Trust me. I did it too.
Here is my story
At the age of 32, I felt extremely frustrated. I worked at a job that I didn’t like. I hated my boss. I told my husband that I constantly felt I was wearing shoes that were three sizes too small. My days were spent feeling overworked and unappreciated. I was very jealous of any career woman around me who I felt got the career that she deserved. Unlike me, who got stuck in a job that I didn’t like.
Desperate for a Change
Back then I had a good friend that was a few years older than me. We both had young kids. We used to meet at the local Starbucks at 7:00 a.m. every Saturday morning, before the kids woke up and the day started. One day, I told her how much I hated my job and my day-to-day. She looked at me and said, “Then change it. Go to school and change your path.”
“I wish I could,” I told her while holding back the tears. “My kids are so young and they need me. Adam is in a startup and never home. One day, when the time is right, I’ll do exactly that.”
She gave me a sharp look and then told me what changed my life. “Michelle,” she said. “you just don’t get it, do you? Your kids will always need you and Adam will always be in a startup. Go and sign up for classes this week, and tell me next Saturday that you have done it.”
I looked at her puzzled. What she had told me never crossed my mind. I never thought of it that way.
I was desperate for a change. I went and signed up for my Master’s in Psychology.
My son was five. My daughter was one. I worked a full-time job and had a husband who constantly travelled.
I found myself setting alarms for 3:00 a.m. I was working until 6:00 a.m. and then waking up the baby and starting my day. I worked twice as hard, but my life was suddenly full. I had a challenge. I had content. I felt that I was going somewhere.
If she can do it – so can I
When I finished my Masters, I was seven months pregnant with my third child. I remember sitting there in the final exam room, disappointed that it would soon be over.
I had a friend that took some classes with me. She was working toward her PhD in Psychology. She had two kids and was working full-time. Every time I asked her how she managed to do it, she told me the same thing, “If I can do it, so can you.”
I have decided to take what she said literally. If she can do it, so can I.
And so, seven months pregnant, I started my PhD and gave birth to my daughter, Mia, during the first semester.
The changes I was fighting for in my life became the topic that I was most interested in when I started doing the research for my PhD. What motivates us to change our lives? What stops us? Why are we so afraid? And what keeps us going through difficulty and challenge?
The PhD was definitely more challenging than my Masters. But, this time I was more prepared. I had a goal. I had a detailed plan. And, I had better tools to help me through my daily challenges.
I still kept setting alarms for 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. My kids and family were still my absolute priority. I remember saying to myself, family first, then work and then school. I felt that I had it all on track.
Then, in 2008, the economy collapsed. My husband’s startup was shut down. Things were getting challenging to a near breaking point. I told my husband that I thought that the most sensible thing for me to do was to take a break.
“I will come back to school later,” I told him. “When things get better, and the time is right.” He looked at me and said two things that I will thank him for every day for the rest of my life. He said, “Who deserves a PhD more than you?” Then, he said, “Michelle, if you leave now, you will not go back. Stay with the program no matter what and finish your degree.” And so, I stayed.
A few semesters down the road, I found myself struggling with bills, kids, work and school. I was trying to keep up with it all. At that time, I had a professor that did not think too highly of me. I don’t think he realized the kind of struggle that I was in. I earned a grade of C in both of his classes and got a nice fancy letter from the university. The letter said that I was on probation unless I repeated a class. I literally sat and cried. It was such an insult to me. I was working so hard to keep it all going. Getting that letter made me feel so bad about myself. It made me feel bad about the whole process.
I went home and told my husband that, perhaps, I should take a break. He said to me, “Michelle, repeat the class. You won’t even remember it later. Swallow your pride and repeat the class.” And, I did.
The day I got my PhD was not a day about the academic degree. It’s nice to get a PhD. It’s nice to get any degree. It was a day, for both of us, of working against all odds. A day of incredible teamwork. It was a day of resilience and persistence above and beyond what I thought I had in me.
Not alone on my Journey
To Nili, my friend who gave me the best advice I ever got, thank you. Thanks to your honest advice, I was able to turn my life around. To my husband, Adam, thank you, for teaching me important life lessons on persistence and teamwork. To my kids, Roey, Abby and Mia, thank you for being born. You are the engine for everything that I do. Life works in mysterious ways.
My passion and life mission
This journey I went through in my own life got me fascinated with purpose and perseverance, how the mind works when it comes to managing life, rather than being managed by it. This is all I research, write and talk about. This became my life mission, my passion, my purpose, and what I share with everyone that I meet, from the stage, from the TV channels, and throughout life.