PEACE FOR MOTHER & DAUGHTER
Written by Aziza founder, Laila Ghattas
My mother had a deeply held priority for security; Security and certainty in employment, pension, extended benefits. Her motivation came in part from surviving WWII Nazi Germany when her world fell apart while she was a graduate student. Then leaving everything that was familiar to marry and raise a family with my father in Egypt.
So when as a teen I wanted to study art, she balked. Suggested I be a medical illustrator. Or pharmacist. Utterly unsuitable suggestions. During my first two years as a Fine Art university student, she fretted about my future employment. One day she suggested that I study to become a teacher. That same day I saw posters inviting applications for the concurrent program where I’d complete B.FA and B.Ed degrees in 5 years.
I thrived at university and don't regret following her advice to also become a trained and certified educator. I learned a lot about methodology and psychology of learning, how to give instructions and countless other transferable skills I use today. However after my months of practicum teaching and summer teaching jobs, and graduating during a drought of teaching positions, on my graduation day I had the terrifying insight that I did NOT want a career in either of my chosen fields as artist or teacher. Those hard won doors were essentially closed to me and every other door was open. That was a very bad day.
My mother was not too happy when after graduation, after my time as Katimavik group leader, an extended trip to Europe and Egypt, and short stint as Toronto Humane Society Education Officer, I landed in a sales job in the Graphic Arts industry. Sales was not a respectable profession to her. It held no professional status. Nor security.
Although I honed my sales skills as I moved through the industry I knew early on it was not a good match to my soul, and yet I chose to stay as a means pay for the house I bought in my late twenties.
Being good at something isn’t necessarily all it takes to be happy with a chosen field.
I was lucky to be born with diverse abilities. I was a natural teacher, yet I could not fit into a rule and schedule imposed Education system. Sales at least gave me freedom and flexibility in my day and developed a more extroverted nature, but I was left utilizing little of my other talents. It held no meaning for me.
After a life altering trek in the Himalaya, I was inspired to train for my passion to be of service, again to my mother’s dismay. Psychotherapy was not a field she held in high regard, aka, navel gazing.
Over 14 years, in addition to my full time sales job, I invested my time and resources into developing my qualifications and expertise in Usui Reiki, Gestalt Therapy and Expressive Art.
By now you can imagine my comfortably retired mothers reaction when I announced to my family, at the age of 42, after more training, certificates and graduations, after a heart opening sea kayaking trip in the USVI, you can just guess her reaction when I declared that I was leaping out of my sales job, (now defunct as the Universe dwindled my client base as not so subtle encouragement) to follow my bliss in self employment.
I birthed Aziza Healing Adventures (AHA), combining my passions, talents, both university degrees, utilizing my 18 years of sales experience in the advertising industry and well seasoned from the uncertainty of a commision based salary. During those early years I regularly braced for my mother’s inquiry, “Laila, do you have a plan B?”
At the exact time I began my entrepreneurial journey, my mother was diagnosed with cancer in two primary sites and this shadowed the first 6 years of my new venture. I would stall her question about "real" job alternatives with the lie, “I can always go back to teaching, be a supply teacher….”. Times had changed and there were teaching jobs.
But whenever I thought about being in a classroom, I choked. In my heart I knew it was not for me and that I’d had enough of living with employment that did not fulfill my emerging calling.
Up till the end, as I developed AHA, my mother did not believe it would ever be good enough to secure my future the way she had achieved with her satisfying University of Toronto career in the higher ranks of research librarian. She was enjoying a great pension and benefits after decades of earning a regular professional salary. She was set and had no monetary uncertainty. Yet she was dying when the third primary cancer site was discovered.
Decades of therapy and personal growth pursuits helped me increasingly live my truth in the face of her formidable, well intentioned challenges to my vocation choices. During her years of illness I decided I would release my habitual anger with her. That indulgence was over. For the most part I succeeded.
I’m very lucky that in the last year of her life, during one of our precious Scrabble games, my mother said with quiet reflection, “You are different from me. I don’t have the personality to not know how much I will earn in a given month or year, I could never live like that. I need my security, its essential to my nature. Laila, we are different.” And with that, we were finally at peace about my chosen unconventional life.
She eventually admired my risk of self employment as she observed the balancing advantages of personal satisfaction, professional pride, world travel, spiritual expansion and freedom to live as I choose each day. I make my living helping people improve their relationships and lives. It's all worth it to me.
Yes, my nature has tolerance for what it takes to be an entrepreneur because using my whole Self is more important than waiting to live my real life on a pension from an unsuitable job. Right or wrong the grounding of home equity was good enough for me mid life to risk exploring this new and profoundly meaningful paradigm as self actualizing healer.
My mother could finally accept who I was and relax about my future, stop insisting on me fulfilling her narrowly defined vision of what security must look like*. She accepted our differences as neither good nor bad.
Compromise in this life is ultimately a very private decision and the more aware of who you really are, the better your chosen compromises will be. I can live with mine. My mother died embracing that.
It was a profound gift to understand and respect our differences, to leave each other in this life in peace.
Written by Aziza founder, Laila Ghattas April 2015
* My mother was fortunate to have secured a job she really liked that fulfilled her needs for financial security. There was no sacrifice for her to build her long academic career. She was living her version of her dream. Her pension allowed her and my father to enjoy their retirement. I'm very happy that stability was there for them. This story is about accepting differences. It's not anti pension, benefits, or regular salary.
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