We are all taught that we have to study and work hard in order to make it in life. Having to be richer and more successful than our parents, the bar for us is high. So high, that many of us are under continuous pressure to “make it”. However, with all of us trying to become professionals, we end up looking like amateurs. You will have to be part of the very lucky one percent if you want to feel like you reached your goal of truly being special in this world. For the rest of us, I guess we just have to get the best out of our way there, our life, something many of us forget. At least I did. And this is my story, explaining why I am willing to trade a successful career in architecture for an uncertain life in Greece.
I kept pushing through
I spent the last ten years of my life dedicated to becoming the best architect I could possibly be. Working at top firms in the Netherlands, a 12-hour day at the office was a normal part of my daily schedule. Even the weekends I spent at the job. I truly believed that my professional success was the most essential thing in life. I could not even imagine what I would do if I did not have my career.
But as my years as an architect passed, I became more aware of the fact that I was not really living my life. I was living my work, but not myself. Traveling rarely, never taking a day off, and pushing through if I was sick. I never allowed myself to stop to listen to what it was I needed or wanted. Then, my beloved grandfather died in 2019 and I was unable to permit myself to take a break to grieve. Pushing through the pain of the loss I had felt, I reached my limit. I needed a change in my life.
Dark times followed my success
The start of this change was marked by a difficult time. I had a complete breakdown. Struggling with extreme tiredness, anxiety, and sadness, unable to continue the life I used to live. Even not able to buy bread at the supermarket across the street, it was time for me to stop.
I grieved my grandfather, my career, and mostly myself in the following months. I cried 10 years’ worth of tears and slept the rest of my days. But no matter how down I was during these months, I always felt that what I was going through was a good thing. I never pitied myself, nor did I feel like things would never get better. I needed a reset, and the darkness was just part of the beginning of that
Childhood trauma made me loose myself
In the summer that followed these dark months, I visited Greece for the first time. Meeting my boyfriend’s loving family, living a slow life, and connection with nature, made me reflect on what I had missed out on the decade before. As a young kid, I had always liked to swim and hike, grow vegetables, paint, built furniture, read books, write, and allow myself to get carried away by the creativity that was within my own mind. I used to be chaotic, creative, impulsive, and full of energy. However, for some reason, I ended up being an adult who did not have any of these characteristics.
I lost myself, I had drifted far away from the person I genuinely was and instead lived pretending to be someone else. I can tell you numerous reasons that explain why this happened to me. Including always being the strange kid in school, physical abuse and rape. But these reasons don’t really matter. The important part was that I recognized the parts of myself that I had been missing. I finally knew what to look for.
I am more than my career
It took a while for me to find myself back. I basically had to learn to let go of all the little norms I had taught myself to live by. When you say to yourself that you are not allowed to laugh for over twenty years, it is extremely hard to start giggling straight after you decide you want to. But piece by piece I reconnect with myself. Not only with the little girl I once used to be, but with a completely new adult version of myself as well.
I learned to be me, and love myself for that. I stopped rushing through life but instead learned to enjoy the journey that is my life. However, I was, and unfortunately still am, an architect at a big firm in the Netherlands. I am still expected to pursue a successful career in architecture. I still have to work overtime without getting paid, and I am still bound to a minimum amount of free days a year. The only difference is that today I can say that I don’t want this life any longer. And this made me realize that going from a successful career to an uncertain life in Greece might not be such a bad option for me.
Life in an office doesn’t suit me
The problem with a successful career today is that we are all putting too much pressure on our colleagues. Especially us, over-perfectionistic architects, are way too good at this. We all peer-pressure each other into staying longer, making slightly more beautiful images, and never stop thinking about a design. And even when you do this, it is never enough.
For me, a life like this does simply not work. Being someone who loves doing different things at the same time while being in touch with my body as well as nature, sitting on a chair for hours, looking at the same drawing on the screen in front of me, adjusting every little detail to create perfection, just to do it all over again the next day, simply does not work. I need to be outside, I need to be active. I need to be physically tired at the end of my days and I need to be able to be more out-of-the-box creative.
Uncertainty is better than not being myself
Understanding this part of myself, combined with the loving family that is waiting for me in Greece, made me decide that I will give up my career by the end of this year. Feeling like I will not function in the world of architecture without losing a part of myself, I choose to follow my own needs. What Greece will bring is still quite uncertain. Maybe I can work in tourism, or maybe this travel blog will turn out to go well. I could design holiday homes in Santorini, become an architect in Greece, teach English, or work in a bar or tavern. But since this life of uncertainty is less scary than having to tell myself to stay with my successful career, one more year, I believe the decision to quit is the right one. I am ready for my next adventure!
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