This is a story, but this story is not about me.
It’s about us.
Why? Because I just hit the proverbial reset button on my life, and I don’t really know who I am anymore.
I know who I was: an internationally-recognized artist, model, and social media influencer who traveled across the country to attend design conferences, give guest lectures, and meet hundreds of thousands of fans. I collaborated with companies, promoted products, and made a living off my art. It was the dream of any creative entrepreneur.
Except that it wasn’t my dream.
When Life Becomes a Nightmare
For me, someone who is both a workaholic and prone to crippling anxiety, the stress of running a business based on my art quickly transformed into a nightmare. I became addicted to my job, obsessing over perfecting every tiny detail and never feeling satisfied. Every project involved a panic attack, wondering if it would result in the downfall of my business if it wasn’t “good enough.” I barely slept, I felt consistently ill, and I became physically incapable of relaxing. I took on project after project, chasing an unforeseen goal with no way of measuring my progress.
There was only a constant need to move forward, to do more, to check off the next task with no end in sight. I never felt successful because I had no concept of what success meant to me; I had no definition for accomplishment. Quite literally, I was running myself into the proverbial ground with a self-sacrificing need to give all of myself to others.
I managed to keep up with this lifestyle for longer than I’d like to admit, and in the process, I lost my friends, I lost my health, and most significantly, I lost myself. My career was so consuming that I forgot my original dreams, my enjoyment in my art, my passion for life. I no longer felt joy or, really, anything other than the incessant stress that had consumed my thoughts.
And then, one day, I woke up.
By some miracle, I took a step back. I gazed at this empire I had built around me, this small business that had grown into a movement. I considered the extensive social media network, the corporate relationships, the role I’d established within the industry. I assessed the money, the sponsorships, the products, the swag.
Finally, I looked at my art, and there was the truth I needed to see more than anything else. Art reveals our souls, and mine showed my visible decline in happiness with more clarity than if someone had slapped me across the face. My soul had become devoid of creativity. It was messy, it was bland. Each piece seemed hollow, as if I was staring at empty shells. The ideas were there, but the execution was mechanical, robotic. I couldn’t even remember making some of these pieces; they were completed in an automatic way, as if I was going about the motions of creating while in a hypnotic trance. I felt no connection to these pieces. Even as I picked them up, feeling them with the hands that had supposedly made them, I felt nothing. There was only apathy.
Until, quite suddenly, there was anger.
Art used to be something I loved. It was my true calling, my favorite aspect of life. Creativity coursed through my being like a life force. It was where I found solace, peace, identity. How dare I let it become this horrible, awful thing that was killing me, not slowly but certainly surely?
How had art become my enemy?
I knew how it had happened, of course. I let perfectionism and obsession get the best of me. I let my anxiety fester and grow without managing it properly. I let my desire to please and help others consume my energy and didn’t leave anything with which I could care for myself. Art had become a vehicle of my own self-destruction.
Sewing had become a mindless chore. I hadn’t written in years. Making videos felt like pulling teeth. Drawing was an indomitable, daunting task. The thought of design work, whether fashion or graphic, made me want to cry. Anything creative did, really, because I knew engaging in creativity would involve forcing myself to be creative when I was running on fumes. This wasn’t an art block. This wasn’t some creative wall we hit on occasion and power through until we reach the other side. It was the breaking of my spirit, and it was the final push I needed to make the choice that would save myself.
I shut everything down. I closed my business, I cancelled my collaborations, I deleted my social media accounts. And I disappeared. I disconnected from my friends, my family, everything — and I reconnected with myself.
And now, I’m here. In spite of everything I’ve been through, I can at least say that: I’m here.
I don’t know who I am, exactly, but I’m excited to find out. For the first time in years, I feel enthusiastic. I feel passionate about something again. And that something is myself. I’m putting myself first, which is a phrase I’ve never been able to say before.
Finding a Focus
Starting this blog and writing these letters is part of that process. I’ve always been a writer; putting thoughts into words is how I process the world. It’s how I best make sense of my experiences, and right now, that’s something I very much need. Not to mention, it’ll be useful for documenting any creative projects I tackle as I learn to reconnect with art as a fun, passion-driven hobby again, rather than a high-pressure platform for making a living. I want my art to be about my spirit again, rather than a bottom line.
In summary, what you can expect to see on this blog is a bit of sewing, a bit of fashion, a bit of design, a bit of cooking. There will likely be a gratuitous love of coffee, wine, and dogs. I may share styling tips, shopping hauls, product recommendations, and resources you can use in your own life and creative pursuits. And I can guarantee I’ll get really overly excited about planners.
One thing that hasn’t changed: I know I like to help others. So I’m inviting you, dearest reader, on this journey of self-discovery in the hope that as I learn about who I am now, you can learn something about yourself, too.
I look forward to writing again. Until then, take care of yourself, whatever that means to you.
P.S. Have you recently gone through a huge life transition or career change? Let me know — I’d love to stay in touch with people who are experiencing something similar!