My story

By Agnieszka Dębowska

About 4 years ago the school at which I currently teach ran a course of Positive Psychology Workshops. I signed up, and in retrospect, the knowledge I gained on Mindset, Psychology and Character Strength was a real life-changer for me.

The workshop on Character Strength was especially impactful. Having been divided up into pairs, we were encouraged to share a memorable event in our lives that best demonstrated Character Strength.

I honestly found this the most difficult task. Not the fact that I had to share my story, but working our what I should share. At that point I truly believed that nothing extraordinary had happened in my life. However, after listening to my partner’s story, I had a clear vision of what I needed to share with her.

Once finished, the surprised look on my partner’s face spoke volumes. “Wow!” she exclaimed. “I had no idea! We have been working together for so many years, but I never knew what your early life in Denmark was like … Have you spoken to our workshop leader about it?! I think it is a story that can inspire many! You must share it!”

So here goes. It all began more or less nine years ago.  I arrived in Denmark on a four-month scholarship. I had a plan and a clear idea of what I would do after I had completed my scholarship. However, once done, I decided to change my plans and stay on for another two months in Denmark. After all, plans can change and wait until you are ready, can’t they?

Little did I know that my life was about to move in a completely different direction. I remember my mother not being too happy about this. “Just do not call me in January to say that you’re staying for another four months,” she said.

Yes, you guessed it. When the time came, I didn’t call … I sent an email! I know, that was rather cowardly of me.

My decision was not welcomed by everyone. Firstly, the Dean didn’t think this was a good idea, secondly, my supervisor sniffed at my decision and thirdly, the coordinator of the program bluntly stated that I would not succeed and fail.

But I was stubborn! Not only was I representing a volleyball sports club, which meant playing for two weeks in Demark and two weeks in Poland, but at the same time, I also had to write and defend my thesis. Looking back, it was a miracle that I managed to pass all the exams and get my Masters. One thing I had come to realize was that if I had listened to the people who thought I wouldn’t make it, I would never have been able to go back to Denmark and live the life of my dreams.

After a short holiday, I moved to a small town in Denmark where I had secured a coaching contract for the next season. For the first few months, I stayed with one of the players, worked at the school and coached. All was going well.

But everything was about to change. The grey Danish winter hit, I moved to a tiny apartment and then worst of all, I tore my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Two surgeries later and a difficult time of recovery found me 15kg heavier and severely depressed.

Even now it isn’t easy for me to admit, but I was in complete denial. In front of my Danish friends, I put on a happy face and quietly struggled on. But my Mom saw through my facade and gently encouraged me to do something about my situation.

I went to rehab and finally was strong enough to play volleyball again. I found a new job, lost the excess weight and once again focused on making my dreams come true.

Without my Polish family and friends nearby, it was a hard and lonely journey, especially as I struggle to make new friends and confide in them.

As they say, time heals all, and eventually, my life took a turn for the better. Work was great, I made friends and found a bigger apartment (one where you didn’t have to practically take a shower in the toilet). However, there were a few bumps along the road. My previous rental contract was not as clean cut as it should have been. It turned out that the rental company ‘specialized’ in extracting as much money as possible from people moving out.

Unfortunately, they ‘knew’ the law well enough to make it all look ‘legal’ and the court ruled that I pay the equivalent of 15 000 Polish zlotys for painting part of the apartment. Believe me, I tried everything, but even the attorney was unable to help.

By now I was ready to quit Denmark and return to Poland – after all, I could always get a teaching job there, I thought.

Once again, my Mom was there for me, suggesting (well, forcefully reminding me daily) to keep looking and applying for jobs at Danish schools. You can only imagine my joy when I was offered my current job just a few days before the start of the school year in August. Even though it means waking up at 5 am each morning and travelling 1.5 hours by train, from the moment I stepped over the threshold I knew that I had found the job of my dreams. And on top of that, I get to live in one of the most beautiful capitals in Europe.

All these experiences have taught me that it really is worth fighting for and believing in your dreams. Never give up. When you think that everything is working against you and it’s just not worth it; that is when you have to try even harder.

I hope and trust that in sharing my personal journey with you, I have inspired you to never give up on your dreams. Keep pushing forward and stay firm in the belief that you are the one person that can and will achieve anything you set your mind to.

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