Yesterday I launched my own business. I became a lifecoach for women. It took a lot of guts for me to a) take this step, and to b) do it in the way I’m doing – by blending my personal and professional lives online.
But I couldn’t have done it any other way. Because I followed my heart. And a long time ago I decided that when it came to big decisions (or small), I would always follow my heart. Because looking back on my life, it’s always paid off.
Here’s what my life would have looked like if I hadn’t followed my heart at key moments:
1. I would have become a Physicist instead of a Social Scientist.
During the last two years of high-school I was really fed-up with being a teenager. Nothingchallenged me and I was ready to ‘move up’ to the next stage of my life. To be in a surrounding where I could really start doing what I loved. The only subjects that interested me somewhat were the sciences: Physics, Math, Chemistry. Because they challenged me and being an analytical person, I was good at them. So it made sense that I would enroll in a Sciences program in university. A dear friend of mine muddled up my future. She dragged me along to an open day of the first ever Liberal Arts college in the Netherlands. Leafing through their brochure on the way back home in the train, I remember thinking “If only I could take some of these courses as well. They sound so thought-provoking; exactly what I’ve been looking for”. So that’s what I did. Instead of continuing down a path I knew and becoming a Physics student, I took a leap and became a multi-disciplinary Liberal Arts student.
2. I would have studied the Middle East instead of lived in it.
After graduation from my Master’s program, I didn’t know where to go with my career. The only field that had ever challenged me was academia. So, I applied for a Ph.D. program in NYC. I planned my future for the next decade: 1) make some money teaching & researching for 6 months, 2)go to Egypt for 6 months to improve my Arabic, followed by 3) move to New York for the next 10 years to study the appearance of women in Arab pop-culture. During my third month in Egypt, I was turned down by both Ph.D programs I’d applied for. My 10-year work/life plan fell through, and there was no Plan B. In the meantime, however, I’d grown to love living in Cairo. I’d come to realize that 6 months was way to short to achieve any sort of fluency in Arabic. So, I decided to trust my gut, and stay in Egypt indefinitely. And instead of planning ahead for the next 10 years, I decided to start living in the moment more to simply see where life would take me.
3. I would have had a Western partner instead of an Arab one.
While living in Egypt I met Hussam. Two years after we met, he moved to Syria and we broke up. Cairo had lost its spark for me, and I decided to move back to the Netherlands to rebuild my life. I was having a hard time finding a job and missing that one person that understood me. Who made things OK. And Hussam apparently felt the same. While on two different continents, both feeling lonely and emotionally sore, we carefully reconnected. And realized we weren’t done with each other yet. And with our ego’s already shattered from the heartbreak, we dared to make the leap into restarting our relationship – long-distance. Against everyone’s advice. Following my heart, though, which told me to be with him, was the only thing I could do. We ended up being in a long-distance relationship for 2,5 years and got married last summer. And every day I thank myself for daring to ignore everyone’s advice, and listening to my heart’s voice instead. Because it lead to me having the sweetest husband ever.
4. I would have been a Manager (twice), instead of a Career Vagabond
Right when I’d made up my mind to leave Egypt, I was headhunted for a leadership position with a regional women’s entrepreneurship program. It was the kind of job I would have killed for a few months earlier. The salary was more than I’d ever earned. It would allow me to integrate my training in women’s empowerment with my experience promoting entrepreneurship. It would make my résumé sky-rocket. So I went and had the interview. And while the organisation sounded amazing, there were several things about the job that didn’t feel right for me. I just couldn’t see myself going to this job everyday and being happy with myself. So, after talking it over with friends and family, I said no and moved to the Netherlands, where I would end up being unemployed for the next 14 months. And yet, I didn’t regret the choice I made for one minute. Three years later, I found myself in a similar position. I was offered a promotion to a management function in the organisation I was working for. It sounded amazin, and unlike the first time around, I knew I wanted to do this. I felt confident I would make a great manager. I was ready to move up the career rank, until I heard that Hussam had been offered a job in Frankfurt. Finally, we were given an opportunity to really be together, instead of seeing each other every 3 months. All of a sudden, I was forced to make a decision. Promotion or Relationship? Career or Love? With some difficulty, I realized I wanted to be the kind of person that would always be all-in. That I could rebuild my career again, in Frankfurt. So I followed my heart and chose Love.
5. I would have been a bored Expat Wife, instead of starting my own business.
My mom was an expat wife. I love my mom to death, but I never thought I would become an expat wife. Like my mom, I don’t feel comfortable living the traditional expat lifestyle. Of living vicariously through your employed partner. Of filling your days with activities to keep you from getting bored. Of giving up on your own dreams to support your partner. So instead, I decided I would use this time to do what I’d always dreamt of doing one day, but never had the financial security to do before – start my own business. And living in Frankfurt with Hussam, whose income can support us both while I start-up, provided me with the perfect opportunity.
The downside of following your heart is that it’s risky. You’re going against the grain and people might judge you for it. You might make a fool of yourself, or end up getting hurt in the process.
But you’ll never wonder ‘what if?’. You’ll know, looking back, that you gave it your all, with the occasional bumps and scratches along the way. That you’re living your life fully in sync with who you are and what you stand for. That you’re living in the moment, rather than keeping your dreams stacked away for some unknown future. That you’re inspiring others to live more passionately with your very choices.
What choices are you about to make?
Are you making them based on safety?
Or are you following your heart?