Inspiration, Learning, Self-awareness

Becoming a Whole-Hearted Warrior

24/05/2016
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Life is the most complicated, yet the most beautiful gift we have received. Learning how to master it raises to me tons of daily questions that sometimes remain unanswered and other times, like now, find their answers.

I’ve never considered myself a courageous person. When I was little, I used to hide in my room when my parents had guests and many times I preferred to spend time alone instead of playing with other kids. In kindergarten and primary school, I remember being shy and afraid of expressing any spoken words with only rare occasions when I felt safe enough to do it. I liked people but I was afraid to get close to them and to show them who I really was.

When I was about 14 years old, something shifted inside my mind and I became aware of my power and endless choices ahead of me. This inner shift was triggered by 2 external moments: my parents’ behaviour was different from what I needed and the other one – I was heartbroken after my first romantic story. I became very introspective and thoughtful, almost obsessed to find out the answers to my questions. Questions.  On almost each piece of paper I wrote a question.

Today, after 12 years since those moments, I can still remember the nights I spent writing in my diary and crying silently to not be heard by anyone in the house. I felt misunderstood, different and too complicated for the world around me. No one was dealing with the same dilemmas and the close friends I used to talk to played a huge role in those moments, but too many times they were overwhelmed by my perpetual quests. I remember the pain I was going through, I recall the first realisations that life would not be easy to understand, that I wanted to be “somebody” but without losing my heart, and that an ongoing work would be ahead me to achieve that, without knowing what it will look like.

On one of those first days of conscious pain, confusion and loss, I made the decision to write to myself. I wanted to get out of my chest all the things I couldn’t talk about with any other person. It was one of the best decisions I made. The following days and nights were filled with endless questions and stories about human ability to hurt, about lack of consciousness, about life lessons I could take, about dreamy future plans, about me becoming wiser and leading a great life. That first journal got filled in a few months.  I became addicted to journaling and my first diary turned into 21 handwritten ones and 15 personal agendas in 12 years’ time.  I’ve been on a journey to find the right equation of a life wisely-spent. Journaling taught me to have the courage to face my emotions and thoughts, not some of them, but all. I became more and more comfortable with them and I started to express them more clearly, in a more structured way, with a learning-oriented attitude.

Life has a mysterious way of working and it requires not only reflection on daily events, but also making things happen. Therefore, I wouldn’t have discovered who I am and what I know now only by writing. Even before the age of 14, when I started my first journal, I also got involved in tons of extra-curricular activities. The desire to wander and discover new worlds flourished. I am proud that I made the decision to let curiosity lead my life and I was lucky to be supported by my parents.

From 12 years old until end of high-school I tasted all of what life unfolded me – I did group singing and dancing, I went in France, lived with locals and performed there in hospitals, old people’s homes, schools.  In high-school I came with the idea to organize surveys on whether we should have had a cafeteria in the school and stuck inspirational stories and quotes on hallway boards. I wrote, edited and sold 9 personal magazine issues, I did painting, I attended non-formal education sessions, I did an European road-trip and lived again with locals (UK this time). I tried to change mentalities, did counselling with my friends and class-mates (didn’t know, back then, it was called “coaching”), confronted teachers when no one dared, maintained special friendships and relationships and said “yes” to every travel I heard about. I was all over the place, following my curiosities and reflecting upon them in my journal.

In 2009 I moved to Bucharest for academic studies. The wanderlust was still there, this time stronger than ever. The first 3 years I was hyper-active. Along with faculty courses, I did volunteer work in a creative student organisation, evaluated best professors for a national contest, the next year I went to Falun, Sweden with an Erasmus scholarship, shared my experiences on my first blog and organized diverse activities for my colleagues. In the third year I helped teachers at British Council Bucharest, had executive and leadership roles in AIESEC, the largest youth organisation in the world, got involved in international programmes, attended tens of training sessions and conferences, did 2 part-time jobs, and went to 2 countries to do volunteer work.

After 3 years and a half of studies, volunteering and part-time work, I decided to become a “normal” grown-up with full-time responsibilities. I applied for almost 300 jobs and eventually I got one in a prestigious corporation, in the field that I wanted, with a great salary. I worked with senior managers from all over the world and had important responsibilities. However, the experience was very different from what I expected. As I didn’t want to become like the majority of those people just for money, social status and fame, I decided to quit and step into the unknown. I didn’t know the costs I’d have to pay, though. So that’s how 2015 became both the year of facing my darkest demons and the year of learning to become a whole-hearted warrior.

A couple of months before I announced my managers that I would leave, I had applied for jobs abroad as I wanted to live and work in “civilised” societies full of beauty. After hundreds of applications and some interviews, I was accepted for three internships (temporary contract work through AIESEC) on the same day (on a Wednesday). Of US, India and Spain, I decided to go for the last one, even if it provided the shortest work contract (6 months) because I had been there a year before and it simply blew my mind. So I went there. The experience was amazing but the job was not okay. I was not happy professionally, so by the time I found out that the contract would not be extended, I was already thinking what to do next. I was exhausted of delivering hourly results with little appreciation and no true fulfillment, so I told myself: “I won’t work in a corporation anymore!”

Beginning of year 2015. Deep down I felt the urge to create, feel free, do something meaningful and express myself. I had been writing for over 10 years so becoming a full-time columnist seemed legit to me. I was in a zen state of mind that I would have never thought could exist. Dots seemed to connect and, finally, clarity was part of my life. I committed to great daily habits in order to maintain that blissfulness alive for as long as I could. I focused my energy and time on that and I wrote many vulnerable and inspiring texts that were published on my blog and also sent to three online publications. I could have been accepted to one if I had submitted another article, but by the time I saw that happening, reality had confronted me. I asked help to the one person I knew who worked in a creative industry and got the ugly truth in my face – I was not famous to work with them. I realised that it would take long time to build credibility and make money out of this, my savings were gone so my 3-month-trial experience went to an end. At the beginning of April I had to come back to Bucharest so to figure out what to do next. Slowly, the creative state of mind and my sublime mindfulness were replaced with confusion, anxiety and doubts.

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2015 reached a whole new level of despair, loss, failure and fear of choices and commitment. From February till the end of the year, I tried to succeed in 3 different work fields. After not making money from writing, I was asked to work as a full-time coach in Bucharest, gave up on that because I was not working with an intrinsically-motivated person and at some point I felt the need for proper training. I kept dreaming of Barcelona so I came back there to find any job just to make a living in my back then “dream city”. That turned into a failure and then moved back to Bucharest. I did introspection and a new desire arose: to design a self-knowledge training based on my life-experiences, which eventually turned into a demo-course, but gave up on it as it didn’t happen as I had imagined. Lots of intense emotions, questions, a rollercoaster that seemed to have no end.

Before 2015, I thought I knew what I wanted professionally. As soon as I decided to leave behind a career in a corporation, I became excruciatingly anxious that there could not be life without corporations. That I could not ever decide on one single professional path because I had always been interested in more things. I lived with these thoughts and fed them until they became my demons.

2015 was the year that took away from me almost everything I had. For most of last year I felt as if I was the greatest loser in the world. I was forced to come back from Barcelona to Bucharest, had no interest in making money and was mostly unemployed, at some point felt too creative and had too many ideas to follow only one, was let down by close friends and lovers, others kept a distance from me and only a few stayed occasionally there for me.

I suffered for months from mental blockage and anxiety. My mentor turned her back when I asked for help (like other people did) and the therapists I worked with couldn’t answer my questions and satisfy my deep and itchy mind and innermost needs. My parents offered the basic financial support, showing both trust that I would thrive and terror that I should be stable and aligned with the others’ life.  I did meditation, yoga, therapy, went to soul-searching courses, read lots of psychology, spiritual and self-help books, articles, did online research and finally interviewed on how others managed to face their greatest challenges.

I didn’t know who I was and I was constantly asking these obsessive questions: ”What are my gifts?, What to pursue in life?, “What path to choose?”, “What is the truth?”, “How to do good in the world?”, “How to make a balance between the voices of my mind and soul?’, “How to make money out of my passions?”, “What’s the cost of my success and happiness?”, “What to choose: coaching, training or writing?”. I was still in a blockage, too afraid to commit on a path.

At the end of December, tired after crucial battles with no one else but myself, I finally made a decision: I wanted to live that hell no longer. I didn’t accept that my life would continue to feel that way. I didn’t know what to do but I decided to BELIEVE that something better would happen and I would find the STRENGTH to fight against it and win the battle.

In those moments of confusion, despair, and loneliness I thought of way too many people from my country – people who lost their faith in a courageous life, people who conformed to society norms, people whose eyes don’t shine anymore, people who forgot to fight for their truth and felt miserable as if they were living someone else’s life. And every time I remembered that, I knew with no doubt that I didn’t want my life to look that way. “Am I ready to pay the cost of the courageous life I really want?”, “What if I fail?”, “How can I prepare myself for that life-change moment when I finally decide to transform my passions into a profession and do something courageous?”, “What can I lose the most?. Fears made a home out of me.

I had already lost almost everything so it couldn’t be worse. Then I made the decision to rise.

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I continued to meditate, pray and daydream and started to write and seed intentions and want success and happiness with all my heart even if I still didn’t figure out how they work together. I wanted to do something meaningful, earn enough money to live and save, have freedom, and work no more than 6 hours a day. And in a couple of days, I got a call from a friend who asked me if I wanted to be a teacher in a public school. I passed the preliminary interview, but I said “no” because of a very low salary that would have caused inner frustration and because of a complicated children’s background and school conditions.

A few days later I was asked by the same person if I wanted to get an English teaching job in a language school. It was exactly what I was looking for: meaningful, part-time, well-paid and as a bonus, a school professional who trusted me with all her heart. Despite holding a language degree, methodology teacher training and non-formal education experience, I felt under-prepared. I was aware of low self-esteem but I dared to make the jump. On top of that, I started to do private English lessons and up until now I got to facilitate over 450h of live learning sessions for people aged 5 to 57.

During these 5 months I proved myself that it is possible to want and make things happen, even if they seemed unrealistic. On one side, I felt successful to have prepared and facilitated continuous learning classes and making a living out of it, and on the other hand, I felt so many times that my job mattered, that I influenced students to analyse, make decisions, become independent thinkers, stay positive and not the least, to PRACTISE English as much as they could. I showed up every class on both sunny or cloudy moods, and, the memories that my English school teachers didn’t encourage me to speak, didn’t create a conversational atmosphere, didn’t inspire me to confront my fears – all these negative and powerful memories – fueled my ambition to be different.

As a teacher, I was also human: I apologised for my mistakes, I listened more and spoke less, I showed real interest in who my students are, I explained concepts for each of them if I sensed that shameful “I don’t get that” face, I maintained discipline with calm voice and no punishments or “I’ll show you” behaviour, I accepted everyone’s distinct intelligence and adapted to each of them. As a teacher, I still have a lot to learn – both in methodology and content, but knowing that I did all I mentioned above, that I prepared for each class, and also remained present, creative, caring and spontaneous, this is one of the greatest professional accomplishments I’ve ever had. And I am extremely proud. I don’t know if these students will remember about me in 5 years’ time, but I know that a new idea popped into their minds: learning English can be also enjoyable and practical. If they keep up with this mindset, they will feel proud and confident to use English in real-life situations exactly like the Western Europeans I met in my life did.

Today I am writing this story because I want to honour both success and failure. Dark and light. Not only did I become  more confident and experienced about my professional role, but I also learned so much about myself, people and life. The feeling and the understanding that surround me in this stage of my life inspire me to share this life-story and some of the lessons that I learnt:

  1. No one is too insignificant to influence other people’s life for better.
  2. I am the only one responsible for my own decisions, lifestyle and emotions. Not making any decisions out of fear is actually a decision. Once a decision is made, stick to it for a time and, most importantly, own it. The more decisions I make, the better I get.
  3. Much as I want to control every second and aspect of my life, some things are beyond my control and they simply need to be accepted and lived.
  4. People are amazing and terrible beings alike. I only need to accept their both sides and help them come to light again.
  5. Understanding our core nature and mind and becoming better human beings is our purpose. In order to do that, I need to leave my safety zone and leap into the unknown. And that’s freaking difficult.
  6. Defining “better” is an individual and unique job and it takes a life-time.
  7. Accepting the uncertainty is part of the journey. Not knowing what the future holds for us is difficult, yet something to get comfortable with.
  8. I used to believe that I create for others. I now believe that I express my truths for myself because, if I don’t do it, I feel empty, stuck, and incomplete. If my writings help others also, that’s just a bonus.
  9. Sometimes, doing nothing and staying apart in times of thunderstorm is the best thing we can do.
  10. Pain has the power to unfold great self-insights, but, at some point, I need to make the decision to leave it behind and seek for the light.
  11. Being there for others in time of need is crucial to me.
  12. True understanding comes from acknowledging the light and the darkness within us.
  13. True courage comes from daring to shine every time you can and helping others to do the same.
  14. True power comes from the confidence with which you are speaking the truth.
  15. True wisdom comes from knowing that my truth today can be different from my truth tomorrow.
  16. There is no shame to ask for help when I need it. Answering one’s request in times of real need makes all the difference.
  17. I became more a give-type person, who started to ask “What can I offer in this situation?” or “What are people’s needs?”. I also became more aware when someone met me for the sole purpose of only taking something from me: energy, attention, caring, presence, etc.
  18. Some life-lessons are meant to stay with me a lifetime, alive in my consciousness and others are welcomed just for a certain life-stage.
  19. Understanding and managing my own thoughts and emotions is one of the best life skills.
  20. Judging is easy, understanding is hard.
  21. When I don’t feel okay, I first check in my biological causes: “Did I eat well?”, “Did I drink enough water?”, “Did I sleep well and enough?”, “Did I move my body?”, “Did I take a moment to just breathe?”
  22. In practising discipline, I learned to sign “contracts” with myself on actions that are non-negotiable. No excuses are accepted.
  23. Between knowing how to do one thing and putting it into practice there is a big, big gap.
  24. Beyond kind words, the best way to encourage someone to conquer their life is through my own actions.
  25. Power and sensitivity work hand in hand.
  26. Fears are meant to be confronted.

Today I turn 26. This story is my gift to myself – a story of diving into the darkness and finding the inner strength to reach for the light. By publishing this article I give myself permission to put out there and create what I’m supposed to be creating. I’ve never considered myself a courageous person, but I am learning to become one.

This is a story that needs to be told. One meant to remind you to keep fighting. To confront and slay your demons. To provoke you to be a step more honest to yourself. To know that life is sometimes dark and complicated and it’s fine to be there. To dare more often to go chase those dreams and take the risk that you might fail or you might lose some parts of yourself on the journey. To know that the greatest emotions and life-lessons come when you listen to that voice inside you, that one that says: “Follow me and let’s have great adventures together!

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2 Comments

  • Reply Stranger on the Internet 24/05/2016 at 12:19

    So here’s a crazy thought. I’ve looked at your Facebook page and you seem so smart, outgoing and popular. The kind of person with a million friends and who everyone likes to be around, who they like to adore and praise. I can recognize that because I don’t have it. You are also super pretty and effortlessly so. That also matters, you may not realize how much. It saddens me to see that behind the veneer, you are going through some considerable troubles and have felt sad and disorderented for so long. But think about how you’ve been able to have so smany different experiences, you traveled so much, you lived in other countries, your parents can help you pay the rent while you do this soul-searching. This is a big deal. I don’t have many of the things you have. These are all huge gifts that many people don’t have. You have an impressive CV, earned some good money in cool corporations and lived in Barcelona. That’s freaking awesome. Stop and think about all of this. I, and others like me, envy you. From the outside you seem to have a perfect life and be the perfect person. You also seem to be very introspective. Which is amazing, but can also backfire. It always strikes me that the people most obsessed about happiness seem to be the most unsatisfied. What I would do if I were you is to try and take other mental directions. Maybe the tools you’ve been relying on for so long have not served you all that well. All the coaching, psychological, spiritual, inspirational, mindfulness stuff. All that might be empty and impersonal, it’s not terribly scientific, and perhaps it’s mumbo jumbo. Maybe it’s unnecessary, cliché, and well… made up. Fake knowledge. Try to do research in opossite directions as well, look into the opinions of people who disagree with you, be critical. Instead of pop-psychology and vaguely spiritual zen-y things and people trying to sell you life advice (as if anyone has really figured it all out), I would look into the more seriously intellectual results of human ingenuity. Watch the great movies, listen to the great music, read the great literary and philosophical works, read the great scientists, listen to the great comedians. Maybe you already have, but look more into it. I would ditch Dostoievski for Oprah any day. Kant for Osho 🙂 you get the picture. Apologies, I’m giving some random examples, I don’t want to be disrespectful. But look into science for example or other things to which you haven’t devoted a lot of thinking before. Focus on the actual living rather than heavy introspection. Maybe it’s not that healthy to always be painfully aware of your role in the universe and what should your purpose in life be. Aswers have a funny way of eluding us just when we focus on them the most. You can try to aquire more tangible, marketable skills, hard skills. I’m pretty sure you’re the queen of soft skills already 🙂 You’ve really honed that side of your personality, maybe it’s time to polish other sides as well. You’ve jumped from one field to another and haven’t got the change to get really, really good at something. That may also be a source of insatisfaction. Stay in something long enough to feel you’re an expert. That has to make you feel good 🙂 And finally, relax, you’re 26 🙂 Your life has just begun. Don’t panic that you don’t have all the answers yet. No one does. Happy Birthday! 🙂

  • Reply James R. 25/05/2016 at 20:48

    I find you story fascinating in the sense that you took the decision to follow your passion. Not enough people are doing that nowadays..
    From being individuals corrupted by money we tend to forget what our passions are. I was almost going to say individuals corrupted by money and power, but power could actually be a passion, whereas money is not. Nevertheless I feel that their are more decisions than only making the choice between passion and following mindlessly society into oblivion! Certain decisions lie ahead, people might be conflicted with their passions and also do not see how to attain the life-style that they want to have or how to attain the goals that they once had or still have .

    People might actually want to live as outcasts of society, but fear that they are missing the opportunity to impact society in a positive way and therefore will always be conflicted between those two worlds. It is true though, that to be able to attain a certain state of happiness people need to understand that a decision has to be made and stick to that decision to be able to somewhat appreciate what we have around. Nevertheless the thought of this other life, that one could have had by taking the opposite decision will still hunt them for the rest of their lives…

    To answer the person who posted the comment that lies above, I firmly believe that once a person is aware of its surroundings, possible decisions and outcomes of those decisions (even as blurry those outcomes might be, due to uncertainty) and continuously thinks about the rest of the world, this person is doomed to be somewhat. constantly unhappy and on the brake of darkness and desperation.

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