Many of us were born with a clear plan for our lives. It starts with our parents planning to have their 1st or in my case 2nd child and it goes through the school plan, university, career, marriage, and kids, and the story goes on.
Of course, there is always room to improvise even if you hop on the train of life, you can skip few stations or change from one station to the other, but the overall plan more or less is set.
I always had a plan for my life and though I didn’t stick to the original plan for a woman from the middle east, I still operated within a framework that brought me certainty. Through all the ups and downs, I always had one anchoring part of my life which to a large extent gave me a sense of purpose and that was my career.
I am a successful executive in the technology domain, I have always been a career woman, I loved businesses and enjoyed building them.
But with time, something started changing. My passion for life and what I do was fading away. I could feel my heart beating heavily and my physical energy was dropping. My body started getting sick for no reason, I guess it was its own way of complaining. Even my anxiety attacks stopped; of course, that would have been a great thing, if it was a sign of better coping with stress or of my spiritual growth or even if it was an output of my meditation. But deep inside, I knew, it wasn’t.
I was just losing interest in everything. After 21 years of a career that I loved and was proud of, I started doubting if I wanted to be a businesswoman at all.
Another woman was suffocating inside, a woman that was more creative, freer, more in tune with the world, but not with the world that she was living in.
Does that sound familiar?
So in 2017 and ahead of my 44th birthday, I gave myself a special gift. I decided to resign, to leave the company that I built, the job, the title, and all that came with it. I took a leap of faith, I didn’t know what will come next and I decided it doesn’t matter.
Many thought that I had a great alternative plan: a new company that I am starting, an NGO that I am establishing, or a husband that I decided to leave everything to be with. But the reality was much simpler, I had no clue what is coming next.
I did a few calculations, I sorted out my financials, I planned my 2018 travels and I talked to the universe and agreed with it that it’s time.
It all seemed perfect and I was enjoying my new life until I woke up one night in Tuscany with what I thought was a heart attack. I quickly realized it wasn’t as the sensation felt familiar. It was just an anxiety attack.
Just when life seemed perfect: the landscapes of Tuscany, the freedom of time, the serenity, no responsibilities…
But why! Why did I wake up in the middle of the night anxious and full of fear? and fear of what?
I closed my eyes and I started a deep meditation scanning my body and trying to understand what is happening within. After what seemed like a long time, a question that I have been playing with before I started my travel, popped up!
If I strip myself of all my roles, the daughter, the sister, the friend, the CEO, the mentor, and all other roles that I play in my life, what remains of me and what gives me a sense of purpose. This wasn’t a philosophical question that I am posing to myself or to others so that I reach a spiritual answer: oneness, consciousness, or beyond. Not that I don’t relate to all of that, but when this question emerged, it came from my alpha personality and not from the spiritual being; and yes, I am still working on integrating both!
I tried playing with this question with a few people before I started my travel, especially those that were in transition like me, but with no luck. I wasn’t looking for a generic answer that fits all, I was just hoping to find the path to find my own answer.
To me, the question mattered because I always got my anchoring from myself. I knew who I am, what’s my purpose and what I need to accomplish, and that grounded me. I knew my battles and I enjoyed fighting them.
I was ready to deal with the uncertainty of not knowing what will happen the next day but obviously, I wasn’t ready for the uncertainty of not knowing who I am.
I came back from Tuscany realizing that my real challenge is finding a way to deal with this uncertainty. It takes a lot of courage to let go of who we are, but it gets quite scary if we don’t know who we want to be.
I observe myself, clinging to parts of who I am and what I used to enjoy most from the old me, it gives me comfort and a sense of mastery. I do that, while I also take baby steps in trying to connect to that other me that is trying to emerge, giving her the space and the time. It’s a chaotic process, but I guess all creative processes are.
Through all of this, I am learning to be gentle with myself. I need to accept that its ok to stumble and to go one step forward and 10 steps backward. I need to keep reminding myself to be playful while embarking on the new journey with all the trial and error; obviously a project plan with a tight timeline doesn’t work in these kinds of projects. Very new to me!
A friend once described me as “an action verb”, a doer that makes things happen, however, it seems this is one thing I can’t force to happen nor I can intellectualize. It takes patience and experimenting. It’s a very individual path that hasn’t been walked before.
Personal development books, coaching, people’s advice don’t seem to help much on that path. You need to accept that the only story you have for now is being a seeker, an explorer of who you are.
If you are like me on that path, you will relate to the journey: the confusion, the vulnerability, the social pressure, and the fear of failure.
But I hope, you will also be enjoying the childish joy that comes with a new discovery about yourself, the aliveness that comes with the open possibilities of a new life and the freedom that accompanies experimenting with no expectations.