Monday, June 6, 2016

Take a leap, but be prepared to fall.

I've been sewing costumes for almost 20 years. Hard to imagine it being that long with me only 33, but it's true. From the first time I took some sheets and curtains that were in the yard sale bin and turned them into a dress fit for Queen Cleopatra, it was obvious that I not only had a passion for it, but a talent. But then, my mother has always said that I have too many talents. In fact, when it came time for career counselors to help me choose my path, they told me the same thing. It sounds rather boastful, but it was rather frustrating at the time. There I was searching for direction, and no one could even point a way out. We tell kids all of the time "you can be anything you want to be" and for me this was true, and I had all of the career assessment tests to back it up. But I had no idea what I really wanted to be.

I went through the usual ideas, teacher, music teacher, I had an idea of being a one stop wedding shop, then I thought about getting a bridal consultant certificate, but nothing really stuck. In 2002 I got married, 6 months later I had a nervous breakdown that left me with such anxiety that I couldn't leave the house on my own. I still have issues with anxiety that stem from that breakdown, but that moment left me immobile. We had no children, so I took up my sewing machine again. I spent my days experimenting and playing with it, mostly on Renaissance clothing for me and my then husband.

Slowly I made my way back into the world, and it was through a friend of my then husband's that I found a shop that sold costumes. I was self taught, and had a lot to learn, but the owner saw a talent and a passion in me, the rest he and his other batch of costumers could teach.

The sample I brought to the shop owner
It was there that I learned I could make money with it, but I didn't believe it was enough. I didn't believe it could ever be enough, so I continued to work up the ladder at the fast food place I was working part time at when I found this shop.

I did work my way up to assistant manager, and I was proud of that, but I still wanted to create costumes. The shop dissolved after a few years, the city it was in just wasn't ready for it, and I continued to work hard at the restaurant job, and sew on the side.

It didn't take long for me to loose the pride in my assistant manager position, and I began to resent it, then hate it. By 2012 I was waking up with the desire to drink before work, and at some moments I was even suicidal. I wanted something that would fill me with joy again, something I was passionate about, but I was told that this is what life is. You wake up, you go to work, you pay your bills, you do it again. You don't have to like what you do, some people are lucky to have that, but as long as you have a job with great money and benefits, you do what you do. In September of 2014 I couldn't stand it anymore. The job was eating my soul, and if I didn't do something I would either end up in a mental ward, or dead. I came home from work one night and sent off my notice.

I did take another job temporarily. When I started I thought it was perfect. I was working M-F 9-5:30, pay was good for entry level and I had good benefits. I even imagined myself working my way up in the company. But after 6 months I was so bored with it that the dark thoughts crept in again. So in March of 2015 I decided to use the 401k money from my assistant manager job and go out on my own. I would make my business work. I would take that leap and follow my dream and passion.

I'm going to tell you those first few months were great. I found street fairs to participate in, I expanded my inventory, I created some new items, I bought new marketing, I felt like I was on top of the world. Then my savings started to dwindle. You see I had it in my head that I would start making enough to support myself with in those first 3 months. Surly by 6 months I would be self sufficient, and I had enough money to keep my bills met until then. When it didn't happen by July, I started to get scared.

Not only was I scared, I felt like I had failed. There was no getting around it, I had to keep my apartment and electric, and since most of my business is done online, internet. I needed the van to get to gigs and clients, but I wasn't bringing in enough money to support that. I had to take a job, but I needed something that would support both my business schedule and my school schedule.

It was hard to find it. My credit cards were all maxed out, my savings nonexistent, and I even took out a loan (that I had no idea how I would ever pay back) just to keep my nose above water. But I found a job that was a good fit. Retail, but with a company who had a really good message, and at least seemed to care about their people. And best of all, they would work with my schedule and their busy time was my slow time anyway! It felt perfect and my spirits began to rise again...Then came the accident.

In December 2015, just as I thought I was going to get all of my bills caught up and everything right again, I was hit by another car. What made it worse was that it happened coming home from a Cin City Burlesque show, and they fled the scene. I felt like my whole world came down around me. My van was gone, I had to keep in a rental just to keep what income I had coming, I was getting something from the gofundme page, but just enough to keep me in my rental. I started to worry if I had made the right decision in leaving my fast food job...not that it really made a difference at this point.

I did end up with a vehicle in January. It's too small to do the outdoor fairs I had been doing, but I can get enough in to do some indoor shows...when I can get the money together to pay the fees for them...And over all, even though I am struggling just to fill my basic needs, and worry every month on if this is the month I can't make my rent, I'm happier than I have been in a long time.

I got to do my first runway this year, and I poured my heart and soul into my small section of it. And you know what? My designs stopped traffic...literally. I've gotten some international attention from it, and it's all very fulfilling. I'm still struggling, still bobbing my nose just above water, but I'm paddling like hell. 

You see, you hear it all of the time, fallow your passion, do what you love, be what you want to be. And it all sounds so lovely and magical. And you can do it, you can take a leap of faith and dive into it, but what no one tells you is that it is going to be hard. 

We all know some one who is living the life we would like. For me, I'm lucky enough for two of these people to be mentors. But when I sought them out, I didn't know their past. All that I saw was two successful business women living the life that they loved. Able to take trips, plan vacations, go on shopping sprees, pay their bills on time and have a hefty savings and great credit. Seriously, they have it all! And I thought that would be me, with just 6 months of work. What I didn't see was their struggles. I didn't know the years of work behind just getting the ground footing. I didn't see the months of street performances to make enough to eat for a few days. I didn't see the years of training, practicing, networking, and struggle. I thought it just happened. 

I'm still waiting for the big break that opens my wings and lets me soar. I'm struggling, but I'm pushing, and I will thrive. Follow your dreams, do what you're passionate about, but know that's not an easy road. People will laugh at you, they will tell you that you're stupid, to get a real job, but stay true. Keep pushing. I know one day it will happen. And when it does, I'll tell you all about it. 

Photo set above from Drauma 2016 in Columbus Ohio. Theme given to our team (Discord Threads) was The Labyrinth using David Bowie as main inspiration.