I Plan to Be Happy
I plan to make my bed. I know, I know, people do that every single day, and no one gives it a second thought, which I get, I really do, but part of the biggest transition I've made this decade has to do with pulling the sheets in the right direction and participating in my life in a way I'd sloughed off as unnecessary and overwhelming. Who has time to make their bed when they have so much to do? Who has time to make their bed when there are bills to pay, expectations to meet, people to appease, a self to soothe, meals to eat (or not), goals to achieve (or not)? Who has time to make their bed when they're trying to figure out if they're living the life they're supposed to live? As it turns out, I do, I just didn't know it.
The biggest changes start small - I'm convinced of this now. Like a tiny pebble that's kicked up into your shoes when you're moving too fast to notice; the discomfort comes and goes, and what hurts the most can easily shift, the break from the pain so relieving that there's no more need to think of a resolution to the problem until it sneaks back again. The biggest changes happen when the pebble does exactly what it's done every time before, but we, stubbornly unyielding, realize we've done this already, and question if it could be different. And this, this one tiny moment, is when the wind shifts - when we know it can be different.
The dream of living a quieter, more creative life isn't new, and I suppose if I was being honest, it's been around since I was little, so my desire to leave my full time job to pursue a different kind of day comes as no real surprise to myself or those close to me. What does rumble through my heart and mind as so much more shocking is that I actually did it. Somewhere after the dreaming and making a plan, in the middle of figuring it all out, and well before it actually unfolded in any way close to what I'd been plotting, I decided to make a change and I made it. The girl who always needs to know what might happen and how she'll solve it, who has plans b, c, d, e, f, and g lined up before even considering going out on any limbs, left her job in management and took a leap with only the string to build a net on the way down, and the fortitude to get it done. The morning of my last day at work, I sat and cried, and while the tears over people and those I would miss came later, that morning I wasn't crying about them, I was overwhelmed with the reality that I was doing what I really, honestly, never believed I could do. When presented with the possibility of good mixed with too much unknown, I'd always chose safe, comfortable, predictable. I know how to survive - I am good at surviving, and so often surviving means you don't stop to think about what could be better, you just make it through. On July 2nd, early in the evening, and right as I heard my mother's voice on the other end of the line, I decided I wanted more than just to make it through. Surviving is good, important, necessary, but I was ready to thrive and flourish, and there wasn't any plan that would reassure me about what I already knew to be true: I was ready.
There are so many practical pieces I've been putting into place to make this possible, including getting a very part time job at the museum next to where we live, saving, dreaming, scheming, sketching, and imagining, but the biggest thing I've done over these past few weeks is to quiet myself just a little bit more. The part of me who resisted change and the unknown for so long is powerful and stubborn, so good at fixing things and finding solutions that there's no room for risk, and when there's no risk, there's no opportunity for the greatness, the beautiful unknown, to slip into the cracks and bloom. I find myself with little pockets of worry, fear knocking on the door and asking to come inside, but fear never just visits me, so for now, I'm having to ask it to stay away. I am having to, with simultaneous resistance and grace, just let myself be uncomfortable for a while, to remind myself that not everything must be fixed and solved. Sometimes you just have to show up for your life and live it, even when there's no good map to see your way through.
I am learning, one day, one minute at a time, to love my questions, to dive into them instead of running away, or working so hard to answer them that I'm not even sure I understood what they were asking in the first place. I've given myself a week off, a pocket of time inbetween working nearly eighteen hour days to fit in my day job and creative work, and the business of making, selling, connecting, and growing. I'm trying the best I can to remember that it's okay to decide to be happy, that living with an incredible amount of stress doesn't have to be the normal, and that there's no weakness in standing up for the life you want to live. It feels strange already, one day into this vacation, not to be working, working, working, and this morning I could already feel the worry of needing to get started creep in, but my dearest friend said this to me, and it hit me right in the gut where I needed it most: all new jobs start with training and getting to know your surroundings. I have no idea why I'd decided this new adventure would be any different, or qualify for any less, but as it turns out, it's okay to take time to settle, dream, learn, and take steps on a timeline that isn't warp speed. My success isn't dependent on every single thing I do being magnificent, only that I keep doing something, and that something is also allowed to be a break, or a nap, or just a really deep breath.
My answer to what I am going to do next has a very practical side, too: I am going to keep collaborating with other talented, amazing people to create incredible things to put out in the world, and I am going to look for more people who'd like to do this with me. I am going to close and reopen my Etsy shop and fill it full of new items, and offer a few custom options that I think might make people smile. I am going to finish Harriet's first book, start on the next, and see if anyone might want to put her in print. I am going to teach more classes online, and find a way to teach classes and workshops locally. I am going to dream big, and then make it all a reality.
A year ago I had just started taking photos with my own face in them, drawing more and believing it was good, sharing my work with others, dreaming that there was a different life for me out there, somewhere, and today I share so many darn photos of my face that sometimes I wonder if people think, "okay, we get it, you have one!" The truth is that I keep taking and sharing these photos to remind myself that I can do things that make me uncomfortable, that I am capable of being afraid of what might happen, and still take action; I take and share these photos as a reminder that I am here, living in my life. The truth is that I am afraid of failing, of not actually being very good at this thing I want to do, that my dreams will flounder and flop - I am scared of all these things, but what I realized is that I am more terrified that I could actually be successful (in my own quirky terms, of course), but never get a chance to experience it because I was too comfortable in my own unhappy, but predictable, routine.
And so here I am, one day in, a notebook full of ideas, a heart bursting with hope, a tribe of people who are making it possible for me to believe this can work, and my big grand plan starts with a very simple list, and at the top of the list is this: I plan to be happy.