This Woman Went From Being a Stay-at-Home Mom to a NASA Scientist

She took the NLP event of “Walking on Fire” to conquer any fear or obstacles in her journey even the physical one.

“I took the ultimate challenge, ‘Walk On Fire’ event, to conquer any fears and overcome any obstacles even the physical one,” said M.M. (editor agreed to use only her initials for security reasons).

When the life is on fire, the one has to learn how to walk on flames to override life’s torments. Especially from the closest people whose role is love, support, and protection. A colorful veiled Arab woman in her early fifties tells in retrospect, her inspiring story of abuse, resilience, and success.

Now she chuckled while telling her thoughts when she opted in applying back to school, “It was 15 years since I left academia! Impossible to remember any mathematics required.”

Quitting her dream

Her muffled voice betrayed her angst as she recalled how she was the youngest one in her class to join the university in the Middle East and graduate as one of the top of her class. Since she was a teenager, she was fond of laser and optics.

When she was twenty-nine years old, she received a PhD candidate in physics at the University of California. Nonetheless, her family stresses forced her to quit her PhD program a year later to be a stay-at-home mother. At that time, she had only her first two children, quitting her PhD was a life-altering decision. However, she clutched her family while her ex-husband moved his work afar. Consequently, she immersed herself in the Parent Teacher Association, homeschooling, her children’s early admission to the university, and the community responsibilities. Although myriad people might envision it as a courageous decision, looking back, she was not quite sure if this was the right decision: to quit her dream.

When she was forty years old, after her four kids left for school, she stared at her degrees framed on her home wall: a Bachelor of Science degree, a Master’s degree from the Physics and Applied Physics Department and she envisaged the empty frame for her PhD: “Did I take the right decision? Where is my life?” No answer relieved her soul’s ache.

Desperate for one, she found refuge in a book. “What should I do with my life?” Sadly, her ex-husband mocked her reading such book. Instead of appreciating her sacrifices, his abuse extended to telling her that she was too old to consider a career, and more appropriate to focus on their kids. Enervated to explain how a dream reversed to pins puncturing the life, she resisted and re-applied for a PhD program.

Suddenly her ex-husband shattered her dreams by a firm one-side decision to send her back with their kids to their home country while he stayed in the United States.

With a sheepish laugh, she vented her feeling, “Being without him, I was able to breathe!”

Her resilience map

With glowing voice, she recounted how she started her self-discovery journey at that Arab country. After 10 years as a stay home mother, she managed to get a job as a high school physics teacher. Despite her first year as a teacher was “a disaster”, she started taking extensive professional training in: Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), Thinking Skills, Effective Leadership, Emotional Intelligence, and self-development workshops. To sharpen her teaching, she thrust into accelerated learning, study skills, and Mind Maps. Consequently, she ended up being recognized by the “University of Cambridge Inspirational Teacher Award.”

“NLP made all the difference; it helped me take control of my life and what I want to communicate to others,” M.M. explained.

Self-healing, self-exploration, and challenging herself and people’s presumptions of her ability were her ways to empower herself again. Meanwhile, she surmised to take the perilous challenge of walking on fire.

Walking on fire is a daring experience, where one should walk barefoot 5 meters over burning charcoal. With a long giggle, she described how she took off her socks and how she tricked her mind by visualizing the goal, taking all risk, including physical pain to reach the goal at the end of the path.

“Time passes, don’t regret it, reconsider it. It was meant for you to have the experiences you had. Older people are wiser because they had an acute vision about what they were supposed to be on this earth,” she added.

Digging for her treasure

Shortly after receiving the award, one of her students asked her, “You always inspire us to reach for the stars and dare to dream big. Did all your dreams come true?” No excuse could satisfy the staring eyes of a student looking up at his teacher as his role model in life. In determination to fulfill her inspirational role, she decreed to pursue researching in her dream field: optics.

One more time, a book plays an inspirational role in M.M.’s life asserting a new appreciation for following one’s early passions.  “Usually your treasure is under your head, but you do not recognize it until you do a journey of self-discovery,” she quoted from “The Alchemist” saying that she felt the novel reflected over her past 15 years.

Ceasing a new opportunity by their return to the United States for the children’s undergraduate studies, she clinched to pursue her earlier dream of studying optics. Although she already held a Master’s degree; she applied for her second Master’s degree at the University of Arizona.

“I received the eagle mid-life crisis presentation on the e-mail. [Scientifically] it is untrue, but at that time, it inspired me to self-recovery,” she said.

The presentation suggested that between the ages of 40 to 45 years old, the eagle becomes too heavy to fly and hunt. Therefore, it isolates itself in a faraway place where it plucks its feathers with its beak thereupon breaks its beak. Certainly a painful experience, it generates new feathers and a stronger beak.

“I paid a big price and suffered loads of pain to reshape myself again just as this eagle,” she said with a deep cracked voice coming from a heart full of scars.

In The Alchemist, the girl refused to marry the hero and supported him to travel to Egypt to find his treasure. With a voice full of grief, M.M. assured, “Those who love you will support you and let you grow.”

“The advantage of the end opportunity! “

While working as a teacher, she used to hang inspirational quotes to motivate her students. As a slogan for her life as a champion, she picked: “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” Only champions revive after life collapsing. Nobody else can.

“I took the advantage of the end opportunity!” M.M. divulged.

M.M.’s picture on her Viber account wears a red and black headscarf, long jacket, and a beaming face as she and her team all proudly display their badges. Although she attained at NASA as a scientist and her PhD studies in optics, M.M. is still asking herself the same question that started this exclusive journey, “Did I take the right decision?”

“I am not a good example to write about! Not sure that I am the right inspiration,” she said.  She rather views her life experiences as learning opportunities.

Her advice

While M. M. may be scrutinized by some of the elderly community members as a woman who abandoned her husband and children to chase a career, M. M. is confident that she did her best to bring the family closer. With traveling between California and Arizona every weekend until the divorce, she took full care of the children and the house.

Although each one will add a narrative, each one will contemplate a self-reflection on this story. “How people see you is part of the price that you have to pay,” she added.

However, M. M.’s advice to mothers is not to leave their children and husbands in pursuit of dreams. Nevertheless, at the same time, not to give up on those dreams.

“Remember your dream! Work for it at least an hour per day. Every day, you will be an hour closer to your dream. There is no contradiction to be a mother and anything you wish to be.”

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