I can’t think of more natural of a process than transformations, female ones in particular – often we don’t name them, we don’t look for reasons, we don’t analyze them… don’t recognize them as a process even. And in fact, if we do realize them at some point, realize their true meaning, and if they become an important part of our path if we accept them regardless of the emotions they’ve brought us, these transformative processes automatically turn into constructive parts of our being!
First of all, I want to thank you for the invitation to look back at my life, at me, and share my transformations… I guess my current life state suggests doing so… I’ll take it as an opportunity to check my personal ‘compass’, which we should all be looking at from time to time. It’s my pleasure doing so and I’m sharing it with all of you out of sheer empathy – the same empathetic feeling that has helped me find strength in the darkest moments. I hope my story is empowering more and more women!
My first, and probably most important, transformation was… becoming a mother. 33 years old is a little bit late for motherhood according to most ‘traditional’ understandings, but I was in the prime of my life – women-wise, professionally, and physically. It has been 5 years of affirming my law practice, I’ve just found my own law firm and I was basically living the dream! I felt successful. Workaholic,… and in a way that was making me more charismatic and attractive. I had several clients and consistent income resulting in self-confidence. The only price I had to pay was my headaches caused by chronic fatigue (neurologically diagnosed), but I was actually used to having them at this point and just kept on going. I now realize that all this hard work, my youth, and my strength were compensating for the lack of personal life back then. On the verge of breaking up with my partner of 12 years and finally meeting my future husband…
I was still gravitating when I became a mother – the perfect pregnancy; I didn’t stop working at full speed until 8 months pregnant when I flew abroad, where my then-husband and father of my child lived, to give birth there. But giving birth was not at all the hardest part – totally unprepared for what was ahead of me, the sudden change, being away from home and the lack of support left me feeling super emotional and just sad. My job was a top priority – my clients, my just established law firm… I’ve done it all alone – my career was as a child of mine. But I had no idea of the shift I was about to experience as a woman and a mother. Getting back to Bulgaria with my 5-months-old son brought my first challenge. My two colleagues (both men – and that matters, I get it now) have decided to relocate our office without even notifying me. And it was done, they’ve found the place, already left the old one, but there was only one problem – there was no place for me there. Desperately searching for the right thing to do, introduced me to an Angel – a woman that, to this day, is a big part of both my personal and professional life; my soul sister, my better self. So my life went on proving that I was perfectly capable of being a mother, a lawyer; managing a law firm in Bulgarian while still living in Italy; and doing it ALL BY MYSELF!
I separated my life into two halves – I was a full-time lawyer in Bulgaria for two months, and then back to mom-duties in Italy for two more months. I somehow managed to keep this rhythm going; feeling and actually being useful, shaping up professionally helped me go through these challenging times much easier. When my baby turned 4 I felt it was high time I upped my professional ‘game’ – I signed in the Milanese Bar Association. This was a step forward for my career and it came just in time… for my second pregnancy and therefore moving to a beautiful lake town… 100 km away from Milan.
My second pregnancy was also this wonderful – all smiles and positivity. In the very beginning, I still thought I would be able to travel, manage my business in Bulgaria and establish myself as a lawyer in Italy, soon my idealistic dreams were all gone – being away from Milan and taking care of not only one but two kids (and one being a newborn baby) exhausted me completely – both physically and emotionally. I became a stay-at-home mom until my boy turns 3. Don’t get me wrong, but staying at home all the time, with all the mom- and housewife-duties and not being able to work, were tiring me… and eventually led to depression (I realized what it was after it was over). A battle which I led, once again, by myself. The situation got even messier because of the lack of understanding and support from my partner (he wanted to see me as a strong and successful lawyer). There were only two Women who realized what was actually going on with me – my mother in law and my Bulgarian soul sister. And they both helped me stay strong…
My mother in law helped me transform my house into a home (while her son - and my husband - was on one of his ongoing trainings abroad). We played around with the furniture a little bit, painted everything in this magical raspberry pink color… It turned out beautiful – I felt ‘home’ for the first time! And I paid a high price for being ‘happy’ – as soon as my husband got home and saw what I dared to do without asking him first.
My other ‘helper’ lived back in Bulgaria and was constantly recommending me books that I indulged in so deeply; and later on, signed me up for my first Female Leadership program – CIYO (Self-discovery) in Calabria. I was traveling by myself in Italy for the first time in months but didn’t feel fear for a second there. I was convinced that this is my path… a journey of self-discovery. Getting ready to go, the only thing I wished for was to be able to fly again and I remember my husband asking me: ‘Are you crazy? Who is even doing seminars in Calabria? Do you know what kind of people live there?…’ I had to learn – to mute his voice and start listening to my own.
I’ve taken many small but steady steps towards ME since then; towards my femininity, my responsibilities as a mother, and my professional development. There were ups, and there were downs. There were great enlightenments, happy meetings with other like-minded women, and, sadly, very few men who stood by me during my revival.
I joined the Women Lawyers Association of Milan and met so many wonderful women thanks to whom I realized that a working mother’s career path (regardless of whether she’s located in Bulgaria or Italy) is neither easy nor lonely.
I had to through the next chapter of the life-changing transformative process – the sickness and loss of my mother – and once again, with the unreserved support of the group of female leaders from CIYO in Bulgaria. Around this time we’ve just established the first Women Lawyers Association in Bulgaria. This sense of female community brought my hope and secured feeling back. And I kept on believing…
For the rest of Mariya’s story, you can check out Part II.
More about her and why she decided to join Women Inspirations, you can learn in the video HERE.
My Female Transformations
Mariya Gancheva Marelli
Sep. 08, 2020