At this point in my life, I don’t own anything.
We sold our home, cars, and most things in 2019 when we moved from Florida to Amsterdam. We wanted to stay flexible, and practice minimalism, so we packed our most precious items such as photo books, mugs, and books in storage bins.
A few weeks ago, I went through these storage bins to see what else I could throw from the remainder of my belongings and fell upon a stack of papers.
Papers I had long gone forgotten. My eyes poured over their contents, and tears welled up my eyes. The words I read were mine.
There were poems, short stories, school essays, and comic strips. All were kept neatly stacked in a folder. I went through them, one by one, and was flooded with memories.
I don’t think I ever thought about how much writing meant to me.
How easily my fingers glided on paper. My mom used to tell me how much she admired the ease with which I wrote. Writing has always been a huge part of my identity.
It wasn’t something I learned; it was something that flowed through my body.
If I could go back in time and give my 10-year-old self a single piece of advice, I’d tell her this: “Keep writing, and don’t let anyone stop you.”
By the time I was 12, I had several poems published in poetry journals, countless overfilled diaries pouring out of my cupboard, and a plethora of unfinished short stories. Stories that were now in a bin were lost in obscurity because I never truly pursued my biggest passion.
I closed the folder and put the storage bin away.
Instead of walking away feeling nostalgic and proud of my younger self, I walked away angry. Angry that I had not pursued writing.
That I let myself fall on the wayside, consumed by other trivial matters such as social status and money as I got older.
I did pursue writing in the sense that I kept diaries and blogs throughout my life. Still, when I had the opportunity to dive deeper into creative writing in college, I decided instead to go down the route of Business Management so that I could have a “career.” I did actually end up having quite a successful career while I was at it.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that a successful career does not equate to life fulfillment or work happiness.
There’s a reason why Millennials have been on the hunt to find their “passion” in the past decade or so.
We’ve been disillusioned at the dream that was promised to us. I did everything right to be successful: I graduated with top honors in my undergraduate degree, had four internships by the time I graduated, and got a high-paying entry-level job as a Financial Analyst at a Fortune 500 company.
I was excited! Finally, I was on my way!
On my way to misery. After 18 months in that role, I had enough. I was not too fond of it. It was time to pivot into something else. Lucky for me, my manager at the time was on her way out, so she helped me find a position in the IT department.
She vouched for my can-do attitude and my aptitude for learning any new skill. So, I made a lateral move. Then, it happened again, 18 months later, I wanted out. I took a risk and left the company for a promotion.
Now, I was definitely on my way! More money! Better title!
As I was adjusting to my new role, this time in Data Analytics, I decided to go back to school and pursue a Master’s degree.
I told myself that if I wanted to be taken seriously in this domain, I better get some new skills fast.
Plus, the company was going to pay for most of it, so why not? Funnily enough, I became pregnant with my first child during my studies. There I was, juggling a full-time job while enrolled in a 2-year Master’s degree and pregnant.
Did I mention how much I hated my job?
Once I hit that 18-month mark again, I felt the itch to look for something else. But this time, I was stuck. I was pregnant and in school.
There was no way I would leave my cushy job during such a tumultuous time in my life.
So, instead, I decided to open a website. I didn’t know what it would be about, but I wanted to try the online world. I bought the domain Honestpot and decided that I was going to charge people for advice. My initial idea was to help anyone with anything.
I was definitely on my way! Brilliant money-making idea!
I toiled away for several months at it until I realized it was a dead-end and knew I had to pivot into something else. I remembered how much I loved to write, so I asked myself: “What do I want to write about?”. After jotting down several topics, I realized that being an introvert was the one thing I gravitated towards the most.
Of course! I bought a new domain, Honestrox, and started writing articles about being introverted. That evolved into writing several E-books. Then, I wanted to turn those into courses.
I finally had a vision for my website and the direction I wanted to go in.
But I was still working full-time. I wanted out. I had given birth to my son by this time, so I decided to look for a new job during my maternity leave. A week before my leave ended, I walked into the office and gave them my notice.
Now that I had a Master’s degree and more experience, I received an offer from my previous employer to work for them again.
Another promotion! More money!
If you feel like I’m repeating myself, it’s because I am. I’ll change it up a bit just for you. A year into this role, I got promoted to a Senior Functional Analyst. At this point in my life, I owned two homes (an investment property and my own home), two cars, two dogs, a husband, a baby, and a Master’s degree.
What more can a person want?!
On paper, I had everything. Sure, I could have done with a bigger house, but I hit all the milestones at the right time. And yet?
I was miserable, dreaded going to work, didn’t like my colleagues, and didn’t care much for the friends in my life.
I had severe anxiety, to the point of being scared to go outside, so I pretty much closed myself off from the world. What did make me happy, though, was working on my website.
I worked on my “business” while at my “real” job.
I hid in meeting rooms for hours to write articles, design my website, and post social media. Unfortunately, I was dropping the ball at work and had to apologize several times, but I was numb to it.
I didn’t care anymore about keeping up pretenses.
Then, one morning, as I walked into the office and saw all my colleagues drag themselves in as well, I realized that this could not be it. It couldn’t be. This was not how I wanted my life to unfold, day in and day out.
So, I did something drastic. I applied for another Master’s degree, in Applied Cognitive Psychology, in the Netherlands. My thought process was that if I really wanted to do something with my online business, I needed some credibility in the space.
Since my goal was to help introverts, I needed to have some background in psychology.
I didn’t think my Master’s degree in IT management would ever be useful, but it’s because I got accepted into the Psychology program. As I had no prior experience with Psychology, they needed some proof that I could, in fact, go through the program and graduate.
So, there I was, again, giving my notice, except this time I was severing my ties for good. There was no going back! Ever!
We had two months to get our affairs in order.
We literally sold everything we could and jammed the rest into storage bins. Packed our bags, took our kid, and flew across the ocean to Amsterdam. I wish I could tell you that I lived happily ever after, but alas, it was not so.
See, while I knew deep in my heart that walking away from a corporate job was the best decision I ever made, I still did not have a clear vision of what was next for me. I was still trying to find my purpose.
I told myself that once I’d finish the Master’s degree in Psychology, that I’d have a better understanding of my “purpose.” In the meantime, I kept writing on my blog and kept honing in on my niche.
At this time, I made another pivot and started writing more about Social Anxiety. I planned to have several courses up and running by the time I finished the year.
Except, life has a funny way of getting in the way of plans.
Did I mention that I was pregnant again? Yep, there I was going to class and my internships, pregnant with my second child. Then 2020 hit us. All of us. The university closed down, and everything moved online.
I gave birth to my second child and went on maternity leave. I still had to finish my degree, so during my leave, I worked on my thesis. After pushing my deadline several times, I eventually graduated in February of 2021.
What was supposed to be a one-year program turned out to be 1.5 years.
1.5 years of not working and not making money.
Something so alien to me. Although I was an intern throughout the program, I wasn’t getting paid. I told the company that after I graduate if they want me to continue helping them, it would have to be within the confines of a freelancing contract. They agreed.
A few weeks before I was supposed to start getting paid, I made the biggest decision of my life.
I decided that I no longer wanted to chase the status quo but instead strike out on my own.
I asked myself this question “Will 80-year-old me tell me to go for it?”. The answer was a big yes. I didn’t want to live with the regret of not giving myself a chance to make it on my own. To not pursue what I’m desperately passionate about.
So, I reached out to my manager and told him that I was backing out to follow my passion.
A passion that was nonexistent a year ago.
It was cultivated through years of experiments and pivots. When I first set out to write articles about Social Anxiety and being an introvert, I never once imagined that I’d want it to be my life’s work.
After years of straying away from my younger self and not listening to her, here I am doing the one thing I should have done all along…write.
But it’s so much more than that.
My writing opened the door to website design, content creation, social media management, e-mail marketing, copywriting, SEO strategy, video-making, and so much more.
A world I never would have entered or known about if I stayed in my “career.”
A career that did, in fact, give me a lot of external validation but lacked in giving me the most important aspect of living a good life: internal fulfillment. Now, I schedule my days as I please and work on the content I choose. I’m privileged to have this opportunity, and I certainly don’t take it for granted.
In fact, I’ve never worked harder in my life, even when I was pregnant, working full-time, and going to school. I easily put in 10-hour days, day-in and day-out, because I want to make this work.
I know my purpose and direction in life now, and I’m not going to let it slip away without giving it more than my all.
Several signs tell me that this is what I’m meant to do:
- I want to start my day ASAP when I wake up, even if it’s at 5 AM.
- My to-do list keeps growing because the ideas keep flowing.
- I don’t get out of my chair for hours at a time, and when I do, I come right back.
- I’m upset when the weekend is here and can’t put any hours in.
- I don’t care about making big money with this, I have a sustainable income.
Above all else, running out of the shower dripping wet to jot down an idea before it slips away is probably the strongest sign of them all.
But I know why you’re here, and if you’ve made it this far, then you’re all in.
You’re ready to find out how to start living with purpose because it is possible.
It’s not enough to find out though, you have to really be willing to put in the work and believe that it will take you where you want to go.
The universe has your back if it sees that you’re soul-searching.