Chantal PanozzoQ: Tell us about yourself. What’s your dream and how are you working towards it?
CP: My name is Chantal Panozzo, and I’m a workaholic. Somehow, in 2006, I agreed to give up my job as a copywriter and follow my husband to Switzerland as a trailing spouse. I planned to start writing a book, but even when given a paid-for fairytale apartment below a Swiss castle, I couldn’t just sit there and write the book I always wanted to write because I found I didn’t know how to function without a real job. Everyone in the square below my apartment seemed to spend their days sipping cappuccinos, but I couldn’t do that. I was an American. I didn’t know how to relax. Luckily I found a copywriting job in Zurich. It was a great relief.
 
After three years, I lost my job due to the economy, and finally started working on that elusive book. In the memoir I’m working on, I share my story of just how far an American workaholic turned trailing spouse will go to shed her label as a Swiss Hausfrau for the chance to triumph over the international business world—even in a country where the bells ring at 11am to remind all wives to cook their husband’s lunch, sexism runs rampant in offices, and bosses hold meetings in strip clubs where employees get extra vacation days for pole dancing with strippers to Frank Sinatra tunes.

 
Q: Describe a gray time in your life. How did you overcome it?
CP: Thanks to the economy, I was laid off by my Swiss company but due to Swiss contracts I had to keep working for the same boss that laid me off for three long months after the fact. The entire time was emotionally difficult because as other employees found out my status, they would whisper behind my back, use Swiss dialects in meetings that they knew I couldn’t understand, or basically ignore me.
 
I was so distraught over what I would do with my workaholic self after the job ended, that I did the only thing I knew how to do: work. I wrote an essay about my layoff and ironically, it helped my writing career, as I sold versions of the story to a Swiss radio station, a Swiss magazine, and now the essay is coming out in the U.S. in a best-selling anthology series,
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings. The interest in this story also inspired the direction of my memoir.
 
Q: What challenges have stood between you and your dreams?
CP: Mainly, fear. I think it’s hard for some people (myself included) to allow themselves to follow their dreams because, let’s be honest, if it wasn’t so hard to do this, there’d be a lot fewer lawyers. Something about society tells us to identify with our jobs and the money we make. But I was lucky in the sense that I found a career that was creative and helped me develop my writing and idea-generating skills.
 
Q: What inspires you to keep pushing forward when the going gets tough?
CP: Never underestimate the power of Swiss chocolate, especially the dark kind. Travel works too. But mainly, you must believe in yourself. You have to believe that you will accomplish your dream because no one will do it for you (unless you have a grandfather like mine). There will be days of rejections and days you feel like “why am I doing this?” but in the end, it all comes down to belief. Because without it, it’s too easy to intoxicate yourself with a mainstream job in order to cover up the person you really want to become.

Q: If you could give one piece of advice to someone else who is struggling to move beyond the gray and follow a dream, what would it be?
CP: Get laid off, it’s never been easier. Seriously. Or get brave and quit whatever isn’t working for you. A creative director I used to work with in the U.S. once said, “Give a job 18 months and if it’s not working for you, move on.” If more people would be brave enough to do this, I think they would be happier and more successful in the end.

To read more about Chantal and her life abroad, visit her blog, One Big Yodel or check out her web site www.chantalpanozzo.com.

Are you actively pursuing or living a dream? If so, I’d love to hear from you! Please e-mail me at: Erika (dot) Liodice (at sign) hotmail (dot) com