This is the first in a 4-part series, “What I stand for.”

Have you ever had the feeling something just isn’t working for you? Maybe it’s a relationship, maybe a job. And when you finally make the decision to leave the job, end the relationship, resign from the committee, you feel such a sense of relief and renewed energy?

But while resets feel great afterwards, the process is painful. They require incredible amounts of energy and courage, and often people get hurt in the process. Wouldn’t it be great to have said “no” from the start?

When I look back at the time before I became intentional about how I wanted to live my life, I feel that so much of it was accidental, coincidental… It was almost as if the wind was just taking me wherever it pleased.

After graduating from the local public elementary school, I started at the nearest high school, where my grades slowly slipped from year to year as I worried more about fitting in with the cool kids and not being labeled a nerd. The older boy in university who “chose” me became my relationship for the next decade. The ESL school I started teaching at the summer between my Master’s and the start of my Ph.D. became my employer for the next seven years. (After deferring the start of my doctorate for a year, I never went back.)

Each of the above examples ended with a dramatic course-adjustment, a major reset of my life. Each time, something compelled me to do something unexpected and definitely outside of my comfort zone.

Let me just interrupt myself here for a moment and declare loudly, that I love my past mistakes! I truly believe I needed each and every one of them; that each one was an opportunity for learning and growth, and was a necessary part of my journey.

Now, having done work around my core values and what I truly desire for my life, my mission statement, so to speak, the “right” decision is more obvious to me in the moment. Now I can decide earlier whether something feels right, whether it’s in line with what I want out of life. I have more energy for the things that truly matter; and because I’m aware of my values and goals, I can be fully present for my life, since I’m aware that THIS IS IT! This is my life, my dream life, right now, right here, today!

Writing this blog post with you, my dear reader, in mind, this is part of my dream, too! Connecting with others, sharing my journey and my learning, empowering women and men to enjoy intentional lives … This is all part of what turns me on, and I’m better equipped now to protect my time and space for this work and not allow other things to distract me.

Let me be more specific.

As a native speaker of English living in Turkey, as a former teacher at the country’s top school currently on a professional gap year, I have received several offers to privately tutor people’s children — something I’ve done in the past, and which I enjoy doing. It also pays well. But because I know so clearly what I want right now — more time and energy to be present for my family; and to only “work” on my own projects during the day while my boys are at school, while still having enough time each week for self-care, which for me includes exercise, cooking, meditating, journaling, personal development and seeing friends, accepting private students would take me away from those things.

The alternative? Accept jobs that I might soon come to resent. And with resentment comes bitterness. And then the need to dramatically ditch someone mid-year. Another reset.

Course-correcting, sometimes radically, can be necessary and empowering. But life is also easier when you can make some intentional choices in the moment.

Your turn:

Do you feel you are leading your life randomly, accidentally? Is this idea of consciously creating a life you desire by design new to you? Head over to my blog and let me know in the comments. 

And if you have a friend who you think would benefit from this post, please share it! I’d be forever grateful.

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  • Cecile Popp

    Educator, Writer, Mother of three, Canadian expat living in Turkey

    Cecile Popp is a Canadian educator and writer living in southern Turkey. For over a decade she taught English Language Arts at Turkish high schools, most recently at Robert College in Istanbul, where she worked for seven years. Now, seeking a quieter life, she has returned to the south to write and work on other projects, most notably a memoir about her Baltic German grandparents. Her YouTube channel, From Canada to Adana, features visual essays about her life in Turkey. She lives in Adana with her husband and their three sons and teaches at the university.