A 2021 reflection
I’ve been writing publicly for around 3 years. As a 2021 reflection, I’ve decided that it was time to take an honest look at how I got there and why. Getting a sounder understanding of how you grew into who you are today can be a fascinating journey of self-discovery. By thoughtfully reliving your rich experiences, both positive and negative, you find a more profound perception and begin to live a more authentic life.
Working in compliance out of the UAE has felt isolating at times, despite my best efforts to network with like-minded professionals. It seemed nothing compared to the support I witnessed the compliance community giving each other in the US. In the interest of not feeling so isolated, I started connecting with compliance thought-leaders from other regions on LinkedIn. Their content and know-how was so inspiring, I simply had to re-share their brilliant thoughts and best practices with the rest of the world.
Slowly, I started supplementing my own thoughts and commentary in addition to sharing their content. Eventually, out of nowhere, I found myself a “tribe,” people just as eager to read the content I was sharing as I was reading theirs. As I grew more confident in my writing, and with the support of a loyal reader base, I moved into researching my own content and providing my own analysis.
In parallel, I kept nurturing the dream of going back to the United States, the “homeland of compliance,” where I had spent beautiful years as a student. So about a year ago, I took the plunge and boarded a plane back to the United States to research the opportunities. Opportunities were plenty. There was only one fundamental problem: the immigration system had completely changed since I last lived there 12 years prior. Navigating the United States’ employment-immigration landscape was going to be a minefield. It soon became apparent that working there would be mission impossible- at least- under Trump.
I decided I would have a better chance, setting up my own consultancy and self-sponsoring my own work permit. I returned to Morocco to eagerly start preparing that complex process. Just a few weeks before announcing I was going solo, the world went into lockdown mode. My part of the world was among the most extreme. I found myself confined to the house 24/7. I slowly had to come to peace that borders were shut for an undetermined time period.
What was I to do? I love my country and my family, but compliance is almost non-existent in Morocco, and networking is limited at best. Under the pandemic, my chances of securing employment in Morocco would be slim to none.
So here I was, jobless, far from my friends, with no support system other than my family in Morocco. I found myself in a very dark place, hopeless. I remembered the words of my beloved Rumi:
“If everything around seems dark, look again; you may be the light.”
In the midst of my hopelessness, and considering changing careers to something less complex like flower photography, I stumbled upon this course online by a frequently mentioned writer Holly Johnson: Earn More Writing. I got curious, is there really a way to earn a decent living freelance writing? Was this another online gimmick?
I decided to pass on the course; why would I spend money on a course while technically unemployed? I kept focusing on my consultancy, and hoping the borders would reopen soon. But every month that passed, the State of Emergency was further extended. So I started thinking about Holly again. The lady claims to make over $200k per year freelance writing. That doesn’t include the money she makes from the course or from her own blog. I really started thinking, that’s more money than the salary I earned as a Legal & Compliance Manager! Why not give it a try? Everyone is working online now anyways. Many professionals have turned to occasional freelance projects as an additional income, or moved full time to freelancing. Why not do freelance compliance content?
I bought the course and watched it for 3 days straight. It inspired me. Soon enough, I added content writing to my scope of work after all, isn’t it what I had been doing for the last 3 years for free? And then the paid assignments came. I built myself a reasonable portfolio. So I thought to myself, this lady was right. What else does she have? I need to comprehend the world of business outside of Legal & Compliance. So I took the plunge, and watched her other course taught by her husband Greg Earn More Blogging.
And then a light bulb moment happened, maybe all this hardship was meant to bring me to this chapter of my life. I created “The Compliance Lady”, an alter-ego persona, a fierce, and vocal, nom de plume.
And I kept posting, and posting, and posting. The content I was posting at first was a strange expression of compliance insights mixed with personal confusion.
With each post, I felt vindicated for parts of myself that I felt were stolen from me because of the color of my passport, because my country suffers from corruption yet sorely lacks compliance opportunities, because of Trump and his immigration policies, because of Covid… A complicated mess.
Even I couldn’t make sense of this cloud of confusion. I don’t know what was paining me most. But out of this cathartic exercise, one thing became abundantly clear: I would never go back to having a dimmed voice. Morocco, may not have recognized my abilities (for now), but it has given me the freedom of speech I was sorely lacking in the UAE.
Writing has helped me surmount the difficult times. As 2021 starts on a more hopeful note, I am grateful to all those who supported me, and ready to take on the world. If I can take on the world with all my limitations, then anyone can too.
So I hope this message helps someone today who is also experiencing a temporary episode of darkness. It is only by opening up to past experiences and inner wisdom, that you are finally able to recognize your true self.
You are not alone.
-Bravo if you read this until the end-