Growing up, all around me were people who knew what they wanted to “be”. I had friends and classmates who knew they wanted to be social workers, museum curators, artists, scientists, and business owners. I particularly remember one classmate in junior high school, Monica, who told me at age 13 that she wanted to be an accountant. I was astonished. Why would anyone want to be that, I wondered, and how on earth could a 13-year-old have already decided that? I asked her why she had chosen that particular field. She looked at me as if I were slightly dim-witted and said, “Have you seen all the ads in the Sunday New York Times for accountants? Open any newspaper. There are always ads for accountants. I’m guaranteed to have a job.” Looking at her, I could see it: a life already planned, a life of safety, of sitting at a desk with numbers, plugging away, until retirement. I felt a strange mix of admiration and contempt: admiration for how she knew what she wanted, and contempt that it was so… small. So safe. So unimaginative. This is not to say that being an accountant is contemptible! I have great admiration for them, because they do what I never in a million years would want to do, they seem to enjoy it, and they make a good living doing it. I’ve stared at my accountant with respect and envy for his ability to make sense of my tax documents and come up with a refund number that is near-miraculous. Nope, nothing wrong with being an accountant.

All through high school I felt restless. I got excellent grades in my English and Social Studies classes, took Latin and loved it, but did abysmally in Geometry. Actually, that’s not true. I was getting 90’s on my tests in my first semester when I had a teacher who actually bothered to teach us geometry and got us to enjoy it, but the following semester was informed that this wonderful teacher had done us a great disservice by not preparing us for the Regent’s exam. So, we rushed through a ton of material, which was not actually taught, just gone over, and I started failing. Badly. I started receiving 50’s and even 40’s. I was told before the Regent’s exam that if I passed it, I would pass the course. The passing grade was 65. I got a 66.

By this time I was so unmotivated by school that I looked for a way to get out of regular classes and came across something called the Executive Internship Program. I pushed my parents to let me apply. The idea was that for one semester I would be a full-time intern for an executive while keeping a regular journal of my experiences. I had also decided I wanted to graduate early, and was told that I could if I did some independent research projects. I got my parents and guidance counselor to grudgingly agree, and then it was time to choose an organization to intern with. I had three choices: a lawyer for a big firm, a publisher for a major publishing house, and an environmental activist who ran a small environmental organization out of a messy loft on Layfayette Street in the East Village, back when space there was practically being given away. I interviewed with the lawyer, who offered me the job on the spot. Then I had my interview with the publisher, who loved me and was actually trying to convince me to come and work for her, but had to cut the interview short because she had a meeting with John Irving, who came in and shook my hand, looked me in the eye and said he was very pleased to meet me. In my naiveté, I had no idea who he was, no idea that the book he was coming in to discuss with her was about to be a major bestseller, The World According to Garp. The coordinator of the Executive Internship Program later pushed me to take the publishing job, but no, I was a rebel. Not for me was a job where I’d have to wear corporate gear (the lawyer), or a swank gig at a major publishing house on 6th Avenue where I could hobnob with famous authors. No, I chose the dingy loft on Layfayette, the cool internship, where I could wear my hippy clothes, hang out in Washington Square Park at lunchtime, edit and write articles for the newsletter, and do something to save the planet.

By this point in my life that was all that my confused mind could think I wanted to do: write and save the planet.

The internship didn’t turn out as I had hoped, but I had fun, learned a lot and smoked some good dope on my last day. To this day I wonder what would have happened if I had taken the internship with the publisher. Would doors have magically opened? Would I have been given the wise adult guidance I so desperately needed? Would I have been on an actual career path as I entered college? I’ll never know. I spent what would have been my last semester of high school at home reading everything I could get my hands on, including and especially things I thought I should read but didn’t really enjoy, like Le Mort D’Artur. I wanted to show the world that I was using my time more wisely than if I had been in high school, and I was probably right.

On I went to Hunter College, which I enjoyed tremendously because it gave me the opportunity to study so many interesting things and figure out how they were all interconnected. I got straight A’s, except for one class, Swimming, and yes, I do still harbor a grudge against that teacher. A perfect 4.0 average sullied by a B in Swimming! How can you even grade swimming, anyway? I didn’t drown! Despite the swimming, I liked college so much I stayed an extra year just to take all the courses I was interested in. I had to take one foreign language, but I decided two was better, so in addition to Latin I took French. I had almost enough credits to do a double major in English and Classics, with a minor in History, but I decided to focus on English and took the English Honors program. I wanted More, More, More! I never wanted to graduate! Because hanging over my head was thought, “what on earth am I going to do with the rest of my life?” The thought terrified me. Everyone around me seemed to know what they wanted to do, to be, and I had no idea. Nothing jumped out at me, nothing captured my fancy, or at least nothing that one could actually make money doing, or so I thought.

Sometime during my sophomore year I ended up being a tutor at the Writing Center. I didn’t want to do it, didn’t think I could, and was basically terrified that I would fail miserably, but I got the job, and ended up being one of the best tutors there, to my surprise. I had found my niche: teaching. However, the thought of teaching NYC high school frankly terrified me, so I decided, rather casually, to pursue a PhD and become an English professor.

I moved to Boston for graduate school at Boston University, and commenced a disturbing period of disillusionment and disappointment, followed by a deep depression. I got mediocre grades, had few friends, and decided to stop at my Master’s. My parents’ disappointment in me was clear. I was supposed to be their daughter the Professor, something that could make them look good. My mother didn’t even attend my graduation, even though the President at the time, George Bush Sr., and Francois Mitterand, the President of France, and author and humanitarian Elie Weisel were all speaking. My father attended, I think mostly for the entertainment, but left right after. I ate dinner alone in the dining hall that evening.

So, there I was, with a degree in a field that unless you’re a professor you can’t get a job in, alone, in Boston. I decided to stay there for a while, mainly because I didn’t know what else to do. Because I had spent so much time in the academic world with my head in a book, I thought that meant I should get a job in a college, so I started applying for jobs in admissions, human resources and other administrative jobs. I had no concept that people actually study and get degrees in order to get those jobs, and those degrees didn’t include a Master’s in English Language and Literature. I applied and applied, with no success. I started worrying; how would I earn enough to keep a roof over my head? I applied to a temp agency and started temping around Boston, earning a miserable $6 an hour because I didn’t have much in the way of traditional office skills. However, everywhere I temped they found me an anomaly: a bright, organized, efficient, hardworking, educated woman working for peanuts because she had no idea what to do with her life. They all liked me, all wanted to help me, all wanted to hire me full time, but couldn’t and didn’t, and so it went on. I went from job to job, with periods of nothing but despair and loneliness in between. I would spend hours lying on my bed looking at the sky, or wandering around Boston and Cambridge alone, wishing, longing, for something.

One day, out of the blue, I had a revelation: I could teach English as a Second Language to foreign students, and teach it overseas! I could go and live abroad, which as a travel-lover was something I had long wanted to do. I applied around and after a little effort, got a phone call on a Friday from I school I hadn’t even applied to asking me if I could start on Monday. I said yes.

So began my English as a Second Language teaching career, which has mostly been enjoyable and rewarding and fun. I got to live in Korea (twice! But that’s another story…), got to travel all over Asia and learn about Asian culture, which was new for me, and got to make some decent money doing it. Most importantly, I realized that I have a true gift for teaching. I’ve taught ESL since 1990, and I can truly say that it’s one of the most pleasant jobs one could ask for.

But it has never been enough. There was always this vague feeling of, “is this it?” “What do I really want to do?” For a while I thought it might be Interior Design. I became an avid reader of Architectural Digest and Elle Décor. I had always been good at creating spaces that people wanted to come and hang out in, even when I was so broke I only had cardboard furniture. I had been this way since I was a small child, carving out little gem-like spaces in various spots around the apartment. Growing up, however, interior design was looked down upon as a silly hobby for rich people, not an actual career that one could pursue, so it had never even occurred to me that I could maybe do that. So, when I came back to the US after Korea, I decided to explore Interior Design and took a course at the NY School of Interior Design. I liked it very much, especially the creative aspect of it, and just the pleasure of creating a beautiful space, but something wasn’t quite right. Maybe it was the thought of having to please a bunch of over-privileged, wealthy people who couldn’t be bothered to create their own home. But it just wasn’t quite it.

I had started to take yoga again, and my yoga teacher suggested I go to the NY Open Center and check it out. She told me they had so many interesting classes and programs and great teachers, so I went down to SoHo to see what she was raving about. As I was browsing in the bookstore, I came across a magazine called Feng Shui. I liked the cover; it had a picture of a room on it, and a vaguely Asian look to it. I had been drawn to anything Asian since I had come back to the US in full reverse culture-shock mode, feeling somewhat comforted by the look of Asian design and art. As I stared at the cover of this magazine I felt compelled to open it and look inside. I had never heard of Feng Shui before and had absolutely no idea what it was. The thought astonishes me now, considering I had lived and traveled there for four years! As I paged through the magazine I found myself getting increasingly excited; it was about everything that I loved! Interior design! Asian culture! Colors! Asian philosophy! Man living in harmony with Nature! And the biggest, most mysterious pull of all… Spirituality.

Spirituality was something I had always felt, but in a very unconventional, and certainly non-Christian way. I would talk to the spirits of the trees as a child. I had always believed in reincarnation. I had never not believed in it, even when adults told me it wasn’t possible. I knew it was a fact. I felt the Earth to be a living being, and always wanted to live my life in harmony with Her and protect Her. Being a Scorpio, I was also always drawn to anything that would reveal the mysteries of the Universe to me, like astrology and fortune-telling. My mother was highly psychic, and she grew up in a haunted house. I myself had seen a ghost in the house once; it woke me up on a swelteringly-hot night breathing ice-cold air onto my face. I told it to go away and rolled over and went back to sleep.

So, here was something new, a thing called Feng Shui, which combined everything I loved and was interested in into one art/science, which by all accounts was catching on here and becoming quite popular! I started reading books on it, but, while I loved them, I found them confusing. There were, apparently, many schools of Feng Shui, and they didn’t agree. That was a problem, but I decided to keep reading. One particular school seemed to resonate the most with me: the Black Hat Tantric Buddhism School, or BTB. It turned out the Open Center had a highly-regarded rigorous 3-year BTB Feng Shui professional training program. I just had to figure out how to get the money.

The money came in the form of an inheritance from my mother, who died on my birthday in 2000, the year of the Dragon, during the fight to see who would become our next President.

By the fall of 2002 I was finally ready to take the plunge, and I registered for the mandatory pre-requisite Introduction to Feng Shui I weekend. I figured that this was a good way to see if the program was for me or not, though I had pretty much made up my mind to do it.

I walked into class, sat down and the teacher, Vincent Smith, started to talk. At some point during that first hour I felt an overwhelming urge to burst into tears. I fought it, and preserved my dignity, but how can I express the feelings I felt as I sat there? I felt like I was coming home, to my true inner home. It was a feeling of recognition, of something very, very old, and very, very intrinsic in me. A part of me that had lain dormant for so long was awakened that weekend. A tiny little flame that had been burning in me, yearning for air to make it grow had received the soft wind it needed. Feng Shui means “Wind /Water” in Chinese. For me the meaning is very personal. Feng Shui has given me the wind to make my inner flame grow, and the water to feed my soul. It has enabled me to embark on a spiritual quest that has completely and utterly changed me, yet shown me my true self. It has led me to yet another revelation: that I am here to be a guardian and protector of this planet, and to teach and awaken others and show them how they can help rescue this beautiful blue world. I am honored, I am blessed, I am humbled to do this work.

Author's Bio: 

Anna Pavlakis is a BTB Feng Shui Consultant, Intuitive and Spiritual Counselor, Celestial Light Healer, Teacher, Public Speaker, Channel, Certified Usui Reiki Practitioner, Author, and Signature Cell Healer. Anna has given workshops at East-West Living, Aveda, the NY Theosophical Society, and the Alignment Center, and has appeared on the Staten Island cable TV show "Second Sight" with Chris George and Christine Schiavone. She received her M.A. in English Language and Literature from Boston University in 1988. She is a student of Pierre Dubois, working to heal the planet and help the human race ascend.