My story starts a long time ago.
When I was tiny, I would build floor plans in the front yard when it snowed. Like, full scale. I’m sure Mom & Dad loved it. Here was the kitchen, here was the living room, here was where the bed went….
A little older, I would spend a summer afternoon flipping back and forth through the giant JC Penney catalog at my grandparent’s house. Picking out the pieces and parts as I saw fit for some imaginary home. Making a written list of things I would need. Figuring out how much money I would need.
At night, when I couldn’t fall asleep, I’d picture what it would be like to paint the house we were living in. I’d plan what plants would go where, and what the porch chairs would look like until I would drift to sleep.
In high school, I was on every celebration committee I could be. Homecoming floats, prom decorations, the seated dinner our choir hosted every year for the holidays, special events for the church, everything.
Once I went to college to study design, creatives of every discipline surrounded me. I started to feel like I was going to figure out a way to make a living of this passion for aesthetics.
And I did. Spending 12 years as an in-house creative in a theretofore unknown-to-me industry. Picking colors, making custom materials, setting the pace for the industry. Designing not only a broad product line but trade show booths and facilities. Traveling the world and working with some of the most talented people and joyful clients I could have ever hoped.
When it’s good its the best.
I loved it. Every day something new, the working pace was a challenge, the projects exciting. People immediately welcoming me into the decades-old family of a classic American brand. I especially loved working one-on-one with the custom clients to create their dreams, before handing it to the next team who made it happen. At its best, it was magical.
But things change. People change. Industries shift, companies are merged and modified, markets evaporate. Days start to become an endless series of corporate meetings. Margins outweigh magic — the pace doubles, then triples. Emotions erupt unexpectedly. Friends begin to leave for other opportunities.
The joy dissipates, and the color begins to seep out of everything. I mean that literally. My non-custom designs became so timid and sedate and “greige” – I think purely to counteract the situation. Beautiful & luxurious, they sold well and set trends for the industry, but to me, it was soulless.
Over the last few years, I had changed into someone I didn’t recognize. I was doing nothing but working or sleeping. Never recharging, never connecting, rarely having the energy to see anyone — not caring, or planning, or doing anything more than I was asked to do.
A move into management helped bring back some of the balance, but also added another level of pressure. I dreamt of the day when the overwhelming challenges would be past us. Of the day when we could get back to the fun of innovating products as we had in the beginning, doing what we loved. Back to making magic…
But then, in an instant – it was all over. After working for six months to sell it, the corporation decided to fold the division I was working under.
Relief, not shock.
Of course, we were surprised, but not necessarily shocked. The industry is volatile during even the best of times. Having lived through the last ten years of recession, we had become hardened warriors when it came to drastic and sudden change.
And while it wasn’t the outcome we had hoped for, to a person I spoke with after we had absorbed the news, we were relieved. Relieved.
Transitions like the one we were living through are hard on most. But especially hard on creatives that use their emotions and intuition to generate ideas. Once we were able to stop, and breathe, and see for ourselves that we would be able to move on creatively, the enormous weight vanished.
Trying to figure out the next steps, I was having trouble picturing myself working in-house for another massive corporation. I had offers on the table, and it would be so easy to slip right into another company. Ultimately, I was craving balance and control over my life again, which I sensed I would not be able to have with another corporation. I missed writing, reading for fun, spending time with friends and family, seeing daylight, staying awake past 7:30 pm, sleeping past 4:30 am and using colors other than white or grey.
The Reality of the situation
The hard truth is that I will be more effective in that industry as a consultant. Because I won’t have to lose myself in another corporation entirely, I will be stronger creatively on my terms. So I’ve left the doors open and will help when asked, but I can’t get myself to sprint through them to take the easy route.
Besides, every year on my HR update form, on the line where they asked where you saw yourself in 5-10 years, without fail, I would write “Owner of my own business”. So, I figure it’s now or never. If I don’t make the jump to entrepreneurship now, I’m never going to jump.
The side-hustle I’ve had for years designing things for the special people in my life and those in my community is going to become the main gig. I didn’t realize it when I was in the trenches, but everything has been leading up to this.
To those that have read my story to this point, I thank you. I also ask you: If you are overwhelmed with choosing a new color for your home,? Do you need some help making sense of the spaces in your life? Or do you want to be able to enjoy the reason you are celebrating and create memories without all the stress? If you answered yes, please reach out.
If I’ve told you that I didn’t have time to help in the past three years, reach out again – because you’ve got enough on your plate.
With my help, you can have confidence that you are spending your valuable time and hard-earned money wisely. You deserve the color, the space, and the events of your dreams.
We both do.