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.
When you are initially confronted with the idea or possibility of moving abroad, usually there's one out of two options: you either know it’s temporary and eventually you’ll go back or you leave thinking “let’s see what happens”, knowing full well that the possibility of settling abroad is quite a real one.
The way you react to these two possibilities have a huge weight in how you connect with your friends. I won’t say family as traditionally, us Portuguese, are extremely close to our family so this doesn’t tend to happen.
In my case, when I left to the UK, my possibility was the latest. I left knowing full well that the idea of going back to Portugal was very slim. In the beginning was complicated, I’ll admit that. I was missing home, missing the food but above all I was missing the psychological comfort of knowing I was in my comfort zone.
I lost all of that the minute the airplane took off. I stopped belonging to Portugal but actually, I didn’t belong to England either. I became almost like an orphan and I can’t help feeling this way, even though not a lot of people understand or can relate to that.
Early days after my move, the matter of fact was that my friends would post on my Facebook wall, would comment on my photos and tell me they miss me and wanted me to go back; each time I flew back to Lisbon they would make time to see me and our conversations remained unchanged.
Then, without me knowing exactly how it happened, everything changed. The comments on my photos were replaced by the occasional like, private messages were received weeks apart from each other.
When you become an emigrant, you realise you start missing birthdays, baby showers and births but you see all that happening behind a computer screen. You are left out from weddings because an invite was never arrived. Because in that moment, your friendship is no longer important nor strong enough to celebrate an event that (supposedly) only happens once in a lifetime. You are told “choices had to be made” in relation to the guests attending and you keep your composure but deep down you feel like you're dying because you know if it was the other way around, the possibility of that person attending wasn’t even questionable.
You are nothing but a distant memory about to fade away from the memory of those you still think about almost daily. Because at the end of the day, you are the one who left.
You remain in a country that is not your own. Your heart is in Lisbon and in Lisbon life moves on without you.
Your friends will carry on meeting up, going out for meals, they carry on with their day to day lives and make plans for the weekend, and you are no longer a part of that life. You still witness bonds and old friendships and slowly observe new people in those photos that you don’t know who they are and you’ve ever even heard of them.
When finally, yes FINALLY, you are on your holiday and you feel like you will be able to breathe again because you are at home, you do everything in your power to see your friends and show them that the love and friendship you nurture for them, is still there. You have stories and things you want to share and you want to know what’s new in their lives too. It makes you sad when they try very little or close to nothing to make plans because the day to day is still happening and it’s complicated to make plans with 3 or 4 months in advance.
But you need those 3 or 4 months in advance to get a cheaper flight and you need to book holiday from work. You wish they would be a bit more empathetic with your situation but at the end of the day, you were the one who left.
There will come a time when the private messages that so rarely happen now, will cease.
There will come a time when you will be on holiday but you no longer will make a vain attempt to send a group message letting everyone you’re around and you’d love to meet up with the people that make your heart feel warm. Because another rejection from those you grew up with will hurt and the pain you feel daily in a country that is not your own, is pain enough.
There will come a time where you have long gone been a distant memory and you are going to have to accept the new reality you are in.
There will come a time where you will have to accept that you are Portuguese born and bred but as the time goes by you start to feel less and less like an immigrant as you blend in more and more with the British culture.
Your accent is no longer American because you were raised watching American movies; you apologise and say thank you at least 40 times a day. You know for a fact that something most definitely changed in you when something so mundane as giving right of way to someone who doesn’t wave or flash their lights, sincerely pisses you off.
There will come a time when those with whom you were raised will be a distant memory because to numb the pain and don’t leave everything you worked so hard for and fought so hard for in a country that is not your own, you don’t have a choice.
In order for you to stop feeling like an orphan, you have to
make a choice. That choice, no matter how hard will be the one that will keep
you on your path, the path you have chosen for yourself, for your life and your
If you’re same boat as me, Godspeed! The only way is forward.