We were lucky to catch up with Michelle Koster recently and have shared our conversation below.
Hi Michelle, thanks for joining us today. If you could go back in time do you wish you had started your creative career sooner or later?
I absolutely wish I would have started my creative career sooner! I leaped into my creative career in early 2019, after working 25 years in a career that was not fulfilling my soul. In fact, the corporate world was slowly sucking the life out of me. I was not happy, and not taking care of myself the way I should have been. I felt stuck and deflated. After returning to school for photography, one of the true loves of my life, I started a business. I began traveling more and loving my life. Much of the stress and frustration simply melted away and new opportunities began coming my way….until the pandemic. When the pandemic began, I had two big art shows booked as well as plans to exhibit at several art markets and fairs. All of them were canceled. I tried to shift gears and offer drive by photography shows in my yard, etc., but it just wasn’t getting it done. I ended up relapsing in my previous career, thinking I could force myself to like it, but it was miserable. Fast forward a year and a half, I was missing photography more than ever, and had dug deeper into my other loves, yoga and art. In August of 2021, I had had enough. I took off to Nicaragua for a couple of weeks to hangout a yoga/surf camp, and travel around the country. When I returned, I made a plan to complete the projects I was working on, and by October, I left my job and an unhealthy relationship. I headed to Costa Rica for a month and completed my 200-hour yoga teacher training. This was amazing, and exactly the reset I needed.
Upon my return, I pulled myself together and started offering private and group lessons as well as sharing more of my art and photography in a gallery. Recently, I also opened an Etsy shop to sell my art and jewelry. I have been attending all sorts of events, trying new things, and taking care of me! It has all been absolutely amazing to let go of my past conditioning about having to hold onto the secure, but miserable job, life, etc!! I am finally free and once I put it out to the universe intentionally, that I was going to create a new, happy life, it all started clicking! I have found numerous opportunities in both yoga and art.
The most important win of my journey over the past few years is I have really gotten to know myself and understand how I can inspire others by telling my story and sharing the things that have worked and not worked. Aside from the job drama, I had a couple of serious sports injuries that led to multiple surgeries, including screws in my hip/pelvis and a three-level spinal fusion. I was in so much pain for a time that I fell into the painkiller trap and gave up on exercise and healthy eating. Yoga was truly my guiding light in rehabilitating both my body and my mind. It offered slow, gentle, intentional movements with many options for modifications to allow it to work for my body. The spiritual side offered a calm, peaceful environment for me to look deep within and heal many emotional wounds. All-in-all, if only I had been brave enough to let go sooner and give in to my deepest desires to be me, I would have felt this happiness years ago!
As always, we appreciate you sharing your insights and we’ve got a few more questions for you, but before we get to all of that can you take a minute to introduce yourself and give our readers some of your back background and context?
In all three of my business ventures, photography, art, and yoga, my goal is to open peoples’ eyes to the unfamiliar and make them think deeper and ask questions. With photography, my main focus is travel/street photography in developing countries. I love learning about new cultures and learning from the people. Unlike the way most of us live in the United States and other first world cultures, those in developing countries are not concerned with vanity, material possessions, and insignificant personal issues. They are focused on their families and providing food, shelter, and love for them. I have felt more warmth and kindness with those who have no “things”. I have danced on the streets of Cambodia, painted on natural plant sunscreen with families in Myanmar, and hugged the babies and moms living next to the railroad tracks in Indonesia to name a few. I am grateful and humbled by the many experiences I have had and hope by sharing I can make someone here at home smile when they realize they have more to be thankful for than disappointed with. With art, I try to be imaginative with my free designs, and choose meaningful subjects and quotes with my planned pieces. I want to provoke thought and offer lessons on the deeper meaning of life. For example, I enjoy woodburning images of Buddha, Ganesha, and other spiritual beings as well as quotes from Thich Naht Hanh and other amazing spiritual leaders. These challenge people to ask questions and look for their deeper meanings. Additionally, I love to create unique baby gifts so families have something special to remember this precious time.
As for yoga, when developing my classes, I always start with a story, quote, or lesson, and then carry this theme and intention throughout the practice. In closing, I summarize the meaning of the practice, and bring everyone back with a meaningful mantra chant.
I am most proud of the fact that I try to approach everything I do first with my heart and the intention of helping others. This allows me to remain true to my authentic self and have an abundance of love. With this, everything else works itself out!
Is there something you think non-creatives will struggle to understand about your journey as a creative? Maybe you can provide some insight – you never know who might benefit from the enlightenment.
Yes, many people, including my family, don’t understand how I could have walked away from a well-paying career that provided good benefits and security to do something that didn’t offer any of this. The thing is, after losing my husband in a motorcycle accident in 2014, I realized that life is short and precious. We never know when our time will come, and so many parish without living out their dreams. So many live their lives in fear. Fear of what others think, fear of not having enough, fear of not being enough, fear of not things not working out. Isn’t it worse to never try? Isn’t it worse to find yourself on your death bed saying, “I wish I would have___”. I truly believe in living from intention, and that the universe will teach the important lessons and provide what is necessary. So, even if you are not ready for the big leap, start small. Come home from that dreadful job and do what ignites you. We are all creative in some way. We all have the ability to create a life we love, so be brave, and start with small changes!
For you, what’s the most rewarding aspect of being a creative?
For me, the most rewarding aspect of being a creative is that I get to create the life I want. I get to do things my way and be true to my beliefs and my passions. And, best of all, I get to share this with others and inspire them to blaze their unique paths to their success and happiness!
- Instagram: @vasuyoga_michelle @michellekosterphotography @michellekosterart
- Other: Etsy: @VasuArtBoutique
Photo of me looking up with hands in prayer: Casey Jones, Picture Serenity. All other photos are my own, Michelle Koster Photography.