Change of direction: the many ways life can be lived

31 comments

in career,global niche,identity,self-image

Life's winding path by CSBayar

expat harem series widget smallBy CATHERINE SALTER BAYAR

“You’ll stay in this business just like I will until we’re too old to get other work,” a merchandiser told me after a gluttonous Michelin-star dinner. We were capping a stressful New York fashion week and she had enough wine to tell me the truth about my fate as a designer for a mass-market manufacturer.

“Then we’ll be replaced by young, exploitable girls clamoring for our jobs, willing to put up with sleazy owners and salesmen.”

By the time I heard this diatribe, I was out of love with my career. I cherished the process of design, but hated the people I worked for. I can thank this woman now, for she had a point. My biggest fear was to live the same life I saw everyone around me living…to not have the courage to break out of my comfortable yet unrewarding routine even when getting out of bed each morning was tougher.

To its credit, the garment industry did show me the world, albeit an often bleak one with substandard factories and slave labor. The glamorous high streets of European fashion capitals were a glaring contrast to the slums of Mumbai and the back alleys of Hong Kong.

Travelling for work rescued me by changing my perspective, revealing how many ways life could be lived.

Then a random encounter walking down a street in a Turkish town literally changed my life’s direction. I realized I could work with the people I chose to make the things I loved. I could design a life that benefitted rather than exploited. “Aha” moments like these spur us to face our fears and try something different.

What “aha” moments have changed the direction of your life?
+++++
California native Catherine Salter Bayar creates knitwear, seeks textile treasure, lives near the splendid ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus, and writes about it all in her upcoming book, Weaving Our Way Home.
+++++

  • http://www.bazaarbayar.com Catherine Bayar

    “Take a deep breath, look around you, and ask yourself this question, “Am I doing the same thing as everyone around me?” A site that gets it right – check out the Untemplater Manifesto

  • http://www.bazaarbayar.blogspot.com Catherine Bayar

    “Take a deep breath, look around you, and ask yourself this question, “Am I doing the same thing as everyone around me?” A site that gets it right – check out the Untemplater Manifesto

  • http://www.bazaarbayar.com Catherine Bayar

    And now, there is an entire show on the Sundance Channel here about what I used to do…albeit without the entourage (well, sometimes) and the camera crews. I do love the store Anthropologie, but they exactly illustrate my love/hate relationship with my former career.

  • http://www.bazaarbayar.etsy.com Catherine Bayar

    Anastasia – Your words “an acid bath for the soul”! What perfect shorthand for any life situation in which we are not content and at peace with ourselves.

  • http://www.bazaarbayar.blogspot.com Catherine Bayar

    Anastasia – Your words “an acid bath for the soul”! What perfect shorthand for any life situation in which we are not content and at peace with ourselves.

  • Anastasia

    Thanks for this Catherine. You encapsulated for me the dark underbelly of glamorous businesses (I’ve found it’s similar in the entertainment/film/music/media biz)…the pressure to hang on to your job simply because it’s viewed as desirable by the general population, and so many up and comers want it, not because it’s good for you or makes you happy or holds great promise. That huge gap between perception and reality, like the high streets and back alleys. And every day you show up, knowing those things to be true, is an acid bath for the soul. The thrill of an aha moment is your soul leaping for higher ground…eek get me out of this metaphor (it shrieks)!

  • http://www.expatharem.com/identity-messages/ Anastasia

    Thanks for this Catherine. You encapsulated for me the dark underbelly of glamorous businesses (I’ve found it’s similar in the entertainment/film/music/media biz)…the pressure to hang on to your job simply because it’s viewed as desirable by the general population, and so many up and comers want it, not because it’s good for you or makes you happy or holds great promise. That huge gap between perception and reality, like the high streets and back alleys. And every day you show up, knowing those things to be true, is an acid bath for the soul. The thrill of an aha moment is your soul leaping for higher ground…eek get me out of this metaphor (it shrieks)!

  • http://bazaarbayar.etsy.com Catherine Bayar

    Thanks to everyone for these insightful comments. It’s clear that we must take risks to find the lives we were meant to live. But I’m struck by how much our independent, ‘go your own way’ ventures are still quite influenced by the people closest to us. Without that network of support, would we have that freedom to grow and change?

    @Elmira, your words “your first choice was your only choice” are probably true for 90% of the world’s inhabitants. How lucky are we to have options? And to have mothers and other loved ones who care enough to tell us the truth, even if they yell it?!

  • http://www.bazaarbayar.blogspot.com Catherine Bayar

    Thanks to everyone for these insightful comments. It’s clear that we must take risks to find the lives we were meant to live. But I’m struck by how much our independent, ‘go your own way’ ventures are still quite influenced by the people closest to us. Without that network of support, would we have that freedom to grow and change?

    @Elmira, your words “your first choice was your only choice” are probably true for 90% of the world’s inhabitants. How lucky are we to have options? And to have mothers and other loved ones who care enough to tell us the truth, even if they yell it?!

  • http://www.wondermentwoman.com Elmira

    Thanks for sharing this Catherine. I grew up in a very traditional and conservative Turkish household in New York. I was expected to get an education and then a well paying white collar job. i chose to go into government instead, which upset my parents. We fought and fought. Their gripe was that I was always going to be a paper pusher and never any prestige or money. In their culture, you couldn’t change that -your first choice was your only choice.

    This past year I went through awful turmoil with my boss at my organization. I lost sleep. I stopped eating. When my parents asked what was wrong I told them that I was afraid that I would be fired. “Get fired,” my mother yelled at me. Get fired so you can get out of this misery. It was the greatest of ah-ha moments. It showed me that there was a way out and that my parents are more interested in my happiness rather than their culture. No one lives your life but you – and sometimes you just have to walk away.

  • http://www.wondermentwoman.com Elmira

    Thanks for sharing this Catherine. I grew up in a very traditional and conservative Turkish household in New York. I was expected to get an education and then a well paying white collar job. i chose to go into government instead, which upset my parents. We fought and fought. Their gripe was that I was always going to be a paper pusher and never any prestige or money. In their culture, you couldn’t change that -your first choice was your only choice.

    This past year I went through awful turmoil with my boss at my organization. I lost sleep. I stopped eating. When my parents asked what was wrong I told them that I was afraid that I would be fired. “Get fired,” my mother yelled at me. Get fired so you can get out of this misery. It was the greatest of ah-ha moments. It showed me that there was a way out and that my parents are more interested in my happiness rather than their culture. No one lives your life but you – and sometimes you just have to walk away.

  • http://www.speakingofchina.com Jocelyn

    Catherine, you post truly resonated with me. It reminds me of my own ah-ha moment in China. I was tired of being a corporate writer, but afraid to make the leap to freelancer. But when my husband — in psychology grad school — helped me clarify my work values, I realized it was the only path for me. He supported me then, he still supports me now.

    @Figen, just like your husband, mine always has encouraged me to follow my dreams. To have him is a daily blessing.

  • http://www.speakingofchina.com Jocelyn

    Catherine, you post truly resonated with me. It reminds me of my own ah-ha moment in China. I was tired of being a corporate writer, but afraid to make the leap to freelancer. But when my husband — in psychology grad school — helped me clarify my work values, I realized it was the only path for me. He supported me then, he still supports me now.

    @Figen, just like your husband, mine always has encouraged me to follow my dreams. To have him is a daily blessing.

  • Pingback: Nostalgic baggage « Furthering the Worldwide Cultural Conversation

  • http://www.rosedeniz.blogspot.com Rose

    Catherine, I think we both had our “aha” moments as a result of being in NY; mine happened after tromping around trying to find gallery work while keeping one ear to the phone, talking to my then-fiance about starting a new life in Turkey. Turkey won. Though there are times I still long for the classic path of studio-artist-in-New-York, and I can relate to the design work you did, too, there was something more compelling to me about paving a new way.

    I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone’s comments. It seems there must be some element of risk to be taken that allows for the aha moment to happen. Good luck writing your book, Catherine!

  • Anonymous

    Catherine, I think we both had our “aha” moments as a result of being in NY; mine happened after tromping around trying to find gallery work while keeping one ear to the phone, talking to my then-fiance about starting a new life in Turkey. Turkey won. Though there are times I still long for the classic path of studio-artist-in-New-York, and I can relate to the design work you did, too, there was something more compelling to me about paving a new way.

    I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone’s comments. It seems there must be some element of risk to be taken that allows for the aha moment to happen. Good luck writing your book, Catherine!

  • Bron Barnacle

    Thank you both for your kind words, Catherine & Figen, as at one level I feel like such an abject failure. At another, I have no doubt whatsoever I did the right thing.
    I felt I had 2 homes – my original one and my new one.
    I never missed the original at all – never – until the end, and then it was all I wanted.
    A piece of me is still in Turkey – or perhaps I have brought some back with me ? Strangely, I am able to enjoy some elements of the culture here more than I did there, albeit vicariously. That was another “aha” moment – just in the past few months – when it “clicked” and I realised I had not left / lost everything I loved about Turkey the past 16 years and could still have some of it – wherever I am.
    (Close your eyes & listen)

  • Bron Barnacle

    Thank you both for your kind words, Catherine & Figen, as at one level I feel like such an abject failure. At another, I have no doubt whatsoever I did the right thing.
    I felt I had 2 homes – my original one and my new one.
    I never missed the original at all – never – until the end, and then it was all I wanted.
    A piece of me is still in Turkey – or perhaps I have brought some back with me ? Strangely, I am able to enjoy some elements of the culture here more than I did there, albeit vicariously. That was another “aha” moment – just in the past few months – when it “clicked” and I realised I had not left / lost everything I loved about Turkey the past 16 years and could still have some of it – wherever I am.
    (Close your eyes & listen)

  • http://www.google.com/profiles/knitbox Figen Cakir

    Yes, Catherine, supportive families are the most important thing. Living in a strange environment is hard enough but to live in it with someone who is also like a stranger, rather than a soulmate I can trust unquestionably, would be devastating.
    Bron, I loved what you said about heeding instead of trying to overcome. I’ve been thinking about that comment all morning. Sometimes we don’t want to be an optimistic expat who forges ahead. Sometimes we just want to go home.

  • http://www.google.com/profiles/knitbox Figen Cakir

    Yes, Catherine, supportive families are the most important thing. Living in a strange environment is hard enough but to live in it with someone who is also like a stranger, rather than a soulmate I can trust unquestionably, would be devastating.
    Bron, I loved what you said about heeding instead of trying to overcome. I’ve been thinking about that comment all morning. Sometimes we don’t want to be an optimistic expat who forges ahead. Sometimes we just want to go home.

  • http://bazaarbayar.com.bazaarbayar.etsy.com Catherine Bayar

    Bron, thanks for posting. You had an incredible expat experience and touched a lot of people in your years there. I’m so glad to read that you retain the things you loved about that period of your life…we learn from bad times often so much more than the good times.

    As for the book….inshallah I shall finish it one of these days, but the story is proving to be of epic scale!

  • http://www.bazaarbayar.blogspot.com Catherine Bayar

    Bron, thanks for posting. You had an incredible expat experience and touched a lot of people in your years there. I’m so glad to read that you retain the things you loved about that period of your life…we learn from bad times often so much more than the good times.

    As for the book….inshallah I shall finish it one of these days, but the story is proving to be of epic scale!

  • http://bazaarbayar.com.bazaarbayar.etsy.com Catherine Bayar

    Thanks for your comments Tara and Figen! I see that we have been blessed with supportive families. Changing directions is challenging enough, but having major opposition would make it even more so.

  • http://www.bazaarbayar.blogspot.com Catherine Bayar

    Thanks for your comments Tara and Figen! I see that we have been blessed with supportive families. Changing directions is challenging enough, but having major opposition would make it even more so.

  • Bron Barnacle

    Figen, what your husband said was amazing to me – he must be a special man. It really touched me. Why ? Its connected to my aha moment. After several trips f/b a lengthy expat life there, I realised that as much as I had loved that place, after many years I was stressed out of my mind; now dying inside & my mental health was in very grave jeopardy.
    That that for once in my life I really had to listen to myself – how I was feeling – and instead of overcoming it, heed it.
    That for once in my life I had to put myself first and take care of myself.
    And I left.
    It took me 2,5 years to recover sufficiently to be even able to start to reconnect with what I loved about it. That has not gone away. I can still have some of what I loved far away. Thank God.

    Catherine, I didn’t know there was a book coming !!! How have I missed that “minor detail” in all our correspondence, all these years ?!

  • Bron Barnacle

    Figen, what your husband said was amazing to me – he must be a special man. It really touched me. Why ? Its connected to my aha moment. After several trips f/b a lengthy expat life there, I realised that as much as I had loved that place, after many years I was stressed out of my mind; now dying inside & my mental health was in very grave jeopardy.
    That that for once in my life I really had to listen to myself – how I was feeling – and instead of overcoming it, heed it.
    That for once in my life I had to put myself first and take care of myself.
    And I left.
    It took me 2,5 years to recover sufficiently to be even able to start to reconnect with what I loved about it. That has not gone away. I can still have some of what I loved far away. Thank God.

    Catherine, I didn’t know there was a book coming !!! How have I missed that “minor detail” in all our correspondence, all these years ?!

  • Figen Cakir

    Catherine, you speak for all of us. My marriage to my Turkish husband didn’t really give my direction a sharp corner turn but rather a gentle curve, because my half-Turkish roots meant my heart was already half here in spirit. My actual ‘aha’ moment came when I was at a life-changing crossroads 4 years ago; to go the expected expat route and teach English where the pay was good, or start my own online business which was my heart’s desire. The impact it would have on my income and family was huge. My husband told me to think of myself and do what made me happy no matter the financial risk. When he told me that my happiness reflected on our home and set the mood for the rest of the family; that was my ‘aha’ moment.

  • Figen Cakir

    Catherine, you speak for all of us. My marriage to my Turkish husband didn’t really give my direction a sharp corner turn but rather a gentle curve, because my half-Turkish roots meant my heart was already half here in spirit. My actual ‘aha’ moment came when I was at a life-changing crossroads 4 years ago; to go the expected expat route and teach English where the pay was good, or start my own online business which was my heart’s desire. The impact it would have on my income and family was huge. My husband told me to think of myself and do what made me happy no matter the financial risk. When he told me that my happiness reflected on our home and set the mood for the rest of the family; that was my ‘aha’ moment.

  • Pingback: Twitted by burcsahinoglu

  • http://www.google.com/profiles/tara.agacayak Tara Lutman Agacayak

    Oh Catherine, oh Catherine. Yes. A month before marrying my Turkish husband I was in a panic. Though I was in love with my husband I couldn’t think about leaving California to move to Turkey. My father told me that he would support either decision I made – either to call off the wedding or go ahead with it. But he said that if I didn’t do it I would always wonder what would have happened and he suggested that I give it a try. Even if it all fell apart, he said, at least I wouldn’t have wondered. He offered that if I was going to go through with it I should give it 100% of my effort – to really try. That was my ‘aha’ moment and I’ve never looked back.

  • http://www.google.com/profiles/tara.agacayak Tara Lutman Agacayak

    Oh Catherine, oh Catherine. Yes. A month before marrying my Turkish husband I was in a panic. Though I was in love with my husband I couldn’t think about leaving California to move to Turkey. My father told me that he would support either decision I made – either to call off the wedding or go ahead with it. But he said that if I didn’t do it I would always wonder what would have happened and he suggested that I give it a try. Even if it all fell apart, he said, at least I wouldn’t have wondered. He offered that if I was going to go through with it I should give it 100% of my effort – to really try. That was my ‘aha’ moment and I’ve never looked back.

Previous post:

Next post: