By Beatriz Ayala, Unsettled Amazon, Tuscany and Cape Town alumni
I have always liked being in control. I have always loved having my goals defined and exerting control while I pursue them. This amplified in my late teens after I officially started my career by seeking internships and later, landing my first real advertising job in New York.
I made it to New York. Check.
By 22, I had drawn a career map defining the positions and roles I would land, by using age as a point of reference for timing. Ok, not really for reference. I was giving myself a deadline.
It all happened, and fast. Not exactly as I drew it, but it did.
By 23: Get a promotion. Check.
By mid-20s: Work with a spirits/beer brand. Check.
Work with a global client at a regional level. Check.
Travel for work. Check.
By 30: Become Account Director. Check. (It happened, at age 28.)
By 35: Become General Manager.
By 40: Launch my own business.
Being in control, worked.
I was proud I achieved all this. I should have felt fulfilled and accomplished. Yet I felt the exact opposite.
I had been sprinting a marathon. My controlling self knew that if I was about to lose my breath, I could stop. But I didn’t stop. I kept doing, and overdoing. Saying yes to opportunities I didn’t even want to be involved in.
After a series of challenging months and a panic attack on an airplane, it hit me.
Saying yes had been the highlight of my entire career. I had been chasing titles and positions versus opportunities that truly inspired me, moved me, or got me closer to my purpose.
Then again, at that point, I had zero clarity about what my purpose was. Over the last decade, I never actually stopped to dig deep and define what inspired me from a vocational and professional standpoint.
So what did I need? Space to think, to feel, to be… really be.
Farewell to Corporate America
Goodbye, work. Hello, travel. Goodbye, corporate America. Hello, Unsettled. Goodbye 12 hours days. Hello, not working for the next six months. Goodbye control. Hello flexibility.
The main reason I joined Unsettled was to expand my network and gain some clarity about my next move. I just wanted to talk and listen to other people. To make new friends and connections with people so far out my reach and bubble that I would feel shaken to the core. I wanted to not work, but at the same time be exposed to people working remotely. Working remotely, an idea I have been pondering for quite some time but never got myself to actually do it.
It took me exactly 13 days to learn about Unsettled, Google it, sleep on it, Google it again, apply, interview, get accepted and pay the deposit. I was saying yes to the unexpected and the unknown and I knew exactly why. I chose to explore Peruvian Amazon and Tuscany for two main reasons:
1) I wanted nature and open space to decompress. Disconnect to connect.
2) Shorter-period experiences offered stronger focus on community engagement activities.
The aftermath is an ongoing process. I’m writing this from my Unsettled Cape Town journey; I came for two weeks, stayed on for the entire month. It has been three months since my Amazon retreat, and two months since my Tuscany experience. I’m gaining more clarity by the minute. The ‘yes’ I’m choosing to commit to are way less but more significant. I have let go of control in many aspects of my life I was obsessed with, and I have made some of the most profound connections in my life. I have met people that see through me and recognize my potential and drive. People from all over the world that in a few days believed in me more so than I did during the last year.
It’s true when they say no connection is random, no relationship is a coincidence. I’m a firm believer of causality and how our decisions and actions have a direct impact on how we build this puzzle called life.
In terms of how work took a turn – just a little over a month ago, I signed my first global client. An Unsettled friend I met in Tuscany who much like herself (she is one of the most self-aware and community aware people I have met), celebrated my potential and recognized my passion. So much for not working!
Every place I have been to and every person I have met along this journey has been a teacher. I have gained perspective about myself, the world, my actual needs, my desires, reconnected with my life dreams all while surrendering to the process and embracing the unknown.
It’s been a game changer in my book. I know exactly what I’m saying yes to, every single day. More importantly, I know why.