“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I built my life” – J.K Rowling
It’s 2am in Budapest, and I’m sitting atop the highest point of the city overlooking the Danube River. I’m at the Citadella, a historical landmark in the city, with my brother, my sister, Jennifer & Ernest – two of my childhood friends from the UAE. We had just spent a wonderful night in Budapest, filled with laughter and positive energy, reminiscing about our childhoods in the Middle East. It was so magical. I don’t know what it was about that night. Perhaps it was the fact that I was going through a tumultuous period in my relationship at the time and being in Europe gave me a sense of freedom and the possibility of something greater for myself; or perhaps it was the night itself – with the city lights, the peace, the tranquility and the darkness. Maybe it was also the mere fact that we were finally vacationing as a family together since my sister passed in 2002, making this trip extra special; and maybe it was also the inspiration I was feeling from seeing my brother finally finish and defend his thesis for his Masters of International Relations at Corvinus University of Budapest – his convocation being the reason we decided to make a family trip to Europe.
Whatever the “why” may be, perhaps a combination of all the aforementioned reasons, I just had an epiphany that night in Budapest. That Europe was where I was meant to be, even if only for a short while. I had no idea where I was going to go, what I was going to do, how long it would take me to get there, or even if I had the courage to follow through with this thought. Imagine.. living in Europe? Wow, just the idea at the time gave me chills. Oh the possibilities. Could I really do it?
I mean.. WHY NOT?
And so, I embarked on this incredible journey. I arrived from Vienna on June 25th, 2015 – the day after my 24th birthday. If you’ve been following my blog (read here –> The Phoenix) you’ll know that this particular date was the day my whole world came crashing down. Following the months after this breakup, I was in a state of total confusion, but if there’s one thing that kept me going it was this notion that I was going to end up in Europe one day. Even though my heart was breaking, and in a complete state of shock, moving to Europe became something that I could focus on that was bigger than my pain.
This is where I found beauty in my pain. Of course, there were many, many, many books, travel, long conversations, and the discovery of meditation involved as well, but at the end of the day, giving myself a purpose statement to my experience gave my pain deeper meaning. When I allowed my pain to serve a higher purpose, I was no longer a victim to my own experience. My breakup no longer became a limiting story, but rather, it became my guru. Pain became my guide. It was through this process that I allowed pain to become my messenger and my teacher.
So in September 2015, I began my research. At this point, I still didn’t know what I wanted to do, the only direction I had was that I wanted to study a healthcare related Masters program. I made a list of all the possible countries in Europe that I could see myself living in – France, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, Spain, etc. Under each country, I made a list of every single accredited university that offered Master programs in English. Then I began to cross each university off my list that didn’t offer any programs that appealed to me. This entire process took about six months. It was long and hard, and I found myself getting very frustrated when I wasn’t making any headway after four months. Finally, on a night shift, I came across this program, Masters of Healthcare Policy, Innovation and Management (https://www.maastrichtuniversity.nl/education/master/master-healthcare-policy-innovation-and-management) at Maastricht University in The Netherlands. Bingo. I knew this was where I wanted to go. Granted, I continued with my research and only found one other program that was of interest to me – also in the Netherlands. This process was such a learning experience. It taught me the value in going out there and seeking opportunities for yourself. Not everything will be handed to you on a silver platter, and sometimes you just have to open up your mind and see what the world has to offer – you never know what you’re going to find.
Once I found the program, the gruelling process of obtaining my requirements started. My number one stressor was studying and writing the GRE, a standardized 4hr test in verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and essay writing. My first practice exam took me about six hours to complete and I scored in the 20th percentile. Yeah, brutal I know. I remember crying my eyes out thinking I couldn’t do this anymore. How in the world was I going to study for this exam? The thought was so daunting; and yes, we all have those moments. I took a break over the next week and re-thought my strategy. Two weeks later, I pulled myself together, signed up for a self-study online course and worked my ass off for six months. I dedicated a minimum of four hours on all my days off to my GRE, and did not leave the house or cancelled plans until I ticked off all the sections I needed to complete for that day. I switched all my shifts to night shifts, and spent the majority of my breaks studying. It was tedious, and very stressful at times, but in the end, it was all worth it.
Then my second break up with my most recent ex, happened exactly ONE WEEK before my exam. It was sudden, unexpected, and threw me completely off guard. I couldn’t believe my heart was breaking all over again, especially after everything I had already been through. I had already postponed my exam once, so I wasn’t about to do it again. So instead, I persevered, stayed focused, and channeled all this new pain into preparing for my GRE during that week. I did extremely well, scoring in the 90th percentile or above in all my sections.
Next, the application process – which was actually the easiest and most straightforward part! I sent in my transcripts, my GRE scores, my purpose statement, and references from work and school (note: gathering these documents also took a few months). A few weeks later, the first week of December 2016, I got an early acceptance into my program. And now fast-forward to the present moment, here I am – ready to leave in a few short days!
When I reflect on the experiences over the past two years that have brought me to this present moment, I can’t help but smile and simply thank the universe. Everything that has happened to me in the past has prepared me for this. I know it. I can feel it. I have courage, and I have strength now, and most importantly, I have such a deeper awareness of who I am. The universe has ALWAYS been working in my favour, ALWAYS. The lows of lows, and the highs of highs – they have all served its purpose. So whatever it is you are going through, just know that it is not forever, and there is a gift and lesson in every single experience.
When it comes to focusing on something that is bigger than your pain, it doesn’t necessarily have to be something as big as moving to a different country or getting a Masters degree. This was just my dream. It can be anything as simple as learning a new skill, or rekindling a love for a new hobby. It can be whatever it is, as long as it’s honouring yourself, and feels good to YOU.
So next time I’ll be blogging, I’ll be in Europe my friends!
Until then, from my heart to yours,
Love & Light,