by Sofia S. 09 Aug, 2017

Today, 9th of August 2017, marks ten years since the beginning of the financial crisis which had devastating effects in the life of thousands and thousands of people around the world and filled the pockets (even more) of a few privileged people.

Back in 2007 I was about to become a freshman at University as classes were about to start in a few weeks’ time. I was 23 years old, determined to give my absolute best, focused and motivated.

I went to University a bit later than most people do but life happened that way for me and that’s fine. What matters is that despite all the adversity, I went and I graduated.

In July 2007 I was partying hard in Ibiza with three of my friends and we had the best time together. Memories I will cherish forever. 

However, I don’t recall having heard anything about a financial crisis, all I knew was something about a Wall Street crash back in 1920-something and obviously, that subject was completely outside of my radar. Investments? Banks? Nah. Not a subject for me. It wasn't until Lehman Brothers collapsed that I remember the general panic and that things really started to look bad. Or maybe I was just not paying attention before.

I completed High School with a Diploma in Pottery and Ceramics. At University, studied Marketing, Advertising and PR because at 23 years old I finally decided I wanted to be a copywriter.

I wanted to be the person that writes ads and creates content; I wanted to surrender myself to my artistic vein, to allow for my creativity to fully blossom and develop. I had come to the conclusion that my path was an artistic one and it was time to embrace my future. I had it all figured out. Even when I got pregnant with my daughter during the second semester at Uni, I carried on.

I took a gap year (school year of 2008/2009) because birth was scheduled for December so I couldn’t attend the January exams relating to courses beginning in September. It was the wise thing to do.

When I returned to Uni for my second year (2009/2010) my motivation was stronger than ever. I now had the cutest tiny little human who would be looking up to me and to everything I’d do, she depended on me and it was my duty to ensure all her needs were taken care of. I started to do everything with her in mind and solely having her best interests at heart. And that’s when things changed.

Things were not good at home and that’s as far as I will go in relation to exposing that part of my life. The only thing I’ll say is this: the worst things got, the stronger my motivation to succeed would get.

As part of my course, I needed to attend a Business class. It was only one semester but that Professor gave us two separate classes so in some ways they were linked. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say I had two business classes the same semester.

A few lessons into the class and I felt like I had seen God. What on Earth had I been doing studying arts all my life because that was so not the right path for me.

I landed a job at a Bank shortly after that and from there on, I became determined to learn as much as I could on my own because switching courses to Business or Economics was not an option. I didn’t had the funds and didn’t want to feel like I’ve wasted two years of my life. Especially when I had to take into consideration that I went to Uni later than usual.

I did countless online courses on platforms like Coursera and some of them were so daunting and full of jargon – not to mention the fact they were all in English – so I actually had to repeat a few of them until I could grasp what they were on about.

I started reading the Financial Times so I could understand what was happening in the financial world. I took advantage of a few colleagues that were much more knowledgeable than me to ask questions and learn from them. I became an avid reader of a Portuguese Business newspaper and slowly things started to fall into place and words I had no idea what they meant before, I now recognized and understand them.

I did all of this while looking after a new born, whilst working and whilst attending University. Talk about will power. Looking back, I have no idea where I got the strength from but I did it nonetheless.

I have been working in this industry for nearly 10 years now. I have seen people come and people go. I am blessed to be able to work in an industry that I genuinely love. There is not a single day that goes like the previous one. Everything changes at an incredible pace and if you stop, you become obsolete.

Ten years on since the beginning of the financial crisis, have we learned anything?

I hope so. I see firms committed to give the example from the top; there is more regulation; there is more awareness.

Do I believe that it will happen again? Unfortunately yes but maybe not as the ones we’ve seen before. The financial services industry business is the money business and the goal is to make even more money using someone else’s money. It’s called an “investment” and it can go right or wrong. You risk what you can afford to lose.

The problem with that statement is that the majority of people that cannot afford to lose are usually the ones that end up losing everything even though they have never placed a penny in an investment.

It starts with a family member losing its job. Then, one bill gets left behind, then another and by the time you realise you’re receiving a letter from the Bank saying you’re facing your home is being repossessed.

It’s scary to witness how the financial crisis has long been forgotten by the industry and yet it’s the complete opposite for consumers. People  that ten years on, on a daily basis still worry about a new potential crash and what effect will it have – again – on their families and how will they cope.

It’s a cruel business the money business so I guess it’s totally legitimate for people to ask me why am I in it? How can I associate myself with such practices? The answer is simple. I genuinely believe I can make a difference. No matter how small. I believe in fairness and in righteousness. I believe in doing the right thing so I don’t mind being associated with such industry because if more of us believe in the same thing as me, maybe one day, thinking about a financial crisis where people are left to starve and homeless for no fault of their own will sound surreal and impossible.  

Thankfully, I know I'm not alone in this. I have met so many great people, so many professionals that are a tribute to this industry and profession.

I act in a way I know I will never have to bow my head in shame and in a way that it won’t disappoint my family and have their values judged by others due to my actions. I will never act in a way that will make Diana ashamed of being my daughter. I will always do what my heart tells me is the right thing to do. 

One can dream and, so far, all my dreams have come true.

Like I said. Motivation.

 

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6 months

  • by Sofia S.
  • 17 Feb, 2014

6 months ago today I left Portugal and moved to England.

It was so hot in Lisbon that day. Temperatures were around 35ºC.

I sold pretty much everything I had before leaving. With me just a broken heart from stuff that happened a couple of months before, my favorite pair of shoes and some clothes to keep me going. 

Everything else? Gone.

My best friend came to my house a few days earlier to help me pack everything in boxes whilst worrying that I was throwing away, selling or donating to charity things I would miss at some point. 

I was numb at the time. Wasn't thinking straight, wasn't feeling anything and she knew it. It was a dark time for me so she became my eyes, thoughts and feelings and kept some of my things for the future. As best friends do. She knew that even if I didn't wanted them then, I would in the future because the person sitting next to her packing and donating her life away wasn't really me.

I gave up everything. I decided this would be a fresh start and tried not to look back. 

Leaving my little princess, my life, my family, my friends, my safe haven and going towards the unknown was a mix of emotions that I can’t exactly describe.
Mind you that I had never sat foot in England before, I had no idea if I would fit in, if I would be happy… In my heart I felt that this was the path God created for me and if He tells me “Go that way”, I will. No questions asked.

Went to say goodbye to my nana, I hold onto her so tightly and we both cried. My nana is my absolute world and leaving her is like losing a part of me!

Passed through the airport security crying my eyes out. I remember looking back and seeing Marta cry… In that moment, I’m not sure how, I just carried on walking. (Marta: At that stage of my life, if I could even believe in the slightest ray of light at the end of the tunnel, you are one of the few reasons why. You are the absolute best! You are so special to me, you’re my sister and I THANK YOU for all you’ve done and still do! I'll never be able to thank you enough… For all the hours you heard me sobbing and losing my mind… For all the hours you had to talk to me and calm me down. I would listen because my words were lost between the tears… You know how much of a positive impact you have in my life. You are so special..!)

When I landed in Bristol it was already dark. My flight wasn’t direct, had to go through Madrid first – where it was even hotter – and as soon as I left the aircraft I was confronted to the good old English weather. 16ºC less than Lisbon. I admit it, it was hard. 

My friend Fábio who I haven’t seen in about maybe two years, went to pick me up.

Obviously I was going to enter by the left side of the car which is the side where English drivers seat on. It was confusing but funny at the same time. This keeps happening more often that'd like to admit but 10 minutes after being in England I felt at home and I can’t really explain how that happened. Somehow, the stress faded away, the tears that were with me since I'd left Lisbon stopped (but my face looked like shit, basically) and I was embraced with a feeling of peace and calm. 

Ever since then I have cried, I’ve laughed, I felt my heart so warm but I’ve also felt it being broken again.

Is it easy to be away? No. If I regret it? No. 

Since I’ve moved I’ve danced alone in the rain. Just me, my iPod, cold, rain and an empty street. To me it was perfect. It wasn't until later that I found about about CCTV… (Eeeeerrrrr... Awkward!)

Since I moved I realised that despite the fact that I can make myself understand in English does not necessarily mean that I  know  how to speak English. Some expressions or sentences when translated from Portuguese to English can be extremely misunderstood. Sometimes, shit happens over it and sometimes leaves everyone in tears from so much laughter!

I found out that apparently I look American or Canadian (and they don't look very friendly at that point) and when I say I'm from Portugal, there are smiles everywhere and the first word is always "Algarve!!!" or "Ronaldo!!".

6 months have passed and I found out that there are people who will always be with me. Those who are also in a different country but worry enough to try and find out if I'm ok; those who send me text messages and continue to prove that distance doesn’t matter in a friendship. Friends who expected that I didn't like England so I'd go back. And I do go back but just for a few days so I can then return to my new home.

I'm happy here. I'm still a bit "lost" but with time and with the wonderful people I have around me, I know I will achieve my goals and achieve that inner peace that I’ve always wanted but for some reason, never found. 6 months have passed and so much has happened! And I know so much will still happen. Honestly? I cannot wait for the next 6 months.

To all my friends, all my family that proved to be the best family I could ever ask for ... THANK YOU! I love you with all my heart!

To my best friend Carina: I cannot even put into words ... You understand me like no one else can, you give a me strength that I think you’re not really aware of, you're always there whether comes the rain or the sun, tsunamis or whatever! If a day is harder , just to hear you say " ... Hmmppfff Gaaaajjaaaaaa!" I instantly start to smile and we both laugh. You are everything! Not worth explaining a lot because there are things that cannot be explained... Inseparable for 6 years now and let 50 more come so we can continue to have mixed conversations that no one else can understand.

To my family that has and continues to do a huge effort to help me... They are simply the best family anyone could ask for and I appreciate you all so much for what you’re doing! What you’ve been doing for me and Diana cannot be placed into words and even if I could they would never do justice... I love you!

A special thank you to Fabio who is a fantastic person. Running out of words on this one... It is a privilege for me to be your friend and be a part of your life. You really are a rare breed! We need more people like you in this world.

This is my first letter. My first public outburst. 

From here on I'll take you all with me on this journey. I will probably tell you sad and happy stories. I'll share what's happening at Her Majesty's territory and you will all live this with me.

Welcome to my life in Brizzle. Enjoy the ride.
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