This was a breakthrough year for me.
I experienced more drastic changes in 2017 then I did in the three previous years combined.
The most defining turn? I made the shift from day job to going full time in my creative business.
I would like to say:
I finally mustered up the big courage to risk it all. And I came up with some brilliant ideas!
But no. I can’t really take that kind of credit.
The real bridge between a working a desk job and running a creative biz, for me?
A LOT of life nudging me in this direction— usually by way of unpleasant circumstances and obstacles standing in the way of any other direction I tried to take.
As hard as I tried to make anything else work, I kept being guided to this same place until, eventually, choosing my art and my creative business was the path of least resistance.
While a bit of courage and a few good ideas were put to use, what this really came down to was being willing to go there in terms of doing things that made me uncomfortable. It meant moving forward with this at full speed even though I didn’t feel totally ready, or totally worthy.
I’d like to share what I’ve learned with you along this wild ride of a year.
What I think really worked in my favor this year (and behind the scenes of how this all really went down):
1. Again and again, I took action on whatever my next best idea was.
I started out the year sitting behind the front desk of a holistic chiropractic office making $18 an hour. This didn’t even come close to paying the rent of my Bay Area apartment. Sitting in that chair gave me massive ADD, anxiety and feelings of dying inside. The hours were part-time, but it was Mon-Fri. On weekends, I would have panic attacks about Monday being just around the corner.
Ironically, as far as day jobs go, this was actually my “favorite” I’d ever had. After years of working in restaurants— which, as an early-bird and sensitive soul, just about killed me— working in a “healthy” environment was my next best idea at the time of hire.
When the bills piled too high and the front-desk blues became too much for me to handle, I felt like I had no choice but to make a change.
My next best idea was to try my hand at working as a freelance virtual assistant. I knew it wasn’t my passion, but I had acquired a lot of knowledge about online biz over the years due to my own interest. I figured I could put that know-how to use, make more per hour and become location independent, too.
I landed one major client almost right away and was suddenly no longer location bound, so I ditched my expensive apartment. On a whim, I headed to Bali with a friend hoping I could live cheaper, soak up the sun and dig myself out of a financial hole.
Becoming freelance was a great transition for me in so many ways and I learned A TON in this job about how to run an online business and how to manage your schedule when you’re on your own.
But very quickly the client turned out to be financially unstable and the stress + chaos of the job started to weigh heavily on me. In the moment this felt devastating— I thought this line of work was going to be my savior, but somewhere inside I sensed the let down was divinely orchestrated. Also, as fun and beautiful as Bali was, it didn’t turn out to the be the dirt-cheap haven I was hoping for (..and riding a motorbike scares the crap out of me).
Other than being in business for myself, I kind of hated what virtually assisting actually entailed. Once I let go of my client, I realized that continuing to pursue this kind of work didn’t feel like a real option. It was doable in a practical sense, but my soul kept saying, "No. No way."
The next best, and only idea I had left: saying yes to what my heart really wanted to do. I decided to move forward with my art and my creative business, and give it everything I had.
I want to mention two things here:
One, that I had been making and selling art, and trying to build an online presence for quite some time leading up to this point. While my leap came down to decision in a single moment, this also isn't an overnight story. Moving forward, I also made it a priority to stay in integrity with what I could offer that was truly of value.
Two, although I had a few ideas of how to get started, I did not have a clear picture of how any of this would really go. Were they ground-breaking, one-of-a-kind, perfect ideas? Absolutely not. But they were the next best ideas that I had, so I went with them. I gave them the chance.
2. I let myself feel the pain of my circumstances.
When I worked as a receptionist I did what I could to absorb the good, appreciate what the job offered me and be positive when I could.
But also, I Iet myself feel how creatively draining and hard on my soul it was to be there. During the work day, I gave myself permission to go to the bathroom and cry as much as I needed to. I let myself panic on the weekends and feel the pain of that, too. I didn’t rely on gin and tonics to help me sleep at night or lie to myself that it was all “fine.” It wasn't fine.
When the freelance job didn’t turn out to be the saving grace I thought it would be, I let myself feel the let down and how much it sucked. As much as I wanted to hold on to the job and hope it would stabilize (because it was a sweet gig in some ways), I was firm on my boundaries around payments and didn’t stick around when those boundaries weren’t meant. And afterward, I let myself feel just how much anxiety the work caused me. I was honest with myself that I really did not want to continue doing this work.
Similarly with Bali, I let myself feel just how financially stressful the situation turned out to be. I believe this honesty with myself is what allowed me to say: I think I made a mistake trying to move here and I need to go home. Which wasn’t easy.
Being honest about the pain of our reality is what moves us out of unpleasant situations as quickly as possible. This has taken me time to learn and a lot of practice, but I think it’s one of the best things I’ve done for myself. Each positive move forward this year can be partly credited to the pain point that preceded it.
3. I let myself be seen and took up more space in the world.
Here’s the thing about going after what we really want:
It will ask us to go to the places that we’ve been avoiding and that make us uncomfortable. Whether that’s an emotional place inside of ourselves or a real-life circumstance, if it benefits your growth going after what you want will take you there. To really “show up” means taking all this on with presence and a willingness to work through it.
For me, the big “yes” meant it was time to take up more space and let myself be seen. If I wanted to do this as more than a semi-lucrative hobby, I had to. I had to really own what I’m doing and who I am, and let myself be visible in that department.
This looked like saying yes to a lot of things that were both nerve-racking and growth-provoking.
Exhibiting my art and showing up next to my work in person.
Taking on commissions that scared me, and following through when they got really hard.
Interviewing twenty women creatives (on camera!!).
Putting an E-course out into the world even though I had no idea if people would resonate with my soulful perspectives on making art and finding your style.
Raising the price of my art.
Promoting things when I had things to promote.
Getting more intimate with my community via what I share on social media and even more so through my newsletter.
If you’re someone who doesn’t like to step on any toes and who doesn’t love to have the attention on you...like, you prefer to sit in the back of the class and go unnoticed (*raises hand*), running a creative business will challenge you here. But that doesn't mean you can't be successful at it. It just means you're going to grow, and with growth comes growing pains.
When you send a newsletter, you’re taking up space in someone’s inbox. When you raise your prices, you’re taking up more space in their wallet.
This was a big part of the year's journey for me. But here's the beauty of it:
By letting myself be seen and by taking up space, I was not only able to grow as an artist and business owner, but I was also able to heal many of parts of myself that have struggled with these things for years.
The journey of healing and growth is just the beginning, but I’m proud of the progress.
4. I held on to my love of art for dear life.
2017 was the year that I began to really trust in my love of making art. To choose to believe that if you love something dearly, following that love can only bring good things.
While, at this point in the year, I feel super happy with 2017, that’s not to say that it wasn’t without it’s challenges. Oh yes— there were challenges. There were many moments of emotional crises, wanting to give up and wondering how in the world I would make it past February.
The biggest thing I did right throughout all of it? I stayed true to what I love and who I am. I’m an artist and I love making art. I learned to lovingly rely on that truth to show me the way.
When I was working in the office and was having panic attacks, I turned to my paints with any energy I had left. I painted in the heat on my hotel balcony in Bali between conference calls (pictured here -->). And when it came time to go in business for myself, I let my love of art be the guiding force for as many decisions as I could. I made it a goal to stay in integrity with my creative soul. I think that's what sets heart-centered, creative business apart from just regular business.
I had many moments when it would have been appropriate to loose faith (and sometimes, I did) but even in those moments I knew my love was solid and unshakable. This knowing, of all things, has served me the most.
I'm not one for regrets but, if I could do this year again I would have...
Not given everything I had to my art and my work.
My motto for this year ended up being: if there’s any work that could possibly be done, do it. Regardless of the time of day or day of the week.
I wasn’t lying at the start of this story when I said I decided to give this everything I had.
Once I dove in to my own work, I hardly ever took a full day off, and I let myself work way past 5pm more often than not.
The lie we tell ourselves (and I'm no exception) is that if we don’t do absolutely everything we can, we won't get what we want.
But the truth is I probably could’ve taken more days off, indulged in more self-care, made time for spiritual practice and hung out with friends more often, and achieved the same result.
In fact, it probably would’ve served my work.
ESPECIALLY for a creative, giving everything is a massive disservice. It drains our creative energy. And it’s unsustainable, anyway.
I’ve heard of writers who commit to 500 words a day and then stop. Even if they have the inspiration and energy to keep going this helps keep their creative cup full over the long haul. I think they're on to something. And I’ll be implementing this in my own way next year.
All in all, I think this is a year I will look back on as pivotal. I'm filled with gratitude for the personal growth, the positive life changes and the privilege I have to wake up and do what I love. I also know that this is just the beginning and I have no way of knowing what next year will bring.
On that note, I'll leave you with a final takeaway:
I don't believe in overnight successes, but I do believe that we can NEVER know what direction life will take us. This year has shown me that real change is possible. We can't know what surprises are waiting around the corner and often, the best surprises are hidden within the hard times, failures, disappointments and the things that don't work out.