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“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

Nelson Mandela

Just a few days ago, I was sitting in a pub in Matamata, New Zealand, having a late lunch of something that only had the name of “chicken tacos”, and drinking Kombucha with a new friend. We only met a few hours prior, as I picked him up at the Auckland airport and we started our journey toward Wellington.

As we were enjoying a beautiful day in a beautiful country, I couldn’t help but state how happy it made me feel to be there. The taste of freedom in my mouth was (thankfully) overpowering the fried chicken. I could feel the passion run through my veins. I felt unstoppable.

Am I simply lucky to feel that passion in my life?

That would probably be the easy answer. I’m a white female. I was born in a very decent home, of two loving parents. I had a good education and never lacked of anything. I’m lucky that way, certainly.

But is this really it? Just because of the color of my skin and the place I was born (gender is not on my side in our current society), I’m expected to live the best of lives. That would really be too easy and condescending.

The truth is, I work really hard to have the luxury of choosing the life I want to lead.

Had I followed the rules and the flow of what was suggested to me along the way, I would probably be in a very different situation right now. I’m thinking: divorced, with a kid or two, living in a small town and working a 9-to-5 job with a (male) manager who makes all the decisions. Would that be a “bad” life? No, that’s probably a life that fits someone else’s dream.

But not mine.

That is not the life I am capable of living.

This week, I’m surrounded with people who chose similar lives as mine. Some with even more gusto and courage. And I’m reminded that I’m far from being an exception for breaking free from society’s expectations.

My so-called-“chicken tacos” friend is a Columbian photographer who travels the world to shoot for NGOs, my fellow conference attendees are of all genders, colors, shapes and walks of life, but each one of them has made a commitment at some point, and that commitment is to live with passion.

I have made the same commitment, I have done the work (still doing the work ; doing the work never ends) and it brought me where I am today.

You can too.