THE BLOG
11/07/2013 09:18 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

I Quit My Job as a Teacher.. And Decided to Become A Ninja!

Click here to watch the TEDTalk that inspired this post.

In Alexa Meade's TEDTalk she shares with us her unique journey. She started with the dream of working for the government in Washington, but after college found herself painting real life objects in a basement. Alexa admits she never could have seen this path. Yet she followed it.

Why did she follow it? What was it about this idea, this concept that allowed her to throw her dreams of a Washington desk job down the drain, in pursuit of something so foreign, so strange?

There is something deep and profound within Alexa's talk. It brings deep questions to the table. Questions about dreams. What is a dream? Where do dreams come from? And why should we even listen to our dreams?

My belief is that her dream, your dream, my dream -- is an expression of our authentic self. Our dreams are our identities.

The self, who I am, who you are, sounds so arbitrary. But if we want to make it simple, the self is based on one thing: it's what you do. We often resist this concept. We say phrases such as "I'm not my job." But if you spend 40 hours of your week doing something, isn't that a piece of who you are?

Its this tug and pull that we battle with.

I believe we resist this because we know deep down inside, our job, is not who we want to be. But this brings up another question: If you are not your job, then who exactly are you?

Let me step back for a moment and tell you who I am. My name is Izzy. I'm 30 years old. I live in Japan. I came here two years ago, to follow my childhood dream: to become a ninja.

For my first four years out of college, I taught in the inner city of Los Angeles. I was ambitious, driven, and moving up the ladder. When I was asked "What is your job?" I would proudly confess, "I'm a middle school teacher" and if further pressed, I would explain my plans to "change the education system."

But here lies the problem, the quandary many of us must face: I had a job that sounded impressive and I was on a solid career path, Yet, I was unhappy. Night after night, I lie awake, overwhelmed with stress. I felt no joy. I had no sense of purpose. Inside I felt empty. At 26 years old the tears, anxiety, and depression forced me to face a question:

Why am I doing this?

I didn't have an answer.

In my heart, I was done with teaching. But I had invested so much money, so much time, and each year I was moving up the ladder. I was currently getting my Masters degree in Education. In a few years I'd be running my own school. But I hated my life. I hated who I had become: overwhelmed, anxious, depressed.

And with that, I began to be honest, I began to listen to my heart. And this crazy idea kept coming to the surface: I want to move to a far away land and train in martial arts until my body aches. I want to become a ninja. -- Izmael Arkin/Izzy

So I was forced to sit with a question that forever changed the direction of my life

If not this, then what?

Looking back on those thoughts I now see them for what they were: It was my identity, my authentic self screaming to be discovered.

I was in a job I hated, was battling with insomnia, and struggled to hide the tears from my peers. It couldn't get any worse, so I decided to follow the dream.

Over the course of two years I saved up money, left my job, and applied for work overseas. In August of 2011 I got off the plane and stepped foot in my new home: Japan.

I have now lived in Japan for two years. I live in the historical city of Kyoto. I train in Aikido (a martial art) 6 hours a day Monday through Friday. I'm living my childhood dream.

This journey, this pursuit of my dream has allowed me to discover my true identity. I know who I am.

I'm Izzy. I'm 30 years old and I want to become a ninja. I wake up everyday at 5 a.m. I train in martial arts six hours a day. I'm disciplined, committed, focused, and I persevere. I'm honest to a fault. Sometimes I trust too much. I love wheat bread, and am better at learning languages than I thought. I like eating new foods, but I hate mayonnaise on pizza. I love my family and friends. And sometimes I take things too far.

The discovery of a dream, is an exploration of the self. It isn't about, the dream, it's about discovering who you truly are.

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Follow Izmael Arkin on Facebook: www.facebook.com/The30YearOldNinja