Making life choices? It's just like peeling onions.
Hey you, lovely human!
The story I told you last time, about Spring & Winter time - the birds who are always singing if you take the time to listen - did that tell you something more about who I am and what my story is? Potentially not really, that’s okay. I love me some cliffhanger-material.
It does tell you a bit about who I am, which is: I am a big ass positivo & I spent quite a few years abroad - so I love traveling (don’t we all?) because I love the feeling of freedom, being in nature, discovering new places and new people. That’s what I did quite eagerly the last 8 years. And the last 3 years I spent more time abroad than in Belgium.
Belgium is the place I grew up in and lived in exactly the same spot until the 21st Spring of my life. And in that 21st Spring I had what people would call a decent relationship, a nice & big apartment, an awesome job with an awesomer company that gave me a pretty nice wage with ditto extra’s (company bicycle included, I loved that bit already then) and then might have just looked like the perfect life.
But a few months after moving into that ‘situation’ I was sitting on the amazing big terrace I had outside of that apartment and I thought: “Wow, is this the life I will be living the next 80 years?” In that same period, my neighbour even said to me, when I stepped off my company bicycle with a big happy smile: “Well, you have quite some time to go before you can retire!” Of course that - apart from that bit - friendly neighbour was in a very different phase in his life but the only thing I could think of was: “Is this it? Can I only just count the days until the evening, until the weekend and then until my retirement, that’s it?”
And right then & there I made a choice: “Nope, this is not the life I want to live.”
I did not just decide: that’s it - I quit this relationship, this place, this job and go on an adventure with my bicycle. Would have made for an even better story, probably, but no, it was not that drastic/dramatic. But a year after that particular moment on my terrace I already ticked two of the “I don’t want this bit of my life anymore”-list, and I was in the process of the 3rd bit. And I felt myself starting to come to life again. Crazy rollercoaster of emotions period, that’s for sure. Because closing chapters and saying goodbyes is never easy. But thank God for that gut feeling (about that you’ll hear some more later) that I was listening to very unconsciously still at that time, for guiding in the right direction the whole time.
How did those decisions actually play out? Well, a bit like peeling an onion.
Because being this everlasting positivo, I choose rather not to peel onions. But if you want some delicious home made soup or spaghetti sauce once in a while (without asking your mom to make it), those onion peel tears are part of life, aren’t they? (If you think now, huh why is she talking about onions - #sorrynotsorry about that, I love using metaphors and letting my brain dive aaaaall the way in).
That life back then on my terrace, it wasn’t that bad at all. It was just not making me happy. The majority of my time awake, I felt stressed out & insecure at my job, unhappy & brought back to a wall flower in that relationship, uncomfortable & annoyed by my body that wasn’t doing what I wanted it to.
Could I have thrown all of it out the door right there & then? Potentially. But that would have been a pretty big shock all at once for sure.
But I wouldn’t be that positivo if I weren’t looking for positive stuff in my life the whole time. And I can say that my brain has always been pretty problem-solving, that helps too.
So I started peeling of the 1st onion layer: my body. Knees in a total-loss situation, bowel function all over the place, additional weight from all the great food (because that man, man, he’s a good cook) we’d been having. As a kiddo, I was always the sporty one out of three (yes, proud middle child in between older sister and younger brother), but I thought by that time that doing sports apart from swimming and cycling wasn’t for me anymore. I know, that just does not make any sense at all, because I was goddamn 21 years old. And eating delicious food to enjoy life and as a big part of coziness is totally okay, right?
My solution: physiotherapy & acupuncture. Peoples, someone please build that man (Jelle Geys - gezondeprikkel.be) a statue. Because every time again (yes, 5 years still), he always asks the right - though very strange - questions and makes sure I listen to the sometimes hidden signals my body gives me. Less milk & coffee was my change back then, in the meantime we know some other changes were added in the mix but that’s a whole other story. And yoga! Because yoga I could do with total-loss knees. Little did I know at that time yoga would take me where I am today, but that’s a whole other story too (in which my lovely teacher Ann Schreppers gets a statue too).
Alright, time for onion layer nr. 2: my self-worth in a very negative relationship. First of all I do want to add: relationships enter your life for a specific reason. People never have bad intentions from my point of view, sometimes there’s just a big mismatch in personalities. And honestly, I really don’t need to say more because it would sow anger that isn’t even remotely there anymore.
The only question I needed at that time was this specific question my brother asked me: “Are you even still happy with this person at your side?” Well that was a very clear no, because all I wanted in my life was not what this other person wanted. Easy peasy you’d think? Yes, until you’re right into it. Anyway, I walked away from that big apartment and a 4,5y long relationship nicely (read: with quite a bit of tears & drama & blame). And it instantly felt like a big relief.
And then we get to onion layer nr. 3: that took a bit more time to decide. The pain & frustration on that one wasn’t always as much at the surface as the other 2 were. Because Nike is really an awesome company and man oh man, I made such great friends out there. But boy oh boy, that job was really a match made in hell. All fun and things as long as I could enjoy all the perks of doing sports (yes, as soon as those knees got better again, I was running! Imagine that, runnin’!) and organizing events & charity stuff... But as soon as I sat back at my desk - even when they made it into a standing one with a nice new colour - the frustration was instantly as big as a house again.
And also there in that situation I just needed one big moment of realization. When talking to another colleague, I all of a sudden imagined quitting this job to start traveling. And from that moment on, I couldn’t NOT think about the excitement and joy I felt to have that possibility. I let the idea sink in, booked some career counseling sessions, applied - in vain of course - internally for another job and packed my bags.
Don’t worry, we did enjoy quite a few big goodbye parties before I actually left. And by the way, whenever those parties are still allowed, I’ll probably invite myself too by showing my face out there once in a while. My heart for Nike & its people didn’t stop beating, because whenever they need my expertise (that is NOT sitting at a desk, did fall into the trap a few times again though) in relaxation & sports or just with some peptalks, they know where to find me. And the other way around I literally am not able to buy Adidas - even typing the word here makes me slightly uncomfortable.
Did I know back then where that would lead me today? NOPE! And that was really scary. Fortunately, I have this big strong gut feeling and a ‘just do it’-mentality (told you so, Nike’s always here) to make my own big bold choices.
And I just knew each time: “I have no idea what I do want, but I know I don’t want this. So I went searching for solutions.
Long story (yes, I know - when I start typing it’s hard for me to stop jabbering) short:
take matter into your own hands and make bold choices if needed.
Sometimes, one right question is all you need to realize what you need to do.
Is it scary? Yup. Is that a reason to not decide and stay? NOPE.
Because each time you end up in this never-ending circle of frustration & (unnecessary) stress, hatred/insecurity/misfortune, it takes up so much energy from you. Energy you could be using for things you actually love doing and you’re good at. Imagine all the things you could do. Like starting your own business in full lockdown for example - haha I’m not adding the word successful because that’s a big work in progress and I can really use all your support and mouth-to-mouth advertising for that!
Are you thinking now: “yeah yeah Elise, making drastic choices, whatever, that doesn’t bring me success & happiness all in 1 day”.
No, you’re right, it doesn’t.
And I can tell you that not there are days those two are hard to find for me too. But which percentage of happiness vs. frustration do you choose?
By the way, I keep making those bold choices, I just made one 2 weeks before posting this blog and launching my website. Tough cookie. Didn’t make it in 1 day. But as soon as I made the decision, I felt a relief, again. So I can only keep encouraging you to do the same.
Follow your heart and make those damn choices. If you don’t make them, someone else will make them for you.
Also - disclaimer: don’t go and walk out on your job & relationship right here & now, because wow that’s a tough cookie to swallow all at once.
Just ask yourself this question: What is creating the biggest struggles in my life right now? And how do I find a solution to take matters in my own hands? Sleep on it. And decide.
There we go, part 2 of my story. No idea how many parts will follow. To be continued!