Except, after being burnt out as a corporate personal trainer because of my perfectionism, and then doing the IIN program, I moved to Costa Rica and did my yoga teacher training. And I’ve lived here since, 2 years now. It’s a struggle sometimes but I’m happier and healthier than I ever was in Ny. Still waiting for that romantic love, but I have my dog and that’s enough for me. Look forward to reading more from you!

  4. Michael Lamanna

    Welcome, Sam! You’re a fantastic writer! Looking forward to reading so much more from you.

  5. Bryan

    Digggg this. I can relate on so many levels. Superb writing as well!