Today was the last day I’ll ever work as an employee. And I want to share my story.
Three years ago, I graduated college with six figures in student loan debt and a wake-up call that maybe I had made the wrong choice. I wasn’t doing what I loved. I was in an office all day, generating thoughtless “art” for rude clients and making next to nothing. If this was what I had worked so hard through college for, the next forty years were going to be rough.
After two years of getting nowhere, I jumped at the chance to move across the country and start over. Maybe I’d find my dream job in Florida… maybe I could finally enjoy those eight hours of my day.
I was fortunate enough to find a job right away, but this town isn’t exactly an artist’s haven. I had no choice, so I stuck it out. Outside of work, I focused on what I really loved—art and design. While we were living in a hotel waiting to find our new home, I sat at the computer every night, creating the art I would fill my future walls with. And I loved every minute of it.
As my collection grew, I became inspired by others who had become successful at selling their own designs and thought “Wow… I wish I could do that. Must be nice.” But as time went on, I had to stop and ask myself Why not? What was holding me back? Sure, it seemed like an unreachable dream and I had no idea where to start, but I’d been on this earth for 25 years with no real accomplishments, and I wanted more for myself. It was time to make my own destiny.
I spent hours, weeks, months creating my art, building my brand, researching logistics, getting my finances in order. This was going to be a real business, and that’s exactly how I treated it.
My preparation paid off—the very first day I opened on Etsy I sold 5 prints. I was over the moon… jumping up and down, thinking “Oh my God, what do I do now!?” I quickly figured it out and fell into a nice routine. This isn’t to say that I was busy all of the time—there were plenty of days where I would go without a single sale. But those bad days did more for me than the good days, because they gave me motivation. The frustration and helplessness of a slow day caused me to create more, learn more, make my business even better. If I ever felt comfortable with where I was at, that would be settling—and that word is not in my vocabulary.
Sales slowly picked up over the weeks and months, and I felt hopeful for the future. Maybe there was a light at the end of the tunnel and I could actually do this for the rest of my life. Everything was falling into place. Then, we unexpectedly received some bad news, and I had even more motivation to bring in sales. I was also promoted to a manager at my day job, which meant we would be able to pull through on just my income until Brad was able to secure a steady job.
While I was taking on more responsibility at work, I opened up a second shop on Etsy. My sales practically doubled overnight. This wasn’t just for fun anymore, it was becoming a full-time job. I found myself stressing over my business during the day while at work, and glued to the computer all night until I had to force myself to stop and go to sleep. I’d wake up early every morning and work on whatever I could before repeating the cycle. I didn’t mind it for a while… after all, I chose to do this. So I sucked it up and continued on, but I knew in the back of my mind that I couldn’t do this forever. Brad’s reassurance was “Sure, as soon as I find a stable job, you can quit your day job.” I held out hope that it would happen, and it never did. I knew the west elm catalog was about to be released, and I was scared for the holiday season. I was slowly breaking down.
On the way home from work one day I had a nervous breakdown. I called my mom, sobbing, and she urged me to just quit my job already. I told her I couldn’t because Brad wasn’t comfortable with it. Etsy isn’t a “real job”, he would say, “there’s no guarantee.” I understood his nervousness with neither of us having a guaranteed bi-weekly paycheck to count on, but I tried desperately to convince him that this was more than a job, it was a career, and failure was not an option. We agreed (sort of) that I would give it until the end of the year and put my notice in at work.
Fast forward to October. The west elm feature had been released, I had booked two craft shows in December, and I was freaking out. I hadn’t slept well all week, my eyes were permanently blood shot, and I was mentally drained. Brad was out having fun with his friend Thursday night, while I was stuck home yet again, on my 15th hour straight in front of the computer that day. Annoyed and feeling resentful, I sent him a text message, blaming him for my misery. He jokingly replied with “Just quit your job then, I don’t care” I called his bluff and wrote “Okay, I’m quitting tomorrow then.” When he replied with a “fine, do it” something clicked inside me. Right then and there I decided, whether he was joking or not, I was going to quit the next day. I had made up my mind. Enough was enough.
I have learned a lot from this experience. Life doesn’t require eight hour workdays at the office. If that is not what makes you happy, you don’t have to do it. You will never get those hours back. Every minute we have on this earth is a gift, so why spend your days wishing they would be over? It’s no way to live. I believe you need to be able to look forward to the future and have hope in order to be truly happy, and you need to be happy to be the best person you can be.
No, I can’t predict the future. I’m not saying my life will be rainbows and unicorns from here on out. There will always be good days and bad days, but you celebrate the good and learn from the bad. You will work harder for yourself than for anyone else, so learn to let go and trust yourself. If you really, truly want it, you’ll find a way. Of course it’s going to take effort, and often times lots of it. But working towards your own goals is always easier than working towards someone else’s… and of course, so much more rewarding when you finally get there.
Not only am I able to do something I love now, but I will become a better wife, daughter, friend, person because of it. I’ll finally have the time to cook a meal, go for a walk in the middle of the day, play with my kitty, take a bath, learn to play piano again. These are small luxuries but they make all the difference. And just knowing I can finally do them again is what makes me truly happy. I am hopeful for the future because I’ve proven to myself that I’m the one in control. Now, I don’t just wish… I make it happen.
I’m about to close a 26 year chapter of my life and begin a new one. And this time it’s going to be good… because now, I’m the one writing it.