On May 6, I handed in my resignation. I thought about it for a long time, evaluating the risks of leaving a safe place and a safe income. I was scared and could not find any good ways to make it. But eventually I did it.
I've never been a fan of rhetoric: "quit your 9-18 job and live your dream". Too easy to say, very different when it comes to do it and, above all, to have the favorable conditions to do it. So, here I am, fully aware of my situation. I recognize my privilege and my fortune: a partner who supports me and who has always supported me, since I decided to resume studying in 2017. A friend who was looking for a house and decided to stay in our guest room, covering my part of the rent. The opportunity to teach German and put some money aside, working as a freelancer. The astral alignment was and still is the right one. It was up to me to join the dots, welcome the signs of the universe and finally make the decision to start over from me.
When I started at my last job, I was running away from an abusive and toxic workplace where I worked too much and earned too little.
I was 22 years old, just over a year of experience, determined not to let my Berlin dream be ruined by a job with no chance of growth or recognition. When my last (and so far most consistent) working experience started, I had zero awareness of my professional personality, I knew nothing about my ambition and I couldn't position myself in the working world with at least a certain level of clarity. I suffered from the fluctuation of opportunities. That's why, for one reason or another, I ended up in a position that didn't represent me or give me the chance to grow. However much the job in this company has been a huge leap forward in terms of working conditions (and how much the dynamics have been changing and have therefore allowed me to reflect on myself and the challenges of my role) and however much it has came with many great learnings, people and experiences, from my personal retrospective on the whole experience, that workplace has lacked fundamental elements for what concerned my professional development. I couldn't really get the chance to grow in my original role. I encountered subtle, impassable structural hierarchies. I perceived the leadership model as not very inclusive. I had extreme difficulty in finding space to feel validated and heard. This lack, although often causing frustration and lack of self-esteem, was also fundamental to me acquiring a new awareness of my professional personality.
In the last two years extraordinary things have happened.
Dissatisfaction became my good reason to start something new. I founded the Women Writing Berlin Lab, I developed a critical and feminist perspective, I started studying again in an academic world of excellence, which took my brain and squeezed it out until I transformed the person I am into a completely new, vibrant and hungry for stimuli and new challenges. I have never been resistant to growth in hostile conditions, indeed. In both my family history and my professional history, the hostile environment has been a revival. The possibility of rebuilding a face and a strength to make it a virtue. A spirit of adaptation that was fundamental to the recovery.
When the awareness of myself, of the potential of my enthusiasm, of the experience gained through parallel projects and initiatives, of my hunger for something more became clear, when it began to be disproportionate to the opportunities offered by my workplace, when I realized that nothing I was and was doing in the office represented consistency and alignment with my values and my personal and professional goals, when the constellation became positive and clear, I decided that it was time to take the risk and put myself at stake for my professional happiness. So, even though many would talk of it as "a door that closes", I have instead opened wide the doors of a perimeter too narrow. And as soon as I did, a very strong, enveloping and destabilizing light infiltrated everything else.
Taking the risk of professional happiness is nothing rhetorical. It's about dealing with economic insecurity, family approval, resilience and resistance to making a living in alternative ways. To come to terms with the German bureaucracy, but above all to face a broader, long-term objective, which concerns a profound part of who we are and who we want to be. It is about asking important questions, not always easy. It's about asking yourself why, finding a larger vision and engage with a different mission. To face a transformative and projectual idea that has a wider meaning and does not stop at the application for the next job, the degree in Gender Studies, the daily report of the pros and cons.
Since I left work, wonderful doors have opened wide. The courage to consider a serious business journey, the possibility to collaborate with new parts of the world. Womernet Uganda is the concrete proof of this. I met Sarah and heard her story, we talk between Berlin and Kampala and our differences make us absolutely complementary and accomplices in the way we both want to work to improve the lives of those around us. This summer I will dedicate it to myself, to my personal and professional development, first in Brussels for a summer school on climate change, then in Lisbon where I will tell about a hypocritical Italy that denies rights by passing them off as such. And then Greece. I will be in Lesbos for a month of voluntary work in a refugee camp for women, to support with a minimum contribution those who, unlike us, fight to maintain the human dignity that we often take for granted.
As exciting and extraordinary as it may seem, none of this comes without fear and concern.
Without the anxiety of having taken a greater risk than I could, without the thought that, in the long run, the risk of this professional happiness would not lead me to a wreck on unstable, unexpected or even so reassuring shores. Yet one thing is clear to me: intuition, proactivity, risk, being available for the common good, building positive spaces, creating drives for improvement, fighting for the values that are part of me is not just a personal attitude, but my idea of professional happiness, something I am no longer willing to give up, or compromise.
I was not born for someone else's desk, nor to pretend to be enthusiastic about principles that are not mine. And no matter how much this choice may cost, I know that there is nothing more I want to do than be myself in all things, between 9 and 18, for those who need me, to accomplish my personal mission, and beyond the hours of professional life, for a continuity between who I am when I work and the one I am when I simply am.
Text by Margherita Sgorbissa - Founder of Women Writing Lab Berlin
Preview Image by Julian Schröpel via Unsplash