A few months in after my move to Amsterdam, I was somewhat struggling on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. By Western standards, that is. Food and clothing were indeed covered, though job security and accommodation were still a challenge. Let alone feelings of belonging in my new hometown.
I realised that finding a job as an Industrial Designer was not going to be easy because of a language barrier; and who would have known, finding accommodation proved even more difficult than getting a job.
In hindsight, I should have done some pre-work and research, but back then, I didn’t know any better and was hungry for change.
In my last post, I mentioned “making concessions”, and by that I meant opening up to other job possibilities, despite my academic background. Did I mention my postgraduate degree in PM as well?
As a native spanish speaker, I started working in Customer Service - a job that in my mind was always meant as a temporary solution. One that, several promotions included, lasted for about 5 years.
Something very interesting happens when you have your basic needs covered, you count with spare time and are removed from your habitual surroundings.
You start asking questions.
Michael Crichton describes it well in his book “Travels”: “Often I feel I go to some distant region of the world to be reminded of who I really am…Stripped of your ordinary surroundings, your friends, your daily routines…you are forced into direct experience [which] inevitably makes you aware of who it is that is having the experience.”
“If I am no longer an Industrial Designer, WHO AM I?
If I don’t have such a busy social life anymore, what do I love doing in my spare time?
What’s my passion? What’s my hobby? What am I good at?
What do I want? What do I believe in?
Why do I do what I do?
What are my gifts and talents? What is my purpose?
What makes my heart break? What matters most to me?
Am I living my life? Or am I just doing what is expected of me? And by whom?”
If I was so disconnected from myself, from which place was I operating with the world around me?
In this journey inwards, it became very evident to me that I didn’t know the answer to these questions, and that for most of my life, I had been living from the “should be” rather than by what might have felt truer to me.
Finish high school -> off to University -> get a job -> Postgraduate Degree -> chase promotions - because that’s the recipe to “succeed” in life. No question about it - at least not in the educational system I was brought up in.
Let’s agree that this works for some of us, but what if that’s not what we want or what we are here to be? What if we feel stuck in a rut by following these society’s old rules of engagement?
What if instead of being highly functional, you could be actually THRIVING?
The problem with the labels that are given to us from an early age, which become part of our “identity”, is not only that they are quite limiting, but also that they are perceived as set in stone.
How can you dare take a different direction? What will people say? And what about the ‘sunk costs’?
Asking myself those questions allowed me to look at life with a new awareness, which slowly turned into action. Gradually, I started making different choices in all the areas of my life that transformed for good the way I connect with myself, with others and with the world around me.
Personal transformation and growth are, in my opinion, a constant evolution in a spiral movement upwards. Growth takes courage, which means moving forward even in the face of fear.
I would not be honest if I said I have no worries or fears about walking a different path at the age of 38. Self-preservation is a real thing after all. But what I can affirm is that I am BEING from a place that feels much more authentic to me, trusting that nothing really goes away until it teaches what we need to learn. So, my fears and concerns might come back in different shapes and forms, but I know I am working to be able to respond from a new, elevated awareness.
I always like to share my learnings, as they might be of help or inspiration for someone else. In this case, I can say that:
If you are going through something similar, and would like some support, don’t hesitate to get in touch. I’d love to hear from you and see how I can help with my own experience and tools.
I’ll be sharing part 3 next week. Stay tuned!
Until then, take good care.