[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9GYCIAGcJQ[/embed] I exit the plane down steps that are so thin I turn my body sideways to keep from slipping. Where I expect to find solid footing, I slide on cracked concrete stained with a film of oil a half an inch thick.

It gives under my weight, and I imagine I am ice skating.

I take a deep breath and the smog fills my lungs and clings to them like cat hair to crushed velvet.

My knuckles, chapped from the record breaking Chicago winter and bleeding from the 20 hours of recycled airplane air, are suddenly dewy and swollen with humidity.

Slung over my shoulders is a North Face backpack filled with gear pulled from an infographic I found on Pinterest.

Before my eyes have a chance to adjust to the high afternoon sun, I am ushered into the back seat of a white minivan with faux-sheep’s fleece seat covers.

The smell of the air freshener reminds me to sit by the window, breath in through the nose, out through the mouth, and rest my cheek on the window I was expecting to feel a bit cooler.

In the winter of my post-graduate discontent, I bought a groupon for 30 days of unlimited yoga at my neighborhood studio. This would not remain my neighborhood for long, because there is now a specialty pie shop, an Italian restaurant that takes only 20 “resis” per night, three coffee shops that roast their own fairly-traded beans, and a freshly renovated Walgreens that carries craft beer.

This paves the road for the smiling babies nestled in their $1,000 Bugaboo strollers that effortlessly navigate the cracks in the sidewalk which will be fixed by next month because the alderman suddenly cares about how the 2500 block of West Armitage Ave looks.

Yoga was the thing that distracts me from the student loan balance that is not getting any closer to zero. Interest only payments are financed by a desk job where I am under utilized and small-talking my way

through the dull throb in my kidneys from the sitting

and the rhythmic pulse in my temples from the fluorescent bulbs that blink behind the plastic rectangular sheet that is textured to look like glass, but isn’t fooling anybody.

And when you are 21 and you are distracted and you are moving your body and breathing so deeply that you are borderline hallucinating, it is logical to think that you have found your life’s purpose.

So I sign up for the yoga teacher training program.

There’s a payment plan, so it won’t max out my credit card in one fell swoop. Immediately upon certification I will be armed with the knowledge to change lives; to build my following and lead international yoga retreats and curate an instagram collaged with crow poses and downward facing dogs flanked by mountains at sunset and beaches at dawn.

The return on my investment will be 10 fold. I deserve to fulfill my potential and live my purpose.

After a few weeks of teaching, I have regulars.

And after a few more weeks these regulars are starting to ask me about their bodies and to divulge their fears and insecurities with hope in their eyes

and because I have this 200 hour teaching certification I can Advise.

There is an ache deep in my gut that is telling me that I am a fraud

and that bodies and fears and insecurities of other people have nothing to do with me,

that pretending to have The Answer, is wrong.

I need to legitimize myself. So I make the pilgrimage to India.

Pilgrimage is a word normally reserved for those embarking on a spiritual journey to site that is historically sacred to their religion

but I guess it all depends on your intentions.

This Eat, Pray, Love Pilgrimage. This choose-your-own-adventure itinerary to tailor my custom Spiritual Awakening. This is the New Imperialism.

I book an astrology session with a Priest in Varanasi because sometimes even Advisors need Advice.

He lives in the old city, where the streets are narrow and smell like basement. I mindlessly follow the personal guide I was able to hire so cheaply with my American dollar.

I take up so much space.

In India, priests have trimmed mustaches, wear Panama Jack button down shirts, Arizona cargo shorts, and aviator sunglasses.

I sit across across from him at a desk that is a wood-grain that swirls when I relax my eyes.

He pushes his aviators tight on his face as he lights a cigarette and spits a wad of tobacco into a gnarled plastic bottle that has turned his mouth permanently red.

He throws water from a brass bowl in my face and says some words that sound really ancient and important.

He gives me a mantra.

And scrolls it on a piece of paper, stuffs it in a tiny silver capsule too small for his fingers to navigate and unceremoniously seals it with putty that smells like burning tires. He strings it on a brown cord and instructs me to wear it always except for at funerals, during “intercourse”, or menstruation.

It is tucked away somewhere, waiting to be unpacked.

Along with my expectations

And solutions

And everything else that didn’t quite translate upon my return to the snow drifts of Chicago.

Fatehpur Sikri in Agra, Uttar Pradesh
Fatehpur Sikri in Agra, Uttar Pradesh