How I found my passion - and did the exact opposite

Nadine Carolin
Jun 26, 2015 · 9 min read

by Nadine Carolin Wahl

I wanted to save the world. And in this mission, I completely forgot myself.

It took me six years to come to this conclusion and more than once I wanted to hole up and give in.

But let us start at the beginning:

I was born into a german farming family. My grandparents were farmers, but they quit farming when I was very young. The only memories I still have from this, are baking and collecting the chickens eggs with my Oma (grandma), driving on the tractor with my Opa (grandpa) and the cowshed you could reach from the house.

The next generation seeked luck in other fields.

And my future was certain anyway: I would be the first one of this family to study at a university.

I was looking forward to this like a maniac.

I wanted to exchange ideas with bright, interesting beings.

But while I continued growing up, I realised that my expectations were far from reality. There would not be anyone more interesting at university than in school — there would just be the same people.

What I had heard about Bologna was just adding to these expectations

I had also been looking forward to school — and got disappointed big time. In 13 years, I’d never been asked for my own ideas, but each day to repeat others. That was not how I wanted my life to be like.

By the age of three I had started reading and writing. I had dreamed of writing big, important books, that would make a difference. But only a year or two after the beginning of school, my writing stopped — almost completely.

While I had been sure that I would one day study arts or humanities, I began doubting this, too.

Not only that I had lost my belief in the school and university system, I also realised that there were more important things in life, problems to be solved.

So I was looking for the perfect job. Meaningful, recognised, interesting.

A job where I could always learn more. And more.

I wanted to save the world .

I was searching for a job that wasn’t egoistic and useless — like music or writing — but important for the whole world. A job that would make a difference. In which I would make a difference.

During school, I had a lot of time to think, while my classmates were interpreting poems or learning vocabulary.

So I let my thoughts wander around within the possibilities my life could offer. I imagined how it would be like to live as a doctor, a chef, a neuroscientist…

I could not imagine to have a job where I was tied by unflexible working hours. Not even with my fullest amount of idealism.

I wanted something that would challenge me. If it was too easy, it felt surreal.

I wanted to solve one of humanities big problems.

As I loved caring for children, I thought about working in child care. With orphans. And the “difficult” ones.

So after school I began an internship where I worked with children on a therapeutic farm.

It was amazing.

I loved the whole process of getting to know the kids. I especially loved the hard parts, when I got the chance to show boundaries. Not because I would have liked the critisism. But the effect on the relationship was astonishing. And the children liked me, because they knew my limits were reliable. And apart from that, we had just a lot of fun together.

But each of them left after three or four weeks, just when our relationship had started to strengthen.

And I was suffering. I realised I was too emotionally involved in this job. And if, one day, I wanted to have kids on my own, I could not do this. At least not full-time.

Apart from that: even if I studied pedagogics or something similar — what would I tell them afterwards?

I was interested in natural science, too — something about which you can never know everything, or even enough. So decided to do that first, and then work — at least partly — with kids.

It was around that time, that I saw the film “An inconvenient truth”. And I suddenly knew where I was needed. Where I’d find everything I was looking for. The perfect job. Meaningful, recognised, interesting. As an engineer I could save the world and even get well paid for it.

It was climate change, calling for action. Heat, water shortage, ice age. By this time, you were still considered odd, if you cared for this. If you believed in climate change.

No one around me ran and tried to do whatever he could to solve this.

And while I was still figuring out what I, personally, could do, say study, I tried if I could get a spot at a nearby university for applied sciences.

I was sure that, as this was different from a usual university anyway, I would not get disappointed again. I already knew it would be like school — except you were free to come or not.

And so I went there for four years and ended up with a Bachelor’s degree in engineering by the end of 2012.

It was interesting, it was kind of cool. And when I introduced myself with “I’m studying energy engineering”, people reacted in an astonished way I liked.

But the truth was: although I liked how people saw me, it never felt like me.

And after some time I even hated that they saw me that way. That I could never reveal my artist soul.

And secretly I was angry.

I was angry at everyone who lived an artist life. Something I wanted to be allowed to, too.

Angry at anyone who chose their job because it was something they liked or they were interested in.


Each year, the earth temperature rose and they were working in fashion or media.

I only wrote on rare occasions. I sporadically made music.

I even less and less listened to music.

Because it hurt.

It hurt like hell to not be allowed to do this.

I had built my own prison. Out of logic, idealism and a huge sense of responsibility.

I wanted to be egoistic, too. And just do what I loved.

“If the circumstances were different” was a thought I often had.

Throughout all that time, though, I had that specific image in mind. Of a future that was maybe 10 years apart and of which I was sure it would some day become reality.

But I did not take any step towards this future.

Still I was sure it would come.

I imagined the destination — but never the road.

In my secret picture, I am living in a house in rough nature. Friends live close. I spend my days very calm. I write. My own stories and thoughts. From time to time I visit other cities and countries, where I meet outstanding and unconventional thinkers and artists, to exchange thoughts and ideas. Sometimes I make music, small concerts in the evenings or on the street. We have a small farm with big, wild gardens, animals and huge forests around. Vistors come from all over the world. And there’s also enough time to sit around the fire outside or in the house.

Over time, the picture grew. Details were born. A pond. Kids. I did not tell many people about my desired future.

But the picture was always there. And I was glad about it. It calmed me.

I knew, deep inside, that one day it would become true.

I loved this picture of a different future. Of my future, in which I would not have to help solve such a big problem as climate change.

But in reality, I followed different doctrines.

My goal was to save the world. And in theory, I already was pretty good. My studies came to an end and I started looking for a job I could apply for.

But none of the ones that were offered, fit what I was looking for. I still did not like the idea to be tied to an office — although I wasn’t so sure anymore if I really had a chance to escape this system. I had tried to spend the usual 40-hour-office-weeks during several internships. And the experience from that felt ridiculous.

Deep down inside me, I was still aiming for my personal freedom. And I still wanted to work with kids. And write.

So I decided to work as a freelancer in environmental education and as a specialised journalist.

It still surprises me today, that I took that step. That I became self-employed although people around me were more than sceptical.

By that time I was 23.

And today I know it was my first step out of the alien life I was living.

But, even then, the big picture did not feel right.

I worked with classes that would have preferred to be elsewhere. With kids that I tried to convince of the importance of what I was saying with dramatic words and cute pictures of polar bears.

While I was convinced that a personal relationship was the foundation for all learning, I was gone again after only two hours.

I wrote. Finally. But I wrote about other people’s ideas. And kept mine to myself.

At this point I was suffering from a severe writer’s block. Now, after all these years of denying this creative part of me, my writing needed to be perfect.

I tortured myself.

Also I needed money.

I had no idea, how much time I needed for the jobs I was taking, so I took too many. I didn’t get enough sleep. I overslept. I came too late because I could not finish my preparations in time. I delivered poor work.

But I also earned a lot.

And enough to afford a break in summer 2014.

Partly by chance, I spent two months on a farm in central france.

There, away from home and away from everything that had mattered to me in the years before, I finally had the chance to follow back the story of these six years prior.

I understood that a lot of the thoughts in my head were not mine.

I was living someone elses’s life.

And mine was wating for me somewhere. Probably it was even crying and waiting for a hug.

What had happened in this six years?

Why had I done what I had done?

What had happened to the ideas and dreams I had had back in school?

Step by step I regained my ability to hear my inner voice.

What caused butterflies in my tummy? What would I do if I could just choose freely? If money was no object?

Two months passed.

And while I had made huge steps in the outland, back home things got more difficult again.

I was on the verge of falling back into old habits and thoughts, of patching poorly instead of building things up from the ground.

Again and again I got assailed by a dark and heavy sadness. And I needed to make some money again.

But the wish for my own life had grown. Much.

I wasn’t willing to give that away again.

And so I learned to take one step at a time. And that small steps were just fine.

I got reminded to “just show up”. And do at least one little thing every day.

So I did.

I started to write 500–1.000 words daily. I don’t always manage to, but I try. If it doesn’t work out on Monday, continuing on Tuesday will be just fine.

I started to meditate twice a day, just for a few minutes or even seconds. It helps me to calm my mind and to realize that most worries are not a big deal. Instead they’ll be just fine.

And that’s where I am right now.

I’m not going to regret these past years. Because they taught me so much more than school and university. They taught me how I need to care for myself. That I can only care for others, while I’m fine. And they made me who I am today.

For a long time I waited for a future, but didn’t take any steps. Now I’m finally on my way. My true way. And if it’s just one step each day, that’s fine.

I listen to my inner voice.

I trust.

I take responsibility for my own life.

And a lot of this is frightening.

But it’s the only, possible way. To really be me.

And it’s true, I walked in the wrong direction.

But you know what?

I needed the steps.

Choose Yourself

Choosing Yourself opens up an entire realm of creativity, imagination, knowledge and experiences. The Choose Yourself Medium is here for you to share all of that with others.

Nadine Carolin

Written by

Awkward, anxious, idealistic — and often found wandering in the woods with 1 to 4 cats. || Wild craft, wild food, wild life: (EN / DE)

Choose Yourself

Choosing Yourself opens up an entire realm of creativity, imagination, knowledge and experiences. The Choose Yourself Medium is here for you to share all of that with others.