Peeling Back The Layers of My Authentic Self

Red onion cut in half
Photo by K8 on Unsplash

In a recent dream, a friend told me what age I would die. When I’ve had scary dreams in the past, they’ve always related to something I’m struggling with at that time. A brief Google search led me to this quote:

“Dreaming about dying at a certain age refers to some anxiety or fear. Something in your own Self that is no longer functional and is dead. This is unfortunately an admonition for a loss in your identity or a fear of losing who you are. You are lacking control of where your life is going.”

Sadly, that’s exactly how I felt – like I was losing my identity and lacking control of where my life was going. This feeling wasn’t foreign, though. Over the past few years, I felt like I’d been in a permanent existential crisis. But this time it was overwhelming. I had just gotten married and the freshness of a new chapter in my life was making me rethink my entire career path.

There used to be a time when I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wanted to become an audiovisual translator so I could translate movies from English into Spanish or vice versa. Ever since I was little, I was passionate about the English language, so I naturally decided to study English as my major in college. Back then, we were taught teaching and translation skills.

However, after graduating from college, I instead put all my effort into becoming an English teacher, and that’s what I did for five years. I knew that finding a job as an English teacher would be easier than finding a job as a subtitler. Thoughts such as “Someday, I’ll study audiovisual translation” made me put my dream on pause, and my dream remained on pause for over ten years.

When I first moved to the Netherlands, I wanted to continue teaching, but my BA diploma was not equivalent to a teaching certification. In order to teach, I would have to start over and learn Dutch. But instead of doing that, I worked on other things – everything from having a clothing business, writing this blog, dog sitting, babysitting, and cleaning, to making custom dog portraits. (Hence the loss of identity).

My career path looks like an onion to me, with different layers and a core. In order to understand who I am and where I am going, I’ve had to peel back many layers. The closer to the core, the more aligned to who I am.

Illustration of an onion peeled back, labeled with different jobs and careers on its layers
Illustration by Jessica Araus
My career path looks like an onion to me, with different layers and a core. In order to understand who I am and where I am going, I’ve had to peel back many layers. The closer to the core, the more aligned to who I am. Click To Tweet

In an interview with Marie Forleo, Dr. Ned Hallowell advised:

“With modern life, the great thing is you can do so much, but the problem is you can do so much. So it becomes critical to define what you want to do. It forces you to say: well, that’s good, but I really want to do that instead.”

After analyzing everything I’ve done and everything I can do, I concluded I want to pursue translation next to illustration. When I think about my long-term vision, I see myself having flexibility with my time and working from my home studio. That’s why I think freelance translation is a good fit. I also still want to continue to illustrate portraits, just not dog portraits. But I’ll share more about my illustration plans in another blog post.

In the end, like Edith Piaf would say (or sing), je ne regrette rien. All those years of experience teaching English helped improve my language skills. Having a clothing business taught me how to make invoices and create a website from scratch. And working on custom portraits taught me to work in solitude in my studio.

I’m starting to dream big again and feel the love and excitement I felt for language during my college years, not just English but my other languages too (Spanish, Dutch, and French). Of course, embarking on something new always brings out doubts. I often ask myself, am I cut out for this job? The answer to that question is simple: I’ll never know if I don’t try.

It all comes down to this – I want to live a life of no regrets. And if I was on my death bed, I know I’d regret not giving my “someday” goals a chance.


Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please share it with a friend who you think might find it helpful.  And if you’d like to follow my translation journey, then follow my new Instagram account. 🙂

Author: Jessica Araus

Jessica Araus is a mixed media artist and illustrator living in the Netherlands.

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