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    dress

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    An Ill-Fitting Dress

    06.01.2016 / WORK

    You’re a mother, but you want to be a doctor.
    You’re a chef, but you want to be a hair stylist.
    You’re a tattoo artist, but you want to be a writer.
    You’re a student, but you want to be a musician.
    You’re a musician, but you want to be a student.

    You’re a this, but you want to be a that.

    Listen. You can do that, if you want. You can be that, if you’d like. You don’t need permission, not from me, not even from you, but here it is anyway.

    When I started blogging over a decade ago (Internet Old Maid Alert), I was an art enthusiast, a design aficionado, a stylist by day, writer by night, living and working in Los Angeles, weaving through galleries, museums, street performers, exhibitions, art installations, collecting inspiration by the bucketful.

    Eventually, my blog became an online art gallery. Shoot, I had become an online art gallery. I’d wake up with the sun and dive into a darkened rabbit hole of artist portfolios from Amsterdam to Zurich, of graphic designers dotting coasts like confetti on the floorboards. I’d dig, dig, dig, discovering something new with every opened Safari tab.

    I’d share it all.

    Along the way, I launched an independent art magazine. I curated a few online exhibitions. I designed a few products. I filmed a 2 year show for HGTV.com. I kept collecting.

    Every morning, it was this: Let out the dogs. Open the windows. Coffee. Safari tabs.

    This, for eight years.

    It was incredible.

    I grew tired.

    I started complaining about small things. I started feeling like I was stuck, like I’d be doing this forever, like this amazing/incredible gift of a job no longer suited me, like my life had shrunk down a bit, or I’d wanted it to shrink down a bit, and this operation, this whole big wide dress of a gig was too big. I was swimming in fabric.

    I told myself my feelings were normal, slightly entitled even. It’s called a job, Erin, not a joy. You don’t have to love it.

    And you don’t have to love it, sure. Jobs are jobs.

    But what if I could shift it, just a little? Tailor the dress? Take it in an inch, maybe two?

    Could it fit again? Was this salvageable?

    I stopped collecting art. I went on hiatus from the HGTV.com show. I started writing more, about whatever the heck I wanted to write about: parenting, minimalism, truth, beauty, faith.

    Stay in your lane, some said.
    Stick to design, others said.

    Be grateful for the dress, they screamed. So what if it doesn’t fit perfectly? Straighten your spine. Stand tall. Make it work.

    This is where a mother pitches the paperwork for her PhD application.
    This is where the chef puts his shears on a shelf and goes back to making sandwiches.
    This is where the tattoo artist picks up his needle and closes the Word doc.
    This is where the student sells his guitar to buy the textbook.
    This is where the musician sells his textbook to buy the guitar.

    Straighten your spine.
    Stand tall.
    Make it work.

    But of course, there’s another way.

    Don’t.

    You’ll risk screwing up, sure. You’ll risk ruining it all – the skills you’ve acquired, the small notoriety you’ve been given, the general comforts of knowing what the heck you’re doing, of feeling comfortable, of feeling good, of feeling right.

    Editing the dress, the job, your life is a risk. It might never look the same.

    But then again, it might never look the same.

    Changing your life isn’t about having faith in your ability to fly, to rise above, to conquer your dreams.
    It’s about having faith that the fall won’t kill you.

    It’s realizing that a failure elsewhere is better than a success here.

    It’s not about tailoring the dress.
    It’s about tailoring the person wearing it.

    Last week, an interviewer asked me this:

    Q: How did you know it was time to shift your online presence to a less of a design expert into more of a personal narrative?

    A: When I was no longer afraid of it not working. When I was no longer worried about what readers would think, about “losing my audience,” about ruining everything I’d worked eight years for. When those questions stopped being scary, I knew I was ready to risk it all. I knew I’d enjoy happily floundering around in failure more than smiling my way through success doing something I didn’t love.

    When I stopped thinking about what the dress looked like, and started to think about how I felt in it.

    I don’t know what sort of crossroads you’re walking toward. I don’t know if it’s a relationship, a lifestyle, a diet, a career move, a parenting decision.

    Maybe you just want to start singing opera. Maybe you just want to quit singing opera.

    Whatever.

    How do you feel in the dress?

     

     

    p.s. If you feel great in the dress, congratulations! Stay right where you are.

    • Johanna

      This is so beautiful – and needed – to read this morning. Thank you! I’m glad you’re making the dress yours.

    • Regina

      As always, your words are perfect. I’m currently living in the process of editing the dress–and it is a bit of a roller coaster–but one I am so thankful to be on right now.

    • […] An Ill-Fitting Dress You’re a mother, but you want to be a doctor. You’re a chef, but you want to be a hair stylist. You’re a tattoo artist, but you want to be a writer. You’re a student, but you want to be a musician. You’re a musician, but you want to be a student. You’re a this, but you want to be a that. — Listen. Y … more info… […]

    • This is exactly where I am. ?

    • Yes yes yes. “Changing your life isn’t about having faith in your ability to fly, to rise above, to conquer your dreams.
      It’s about having faith that the fall won’t kill you.

      It’s realizing that a failure elsewhere is better than a success here.”

      You’re anazing Erin and I love how you are able to put it into words …

      Can’t wait to read the book!
      Nat

    • Raven Gayheart

      I read your blog diligently. I’m usually sitting here nodding my head, thinking “Yes, she just hit the nail on the head.” However, today as I’m reading, tears flood my eyes because you’re talking to my heart. I’ve been wearing this dress for far too long. It works, it’s easy to put on- no one understands why I don’t want it anymore. It’s time for a change, I’m just not sure where to shop. Thanks for sharing your heart. It’s exactly what I needed to hear today.

      • Raven, this is SUCH a kind note! Thank you for your sweet encouragement, and I totally understand the need for change but not knowing how/where to move forward. Praying you’ll feel peace soon enough!

    • You are awesome. And thank you for your transparency.

    • meghan

      thank you. a million times, thank you.

    • Oh man. I’m not exactly sure yet how this will affect me after reading it, but I am digesting your words and something seems to be stirring inside. …tailor the dress or tailor the person in the dress? Sometimes when I am feeling on edge, it’s a sign of something greater in my life that needs to be readjusted.

      • I can’t wait to hear how you apply this one, Sonrie. Big hugs your way.

    • I recently discovered just how beautiful I, and my dress, truly are, just the way we are in this moment. And that as long as my dress still feels good, I’m good. And if the dress doesn’t feel good, I could find a new dress (no drama, no recriminations, no explanations) that feels better. To me, for me. Love to you! = )

      • Oh Jamie, you’re always spot on with your perspective! And YES TO THIS:
        “no drama, no recriminations, no explanations”

        :)

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