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.
Make it work.
But of course, there’s another way.
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.
How do you feel in the dress?
p.s. If you feel great in the dress, congratulations! Stay right where you are.