…Have you arrived? At least for now?
When I was younger, I felt like I had to prove myself constantly. I had to get that promotion. I had to stay in the office until midnight (and beyond) to finish the job. I had to mingle with colleagues after work because contacts meant everything, although being with my family or taking a run with my dogs would have been a better choice. But, I did it because that’s what you do when you are growing into a career. I think we all do it, at different levels of course, but we just do.
In the Autumn of ’05, when I left the corporate world after 8 years, I crossed the line into my 30’s and I felt like a fish out of water. Not because I was 30 (although that did freak me out), but because I was 30 and felt emotionally very attached, almost by an umbilical cord, to the mother company, the corporation. No check would arrive on Friday (yet). I had to hunt for my work now because I had made the decision to freelance. I felt scared, alone, and most of all, very vulnerable. Aside from the fear of the unknown, I was sure of one thing. That I would succeed.
I knew I had nothing to prove. I was successful (according to me at least) in the business world, I would become successful at whatever I decided to take on from there. This isn’t about being stuck up or naive, it’s about having pride in yourself and knowing that you have value. Whether you work or not, I’m not referring to value based on title, money, or career. I’m talking about what others cannot take away from you. Your relationship with yourself, knowing you are a good person, and feeling very pleased by the progress you’ve made in your life despite the ups and downs.
By the time I was 30, I had nearly 8 years of facilities management and space planning under my belt, along with heaps of corporate communications experience working with those at the top. I would interact with executives on a daily basis, in my company as well as in others. If I could prove my worth as an employee to such accomplished leaders, people I shared no real morals, ethics, or values with, I could prove it out on my own amidst other freelancers, whom I did feel more at home with. I knew I had what it takes to work hard and stay on target. I didn’t place my personal value on my job. In fact, I never associated value with career accomplishments or money. Perhaps it’s because my father is from Kentucky and my mother was raised on a 100 acre farm. Although we lived in nice homes and had, what many would call money, I always remember how my parents felt about job title and career.
“Loving what you do is more important than them loving what you do (meaning the company)”.
I will never forget my father saying those words, which could be directly traced back to his humble roots. As a very successful civil engineer who was sent to Boston in the mid 1980’s to remove the Deer Island prison to build a water treatment facility, which would be the start of the Big Dig project, he genuinely loved what he did. I’d see him in his office sketching drafts by hand (pre CAD days) for hours, completely passionate. He even taught drafting (at the college level) in the evening for many years because he loved his field so much. My father taught me, through how he lived his life, to never sit on the fence. You either do it wholeheartedly, or you get out of it completely. No in between.
I feel very, very honored that I was able to work with some industry leaders in my time. But, these people did not become successful overnight. They struggled, pushed, and some even screwed the competition to get to where they were. Not everyone was this way, but most of those on top didn’t get there by being nice or genuine. Every handshake had a motive. It’s just how things operated. I recall days spent, sitting on the 24th floor looking out over the city thinking, “I’m not cut out for this”. This was when I was promoted to management level and lucky enough to have an office because I was leading a very important facilities related project affecting over 1,000 employees and 35,000 square feet of prime Boston real estate. I did the job, won an award for my efforts even, but most of the time I would go home at night in tears because something didn’t feel right. I loved working in facilities, but disliked the vibe. The competition. The lack of genuine support. My roommate back then, Adi, told me,
“You can’t fit a square peg into a round hole”.
I’ve never forgotten that expression. If something doesn’t fit in a natural sense, don’t force it.
Some of the above thoughts are ones that Marisa explores in her podcasts, topics that I feel are important, ones we all need to listen to and think about. We may need to admit that we’re not cut out for what we’re doing and may need to reconsider our path. And that’s okay.
I hate to sound all Oprah on you, but don’t settle with where you are because it’s comfortable on a financial level or offers job security. If it doesn’t feel right, and the feeling doesn’t go away, you may need to fine tune things. Whether it’s a career change, dumping a client that drains you, taking on a client that challenges you, working for a new company, going back to school, taking up a night class to energize you, whatever. Do it.
I speak from experience. I’ve been working since I was 12. In addition to my parents day jobs, they also owned two restaurants, a British pub and a seafood restaurant. I remember coming home from school and heading straight over to the restaurant to work. I’d fold hundreds of linens for the tables, fill S+P shakers, mop floors. When you start working for your parents at 12, and then at 15 for others, you pretty much know where you want to be when you’re 30. But, sometimes it takes longer. We’re all different. You’re not wierd if you go home after work tonight and feel like nothing was accomplished all week. Or you have a drink with friends and end up in tears over your crazy boss. You’re not nuts or incapable because your job drains you. Maybe you’ve cried in the bathroom stall this week. Maybe these are signs. Maybe you’re not on your chosen path because you just haven’t found it yet.
I could write a book on such topics. Excuse me for rambling. But if you’ve stayed with me this long, then you must relate on some level. Listen to Marisa’s podcasts, they are very thought provoking. My favorite is her interview with former NFL kicker, Tracy Bennett, who is now a big time set photographer in Hollywood. Towards the end of February, she’ll even have a podcast with me to talk about Creative Living. I hope Marisa’s words touch you in some way, provide motivation, and start you on a path of thinking. Thinking is something we sometimes forget to do. Sounds funny, but it’s true. We tune out with our iPod or in front of reality tv instead. We just jump in the hamster wheel of life and run. Maybe this weekend, you can carve out some time to think, journal your thoughts, listen to Marisa’s podcasts, and start considering your direction in life. Perhaps a little change is in the wind?
Psst: Learn more about Marisa here.
While researching bathtubs at the Boston Design Center yesterday, the experience of showroom browsing further impressed upon me how I feel about decorating the home. Design is very personal and should be viewed as an extension of who you are vs. who you think you are or who you want to be. I don’t know why that hit me yesterday stronger than ever, but it did. Maybe it was the lady I watched barking at the sales professional because she needed the exact room on display and how dare he say the sofa is no longer available in blue velvet! Yes, many are like this lady. Lost deep in a design hole, with no clue that design isn’t heat-n-eat, but takes time and patience to evolve.
Example. Some people live in bare boring apartments for many years and then, almost overnight, decide to buy everything they need to create a trendy space because they suddenly feel the need to grow up and impress others. If that’s you, consider this. I had a 38-year-old client in the same situation. Yes, 38. She was put under pressure by her manager to hold a holiday party at her home a few years back and hired me to transform her apartment into a hip pad. Of course, I knew how to approach it and what steps to take, but I found it sad that she was only doing it to impress others. Insta-design, as I call it, may certainly trick house guests but for the more intuitive set, we can tell when rooms aren’t genuine or personal, when there’s no depth. After the process was complete, she realized how she’d been short changing herself all of these years by not embracing her home. Now, she reads my blog and collects things whenever she travels to add to her space. She is free because she is finally living in her rooms.
The best spaces I’ve visited are the ones that have stories to tell – stories that go beyond last year. The dweller slowly built their collections over a period of time. Items picked up 4 years ago at a flea market. Art purchased in college at a fair. Your embroidered bib, given to you by your mother, that you’ve framed for the new nursery. Textiles handed down from grandparents. Books collected since teengage years. When I step into homes like this, I want to explore and ask questions. I want to know the person.
Design, at least through my lens, is all about the need to surface what I’m feeling on the inside, along with memories I’ve built over the years, and create a home sanctuary in which all that I think and feel is in view. These items all serve as reminders, not only of my own roots and progress (sometimes we can lose touch), but to give visitors a clue about who I am.
Decorating the home is much like writing a diary or creating zines and books from scratch. On one side, you are pulling from within – so many personal reflections, adventures, even some sad moments, and revealing those things to others. You don’t always know just how much of yourself to put out there, but you make decisions along the way and hopefully they are the right ones. On the other side, it’s also very revealing because you are pulling all that is personal to you and displaying it for the world to see. Takes courage to display your sock monkey collection, doesn’t it? Any home can be an ‘overnight success’, but I prefer the longer route, when time is needed for the design to evolve.
Think of a home that you love. It could be a friend, or something you’d spotted in a magazine like ReadyMade, Living Etc, and Domino. Doesn’t it radiate the person living in it, on all levels, right down to their scent?
Today, I encourage you to think about how your home is evolving. Don’t be ashamed if you’ve taken the ‘heat ‘n eat’ road in the past, you can resolve today to infuse a little more YOU into your space. You may think it’s dumb, but do a bit of an inventory. Walk around your home with pen and paper in hand, and write down what you don’t like about it. Be specific. Write down the items that make you feel drained or sad. Perhaps they hold bad memories or you just no longer enjoy them. Those are the items I put on detention for awhile – I pull them from the space and put them in the closet or in the attic for a month or two. Then, I revisit the item and if I still feel the same, it goes to charity or craigslist. The point here is to design for yourself and for your family. Show all that you love in your home. You shouldn’t live around things you don’t care about or love. You are only the age you are today one time in your life. Tomorrow, you will be older. Life is moving forward.
My husband once told me that I had a habit of putting dreams and ideas on hold until a future date when circumstances would somehow be ‘perfect’ then. He told me back then that there’s no future ‘magic time’ when you should start officially living your life and doing all that you love and living in an environment that meets your standards. That time is already here. It’s called Today.
With that being said, anyone have a room in thier home they’d like to share that has evolved over time? OR Do you have a space you need opinions on? A little design direction? We’d love to post and comment about them! Email me at decor8blog AT yahoo DOT com and I may post it here on decor8 with a link to wherever you sit on the web (your blog, business, etc.).
(image from bdc showroom lee jofa.)