Growing Pains

Now that we’re approaching the end of the year, this week seemed like a good time to take a step back and reflect. I have to start by saying these last few months have been extraordinarily busy for me. I’ve re-launched my Etsy store and started to create and sell cards, I’m getting better (I’m sure you’ve noticed) about creating weekly blog posts and creating an overall brand for myself. There have been ups and downs, weeks that were better than others and days where I couldn’t believe how lucky I’d become. And that’s just been since October, but the reality is, it was a yearlong project to reach these new points.

Basically, 2017 was a year of growth for me and holy hell was it uncomfortable sometimes.

Back in 2016, when I first started working on this blog, it was to chronicle my journey as an artist. My goal was to create one piece of art each week and I would write about it. I didn’t focus on selling art too much or gaining a following. I just wanted to create and have a space where I could hold myself accountable. When that goal was met though, and 2016 came to a close, I realized something scary. I didn’t know what to do next. Yes, I’d grown as an artist and created a daily habit of making art. But now what? What was I supposed to do with a years worth of art, an Etsy store I didn’t pay much attention to and a blog with three or four readers?

Enter those initial feelings of discomfort.

Part of me wondered if this side project of mine had been a complete waste of time. Sure, I loved being an artist and writer, but I kept finding myself asking: what was the point? I’m someone who loves to have a plan. I would’ve been happy if someone had given me a guide to life right at my high school graduation. That’s not how things go though. Life rarely, if ever, appears with straightforward answers. I know that from lots of personal experience. Life never forewarned me about when my kidneys would get sick or how to handle depression. She never told me what boys would break my heart or that some friends aren’t forever like I hoped they’d be. Life never said, “Here Chelsea, this is the degree you should get in college” and boy does she ever refuse to handle the big questions like, “what is meaning to all of this”. She sure as shit didn’t warn me, that I’d lose my job right before the holidays in 2016. And so there I was, at the end of 2016, feeling lost, scared and very uncomfortable.

As I was going through college, I knew pretty quickly that I didn’t want a stereotypical office job, but I gave it (and lots of other things) a shot anyways. I worked as a campaign worker for a grassroots organization. I tried social media marketing and for sometime I was a marketing associate for a theatre. I tried graphic design. I took my marketing skills and attempted to make it freelance. I tried being a personal assistant. I tried all this, and much more, but none of it brought me the satisfaction I got from making art. It was when 2017 finally arrived, and I was about to finish my Master’s program, that I knew I needed to make a decision about my career.

And I chose art.

And it was scary.

And I still didn’t have a plan.

All I really had was a list of things I knew I didn’t want to do. I’m sure you can already guess I was feeling crazy uncomfortable every day. Life wasn’t going to tell me if this was the right decision, but at the very least I think she was trying her best to push me towards happiness. So, in spite of those tough feelings, I spent the early part of 2017 both looking for a job (because your girl needs money) and trying to figure this whole starting your own business thing out. The start to this new journey was frustrating. There were doors being shut in my face on both fronts, constantly. Because if there’s one thing 2017 was, besides the year of growth, it was the damn year of NOPE.

Overqualified and under qualified, I was called at least one of those or both (yes, both) at most of my job interviews. I failed at many a small business marketing techniques. I had one potential employer tell me my “creativity was all in my head, and not in my skillset”. I went months without selling a single piece of art. It was hard. I cried a lot, felt like the world was against me and it seemed for each step forward, someone would come along and knock me four steps back. It would have been easy to give up, and trust me I wanted to. I said it out loud a lot. I basically wrote a letter a resignation to the art world once a week.

That’s the thing about growth though. It’s uncomfortable when it’s happening.

I didn’t always see it right away, but those “no’s” pushed me. Every job I didn’t get and every piece of art I didn’t sell were motivators. Because even on my worst days I knew one thing: I love being creative. It didn’t matter how much heartbreak I was going to suffer, because ultimately the act of creating always brought me back. I knew what I wanted and I was going to get it. Ultimately, it took a few months of falling on my ass, a bruised ego and lots of tough self-talks before I started taking things in stride and really formulating a plan.

My plan? Well, it was to stop actually. Stop rushing at things full force with no plan. Stop beating my fists on locked doors. And stop acting like I was entitled to success. Because, here’s the thing, success doesn’t happen overnight. Yes, you’ve heard that before. But do we ever really stop and think about it? Success, first of all, is subjective. My success and your success don’t need to be the same thing (you can read my full take on this). Often, we’re already more successful than we realize. Secondly, success isn’t a natural born right. We’re all capable of it, but like anything good in life, it takes work.

So, I closed my Etsy store down and quit posting regularly. Instead, I researched. I researched good blogging techniques, marketing ideas I hadn’t thought of and most importantly went back to focusing on my skills as an artist. Because I knew this was all for nothing if I didn’t grow as an artist. I stopped applying to every single job on the planet. I listened to more advice from those around me. I started to lean into the discomfort instead of fearing it. Yes, I was going to fail a few more times. I’m still failing on a regular basis. But that’s okay; it’s all part of the journey and putting in the work. I don’t need to have all the answers right now. I just need to be willing to show up, put in the work and be okay with where I’m at in the present.

After months of putting in the work on my business, and myself I re-launched and most of you have been with me ever since. What I’m most proud of though isn’t the sales and it isn’t the blog. It’s the growth I’ve made over the last year.

I’m painting in ways I never thought I could.

I’m creating products for the first time.

I’m less negative.

And I’m still growing.

I know none of this would be possible if I hadn’t gone through those growing pains. Even more so, it wouldn’t have happened with the support of my loved ones, especially my dear husband. And it wouldn’t have happened with my blog readers like you. Thank you. I look forward to continuing to share this journey with you throughout the end of this year, and into the next.

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