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South Africa

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The best decision I ever made.

Text: Roxanne Fagri. Photography: Gallo Images/Getty Images. This article is from the December 2011 issue of Cleo Magazine.

How five inspirational South African women changed their lives.
“I moved countries to better my career.”

Lauren van Aswegen, art director.

Lauren Van Aswegen, art director‘”How about moving to Prague?’ was the subject line in an email I received from the creative director at an international agency in Prague, Czech Republic, at the end of 2010, offering me a position as an art director. When I was given this opportunity, I had to weigh up my career against leaving my family and friends, and boyfriend of two years who I was madly in love with. But I decided to go, since it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It was the hardest decision I’ve ever made, but I don’t regret it.

We work for clients such as Kinder Chocolate and a Czech beer, doing their TV, print and online advertising. I don’t think I would’ve been working on the international briefs that I am now had I stayed in SA. Plus it doesn’t hurt living in one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. I’ve made tons of friends from all over the world – from Iceland to Ukraine – and now I have my boyfriend with me after being apart for nine months.

You can have it all, just go for what you want and it’ll all fall into place.”

“It was a difficult decision to make, but I’ll never regret it. It’s given me the ability to share my true talents.”

“I changed my career path to pursue my passion.”

Palesa Mashiyane, trainee fashion buyer and freelance stylist.

Palesa Mashiyane, trainee fashion buyer and freelance stylist“I was raised by a family with a high regard for academics and I was groomed to follow a strictly professional academic career path. I remained the perfect student throughout school, maintaining my As and awards. After school I started a four-year LLB (law) degree. Little did I know that varsity life would introduce me to myself.

The independence I gained allowed me to experience life outside of what anyone else expected of me. I discovered a creative passion of the arts, colour, fashion and street culture.

My leap into fashion came after asking my mother for her blessing to leave the law path. From that day, the fashion industry has been revealed to me in all aspcts. I’ve trained with a large retail chain as a trainee fashion buyer and continue to grow as a fashion buyer and stylist.

The downside of exchanging law for fashion is the financial difference. It’ll take me longer to earn what an attorney would, so I rely on freelance work to make a feasible income. It was a difficult decision to make, but I’ll never regret it. It’s given me the ability to share my true talents.”

“It’s hard, but hobbies can become business ventures, and you can make a living doing something you love.”

“I left my hindu upbringing to become catholic.”

Michelle Pillay, technical service specialist and customer trainer.

Michelle Pillay, technical service specialist and customer trainer“My parents sent me to a Christian Sunday school. It’s not completely unusual, but we weren’t Christians, we were devout Hindus. I attended a youth camp where the camp leaders prayed for everyone and afterwards I went home, excited to share my experience, but I was alone in my enthusiasm. We stopped going to church and it was only later in my life when the passion was rekindled.

I was offered an opportunity to work in Saudi Arabia. Excited to go, I lied on the application form, saying I was Christian. In Saudi I was invited to attend the Christian Life Programme, but I couldn’t eat or sleep for days.

I didn’t know who to pray to and I felt so guilty. After praying for wisdom, I chose to become a Christian and my family has accepted my choice.”

“I quit my job to start my own company.”

Samantha Cartwright, owner of Sam Cartwright productions.

Samantha Cartwright, owner of Sam Cartwright productions.“I’ve always had a burning passion to be independent after seeing how my mom struggled financially when I was a child. I studied musical theatre at TUT, but after varsity I was concerned about my future.

I wondered if I should stick to the craft I’d studied for, or take on a steady nine-to-five that would allow me to look after myself and my mom. I decided to get a ‘real’ job and the understanding I gained of how different businesses worked gave me the confidence to run my own production company.

It has been challenging, but I managed to book three different gigs, from singing to MCing, in the first week of opening. Business is currently blooming. It’s hard to leave everything behind, and fear being broke, but hobbies can become business ventures, and it’s great when you can make a living doing something you love.”

“I chose to keep my baby.”

Tamaryn Pope, sales rep.

Tamaryn Pope, sales rep.“I’ve always been strong in my convictions, so when I fell pregnant at 20, out of wedlock and halfway through my diploma, abortion was something that upset me to think about.

Deciding against an abortion was the easy part, but telling my parents and finishing my diploma was difficult. I was blessed to have a supportive boyfriend, which relieved some pressure. I attended my last exam on the Monday and was admitted to hospital on the Wednesday for an emergency caesarean.

I’m so grateful I kept Nathan. He’s almost three and has taught me so much, and he makes me appreciate the little things. My life has become so rich and I couldn’t imagine life any other way. I’m still with my boyfriend – he’s a great dad – and we recently welcomed another baby, Jaeden, into the world.”

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