I've been thinking about this blog for over a month, and for the life of me as I lay in bed going over what I would write or as I was driving home being distracted by my thoughts of overwhelming gratitude, it is still hard for me to fathom. I never really know what it looks like on the outside with my freeform locks and "did she think about that outfit" most days. Maybe, it is obvious, but this moment in my life, perhaps, was always imagined in one way or the other. As unlikely or likely, it's truly a mystery because once again you've got a story of a young girl with big dreams living in a small wooden house with her father and brothers on what most people call Paradise.
I want to believe that everything life has shown me has prepared me for this journey. You see, I started working when I was 14 years old. I don't think because I had to, but because I saw everything that my father did. I saw him wake up every morning up at 4AM, make cream of wheat or some other cornmeal concoction filled with prunes or raisins and nuts and a big piece of cinnamon stick and made sure my brothers and I piled into his squeaky, red pickup truck as he went to school to teach. I know now in my veins runs the passion to be a teacher. My father taught for over 30 years and of those years, consecutively taught "at-risk" and "advanced" students at Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. I secretly admired my father as we still can walk down the busy streets of downtown Charlotte Amalie and not 10 minutes would go by without someone yelling out, "Hey, Mr. Petersen!" And it was always with admiration the same, as they boasted about him being their favorite teacher or the teacher that they couldn't thank enough with watery eyes. Before my father, my grandfather was also a teacher who many remember for his acts of kindness and unwillingness to stand for injustice. Imagine that! I smile even just thinking of the stories I've read and heard of him in the 1930s. The passion and absolute fearlessness is what I hope to have inherited.
When I first walked into 5504 Troost Ave, I instantly said, "Yes." I know what you're thinking, "Seriously, Shanell," with your eyebrows all screwed to the side. Yes, I'm talking INSTANTLY. Even though, it wasn't mine or the person I was speaking with at that moment. In fact, I still hear the shock at times when people say, "I couldn't believe I saw a 'YOGA' sign on Troost." Everyone around me thought it was a bad idea. They said no one would come. But, something bigger told me say, "Yes." And even to me, it didn't quite make sense, but I also knew what it would mean to the city. What it would mean for the "dividing line." I couldn't not be at 5504 Troost Ave. I had to stand for justice in my small way by sharing my passion of yoga for everybody. I know when I teach, I'm not teaching for recognition or for myself, I'm teaching to serve the needs of each of my students by allowing Spirit to give me the words and guide my actions to heal, to comfort, and to love.
I am so humbled by the Nella Yoga community that has grown right before my eyes. My students have truly become my friends and close like family, and I am ever grateful for the last 365 days at 5504 Troost as we have shared energy, time, and love in this space. When I say, "We have made a Year," I mean each and every one of you with me.