This is a story about depression and passion. If you have one or the other or both, you will hopefully find some comfort in this.
I am the oldest of four sisters. My closest sister is five years younger than me. Then two more years and two more. This means between me and my youngest sister there is an almost 10 year age gap. It also means that my sisters are much closer to each other age-wise than I ever was. They could always play with each other, while I was too old to fit in. I am the inbetweener. Somewhere between my parents (the adults) and my sisters (the kids). I fit neither of those classifications most of the time. It made me feel awkwardly out-of-place, even though back then I couldn’t name the feeling.
We moved a lot. New countries, new languages, new schools. Always new people. All my life, I remember wanting to desperately fit in. All my life it was impossible. What made me fit in in the US, made me stand-out in Germany and the other way around. I was constantly trying to suppress who I really was to be a person that fit the norm. I didn’t want to stand out. I didn’t want to be in-between. After a few years, I perfected the skill of adjustment. It got to a point where I was constantly re-inventing myself. One year I wanted to be among the popular kids, the next year I wanted to be with the nerds. I learned to not get attached to people or places. I learned to get detached from myself.
If you don’t get attached to people or places, you get bored if they don’t change. The only thing that keeps us from getting bored of our surroundings and close ones is our affection, our love for them. It is hard to love something when you are constantly scared you will have to leave it again.
My family eventually stopped moving. And suddenly there I was: stuck in a place that I didn’t feel anything for. Bored. Lonely, though there were people – friends – around me. I did the only thing I knew how to do – I reinvented myself. Again. And again.
I switched my group of friends, my studies, my home. It didn’t work. I felt lost. It’s a typical thing we feel when we get to the end of our teenage years. Finishing school, choosing a path of studies. But I felt extra lost. No constant at all – not even myself.
I never quite remembered when or why it all went wrong. Why I chose to be with the wrong people or study the wrong things. I got depressed. I battled depression and its symptoms for years to come.
Here’s how it came to an end.
While finishing my master studies, I started looking for jobs. I realized quickly that there was barely anything I wanted to do. All my peers seemed so excited for the next chapter, while I just became more and more anxious. Something felt off.
I found a job. I spent the summer reading. I read 16 books in 4 weeks. Then I started writing. I wrote articles, poems, stories. Some of them I published. One thing led to the other. I found some old diaries. I started talking about myself. About my fears. And that’s when it hit me. The panic I was feeling about starting the next chapter came from the fact that I suddenly did fit in. I had chosen a successful study path with great career opportunities. I was good at what I had learned. I was ambitious. I was everything most parents want for their kids: successful studies, relevant experience, drive, self-starting, independent, on my best way to a probably successful career with loads of financial benefits.
But was that what I wanted? No.
When it hit me, it hit me hard. Many people talk about self-fulfilment but only a few understand what it really means. For most people, a satisfying career is fulfilling. For me – and I’ve always known this – there had to be more. As a kid, I wanted to become Indiana Jones. Smart, risky, badass. Going against the masses. I can’t become Indiana Jones anymore, but I can be pretty close.
David Bowie once said, the reason why he started killing off all his alter-egos was that they were standing in his way. Bowie hid behind his personas. Ziggy Stardust may have been a great narcissist, but Bowie wasn’t. Eventually, he wanted to stop hiding.
I get that now.
I decided to completely re-evaluate my life. Even in my darkest days, I had always been confident in my abilities. Even when I sincerely disliked myself, I knew I had talent. So I jumped. I registered a company and built a website. I gathered references and started applying: Copywriter. Content Marketer. Writing, communication, words. Because words have always been my thing. They never disappoint me. As long as I can write, I can feel. So instead of trying to fit my passion for writing into my career, I decided to adjust my career to my passion.
Sorry, Dad. I know you always hoped I’d do something more meaningful. But this is meaningful for me. I won’t cure world cancer, but I might cure mine.
Luckily, with experiences in content creation and CRM and an academic background in Marketing, it turned out not to be that hard. In fact, it was much easier than I had imagined.
To be honest, I didn’t believe I would have any success. I hoped I would, but I didn’t really believe it. But here I am, barely eight weeks later, with three major clients, several small clients and people actually approaching me for work. And the only reason for that is that I just did it. I stopped trying to be someone else. I stopped going with the flow. I became the underdog.
It scares me sometimes. Being yourself makes you vulnerable. Criticism hits you harder if you don’t have a mask. But appreciation is so much more rewarding. And I truly believe, if you do something you are passionate about, you will always find a way to grow.
So I guess this is a long story for one simple conclusion: If you are sad, depressed, disturbed or simply unhappy, be honest to yourself and ask “Am I doing what I want to do? Is this me? Is this making me the person I want to become?” And if the answer is no – or if you don’t know the answer – think. Think long and hard and often. And if you can’t answer with a yes, commit to change.
Now I know that what I did sounds easy. Trying to fit marketing and writing together isn’t the hardest challenge. Of course, it could have been a lot harder. I could have studied Chemistry and have a passion for playing the Violin. In that sense I was lucky. And trust me – it was still hard. Incredibly hard. In my mind. But I still believe that even if your path to passion is even harder than mine, it will be worth it.