Sometimes our dreams change. Sometimes our dreams come true, and they're not how we thought they'd be.
On a beautiful fall morning of last year, I was driving over the speed limit and having a mini nervous breakdown.
I had just dropped off my kids at school, urging them to “hurry so you won’t be tardy!” in a cortisol-fueled frenzy (thank you, early morning spin class and double americano.) Now I was frantically trying to make it to the office in time for a conference call, while mentally rehearsing a difficult conversation I’d been meaning to have with one of my employees. Three of my team members had recently announced within a span of a couple months that they were all pregnant with their first babies. Which was fun, exciting - and incredibly stress-inducing as I tried to visualize how we were going to make it work while half our team was out on maternity leave.
The rest of the workday was a blur until I picked up my kids from school that afternoon, shuttled them to activities while finishing emails on my phone, got dinner together, and then finally crawled into bed with my journal and a deep sense of dissatisfaction. When I’m in a funk, often the only thing that helps me sort it out is an emotional dump onto the pages of my journal to help me uncover what’s really going on. And when I read back over my day, it was pretty clear.
Instead of actually living, I was just hustling.
My schedule reflected someone who was so focused on getting it all done, that she didn’t leave time for reflection, joy, creativity, or fun.
I’ve always worked from a belief that if I don’t like where things are going in my life, it’s up to me to change them. This sense of autonomy has birthed many “aha” moments through the years, and the people close to me have learned to not be allll that surprised when I share that I’ve made a major life decision. So on this particular night, when my soul felt heavy and my mind was cluttered from the day, I free wrote in my journal about what my “perfect day” would look like, no holds barred.
In my fantasy, I thought about how I’d feel when I woke up in the morning, where I'd be, who I'd be with. It included time spent with friends and family, writing and cooking, exercising outside in nature, being fully present for the people I care about. Being near the ocean, cooking meals unhurriedly. Simplifying my schedule and my stuff.
When I read back through what I’d written, I was shocked to realize how simple it all was - and that everything on my list was well within reach (well, except the beach house. Not yet, anyway.) None of them required lots of money, or even tons of time. But if I wanted my life to more closely mirror the one I fantasized about, I knew I’d have to make some tough decisions and reevaluate some of the things I’d been working towards. As the saying goes, “You can have it all, just not all at the same time.” The life of my dreams needed freedom, space and the ability to be truly present — which all happen to be enemies of a chronically busy schedule.
I’ve worked so hard to achieve these markers of success - the studio of our dreams, a team of seven, surpassing all our revenue goals. But it’s left me feeling constrained and overburdened with responsibilities that I’ve created for myself. Do I even dare to think about giving up the studio to free up my time and resources? Should I consider having a smaller core team, which would force us to scale back our content - but would allow us to focus on quality over quantity? Should we have fewer contributors, which would allow me to write more of the content on the site like I did in the first few years of having my blog?
The words I wrote in my journal that night felt scary, but also exhilarating. So I started mapping out some shifts.
We began to simplify our editorial calendar to focus on the stories we felt most strongly about. Less but better. I outsourced our brand partnerships and web design, which meant fewer full-time members on our team. I determined to focus less on the things that regularly made me feel drained and distracted. (Except accounting. There will always be accounting. 🤦🏻♀️)
I shed some tears the day we moved out of our studio. Chanel and I had worked so hard to design a truly special place for our team to create, and it was. So special that I’d sometimes pinch myself when pulling up for work. But I also knew with every fiber of my being that this new season of life held unforeseen growth and adventure. Of course, with covid and quarantine lurking a few months away, I feel incredibly lucky that we transitioned to remote work when we did. But I couldn’t have imagined any of that yet.
I have a friend who is a brilliant and talented artist. She and her husband were young when they became parents, and since I’ve known her, she's focused her energy on raising their three children and creating her beautiful paintings. A couple years ago, she announced to our group of friends that she was going back to school to realize her latent dream of becoming a surgeon.
“That’s amazing!” we all said. This is meant to be. We told her how proud we were of her, and how brave we thought she was.
So she did it. She started school, she aced the tests, she buckled up for a long and rigorous road that would take nearly a decade of her life. And then, she realized that her heart wasn’t fully in it. That maybe she just needed to prove to herself that she could, but that more than anything, it brought her back to her art, and her desire for the freedom to create what inspired her. So she didn’t go back to school the next semester, and to me, that ability to change course was the bravest move of all.
It takes courage to try new things, and it takes courage to shift course when your inner voice tells you something’s not working. Even if others don’t fully understand.
Today, we have a team of three women (including me.) Kat, Michelle, and I work mainly from our homes, video chat most days, slack all the time, do socially distanced walks when we need to talk, and gather once a month for a big in-person creative session. Photo shoots during covid are a challenge, but we’re making it work, and I can’t wait for the day when we can travel and go on location to shoot stories again. I get so much joy working with our contributors: Riley dreamed up a new interview series that she’s writing and photographing for us; Suruchi and I talk constantly about the recipes we’re working on. It feels creative, exciting, and free.
And it's made me question: what does “growth” actually mean? Is it possible to grow personally and professionally without actually getting bigger or doing more? I’ve realized that for me at this moment, it’s more about continual evolution as I gain clarity on what I want in life. Growth is becoming more fully myself, learning every day, connecting more deeply with others, and creating work that makes a positive impact. It’s doing things that scare me. It’s seizing the day. Sometimes, growth is just going for it.