My name is Ivana and this is #MyCanada.

I was born in Serbia. I grew up in Malta, went to college in Victoria, got a full tennis scholarship and did my masters in North Carolina, before I finally settled in Toronto in 2008. All that moving around, as exotic and exciting it seems, can shake you to the core and knock you down. That's at least 4 times so far in my life that I've felt like a stranger, and had to start from scratch. Will they like me? Will they think I'm weird? Will I make any friends? Will they think my accent sounds funny? What kind of person do I need to be to fit in? Each move forced me outside of my comfort zone, challenged my beliefs about the community I was entering, challenged my beliefs about myself, and ultimately took a piece of my heart. 

As I settled in Toronto on a cold winter day in 2008, I’m not going to lie I hated it. I worked a government job I dreaded. The idea of staring at a cubicle workspace for the next 40 years of my life scared me more than the idea of leaving for the unknown. So I did. In 2013, after I ended a 3-year relationship and I had to move back to my parents' house, I took a leap of faith and left a permanent government job to work at an advertising agency, and make $20,000 less a year. Everyone thought I was crazy. Those government jobs are hard to come by, you know. And the benefits, the pension? You aren’t going to find that anywhere else. But I didn't care I wanted to go back to marketing, my passion that I have long abandoned. In just over 3 years, I doubled my salary and moved up quicker than you could say "Jack Robinson". I doubted myself so much at the start. I used to watch these "agency girls" and think; well they must be prettier, smarter, better than me. The self-doubt was real. You know that saying "whether you think you can, or whether you think you can't, either way you are right”. It’s definitely true. The moment I decided to try to give it my all, I realized that I was, in fact, more capable that I ever thought I could be.

Recently I started an Etsy Store with a friend. I started making prints, cards and t-shirts with motivational and inspirational quotes that resonated with me, and triggered possibility within. On this journey of self-discovery I realized I want to work with people in some sort of coaching capacity, to help them break through their limited beliefs and live their passion. Something I'm trying to do myself. I got my NLP practitioner certification, and I hope to get my master practitioner next year. (NLP is the foundation of Tony Robbins' coaching). In March 2017, I am running a retreat in Bali, which is focused on mindfulness, yoga, meditation and self-discovery. It was sold out within 48 hours! The idea of putting together and selling out a retreat on the other side of the world seemed impossible just a few short months before that.

"It's about embracing failure as a learning mechanism."

Chasing your passion means to rid yourself of everything you thought you should do. Everything your parents, friends and society expected. It means going deep within yourself to find out what gets your heart excited? What is innate within you? What is your unique gift? What brings you joy? What would you do if money were not a concern? This is what I discovered through launching my online store. I never saw myself as the creative type but I knew I had creativity somewhere within me. I knew I was resourceful enough to make shit happen. Behind every product is a story. Whether it's a quote that puts me in a good mood when I read it, or a shirt I put on with an empowering saying that makes me feel like a bad-ass. Creating products that inspire happy, purposeful lives, that is my passion. Today, the store means so much more. It’s not just a side hustle. It’s a story of how I changed and started to understand my emotions, my choices, becoming clear about what I want and how to make it real, a journey of accepting and discovering, of creating more of what I want in my life. I believe in the concept behind my store because it works: when you think better, you get better results. Chasing my passion means building on this concept and expanding my line of work, evolving my business to reach more people and encourage them to chase theirs.

#MyCanada  is a place that turned from a cold, foreign, uncomfortable place to a one of warmth, community and sense of belonging. It's about having compassion for people and acceptance of our differences; it's about opportunity to go out there and make anything happen, a place where you feel safe taking risks, because there will be someone to catch you when you fall. It's about embracing failure as a learning mechanism; where failure is looked upon as just a stepping-stone to success; it's about being surrounded by creative energy and people who don't wait for things to happen to them. They go out and make things happen.