A couple of weeks ago a beautiful e-mail arrived in my inbox unexpectedly from a Chasing Your Fire follower. I hadn’t received much mail from readers prior to that, so it was a complete shock to me and definitely made my day. In truth, I was about at the point where I was doubting whether anyone was actually reading and benefiting from the messages that I poured my soul into each week. So you can imagine that I felt like a kid on Christmas morning as I unwrapped the beautiful words in front of me.
Having recently liberated herself from a high profile career that made her miserable, Ilse’s message is a powerful one that she desires to share with others in her position. With her permission, I have included her beautiful words below so that her story of courage, self-discovery, and hope will inspire you to also chase your fire – whatever that might look like for you.
In Ilse’s own words:
It was with great surprise, or perhaps better yet, great divine intent that your page “Chasing Your Fire” appeared in my Facebook news feed! So I thought that I would share my story of great realization with you, given the impact of your post’s miraculous appearance in my news feed.
Let me start by giving you a bit of background as to how I ended up where I currently am. I loved every bit of my life up to my graduation from University. Then, like the majority of graduates I set out to seek employment. I was subsequently appointed by a specialist recruitment consultancy in [city], who won numerous awards for being the best company to work for at the time. However,
I soon realized that I was killing my passion and losing out on precious friendships and relationships which I so dearly wanted to foster.
Thankfully, I was fired-up with enough life to realize this in time! So the hunt began for a new job, and soon enough I was offered an opportunity back in [college town] surrounded by my support structure. I immediately accepted. My focus at the time was to gain experience and to learn as much as I could about “real life” to enable me to get out there and do something on my own- whether it would be to start my own company or even volunteering in a foreign country.
Although I can elaborate extensively about my career at this leading private company in [college town], I will only highlight a few of my so-called “achievements.” In the first year my performance was rewarded with a big promotion and more than double my starting salary. Everything seemed on track for the first two years, but after that everything becomes a bit of a blur.
I was setting personal goals which, when looking back, was not personal at all.
One such goal was to become a Director at the company before I turned 30. Low and behold, a month before my 30th birthday in 2010 it happened! I was now enjoying a Director’s salary, as well as the perks of a Director’s calendar. I was earning a 6-figure salary and was rewarded, recognized, elected, nominated… Such achievement!
What I did not notice was that my heart was physically beating much faster than a normal heart my age should. I had dark rings around my eyes every day. I stopped eating and lost weight to the point that I my size 38 pants were dragging behind me. I severely neglected myself, my close friends, and my family. I was always anxious, even on a Saturday while off from work.
When the phone rang, or my iPhone made that funny little “you’ve got mail” noise, my heart sank into my shoes, and I could literally feel the life drain from my body.
This carried on for probably three years, during which time I often cried in the presence of family and friends. At some extremely low points I sought the help of a professional psychiatrist. Then, at the lowest point, the roller-coaster would suddenly take an unexpected seemingly positive turn and I got sucked back in. I denied myself the healing I actually so desperately needed.
So, in April of this year I embarked on a journey to Vietnam using 10 of the 45 leave days that I had banked as I hardly took any leave. Although this was an amazing holiday, work never stopped. My phone rang all the time, even in the middle of the night due to time zone differences. I had to time vacation excursions so that I would be back in civilization on time to where my iPhone could connect again to retrieve mail.
It was so interrupting, tiring, and draining that I realized on a train heading to Sapa that my life was a mess, even when on holiday in paradise!
I decided that it was time for a change and I started hunting again. I carefully planned my financial position to re-adapt to a “normal” life. With the current state of the economy and numerous “restraint of trade” clauses in my employment contract, it was not easy to just find “another job.”
Just when I was about to give up the universe sent me signs left, right and center! All of a sudden I started listening again – a song on the radio, an inspirational quote on an employees desk, wisdom shared with friends next to camp fire. I had to save my own life!
The very next week I boldly handed in my letter of resignation, trading it for my life.
So I have been at home for a month now, and I am truly enjoying my own company for a change! I have pulled myself from a burning building and I am now safe. My life is out of immediate danger. A long road of rehabilitation lies ahead of me, but
I believe the fire within me will pull me through.
I am ready for the stinging skin transplants, the endurance it will take for my physical therapy, and the time it will take for my lungs to be healed from smoke inhalation. It will take time for me to heal and rebuild, and I am aware that at some point I will have to find a source of income to foot the bills. For the past month I have been really concerned about whether I will ever find my passion again. And then, I saw your post on my newsfeed…
Vera, I would like to personally thank you for the reassurance and also for the motivation to get all of the above out of my system! You have hit home hard, and I am pondering your wise words often during the day. I would like to reach out to others who are presented with the same challenges and hopefully help prevent eager people like myself from burning themselves out to the extent that they have to rebuild from the ground up.
Who knows where life will take me…but I am now, at last, ready to make sure it takes me to my happy place! My passion is about to be discovered!
Ilse’s message has stayed with me (in fact, it went straight into my treasure chest!), and we’ve corresponded on several occasions. I have enjoyed befriending her on Facebook and keeping up with her journey of self-discovery through pictures of travel and status updates about new friendships, purpose, and passion. Just today, Ilse summarized her journey on her Facebook status using a Steve Jobs quote:
“The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”
It seems Ilse is on her way to great things! The picture featured in this post is of Ilse, chasing her fire. I hope her story has inspired you to look closely at your own life and to do the brave thing – whatever that might be for you.
If you have comments or questions for Ilse, or just a few words of encouragement for her journey, please leave comments for her below. If you’d like to use your story to inspire others on Chasing Your Fire blog, please e-mail me at email@example.com.
Here’s to your story, friend!
Tagged with: balance • burnout • career • courage • disappointment • happiness • happiness life • living a purposeful life • meaningful life • meaningful relationships • passion • realization • resiliency • self • self actualization • self discovery • self exploration • story of courage • well-being
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