and now you get to be you
a sacred reckoning
At the end of 2015, I found myself in a very solitary place.
It was a difficult process.
I was tasked to navigate a giant sea of confusion - in my personal life and in my business and in my creative work - and I felt as though I was treading water. In the midst of the chaos, I was trying to find the strength to swim.
I was operating on very basic stuff. Essential motivations.
IT WAS PRIMITIVE
I don’t really remember crossing over into the new year. What I did or where I was. I don’t remember setting any goals or feeling uplifted by any new aspirations.
At the end of 2015, I was not a blogger.
I was not a makeup artist. I was not a photographer or a content creator or a brand developer. I was none of these things I now consider myself to be.
I felt like all the work I had put into my career was moot. I didn't feel as though any of it mattered. The years I'd spent building my expertise and portfolio were suddenly absent - like a dream or a distant memory - and just out of reach.
And I knew that if I wanted to become successful, I had to let it go.
When I look back on my Instagram posts - because it was the only platform I was posting on - I can see small inklings of what would come, but I was still very lost.
And I was still doubtful.
I labeled 2016 my sacred year and vowed to protect the little I had left.
It was just me and the support of my loved ones.
I didn’t have a camera. I didn’t have a website or a following or ideas about content.
When I try to think about what I did have, I fall silent on the words to describe it.
The work was over in a lot of ways, and I was starting from square one.
And all I have to say about that is, fuck yes.
assert your voice
I waltzed into 2016 with a lot to say. It was just oozing out of me.
I didn't want to hurt anyone.
I didn't want to cause any riffs or burn any bridges, but there was a lot of heavy shit to dissect and move through. I had lot of conflicting emotions and opinions about a lot of different things. I had advice to give and a message to spread, and I wanted to do it in a genuine way.
I didn't want to hide behind an industry or a company.
I didn't want to depend on other people to help me. I felt as though I was standing on this big stage with no audience and no cast. And yet, there was still a play. And so I vowed to perform regardless of whether anyone was watching or paying attention.
I didn't want to write absent-minded articles about stuff that didn't really matter to me. I wanted to channel my frustrations, my lessons and my pain and turn it into something powerful.
At the time, I didn't know I was creating my next business or my next brand.
I was moving forward without knowing what forward looked like.
In doing so, I learned that sometimes, moving forward without any sense of direction is the very best thing you can do - even when it's the only thing you can do.
At the time, I was renting cameras to take my photos.
At the height of my last business, I wasn't the photographer, so I didn't have any gear. In fact - and if I'm being really honest - I had sold a lot of my company's gear or given it away in lieu of payment and to settle outstanding bills.
I took what little money I was making on part-time jobs to rent my gear for paid projects - and I started capitalizing on the rental to take my own photos.
I would spend months saving up or use my birthday and special occasion gifts as opportunity to stockpile the money so I could continue to work on my craft. I knew I was playing the long game and I knew it would take time.
In hindsight, it was a huge blessing!
I definitely recommend every new photographer do this before buying gear. It gave me a lot of trial time to test things out and become comfortable working with different cameras and lenses, and it's still one of my favourite things to do.
I would spend my weekends working around the clock to create enough photos for the coming weeks and months. I did a lot of experimenting. I soon realized that there was no limit to what I could learn, and I vowed to suck up every ounce of information that I could.
The internet is an incredible school.
There were times when I wasn't sure what I was doing - and trust me, there still are.
I'm still learning every day.
As time went on, I got more comfortable with the notion that I could fuck up in public, and I realized that there are people out there who are going to see my attempts and become inspired.
In the end, you have to start somewhere.
trust the evolution
I released my first website for www.storyofmar.com in February of 2016.
It looked totally different than the one you're visiting now.
I wanted to coach. I wanted to help women find themselves and build better businesses. This has always been a big dream of mine - and to my surprise - it actually grew quite quickly.
The only problem was, I found myself feeling limited.
I realized that coaching is a very giving process - and although I really enjoyed it - I couldn't coach more than a few people per week without feeling totally drained. I instinctively reflected back on my 2016 promise - the promise to protect myself - and I decided to change direction.
I still coach. And I love it. But I only take a few clients per quarter.
This allows me to focus on giving them the right advice and the right guidance, and it's become my way of giving back and connecting with fabulous, strong women.
Over the last year, I think I changed my website a million times.
Through every new version, I discovered that I am - at my very core - a creative human. As my following grew and as I began to discover my personal voice, I realized that all I really wanted to do was create beautiful shit.
I'm not sure when it clicked for me, exactly. I can't tell you what the spark was.
Maybe there was no spark at all, and maybe that's the point.
All I know is that with every effort, I was getting closer to something really exciting. I was getting better, and I was sinking my teeth into something truly legitimate.
And it felt amazing.
don't ignore amazing
I think people can see joy.
I think they can feel it in the realest of ways.
And after months of hard work, I went full-time and suddenly found myself drenched in doing only what I love. This time, I was really focused on quality over quantity.
I said no a lot more than I said yes.
I wanted to build powerful relationships with beautiful people who truly valued me and the unique set of skills I bring to the table.
There were always signs.
I still get a lot of emails from brands who want me to work for free.
Sometimes, it's totally worth it.
But I also received a lot of emails from brands who were inquiring about a potential collaboration, only to never reply after receiving my media package and rate sheet.
This is definitely a topic I will be talking a lot more about in the future, because it's frustrating.
I reached out to a lot of brands who never got back to me.
Even to some who blatantly ignored me.
I know I'm not perfect, so I try not to take it personally.
What I'm trying to say is that throughout the year, I definitely experienced hiccups when it came to navigating the collaborative process as an influencer, and I still do.
It's a constant learning process.
I am forever grateful for the brands who did reply to my emails, and who believed in my work.
It felt fulfilling to collaborate with thoughtful industry leaders and gutsy up-and-comers and to see my work on other inspiring platforms - and I just wanted more.
2016 was the year I learned that you mustn't ever ignore amazing.
That feeling you get when the work is easy and you feel fulfilled and powerful.
You have to hang on to that.
to grow and let go
I did a lot of letting go.
It was hard, but I worked at it.
And I came to understand that you have to work at it.
Letting go is such a massive process. One that fills you with motivation, sadness, excitement, rage and everything in between. And I felt it all in 2016.
I realized that I had seriously numbed myself out in previous years - opting to tolerate negativity and carelessness because I felt it was necessary.
Like, it was a right of passage or the downside of working with creative people.
But that's just not true.
You don't need to tolerate shitty people or shitty work because you've convinced yourself these things come with the dream.
These things come when you let them in.
It was a seriously painful process to transform myself into someone who thrives.
Slowly but surely, I emptied out my proverbial life bucket. Once filled to the brim with naysayers and undercover limiters, this time, I filled it instead with encouragers and champions.
It's considerably less full now - obviously - and that can sometimes feel lonely. But it's also considerably less heavy to carry around.
And I'm a lighter, much happier person as a result.
2016 made clear to me that people will continually remind you of who they are. Not with the words they speak or the stories they tell, but with their actions.
It also taught me that sometimes, conflict is no one's fault.
Sometimes, it's just life - happening.
I had to recognize when people weren't clapping for my wins, as the famous saying goes.
I had to forgive those people, and then I had to let them go.
embrace whats scary
Happy is fucking scary.
I've always had a few things in my way, you know?
Old pains I've held on to, or continued to dig up - just to keep myself neutral.
2016 was a first for me, because I can seriously look back on it with excitement and satisfaction.
I know it was a difficult year for the world, and that sharp contrast is not lost on me.
I feel lucky.
In 2016, I learned the good lessons.
I learned that I am more capable than I know, and more in charge of my worth than I thought. I learned how to take responsibility for my dreams, and to serve them. That if I want something for myself, it's up to me to make it happen.
I realized I can have big aspirations and live simply - and it works.
And I learned - maybe finally - after all this time - not to hold myself back.
2016 may have been somewhat accidental, but it proved to me that my gut instincts are usually correct. It reinforced my personal vision and the vision I have for my life. I learned that not being focused on any one goal or outcome was actually incredibly freeing.
For the first time in a long time, I allowed myself to breathe.
I created space to explore, experiment and ultimately, I allowed moments and people into my life I may never have met or experienced with my usual dose of structure and blind ambition.
I'm labeling 2017 my year of actualization.
Because I feel limitless in a way I've never quite felt before.
If nothing else, this is the year I am devoting to being myself - whoever that is.
Bring on 2017.