Breaking free from the golden handcuffs

Jumping off a cliff only to find freedom at the other side

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It just became official, and there is no turning back. I feel contradiction and a sense of emptiness; sometimes even anxiety is getting the best of me. I have been with NATO for seventeen years and with the Agency since its inception.

Am I making the right the decision to break free from the golden handcuffs and seek a life of fulfillment without regrets? A life of purpose and value by helping others…

My gut feeling says I am as I have never felt this liberated. Since I took the decision a week ago, I was feeling pure joy and relief. Until I had my final talk with the big boss; that was hard.

Hard because I enjoy working with him and I wanted to keep my promise in helping him bring a turnaround in the Agency. Hard because now it is final and I will deeply miss my beautiful colleagues who were my family for these past years.

I am leaving the NATO bubble, and I have no idea what the future will bring. Most of my friends and colleagues support me and think I will be amazing. Some wonder what I will do with my son and how I will adapt to life outside NATO. Even if I am pretty sure people keep their children when leaving NATO.

I had never felt so alive when I was outside of the NATO bubble during my German Marshall Fund Fellowship. I discovered and unlocked my real potential.

Don’t get me wrong; I love NATO and the Agency. I am still passionate about what the organization stands for. But being outside a bureaucracy and discovering my flame catching fire was pure magic.

I finally realized that I no longer have the fire burning in me. I became the fire.

I don’t know what the future will bring, but I do know this; all my life I have surpassed struggles I never thought I could. I broke glass ceilings very few people have, and I could not have been prouder of all my achievements. I also failed a gazillion times, and I know I will continue to fail, which is fine as long as I learn.

I also know that my true spirit is entrepreneurial and I want to build my own business. And I will do just that!

I am not looking for an end state. I am looking to embark on a new journey in my life where my personal and professional ambitions are one. In 20, 30 years from now — I want to look back and know that I at least tried my best to live a life of purpose and value in alignment with my true self.

Someone the other day told me: “Nadja, you know people would kill for an A4 salary and an indefinite duration contract ?” My first reaction was how sad. My second reaction was that I would rather be financially bankrupt than spiritually bankrupt.

Touching people ’s lives and helping others be the best version of themselves, in an age where healthy social interactions and connections are a scarcity is what makes me happy. I can and will make a difference, and no salary in the world will stop me in living the life I have always wanted for myself.

Stay tuned for my follow-on blog on how I embraced my fears and doubts and decided to jump off the cliff only to find freedom at the other side. So you can too make the jump if you are already on the top of the cliff, and are ready to take the freefall!

Thank you for reading and stay tuned on

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