It’s no secret that Apple founder, Steve Jobs, passed away. It’s a trending topic on Twitter, bloggers are busily tapping on keys to express their condolences and newspapers have plastered the sad news all over websites and on their printed pages. I wondered before writing this post what the point would be for me to chime in, just another voice, why would it matter?
Sure, I use Apple products daily but have always been equally loyal to the PC and never understood the need to pick one over the other because both have their place. That’s why this post isn’t about Apple (the product) or how much I love and rely on my iPhone, rather it’s about how important I think it is to find what you love, have courage, possess talent and then act on it just like the brilliant man the world just lost to cancer.
Have you ever read the text of Steve Jobs’ commencement address to Stanford University? I watched the video years ago and was so touched and inspired by his words and thought that if you’ve not watched it already that now is a good time to do so. Here is the link, it’s a really good way to spend just over 14 minutes of your life. Some points from it that I’d like to share and discuss are below. Perhaps you feel the same or would like to chime in…
* “None of this (taking a random calligraphy class in school) had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts.” – Steve Jobs.
My takeaway from his words above is that you have to experiment, get out there, and try new things. Take classes that often feel very unrelated to what you do and that seem to have no practical application, but that simply sound like fun or interest you in some way. An artist may try an astronomy course for kicks and several years later, translate some of that into a body of work that receives an incredible response. You just never know, do you? When I took a random writing workshop one snowy night in January 2006 (in Boston), my teacher said, “If you are not on the internet these days, you don’t exist”. I immediately went home and started writing my first post on decor8 and I’ve been writing ever since. All because of something I heard from a class that I nearly missed due to heavy snow. Again, you never know where certain “moments” in time can lead.
Another thought from Mr. Jobs that stuck with me is,
* “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” – Steve Jobs.
I believe in this wholeheartedly. I’ve often tried to figure out the intentions of others, my own goals, put together a five year business plan (to the advice of friends in the business world)… but in the end I had and still have to ultimately trust my gut. I’d rather experience fear than regret. I may be scared to take a risk but I’ll do it because I’m more concerned to miss out or regret not taking the risk. None of this is based on what looks good on paper or even what is always the best action to take. If it feels like the right thing to do, if my gut drives me in that direction, I often leap trusting that my instincts will not let me down. I also trust in the circle of life and how, “What comes around goes around”, always applies to everything we do whether we want it to or not! It’s something my mother and grandmother always told me and it stuck, and so I tell the same thing to others – if you dish it out expect to receive it back in return! When it comes to connecting the dots by looking backwards — yes, always. That’s why you have to create the dots in the first place and that takes courage.
I really see the wisdom in these words also spoken by Jobs at the same address,
*”Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose… There is no reason not to follow your heart.” – Steve Jobs
How beautifully said is that?! Having lost my talented and lovely aunt to cancer when she was only 40-years-old, I know how it feels to lose someone who was aware of how temporary life really is. In her final days, she was brave and told me to be happy and follow my heart – all this from her death bed weighing only 85 pounds. As a fine artist, art teacher and world traveler (she spoke several languages and taught at prestigious schools), her love for me and for others was proof that she valued life. I remember her making me bears, smocks for painting, dollhouses from wood and other beautiful things when I was a child. Her love of handmade craft and art influenced my life, look at what I do for a living! My mother’s love of making also had a strong influence on me. My aunt never feared death or anything – she was a fighter, a creator of joy, she followed her heart while also embracing others around her helping them to follow their hearts… I think it’s true, we have to step back and think that if we had only a few months left to live would we do anything differently today. Most of us would answer YES. Now the question is, why aren’t we doing it then?
And finally, these words touched me as I’m sure they’ll touch you,
*”Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
I can’t add anything to this – it’s so perfectly stated. When I first heard this I wanted to high five everyone around me.
In the end, we have to find what we love, who we love, what works for us because life is so precious, realized even more the moment someone disappears from this planet. Live for yourself, then others – this is not at all selfish. If you try living for others first denying your own happiness, you are ultimately denying others of happiness too because no one is inspired by a person who is trying to fix everyone else but hasn’t bothered to first be an example and fix their own life.
I hope this post has inspired you today, provided some encouragement, and helped you in even a small way. I know this is a design blog but I have to veer off at times and talk about things that matter most to me because it refuels my creativity and helps me to think outside of design for a moment, which in return inspires my work – being deep at times feeds me and allows me to enjoy my job even more.
To wrap up, I have to share the words from a greeting card I once gave someone when they lost their parent. It stuck with me for years and I refer to it whenever someone dies because it reminds me that the only way to look at death, since there is nothing positive about it in all honesty, is to remember what the person gave us while they were alive to breath some sense into it all and then to think of what they left behind — to take away something beautiful from their passing that will never die – what they taught us.
“The tide recedes, but leaves behind bright seashells on the sand. The sun goes down, but gentle warmth still lingers on the land. The music stops, yet echoes on in sweet, soulful refrains. For every joy that passes, something beautiful remains.” – unknown.
(image: holly becker)
Oh yes, this is a long post and somewhat emotional so you’ll need a cup of tea and some time to read through it so hang in there. :) I’m hoping that by pouring out my heart that you’ll be encouraged somehow. And since I’m feeling a bit better (my cold is almost gone), I also feel chatty. I have a lot of work ahead of me between Monday and the end of July so this weekend I plan to be lazy and spend a lot of time in the sunshine since I have to get my energy up — I’m going on a book tour this summer! My next stop is Amsterdam on June 25 (info here) and then I’ll be back in London this summer and then over to my beautiful home country, the USA baby! I can’t wait to go home for a few weeks — I’ll definitely be in New York, Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco but the other 3-4 cities are yet to be confirmed. I love living in Europe but there’s no place like home and of course, shopping in the states is divine (and so cheap compared to prices here). I will get to see my family and friends, so I’m thrilled. I’ve not been over since last summer so I’m ready!
How about you though, are you doing good? How was your week? You know, I was ill but also just exhausted. I have been working so much since the beginning of 2009 into 2010 and never really took time out to even get SICK never mind to rest. I’m not at all burnt out, I still have a lot of motivation and energy, but I definitely needed the pause that having a cold gave me – and an excuse to do nothing for 3 days. I loved doing nothing in particular but watching films and playing games on my iPhone in bed. I left the house once, yesterday, to go to the farmers’ market where I found the beautiful lilacs that you see above. Having fresh flowers around when you are down feels so cozy somehow, don’t you think?
Which brings me to thinking that when you’re sick you somehow need flowers around. They are a requirement. Chicken soup, water, tea, vitamins, cozy pajamas, a soft pillow and flowers. I remember falling once when I was a kid while rollerskating in the street and I broke my leg which kept me in bed for three months straight. It was such a hard time for a bouncy young girl like me! I hated being bedridden for so long. I remember though that my father sent me flowers several times when he left for work and each time my eyes were glued to the arrangement there on my bedside table because they made me feel so special, so loved, and being that I didn’t have a close relationship with him I held on to all of the attention from daddy that I could get. In fact, any small dose felt like a huge showering of affection and I took it, appreciated every drop, and I kept everything my father gave me until they had absolutely nothing left of them — including flower arrangements.
To this day, when I am sick, either I’ll buy myself flowers or my husband will pick them up for me and I associate them with feeling special, receiving love, and though physically I may be ill and flowers can’t help change that, they do lift me emotionally because I have such fond memories associated with bouquets of them growing up. Either my father would give them to me or my mother, I’d pick them on my grandparents’ farm, I’d watch my mother (a trained florist) arrange them for hours, or I’d help her landscape the yard (her passion).
I think that as I get older and more sure of myself that I feel at ease visiting my childhood and extracting the positive things so that my memories are layered, because when I was younger I often saw only the bad parts of growing up and I ignored the good. What about you, do you think about this at times? When you get to be of parenting age and think about how your own parents were your age once, and how you thought 30 or 35 was SOOOO OLLLLDDDD back then, you get a bit of a wake up call that they really were young and inexperienced just as you are today — don’t you think?
I remember my father coming home when I was a toddler and how I would jump up and down trying to leap over the child gate dividing my bedroom from the living room – seeing him excited me so much. I remember him standing there in his bright yellow hard hat with a big smile, coming towards me to lift me up and over the gate for a hug. He’d always look down at me there in my diaper say, “Let me see that Holly smile!” and I’d grin wide and big, exposing the huge gap between my front teeth that, combined with my chipmunk cheeks and massive dimples, was quite sweet though became the source of painful teasing once in school. When I would smile, he would smile and that is how I learned from an early age that being happy made me happy but also made others around me feel joy. I’ve not stopped smiling since. Now when I consider how old he was then, 29, I can’t believe it. He was so old and wise to me back then, my tall (6’3″), slim, handsome papa was so “perfect” and could do no wrong but he was a mere 29-years-old! Hello, right?!
If you’ll notice on my blog today, I’m talking a lot about my childhood. It mostly has to do with some diaries I came across on Tuesday that I’d long forgotten and hadn’t read for over twenty years. In one, I spoke of how I want to someday live in a city, travel around Europe, be a writer and have a book that becomes a best seller. I was 10-years-old. This completely flipped me out because two days after reading that entry, an entry I don’t even recall writing, my book became a Wall Street Journal bestseller (#2!). Also in the journal I saw all of the little floor plans that I remembered drawing as a little kid but didn’t realize I also had them in my diary. I read through years of my own history and it made me really love that once little girl who wrote them with her “big dreams” even more. I also felt the diaries that I kept in my teens and twenties. Whoa. What was that all about?!
Afterwards I felt this shift inside, a reconnection to my self in a sense, and I’ve been thinking about my entire life from the beginning until now and for the first time I really feel like I can be proud of myself. It’s hard to admit this publicly, I know so many people expect me to be “perfect” but no one is perfect and if you think they are then you are right – they are perfect in some way — they are perfect in putting on a grand show of what they want you to believe about them. Deep inside we all have our hang ups, don’t we? Do you know anyone who doesn’t? But I finally, for the first time in my entire life, feel absolutely 100% proud of myself, the life I’ve created, the ways in which I’ve changed or adapted throughout the years to become more true to self, and I am absolutely proud of ME.
I wonder if you are proud of yourself? I mean, truly proud?
I now wonder what is next. I’ve been waiting my entire life to feel this good about myself. I’ve been waiting to wake up one day and look in the mirror and say, “Holly, you have so much to be proud of, you really did it girl!”. And that day was yesterday. I finally said it, I meant it, I owned it and I didn’t even get emotional or apologize for it. I really, truly owned the moment. I’ve always been so hard on myself and though that drove me to do better work, it also drove me into moments when I simply felt no peace inside of myself until I accomplished this or that goal. I am feeling peace inside now and with this peace, I want to continue on my way as a blogger, friend, wife, daughter and maybe now I’m even ready to be a mother. I’ve been so worried about becoming one until yesterday. I think I needed to get to that place emotionally before I could imagine guiding and directing a young life.
I know, heavy stuff for a decorating blog. But you are my friends and I cherish how I have your friendship and how so many of you relate similar experiences to me in return and perhaps now you can share bits of your life that perhaps you share with me in the comments section. And I feel zero regret for posting this on a design blog because honestly, you can’t even begin to make your home an authentic expression of your taste and style if you are completely out of touch with yourself so emotionally, it’s good to be in the right place even when it comes to decorating. Funny how that is.
Have a wonderful weekend dear friends.
(image: holly becker for decor8)
This is one of my seemingly endless posts. I’m in the writing mood today. There is an ending, I assure you, but from start to finish there are a lot of words in between! I hope that you’ll take a moment to read through it all as this may inspire you quite a lot. That’s my intention anyway. We need to hear positive, uplifting stories and I want to share a piece of my journey with you.
It’s important to pause and step back in order to move forward again. Do you understand what I mean by this? Often the way we once felt about something can reignite a creative spark to help unclog the brain so new ideas can flow in more easily. That is exactly what I did this morning — I took some time out for creative meditation. I didn’t chant or light candles (ha ha), I just sat back and gave myself about 30 minutes to really reflect on a specific time period in my life. As I did this, I poured out some of my thoughts into words and emailed them to a dear friend. I told her this story, more or less, and now I will tell all of you. Try pausing and meditating a bit as well today, even just for 5 minutes, if you can. It’s amazing to look back and find the golden thread that runs through all of your experiences and to connect the dots.
When I was newly married in 2001, we rented a huge barn in the countryside in Massachusetts in a truly quintessential New England town. Imagine a rustic and beautiful 100-year-old barn with two floors, wooden walls, a wood burning stove, wide pine floors and massive windows. So pretty. So much light. The second floor had more windows and skylights and you could lay on the bed and see the sky – we loved to star gaze in bed at night while listening to the crackle of the wood burning stove. We even had a waterfall in the backyard and fruit trees. This place couldn’t be more New England, especially with a covered bridge a block away. We were broke, my husband had just relocated to America from Germany a few months prior and though he was working, he was selling books at Barnes & Noble by night and teaching by day. I was working full-time, but even with a combined income the numbers were not that impressive. Having less money made me much more creative than ever before. In fact, I loved to decorate my barn and have friends over (because we couldn’t afford to go out), mostly to flip through design books and snack and talk about big dreams and crazy ideas. Those were the days when the only way to tap into design was through a book or magazine and maybe, if you were lucky, your favorite designer would be on television now and then or they’d get their own show so you could obsess about it. Books were my connection to the world of design. It was through them that I discovered the magic of decorating and the influence that the printed page has over the ideas of a young woman.
I remember my favorite design books at that time included Inspired Gatherings by Tracy Porter and Tracy Porter’s Dreams From Home. I thought her design philosophy was inspiring – to decorate with joy and to celebrate life. She loved color. She piled it on when she decorated and was fearless. In fact, I still have her books in my library as they inspired my own dreams back in the late 90s well into 2000 and beyond so I hung onto them. I was endlessly inspired by Rachel Ashwell’s books also, along with her television show. We didn’t have cable (couldn’t afford it!) so my friend would tape them and we’d huddle around my tiny television to watch Rachel with her fancy English accent talk about her love for cabbage roses and precious things, and how she delighted in putting little notes in her kid’s lunch bags. I was so young, in my early twenties, and remember soaking in every word from Rachel that I could. Her attention to detail blew my mind. I wanted to put notes in Thorsten’s lunch bag but I didn’t think it would fly but still… Rachel made me feel like it was okay that I was so obsessed with the little things and that my casual approach to decorating was okay. She also confirmed that flea marketing and hitting junk sales was also fine. I started flea marketing as a child with my mother and grandparents but it wasn’t nearly as cool to decorate with “junk” until Rachel and others in that time period put their stamp of approval on it. And good for them. Good for me too because at that time, a $5 table for my eating nook was all I could afford.
Amidst the design book addiction that I had, I also ran an eBay shop for a few years during that time. I would scour flea markets for vintage finds and sell them. I arranged things in my home (not beautifully but I did okay) and shot photos for each product and once sold, I would wrap up orders with great care using tissue paper and rubber stamps with Eiffel Towers on them, little poodles, and “Merci beaucoup” stamped on little white tags because I was addicted to all things French. I hand wrote letters of thanks to each customer. I even sold some handmade items like switch covers — I collaged wooden switch covers from the craft store (so tacky in retrospect LOL) and sold them. I put great care into my customers, it was my “night” job, during the day I worked in the corporate world as a relocation and immigration manager, but my many loyal customers and their emails and eBay feedback fueled me to keep selling in my little eBay shop. Every dollar was a big deal.
Thinking back, I remember my husband laughing at how long I’d spend packaging eBay wins. He thought it was funny how I conducted business — I’d earn maybe $5 on something but spend 30 minutes packaging it and sometimes $2 on materials to package it and then have to spend another few bucks for eBay fees so in the end I earned about one dollar! Ha! But I kept going, not because it was going to make me famous or rich, but because I was happy being a little shop owner in that barn reaching out to my circle of devoted customers on the internet. I wrote up my eBay product descriptions showing what I was selling “in-situ” with decorating ideas for the product I was selling. I guess I was blogging even back in 2001 long before blogs came to be. It’s a riot to think about but even funnier is how life comes full circle.
In 2005, during a trip to Los Angeles, I met Rachel Ashwell, a month after I started my little design practice and registered decor8 on blogspot.com. Meeting Rachel was so inspiring. She signed a book and I shopped her outlet sale in this big warehouse she had. I looked at her world as if it were this magical fairy-filled land where only certain few could ever reside, yet I was determined to meet her and so I did. I started reading her books when she first put them on shelves, back in the 90s, so it was a big deal to meet Rachel.
Fast forward to 2010. I became a blogger with fans! Oh my! That is a pretty big accomplishment that opened up a chance for me to become an author. Maybe my book will be part of someone else’s time line someday, where they can say my book was part of their journey to connect the dots. I hope so anyway. Because books can influence us so deeply. But yes, last year I spent 10 months working on my first book (dream come true) and decided to ask Rachel to contribute along with over 50 others who have inspired me throughout the years. I interviewed her and some of her quotes are in my upcoming book. I traveled to Los Angeles and shot the home of one of her dear friends and during the morning of the shoot, Rachel loaned us some props for me to use in the house. Squeal!
Then in 2010 while I was teaching in Morocco, I met publisher and all around amazing lady Jo Packham – the women who wrote another book that I once referred to daily called Where Women Create. I felt so inspired by it because this whole world of seeing inside the studios of others was still so new to me back then. Of course, with blogging and technology in general, seeing a creative space is quite common these days — but I still love peeking in on where women (and men!) do their thing and find people’s arrangements and work nooks so inspiring. Spending time with Jo Packham for 10 days was a lovely moment in time for me. I still don’t think she realizes how much her book inspired me when she first published it.
So what about today? Let’s get back to those Tracy Porter books that I loved a million years ago. Well here we are in 2011, over 12 years since I first found Tracy Porter’s world through her books, and I get this message on my blog today from her – out of the blue – from Tracy Porter. I’ll admit, I haven’t followed her work as much as I once did because I don’t think she has published a book since this one but I did a double take when I saw that she’d posted a comment on my blog today. I could have died. She said some really nice things to me and the timing was perfect — they came at a moment in my life when I needed to hear them as I’ve been going through a hard few weeks of feeling cluttered in my head and a bit demotivated as I sometimes do during February since it’s freezing and gray and I can’t seem to find enough energy inside to motivate myself and my work. As a result, I get the winter blues and they last for 2-3 weeks. It’s a hard time! In February, I rely so much on exterior things to rev me up and it’s almost like Tracy knew because seeing her comment made me very happy today and gave me a ton of energy. I am throwing my arms open to the month of March now with vigor and joy because my blue period feels nearly lifted. Tracy’s brief comment inspired me to meditate on my beginnings and connect the dots and I feel better for it.
To wrap up, I find it so encouraging to see how our past inspirations and influences can form who we are today in ways so unexpected and although I’ve found my own style, these wonderful women all helped me to tap in to who I was at where I needed to go in my life — they helped me to identify what I really liked. Having a little eBay business in 2001 influenced me as a blogger in ways I’d not thought about until today.
There is still so much magic in the world and you don’t always have to actively do things or seek people out — they’ll often find YOU. The only thing that you must do is to go out there with an intention and circulate in the same circle as your leaders and role models, find your own voice, and they just may listen to that voice and call you an inspiration in return. Kismet. And if they never find you, then you’ll find others who will connect with your ideas and values and through all of these connections a great thing will happen. You’ll find yourself.
Sorry to ramble but this chapter of my life just shows you how things happen and not always overnight, but in time, things come full circle. I thought it was pretty amazing when Tracy contacted me today — all of these memories unfurled and I was able to tap in to who I was and where I am today and I’m feeling good about it.
Now it’s your turn to create some sort of time line and think about where you were and try to connect the dots to where you are today. You can even try it in the comments section below as a writing exercise. I will read them and would love to “see” your time line as well.
(images: tracy porter)