Image of a small road in the old town of Tarifa. A coffee shop representing the personal dream that failed is visible.
Experiences,  People

Failing a personal dream – the inspiring story of Nathalie

Is being afraid of failing, a reason not to develop our personal dreams? When you head off, rowing against the current your heart is full of hope and determination. But what if, you haven’t reached your objective, feel exhausted and lost?

This is the story of a French girl I met in “Café 10” in Tarifa, a small Spanish town facing the coast of Morocco. When I walked into the café I spotted a free table and asked her if I can pass. She had very short hair, giving her a slightly boyish look while showing her beautiful cheekbones. We started talking and she unveiled her story.

She was just visiting a friend in Tarifa, but since short was again living in Paris. During the last last 7 months she was in Lebanon, where she wanted to open a coffee shop. That was her big dream.

She explained to me that she was half Lebanese and loved the country. She grew up in France and knew well both cultures. She saw the social and economic challenges of Lebanese people and was very frustrated by the gender inequalities she witnessed since her childhood.

She wanted to show that, even if you are a woman, it is possible to build a successful business in Lebanon. She wanted to show that she could start something from scratch thanks to her passion and skills. She took the challenge on, to prove that they were wrong.

My dream was to prove that despite gender inequality a woman can make it Lebanon

Since a few months, she was in Lebanon. She was looking for partners to open the coffee shop, she had found a good place and calculated everything. The money was short, but she still believed that it was possible to make her dream happen.

If she only would have found a partner, who was ready to invest with her, time and money it would work out. It could become amazing to build everything up together and run the coffee shop as a team.

She talked with many people, she learned new aspects of the own culture. But she felt frustrated by the lack of entrepreneurial mindset. People complained, but were not standing up to change things. She wanted a partner, that like her, believed in change. She was looking for a “doer”.

I woke up and knew that my dream was not going to happen

One morning, over half a year since she arrived in Lebanon, she woke up, watched the sealing of her tiny room and realized that it was not working out. She tried so hard, she had so many hopes, but she could not find people to truly connect with. They did not share her dream, and she was not the one that was going to impose it upon them.

While lying in the bed, she realized that her big dream had turned into a self-imposed nightmare. In that moment, she just hated everything: she hated the place she was, the people that complained, the fact that she was struggling so hard with something that could be so easy. But most of all, she hated her self for failing at her dream.

She felt as if she was rowing against the current: every move was so difficult and instead of progressing she was just moving downstream. She thought: It is not supposed to be like that. Things should flow. Building a coffee shop with a few friends should be fun, it should be something you can do with a love, even if it is a lot of work.

So she asked herself: Why am I forcing things to happen? Why am I doing this? What am I trying to prove and to whom? She realized that she was trying to prove to her family, to her friends, but probably most of all to herself, that “she can do it”. That she is strong and can break the cultural and social conventions to make something extraordinary happen.

Image taken in Tarifa from Cafe 10 in the old town. It related to the personal dream of the girl to open a coffee shop.

My dream was failing and I felt like being a failure

Do I need to achieve something extraordinary to be valued? Am I trying to realize this dream, because of my personal ego, because I want to identify myself with the kind of people that achieve the impossible? If the success of the project determines who I am, I cannot fail.

I will lose everything. I will lose my face if I go back home to Paris, I will be considered a loser. And I will lose the image of who I want to be. Am I trying to realize this dream because of the wrong motivation? What if me, and who I consider myself to be, and my dream are not the same thing?

All of a sudden she realized that she was confusing the two things. She did not have to keep forcing the project to happen while rowing against the current. She had tried and had given her best. She knew, that through the experience she became stronger, gained self-confident and inspired others.

I am not my personal dream: I am not what I do

But most importantly she realized, that she was confusing what she wanted to do with who she was. In that moment her mind became clear: she decided to stop the project and go back to Paris. She realized that a paradigm shift in the way she was thinking about who she was and what did matter to her was happening.

When she arrived in Paris she was happy to meet her family and friends. She was looking for some support, as she still felt lost and now that her big dream vanished she did not know what to do next. “Who am I, if I am not the one achieving the impossible? What am I going to do now?”.

They told me “You are crazy!”, but who am I?

But family and friends were in a very different mindset. Instead of support, she found incomprehension from family and friends. “You are crazy! What are you going to do now? Where are you going to work?”. They did not ask, and therefore did not learn what she went through. They did not see, that she had changed, and was now stronger.

She felt misunderstood by the people she loved and lonely. She was left by herself to deal with her big questions. It’s in that moment that a friend asked her to join for a trip to South of Spain. They will visit an old friend that had broken the traditional career path by starting a startup.

In this way, she arrived in Tarifa and sat at the table next to me with this friend that I knew as well. She arrived at a place where she could open her heart and take time, to get to know this new Self she just discovered.

image from Tarifa's beach during sunset. A girl is sitting on the beach and watches the sky and the coast of Morocco.

She sat on the beach and looked to the left at the hills of Africa, a continent that felt close and far away at the same time. Lebanon, where she had let go her dream, felt the same: close and far away. She sat and listen to the calming sound of the waves. Her mind was becoming empty. Little by little she started hearing again this inner voice, she heard so clearly as a child.