The decision to step out of your comfort zone it is not always a choice. There are times when you are forced out of it, as I was. The situation in Syria put me in a position where I had to leave absolutely everything behind: a home, a family, a career and a wonderful lifestyle. I had to start all over again, building up almost everything from scratch.
Coming to Germany was a life-changing journey, full of difficulties and challenges. My first goal was to integrate into the society by learning the language to find a way to start my recovery. People were great and showed me empathy and support.
Yes, there was a lot of bureaucracy, and that actually helped me to become more patient, but the moment the paperwork that allowed me to work was finalized was something special. Without it I couldn’t do anything.
When I hit rock bottom, I was focused only on how to bounce back, not on what I’d lost. I guess, like any great sportsman who’s taken a loss, you’ve got to get back out there if you’re going to win the race. Knowing that the past was gone, and the future was yet to be determined is what kept me going.
You can’t do this journey alone. You need support, the support which pushes you, takes your hand and makes you do it. I knocked on the door, adidas opened it and allowed me to pass through.
At adidas, we believe that, through sport, we can change people lives and I believe I am a living example of that.
I’ve met people at adidas who truly live by this belief. People who have supported and motivated me to the place where I am today.
When I look at my life now, I now find myself in a totally different situation where the sky is the limit.
I still remember my first day coming to a new environment with people from different cultures and different backgrounds. I had a warm welcome from my line manager. I started to have small talks with my new colleagues who were from five different countries.
First questions: “Where are you from?” “I’m from Syria”, I’d reply. First reaction: “Ohhhhhhhh, how is the situation there? Is it true what we hear in the news?” The conversation continues about the situation rather than about me. It was fun at the beginning but then I felt like, oh come on, I’m more than just a situation. Time passed by and I started to get funny questions, but soon the stereotypes started to wash away.
The importance of culture and adapting to another
Every day is special. The adidas culture has enabled me to meet with people from different countries and backgrounds, exchange ideas, perspectives and learn so much new stuff.
This environment enabled me to grow and soon my background became an attribute of strength. Having been through the experience of leaving my country and starting off new needs a lot of strength and self-discipline.
It was interesting seeing the expressions on people’s faces when they find out about where I’m from and it still gives me a good feeling to know that I’ve played some part in changing their preconceptions. I look back and I can honestly say I have had a great life experience. It’s changed me a lot and widened my perspective. Yes, it was difficult.
One big difference was that I found myself in situations where I was getting really direct feedback, which in my culture would be considered rude. Where I’m from, if you need to tell someone that their idea isn’t good, you can’t just say it, but over time I actually started to prefer it. It just took a while to realize that people weren’t being disrespectful. This environment of open dialog has helped me a lot to explain some misunderstandings and foster relationships.
I’m not alone
As time passes, I have started to feel the respect from my colleagues for being who I am. Although my background may be different to that of my colleagues. I’m not the only person here having to adapt. In fact, our headquarters here in Herzo is home to more than 80 different nationalities.
Here, I have started to see my dream coming true: a peaceful environment where everyone is respected, no matter what their color, religion, gender or any other differences. We are all one adidas, one team and share the same belief.
What have I learned from my journey so far? With a combination of resilience and support you can achieve anything. It’s okay to fall and struggle, but you must always believe in yourself.
The combination of collaboration, creativity and confidence has played a huge role in getting me to where I am today. It is not only about how good you are at what are you doing, it is about how you do it – how you behave.
This story is not only about me, it is about hundreds of thousands who had to start over again. Some managed it, many are still trying, and some haven’t even tried.
Am I a victim of this life? Or am I a survivor? Whenever you find yourself in a difficult situation, ask this question. Your answer will determine your path for the future.