Meet Melissa, a remarkable young woman. Melissa has had her fair share of challenges and 2014 was particularly difficult. She was faced with making some heart wrenching decisions that would change her life forever. This is Melissa’s story and she’s sharing it with us, hoping to inspire others who may face challenges too.
What’s your background?
I left school at 15, having not completed year 10. I started working for a health insurance company, scanning cheques and sorting mail. 11 years have passed (I am now 26), and my motivation and drive for success never faltered. I studied during the evening and proved myself through my work during the day. I am now an IT and Change Professional working as a Consultant in the Oil and Gas industry. I have also had the opportunity to travel the world, purchase properties and enjoy some of the other aspects of life that make me happy, including writing, volunteering with wildlife and competing in triathlons.
Until recently, I couldn’t say that I was successful in all aspects of my life. The most challenging journey for me was being a partner and then wife in an incompatible relationship. After a couple of years of self-doubt and increasing levels of darkness and despair, I listened to my heart and decided to stay true to my philosophy of life. I challenged myself to take the biggest leap of faith I could imagine. It is important to note that I would not have changed a thing about my past, for this part of my life has allowed me to grow so much as a person and has enabled me to overcome my greatest challenges.
You took a leap of faith. Did you ever wonder if you were doing the right thing?
I’ve taken two leaps of faith! One in search of happiness, and one to firmly cement my journey to success, happiness and fulfilment.
When I took my first leap of faith, I was not just leaving an unhappy marriage, I was leaping into the unknown. Society has written a checklist dictating that I should find a man, get married and settle down. I was throwing the checklist away, not knowing whether I would find someone to share my life with.
The discussion I had with myself went something like this:
You can choose to live a life of mediocrity and tick boxes. You can compromise and choose to make another person happy. You can do what society says is acceptable. This is an easy option. Your other option is to seek true happiness and fulfillment by unshackling the chains holding you down and forcing you into a life that won’t be lived for you. You can choose to find happiness and fulfillment within yourself, and choose the right path for you. You can write your own checklist and rip up the one that had been handed to you. What do you choose?’
I chose Life. Life then gave me the gift of someone that is brave enough to dream with me and walk along the same path, hand in hand.
Throughout the separation, I never questioned whether I was doing the right thing for me. From the moment I packed up my car and left with only my most important things, I knew that this was the path I needed to walk. Where I struggled was whether it was the right thing for him, I chose to be alone, but I left him alone. One day I truly hope that he too finds his kindred spirit and he can live the life that he always wanted for himself.
That brings me to the second leap of faith I am about to take! I am about to embark on a journey that will see my partner Clint and I pursuing our dream to live a life on the land, respecting her through organic (and biodynamic) crop and vineyard development. We are going to set up a sustainable and thriving business in the country, an environment that will see our future children and family thrive. What I risk is losing all that I have built financially and having to re-build from scratch. Why are we doing this? Because this is our dream. Only we can challenge ourselves to pursue it.
How did you make it happen?
There was a final tipping point, that one day where I just could not take it anymore. What led to that moment, the moment when I walked through the front door in tears, telling him that I was unhappy and I needed to leave, was a slow decline in happiness over a couple of years. I planned on leaving a number of times, but I always found a reason to hold back. I thought about his feelings, our finances, what I would do with no future certainty. I kept thinking that I could fix this, there was a problem with me and I had to fix it. I even tried bringing a fur baby (a kitten) into our lives, to give us something to bond over, and something to keep me happy at home. It didn’t work.
How did I make it happen? It was not about following a plan, it was about accepting that this is just the way it has to be. It was accepting that there wasn’t a problem with me mentally – sometimes things just don’t work out the way you planned it, despite your best efforts. This acceptance gave me the strength that I needed to take that next step.
What was your biggest challenge and what have you learnt along the way?
My biggest challenge was the internal battle that I was having with myself. I was battling what I should be doing versus what my heart was telling me I needed to do. Seems simple in theory but listening to my heart was the key to overcoming this battle.
With the marriage break down, it was initially the fear of the unknown. I had a path set before me which I was planning on ripping up, in place of something completely unknown.
The decision was not made lightly as there is nothing I dislike more than causing unhappiness for others, especially in order to achieve happiness for myself. For a long time I thought that I would be far too selfish if I chose to leave. It was later that I realized that we would both never be happy if I stayed. By leaving, I had given us both a chance of truly being happy.
The biggest thing that I have learnt is ensuring that I stay true to who I am and what is important to me. You can try and compromise for others, but the inner you will escape one way or the other. Once I accepted and embraced the inner me – warts and all – I started asking the right questions about what I truly want out of life. I first had to identify what I was truly passionate about before I could embrace it and allow it to keep me on the right path.
By enduring through these dark times, I am now truly able to appreciate all the beautiful things in my life. Through knowing darkness, I can truly soak up the light. I am also pleased to advise that I am now in a perfectly compatible relationship with Clint.
Who is your role model and why?
I don’t have one role model but draw little bits of inspiration from all the beautiful people who have changed my life and the world.
The first true leader that I worked for, Pep, had many challenges as he rose into leadership. He not only gave me enough confidence to believe in myself and set me up for career success, he inspired me with his career journey.
When it comes to achieving great things, it is hard for me to look past Richard Branson. He rose from humble beginnings, was not afraid to pursue his dream, and would not think twice about risking it all for something he truly believes in.
It is not only the grand and great things that matter, but enjoying and appreciating the beauty that comes from the smallest things. My sister taught me to live and love every moment.
My most important role model is my love and partner in crime, Clint. He has challenged me to dream big and will ultimately drive me to ensuring that we achieve our dreams.
How has pursuing your passions changed your life?
For the first time, I truly feel like I have reason and purpose. I think big. I do not listen to ‘can’t’ but instead ask ‘how can I?’ I do not dwell on things or feel sorry for myself. I ask myself what is throwing me off balance, or holding me back from my goals, and I correct it.
My life is not just another convergence of atoms, which worked together to create consciousness, which will later dissipate and reform. My life is a gift and I will leave my mark on the world by staying true to my values and building something beautiful.
What’s next for you? What does the future hold?
The immediate future holds a puppy, a farm, a “tree change” and a new business. We are very excited about starting our organic vineyard and truffiere in the beautiful South West of WA. Our future sees us continuing a beautiful journey to achieving success and fulfillment. We are not looking forward to the end of the road, but savoring every amazing moment of the journey.
Wisdom for others:
What advice would you give anyone who dreams of following their passion?
Challenge them to ask a similar question that I asked myself:
‘You can choose to live a life of mediocrity and tick boxes. You can compromise. You can choose the easy option. Your other option is to challenge yourself to seek true happiness and fulfillment by chasing your dreams. What do you choose?’
Ask yourself, ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’ You will end up in the same position that you are in now perhaps? You need to rebuild? Well you built yourself up to this point once and I am sure you could do it again if necessary; however it won’t be necessary to re-build. It won’t be necessary because with enough passion, drive and determination, you can achieve anything!
How do you think each of us can live the fullest life possible?
No more excuses, no more easy ways out, no more blaming others. You are the master of your own destiny. Challenge yourself to seek out what you are passionate about, dare to dream, then embrace it and live it! Don’t be afraid to fight for it, for nothing handed to you is earned, the harder you fight, the greater the reward.
A Bit of Fun:
Walking up a row of vines and turning around to see a look of freedom, contentment, passion and the thrill of the challenge rush through my partner’s eyes. I saw a dream in the making.
Biggest passion in life:
I am passionate about living a life filled with adventure, challenge and excitement. I am passionate about sustainable and healthy living and, most of all, I am passionate about living my life with – and being constantly challenged by – Clint, my partner.
Best bit of advice you have ever received:
The most important thing is happiness. (“Thanks Dad”). I’ve added to this by stating that success is happiness, fulfillment is success, and happiness paves the path to fulfillment.
Most inspiring film you’ve seen:
Unfortunately I don’t tend to watch films that are terribly inspiring. That’s a good challenge to me… Seek one out by visiting an art house cinema on occasion.
Most inspiring book you’ve read:
Paul Coelho, The Alchemist. Like a piece of art, there are many perceptions of truth as to the true meaning behind what was written. I read this book at the beginning of my journey of rediscovering myself. Turned out my treasure was just a message away, but the journey I embarked on was pivotal in order for me to appreciate the gold waiting for me around the corner.
Best light-bulb moment:
The realization that no matter how hard you work for an organization, you are just a number and you mean nothing in the scheme of things. You can leave an organization and be missed for a day but your friends and family will love you always. Being made redundant from an organization that had me earmarked as tomorrow’s leader solidified my desire to set up my own family business and to ensure that I have all of my priorities in the right order.
Anything is possible… what’s your wish?
I wish to be successful in building my dream of developing a successful winery and a sustainable, healthy and wealthy lifestyle for my family. To me, nothing that is handed to you is earned, so I do wish for the journey and challenges that I will be faced with and then, ultimately, to earn enough money, in order for me to pursue my other dream. A dream of being able to rescue abused and exploited animals across Asia, Africa and South America, in order to provide them with quality care and a home. I would then seek to develop a program that would enable me to release as many wild animals back to their real homes as possible. I could wish for something grander, but I believe that a real wish is one that I can make a reality.
Philosophy you live by:
Plan for tomorrow but live for today. Don’t plant a flower just for you; plant a tree so that all the beautiful people around you can bask under the shade of the canopy. Always stay true and honest and never compromise your values or who you are.
Quote you live by:
Over the next few years, we aim to establish our organic vineyard and build a sustainable self-sufficient lifestyle that respects the land. An old Indian Proverb, which I first read in my early primary school years, will be a quote that I live by:
When the Last Tree is Cut Down,
The Last Fish Eaten
And the Last Stream Poisoned,
You will Realize that you
Cannot Eat Money.