thirty four years and counting
I was born in July. In the heat. In the sun. I was born in the light.
And yet, it's taken me almost thirty four years to figure out that I don't feel naturally comfortable there. I don't come by light and contentment easily. I wrestle with these notions.
I recently read an inspirational quote on Instagram... You know the ones. It was telling me to take things lightly. That if I wasn't seeing or feeling the results I really wanted, I was trying too hard.
I'll come back to the whole results thing in a few minutes.
The validity of this concept engulfed me.
In general, I tend to feel disconnected from all things cancer-sign related. My birthday should mean I'm nurturing and emotional, but I still struggle with revealing and expressing my true self. I was born on July 12th. It's not like I border on other more intense zodiac signs.
I'm right smack-dab in the middle of the light - so to speak.
Maybe I indulge myself too much. Maybe I fell off course somewhere along the line between nature and nurture. I've spent a good deal of my time chasing down the next hurdle - whatever it may be - eager to overcome it.
There was a time when I identified more easily with my failures than I did with my successes.
When it comes to being creative, I've balanced opposing belief systems for years.
The first being an unyielding certainty that I'm good at what I do and meant for greater things. The second being that I'm irrelevant and clueless - and just not worth it. That I'm too small for the ride... You know?
It wasn't always like this...
Things happen. Shit happens. Scars happen.
And so recently - as I stepped into my thirty-fourth year - I discovered that I feel less patient with these questions and behaviours. I guess you could say I'm less tolerant of my own bullshit. Instead of haphazardly trying to avoid it, I'd like to own it. I'd like to purchase it and put it on my mantel.
When ma-luxe ended, I found myself in a very solitary place.
It was necessary. Risky. Lonely, even. And yet... I was resilient. I went back to zero because I had nowhere else to go and zero welcomed me with open arms. I wasn't necessarily interested in healing or moving on - at the time.
That definitely came later.
I also didn't have much interest in growing creatively - even though it might have seemed that way from the outside looking in. Instead, I wanted to prove myself.
It was primal.
This behaviour left room for an unhealthy inner narrative to take shape - much without my knowing. One where I was an imposter. Someone who could only become successful if I had a creative team behind me.
I felt really weird about my work. Like it wasn't serious work. I was playing.
I didn't contact old clients because I questioned what they might think. I burned a lot bridges because I didn't trust anyone. I didn't want to repeat old mistakes, so I purposely played small.
To be honest, that was fine for a while.
It forced me to build new relationships. To journey beyond my comfort zone. To cultivate connections I'm really thankful I made. I was very busy surviving the boomerang effect of failure - bouncing in the opposite direction of everything I knew so I could feel some sense of ease and release.
Every time I would release a photo or share a new project, I'd wonder what my old clients and colleagues would think. I spent a lot of time avoiding public events because I didn't want to have to deal with the elephant in the room. And even though I felt brave and unstoppable in many ways, I was still allowing the pain of old wounds to dictate my content. I'd often wonder what I could do with my newfound skills and perspective if only I was back in that beautiful studio.
As time went on, I began to put ma-luxe on a bit of a pedestal - like my best work was behind me.
It took a while for me to let go.
From a creative perspective, a lot of goodness resulted from such a big ending. Nothing will pull out the most raw and real parts of people quite like survival will. I was able to channel my discomfort in a healthy direction and I'm really proud of that. I learned to take pictures. I learned to code. I kept going.
And now, I don't feel like I really failed at all.
It's funny how we grow without knowing it. Much like a child who quickly outgrows her brand new sneakers - only to set eyes on a pair she loves more. The pivot is swift. She wears them comfortably without question.
There was a time when I didn't feel like I deserved to succeed without some kind of struggle. My self-worth was tightly entangled in my work. I felt like my work was a reflection of what I deserved in life.
To me, those things equalled a seat at the table of greatness.
I wasn't competing with other people - I'm not what you would consider a typically competitive person - but I was watching my community closely. I took all the courses. I listened to all the advice. Anyone who knows me knows I'm an avid researcher. I'm always testing. Always studying.
And then I got lazy. I became distracted by my own unhealthy narrative.
We all have a story. That's completely accurate. But it's incredibly important remember that the best parts of your story haven't happened yet. You're doing it right now. You're writing your story.
I was living and working in my old chapters.
I started following the norm. I would negotiate my sponsorship deals exactly like everyone else. I needed a media package and a rate sheet and a pitch email - not because I decided these things were strategic and relevant, but because someone - whoever the fuck it was - told me I NEEDED to have them.
Companies would contact me and ask me to be part of a campaign - and even though I felt confident in my editorial guidelines - I was still creating a lot of my content on autopilot.
Don't get me wrong... I love working with brands.
Working with brands - whether I'm consulting or creating or coaching - is incredibly important to me. I just don't want to do what everybody else is doing. My goal here is to avoid the echo. I want to start new conversations. I want to entice and surprise people. For me, everything else is boring.
If you want to work with me... Just know that we're going to do something cool and special together. Something yet unplanned. Something epic. I'm going to elevate you.
There were - of course - moments of magic and pride. I was easily booking clients and am currently managing a healthy waitlist into 2018. But in the throes of feeling busy, I started doing what everyone else was doing.
Thus, breaking my own promise.
I told myself I was joining the crowd because it was the right thing to do.
Ultimately... As time went on... I felt like my content was getting really vanilla.
It's so easy to do. Isn't it.
It's so easy to think there's one right way.
A few months ago, I started feeling really frustrated. I felt at a loss in my work and wasn't sure I wanted to keep going. My husband began to notice that I was regularly telling him I felt limited - like I couldn't create what I really wanted to create. This reflected my inner imposter-syndrome narrative - the one where I wasn't talented without a team behind me. The truth is, I wasn't really that excited about my content. I was too busy struggling. And yet, I still felt like I was earning my place at the table of greatness because - voila - struggle!
And then I got knocked off course. Thank you universe!
I came down with a ridiculous skin infection - more on that later - that lasted almost six weeks and it kind of paralyzed me.
And I guess maybe that was the point.
I needed to take some time.
And that's when I started seeing it. The work. And just how far I'd come. In the midst of working and struggling and building my dream, I'd cultivated my voice - I just hadn't given myself any real opportunity to express it.
I was too busy following the rules.
And I realized that if you spend all your time looking for results and measuring your creative status against the rest of your industry and community, you're going to miss out on some serious fucking magic.
There is something to be said - on repeat - about continuing.
Regardless of whether anyone is watching. Despite the resistance. Instead of quitting. But most importantly - and I really want you to read this line over again - regardless of whether anything you're creating is actually any good.
When I was at the bottom of my creative self - I was dealing with the destruction of an ten year old company and the ending of my work as I knew it - my husband turned to me and asked me what I needed... It was one of those nights... I had been drinking too much wine and my body hit the floor in a not-so-subtle-breakdown type of fashion.
I told him I needed time.
And looking back at my career, I can't express the value I see in that now. In having time.
The very pure, simple, compelling act of continuation.
I really love what I did at ma-luxe, but it was young. It was gorgeous, chaotic, inexperienced work. We were fierce our efforts - and really fucking brave - but we were also new. All the fucking time. And now that I've grown a second platform, and a third, and a fourth... And am being paid to grow platforms for other people...
I only see progress.
I don't think I'm being egotistical when I say that.
I think some people will tell you the opposite of my work. Some people aren't going to like it. There are critics out there who get a lot of value in belittling others, but they're shit.
When you spend all your time criticizing people instead of creating your best work, you lose any and all relevance.
So let's just let them be shit.
My point is this... Who's to decide what you're creating is worthy - besides you?
The only opinion right now that matters is yours.
Do me a favour and be very wary of people who tell you there are rules.
If you're a creative - and you've decided to make a go of your big dreams - you're about to embark on a beautiful journey. It will shock you, hurt you, empower you and everything in between.
My new goal is to take stock of the magic while I'm in it. Instead of chasing results, I'm going to chase the adventure of creating my best work. I'm no longer interested in distracting myself with pretty noise.
And honestly, the only thing that has brought me here is time.
What I would say to the women looking for advice is - there's nothing quite like experience. Sometimes, your work needs time to develop. The only cure for underdeveloped work is more work.
We don't begin with greatness... Even though it happens to be the story our society likes to tell the most. I'm not really interested in that story anymore, though. I'd rather fall in love with the work than the headlines.
If you really love what you do, you won't find there's ever an ending.
I feel fortunate to have recently looked up. You know? To have recognized the bigger picture. For the first time in a long time, I can recognize that I'm actually living my dream. That I'm actually in it.
No striving. No struggle. Just time.
And even though I sometimes find it very blinding... I'm going to try and enjoy the light.