In October 2013, I ended up in the hospital with a serious, life-threatening condition. Luckily, I was admitted early and survived – scathed and broken, but alive.
How did I end up there? After getting my MA in Mind, Language and Communication, I began working as a private English tutor for students with learning difficulties in Athens, Greece. I did that from 1998 to 2011 and sustained a decent lifestyle, with my own apartment, a long-term relationship and great friends.
Then, my country’s finances took a rather steep fall and…. so did my life.
In February 2011 I lost all my students within one month. From February 2011 to October 2013, I experienced what became my biggest challenge to this point. As my savings were diminishing month by month, so did my life bit by bit. My friends, my long-term boyfriend, my apartment, and eventually that whole part of my life was gone.
My mental health was seriously affected by depression, anxiety, and panic attacks and eventually, my physical health also took a toll and I ended up in the hospital.
"To be Continued…"
Finding myself in that situation was shocking. Coming to terms with the fact that my health was seriously jeopardised hit me the hardest. But waking up in that hospital bed made me realise one thing: I did not want to be there.
After having suffered so much poverty, disappointment, humiliation, and sadness I did not want my life to end that way. That was not me and I did not deserve that. So, quite consciously right there and then, I decided that after my recovery, I would turn my life around. Beginning by changing my mindset.
So what would you expect a depressed, homeless, unemployed, shattered individual to do? Where do you start to pick up the broken pieces? Though the popular option would be for me to apply for jobs, my health did not allow me to do so. Nor did the doctors. So I remained homelessly seeking a way out until thankfully I ended up recovering on my sister’s couch, who flew back to take care of me.
So, what next? A new mindset meant new challenges. After all, I had lost everything and I was determined to leave nothing the same. I took up two new hobbies (yes, I was broke and unemployed with 2 beautifully challenging new hobbies!). I took up Contract Bridge for its ability to train the brain to think more strategically and Mindful meditation for the need to massively rewire my brain and tame the dragons that kept setting it on fire.
Contract Bridge required me to mingle with people again (something I had stopped doing for years)…and as I slowly eased into a new reality, time passed with Bridge and Meditation and it was 2014. I had spent over 3 years of my life alone, in despair, pain, sadness, and loss.
Mingling with people and forcing my brain to come up with strategic plans for the game provided me with space. Headspace. And for the first time in 3 years, I was not mulling over my failures and the avalanche that had killed my previous life. I was focusing on the present. Mindfulness helped me pretty much in the same way. It allowed me to see things in a different way.
Then, a brand new idea popped into my head. What if I used my good knowledge of English to write? Or edit? Or translate? What if I do that online? So, I started looking online for freelance gigs.
My knowledge of computers was limited to switching the device on and off and searching things online. But that was enough at that point. Enough to allow me to explore new options. From there, it was a beautiful ride to a multitude of fresh starts.
The freelance gigs began flooding in and I began to make money again. I focused on Social Media as most of my writing gigs would lead there and Digital Marketing caught my eye. I moved from writing blog posts to creating social media content.
By 2016 I had made enough money to start a course on Digital and Social Media. At the same time, I was getting acquainted with online tools and technologies, reading online and studying, taking notes and exploring a new world.
In 2017, at age 39, I officially graduated from a Digital Marketing course and got a job in Managed WordPress Hosting. What I came to realise was that I had an innate thirst for knowledge and learning, as well as a ton of curiosity. I began focusing on how to work and collaborate with developers. I started studying dev relations and how to interpret technical texts into more human-friendly content.
In a way, I was still doing what I knew best as a teacher (or learning facilitator): I was explaining things and delivering knowledge to an audience. In tech, I was explaining technical things in a more understandable language and teaching the world about Developers and technical issues. Over the years, I moved from managed WordPress Hosting to IoT, WordPress security and eventually Space Tech.
A multitude of fresh starts…
For me, tech has proved to play an integral part in saving myself. It opened a door to fresh starts for me. By exploring new opportunities (Bridge and Mindful meditation) discovering freelancing gigs for tech companies, broadening my horizons, expanding my learning, making new friends (I have great friends here on Elpha as well) and eventually re-inventing my life.
So, after narrating all these, I would like to share with you the things I have learned from all these difficult years of surviving and turning my life upside down – or right side up:
- Sometimes, even if you have done everything right, your life will fail and things will crumble. Accept the reality (take as much time as you need), reflect on the situation, make a note of the lessons learned and start again. One of the things that no one tells us is that failure is part of life. And if you learn from it, you eventually end up wiser.
- The most significant commitment you have is a commitment to yourself. Take good care of yourself. Attend to your mental health as much as your physical health.
- To my understanding, dead ends can be surpassed with evolving, continuous learning and self-development. Luckily, the world wide web and technology offer a wide pool of knowledge. Online platforms can allow you to acquire new skills, identify new capacities you hold, and explore your talents. Everything is out there. From aptitude tests to online courses, from wonderful, inclusive communities (like Elpha) to training opportunities, internships, and coaching sessions. Acquiring new skills allows for new opportunities, new challenges, and new dreams.
- Joining online communities is a great way to network, seek support and contribute actively. This way new horizons open up. To my understanding, you cannot fight unemployment, sadness, and the difficulties in life all closed up inside yourself. I did that. It did not lead me anywhere bright.
- Continuous learning keeps you afloat. It keeps you updated, and often this is a way to overcome sexism and ageism.
- Focusing on self-development and learning allows you to be selfish but in a caring way. You focus on yourself so that you can get some space to dream, to reflect, to wander and create wonders.
- Take a breath and go back out there. Create your CV based on the specific job description. Highlight the points that will make you stand out. Do not lie, simply tweak for customisation.
- Do as many interviews as possible. Even if they do not have the outcome you wish, take note of things that you can use or improve in your next interview. Interviews can be insightful and they can only make you a better candidate.
- And even when you have landed a great job, even then, keep applying for jobs and going to interviews. Not only will you get more connections and get networked, but you will also keep yourself up-to-date with the recruitment processes. You will also get an insight into which skills will be good to add to your CV.
- Recognise those Red Flags and keep running.
- Handling difficulties and navigating through the sadness or the continuous rejections is heartbreaking. I know this feeling well. But loving yourself is how you can fight back. Focus on yourself and your growth. Keep a journal, meditate, talk to friends, an online community, take up yoga, and go for a walk. Do whatever is necessary to restore your balance and gain space for clear-thinking and loving yourself.
- When the opportunity arises help someone feel safe, offer a helping hand; volunteer online or offline. Help people upskill, mentor people, offer your solidarity and compassion. This is a lonely and painful road as it is. And we do not need to add to the sadness and toxicity. Pass the knowledge on. Maybe, someone who struggles will read this, take heart and feel stronger. Or less lonely.
Never, ever, ever, stop learning. If you are seeking to change your future (whatever that might be for you) never ever stop exploring your possibilities. A job in tech was not an option that we could explore that easily 20 years ago. But it has evolved into a great tool for integration, inclusivity, and development – a window to new opportunities, a way to reinvent ourselves, and a door to new beginnings.