Nina’s Quarter Life Epiphany
Some background on Nina
My name is Nina Alexander and I am a marketer by profession, traveler by heart and a volunteer in my own special way: I help expats find their way around Bulgaria though our amazing website.
What advice would you give yourself at 20? And at 25?
To my 20 year old self, I’d say: when you want to go, go! When you want to leave, leave. If you are staying somewhere being miserable only because you think there will be an opportunity arising, leave. If you’re unhappy, you’ll never really benefit from this opportunity. Don’t smile when you don’t feel like it and don’t hold the smile back when you’re happy. Say what’s on your mind but be kind – holding back will make you bitter and sad. Find the voice of your inner self and trust that voice above everything and everyone! Even when that voice sounds ridiculous, listen to it – you’d be shocked by the wisdom you carry inside of you. Remember that EVERY choice you do will make your life better or worse. But most of all: do not be afraid to be silly. Very soon your favorite quote will be “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those, who could not hear the music.”
To my 25 year old, I’d say: do not be fooled by the compliments of employers, they only mean to make you work harder. Demand to be paid for the work you do, or if that’s not possible, work only as much as you’re paid for. Do not compromise with anything, but most of all, don’t compromise with your time. You’ll never again be 25, at this very place and with these same people, so make every moment perfect. It’s really all up to you!
What does a quarter life epiphany mean to you?
To me that’s the moment of awakening. You reach a certain age, look back and wonder: have I created the base that’s stable enough for me to stand on until the rest of my life?
What was your quarter life epiphany?
It happened about a year and a half after I returned to Bulgaria. I was 29 at the time and realized that the place I called home was not home anymore. I had lived abroad long enough to change the way I saw the world, the way I acted and the way I communicated and I no longer fit in here. The only problem I had was that I didn’t know where I fit. It wasn’t London and it definitely wasn’t Cyprus.
Then it hit me and I realized: I don’t have to fit anywhere! I need to surround myself with what fits me wherever I am. Now, I do not try to look for the perfect place – I simply add what I like and remove what I don’t. It’s much like rearranging your apartment but it’s actually rearranging the world around you including people, conversations, books, places, work, everything!
Where were you when you had your quarter life epiphany?
I was in Bulgaria, working as a CMO for a company, which products I did not understand at all! Those who have ever been in my shoes will know, that understanding the product and its users is vital for a marketer and not being able to makes you feel useless. I simply didn’t feel I was providing any value to the world and my work, that was until then my rock was yet another life area I felt I was failing in.
What do you think inspired your quarter life epiphany?
Actually, it was a book I had read about a year before that. It’s called “The voice of knowledge” by Don Miguel Ruiz. The most amazing message from the book tells you, that you’re the only person in this world that knows all aspects of yourself. Your mom sees the kid, your friends – their buddy, your partner – the friend and lover. And this is why you should always take their opinion into account but never obey 100% to what they think.
How are you different now than before your quarter life epiphany? / Have you taken any drastic measures or made any big changes in your life after your quarter life epiphany?
I’ve changed so much! Before, I tried to be the best in every aspect of my life, which of course resulted in massive failure. Now I try to do less in quantity but with better quality, I smile more, I travel all the time and I never ask why something can’t be done. I ask: how do we get it done?
What advice would you give to others who want to make a major change in their life?
Do not look up to others – use people’s experience as a guide, but don’t ever try to copy someone’s methodology. You’ll end up stuck in a place that you never knew existed because you’d have walked some else’s path. Make the changes that fit your character and don’t think that the change needs to be drastic: sometimes, simply changing your very own attitude is more than enough to get you the happy life you always wanted.
What challenges have you faced, and how have you overcome them?
In my opinion the usual challenge we all face when we try to make a change is the resistance of other around us. What’s even worse is that usually we get the most resistance from those who love us and it’s simply because they don’t want us to change, move away from them, get busier or something else that will alter their relationships with us. We need to be prepared for this resistance and handle it with love and compassion. It happens to me even today: my family and friends constantly complain that I don’t have enough time for them. But when we meet I simply do my best to give them my full attention and show them that I am still me. So far, it works!
What do you wish more people realized?
I once read an article about a palliative nurse who has counselled the dying in their last days. The most common regret was “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” I simply wish people realized that it’s not scary to say “No” and there’s nothing wrong with it.
What advice would you give to someone having a quarter life crisis?
You know, we’ve all been there. Really. Some of us more, others less – the quarter life crisis phenomena is simply part of life much like the flu. And just like the flu – it will pass, so there is nothing you can really do about it (you know what they say – flu is cured for 7 days with meds or for a week without any). You can only control its symptoms to a point so just find out what they are and every time they try to show up tell yourself: “this worry is not worth it” and go do something you like!
I OCCASIONALLY travel solo, because I think it is…
the only way to truly detach yourself. After all, whoever you may bring on the trip knows something about your everyday life. You don’t need that negativity in your life now, do you!
I get through long flights by…
…crying my eyes out… I have a horrendous phobia of flying which is one of the reasons I am yet to visit America & Canada.
The cause that really gets me riled up is…
Animal abuse… So many researches have shown that most of serial killers have begun by torturing animals. Society seriously needs to find a way and deal with this because in reality such cruelty is nothing more than a damaged soul, crying for attention.
When traveling, I always miss…
…good coffee! Believe it or not, coffee is so different around the world and when you’re a little pretentious about the way you drink it, finding the perfect coffee is really hard!
I REALLY want to visit…
…every place of Earth. I could never possible pick one, but if I have to, it will be the Abraham Lake in Canada. If you see pictures from there, you’ll understand.
Best travel tip?
Choose your travel buddies really carefully. It’s amazing how different some people are when they travel. Always go on a small trip with the people you intend to travel with before you head off to a big adventure!
Best packing tip?
As a woman traveler I’ve learned that it’s harder for us to be prepared for everything when we travel and my tip goes a stage earlier: when shopping, consider every piece of clothing you buy and think how you can combine it. Can you wear these high heels with both skinny jeans and an evening dress? If yes, then buy them. Can these skinny jeans be worn with both high heels and sneakers? If so – they’re awesome!
Worst travel experience? What did you learn?
I once sat on a sunbed in Cyprus and cried uncontrollably for about an hour. Fancy people, holding cold margaritas in their amazing super expensive swimwear were staring at me as if I was an alien. What had happened? I agreed to travel with people who wanted completely different things from their holidays than I wanted from mine and the pressure from hating it there but trying to be nice simply killed me and I burst out in tears. I know it doesn’t sound like such a bad experience, but destroying a holiday on an emotional level is way worse (to me) than any problem that may arise during travels. Now if asked to join a group of people with a different travelling style I simply don’t go. I then let my mind wander in the magical world of literature – you don’t really need to be on the go so you experience the joy of travelling.
Favorite place to live?
Yet to find it really. Nicosia, Cyprus was not for me, London wasn’t my cup of tea either and even though I do like Sofia, I think there’s much yet to be explored before I point out my favorite place.
Favorite place to visit?
Probably surprising but one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to was Poland. I travelled across the country when I was 17 years old and can’t wait to go back there and repeat the trip!
Eat Stay Love Bulgaria is my volunteering/charity work (since several charity organizations told me they don’t need volunteers but donations). My partner and I share information useful for all the expats coming to Bulgaria and promote the country in our effort to be at least a drop in the ocean of support for the country’s economy. Plus, we simply love travelling!
Follow the sisters is my personal (very new) blog where my sister and I share photos and thoughts on travelling and every day life.
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If you enjoyed Nina’s Quarter Life Epiphany, check out the others in the series by clicking here!
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