“The lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul.”
At a critical time in her life and career, this quote reminded Romana Kassam that being complacent was stopping her from doing what she’s destined to do on this planet.
A year-and-a-half ago, the thirty-two year old Torontonian was trapped in a corporate job she hated. A visual and vocal artist at heart, Romana was on a too common path: believing she needed to secure a stable, corporate job with benefits in order to be happy and succeed. She never really believed it was possible to make a living doing something creative.
Romana was stuck in a cycle of feeling she had to fulfill other people’s expectations and dreams for her, instead of her own. Coming from a traditional east African background, Romana felt a lot of pressure to become a high-profile professional. It was a weight she carried for many years and it dragged her down.
Feeling deeply unhappy and inauthentic, Romana eventually reached a tipping point with the pressure of her job and the direction of her life. Reaching that low point made her realize that sometimes you have to fall before you can really stand on your own two feet. Romana wanted to live for herself and call the shots in her life. She thought, “If I don’t do it now, I never will”. So, Romana decided to quit her job and give herself a benefit that Manulife couldn’t possibly offer: happiness.
About 15 years ago, at a family function, Romana randomly discovered she had a talent for doing mendhi (henna designs). Since then, she had been doing mendhi as a hobby and felt a deep sense of satisfaction from creating intricate henna designs for people to enjoy. When she left her cushy corporate job, Romana turned again to this creative outlet for inspiration and her new meal ticket. Within 2 months, Romana had launched her own custom bridal henna business, My Mendhi Story, and was getting to combine her love of storytelling and visual art every day.
Romana’s journey to entrepreneurship has been a journey in happiness. Breaking out of the mould, choosing her own path, pursuing a career that excites her and living out her authentic desires have brought a happiness into Romana’s life that she didn’t know she could feel. It’s hard for her to believe, but she’s now that person who smiles at everyone on the subway – is she experiencing a complete rebirth or has she reconnected with a lightness of being from her childhood? Romana doesn’t know. She can’t really even call to mind the ‘corporate monkey’ she was just a year ago, but she’s in touch with and extremely excited about the woman she is today.
This past May marked the one-year anniversary of Romana’s business and of her personal transformation. She spent the day reflecting on how far she’d come in that time and where her path was leading her next. She quickly came to realize that while she still loved telling stories through art, doing mendhi designs on strictly hands was not as fulfilling as it once was. It was time to turn her attention to other mediums.
After feeling down on herself for no longer having that same spark for it, Romana remembered that she’s fluid, like water, and that her way of expressing herself artistically is constantly changing. Mendhi is now just one of many forms her art can and does take, including a more recent focus on large-scale creations and murals. Some of these include murals across Toronto and a contract to create murals for Nando’s, the fastest-growing Portuguese chicken chain in the world. Romana is giving herself permission to explore her creativity wherever it takes her and loving each moment.
Romana hopes that the risk she took and the positive changes it created in her personal and professional life will inspire others to create their own path.
She’s consistently found that once the people around her witness her passion and energy for what she’s doing, they want to help and support her.
For Romana, a huge part of taking this leap has been daring to break free of conventions regardless of how others react. She was very surprised and delighted to find that her family was proud and supportive of the changes she made. Though Romana took the leap without knowing if that support would be there, since then it’s felt like the whole universe and everyone in it is continuously propelling her in the right direction. She’s consistently found that once the people around her witness her passion and energy for what she’s doing, they want to help and support her. No doubt about it, Romana knows she made the right choice, letting go of the lust for comfort to finally and fully live out the passion of the soul.
To check out Romana’s work, you can head over to her website.
Article written by Amanda Milroy
Amanda is passionate about languages and writing and has a degree in translation and professional and technical communication. She’s honoured to be part of the SheTravels team and to help put these inspiring stories out into the world.