It’s a scary statement, isn’t it? It’s not often that you hear someone say it and mean it, and it is even more rare to say it ourselves. But this statement hit me like a brick wall a few days ago. I am happy. It occurred to me that I have been living off of my art(s) for over 8 months. My photography and my art and my fashion design has been supporting me since the beginning of April, and continues to do so.
And you know what? It has changed everything in my life. I take more time to appreciate the work I do and make it as good as I can possibly make it. I am happy with a lot of the work I produce now, which is something I couldn’t say with confidence before now. I wake up every morning (who am I kidding, that should say afternoon) and do something I love. I spend all day doing whatever I want. I take photos for clients or edit photos from recent sessions, or I work on new art, or I write. Sometimes I even take an impromptu day off to hang out with the people I love.
I’ve noticed that since quitting my “real job”, I have been sick less, the migraines I had been plagued with for months before quitting have subsided and I’ve only had maybe 3 or 4 total since April, and I do not wake up already dreading the day ahead of me. I wake up with a whole list of possible outcomes for the day, and rarely does that outcome ever include something I am not happy with.
Over the course of the year, I realized that I needed a change, and I took every step I possibly could to be who I wanted and live life the way I want rather than how people push me to live it. Have I upset some people along the way? Yes. I know I have, and I’m not sorry. I’m doing what’s best for me, and I have never felt better. My life is not perfect. In no way am I saying that. I could use more money, a better home, and I could definitely stand to talk to my parents and siblings more often. Some of my decisions this past year have been rash and unplanned, and maybe not the best idea for that moment in time, but I’ve made it work. I’ve had people supporting me through all of this, and I’ve had even more people tell me that I was making a huge mistake.
Janitorial was not my calling, nor did I want to spend the rest of my life cleaning toilets and getting nowhere. I refuse to spend the rest of my life working at some job I hate just to pay bills when I could be doing something I absolutely love instead. I don’t regret it. I woke up a few days ago and the first thought to cross my mind was the same three words I used for the title of this post. I am happy.
It finally hit me that I was doing exactly what I have always wanted to do. I am officially a full time creator, and I pay all of my bills using money I have made by sharing small pieces of my soul with people. I’ve been making a living sharing what I love with people, and making them smile when they love the products they receive. I have officially picked up the phone to answer the calling that’s been trying to get in touch with me for my entire life. No one can take that from me, nor do I regret the decisions I’ve made to make this a reality for myself.
I no longer dread going to work. I look forward to it. I get excited. I got so excited about a photo booth I was doing last weekend that I couldn’t sleep the night before. I get to make people smile while doing something I love. I get to make people think when they see my artwork.
But do you want to know what the best part about all of this is? I have finally proven to myself that it is possible to make dreams come true. It is possible to make something happen if you want it badly enough. I have had many amazing accomplishments that I wasn’t able to even appreciate because I was so busy working and trying to please other people that it felt like bragging to bring them up.
I am proud that I have shown my fashion designs at Boston Fashion Week. That is a huge accomplishment, and I have never given myself enough credit for making it happen and for it being so successful. Not only did I show there, I was personally invited to show before applications were ever available for the general public. Looking back on it now, that is huge. But I brushed it off back then like it was nothing because no one understood what it meant to me.
I am proud that some of my photographs have been published in a magazine. Maybe it wasn’t a well known publication, but I do have a copy, and that gives me proof that it did happen. And I’ve had other photographers’ work including my fashion designs published in several magazines and newspapers. Again, this is huge, but I could never really express how it made me feel, so I didn’t talk it up.
I didn’t want to sound arrogant or too proud.
I am also proud to say that I will be publishing my first novel next year. Maybe it was originally planned to have been released a few days ago, but it was postponed for reasons of my own and it will definitely be ready before the end of next year.
Another proud moment that gets overlooked by so many people I care about? My art and being able to share it. I was personally scouted by one of my favourite local artists to be a part of an upcoming event that will show my art to the area. I can barely contain my excitement about this, but no one really understands, so I squeal in private when it occurs to me to do so.
What does this all add up to? Essentially that I have had so many good things happen in the recent months that it’s been hard to be focused on the bad. Yes, I do still have days where it feels like the world might end, but they are few and far between. And believe it or not, postponing Between Love and Death was one of the best decisions I’ve made all year. It’s freed up so much of my time this month that my stress levels are at an all time low. Not to say I won’t be stressed when the time comes to finally release the novel, but I will be more comfortable with it after I’ve had more time to pour into making it just right.
I let go of everything that was holding me back. I stopped making decisions to try and make people happy. I started doing things to make myself happy. And it worked. I willed myself to rid my life of everything that stressed me out and made me unhappy, and I am now left with only happy things. Do I have that bigger house yet? No. Not yet. But we are working on it. Am I making as much money as I need to do the things I want? Not yet. But I’m getting there.
My point is this: If you are unhappy with your life, do something about it. Don’t just sit and wait for something to happen to make it better. That won’t work. I did that for years, crossing my fingers and hoping that something would come along and make my life perfect. Nothing ever did. If you want to be happy, you have to work for it. You have to be willing to take chances and do things that terrify you. And when you do finally realize you are happy, be prepared for an emotional torrent so strong it might overwhelm you. I cried when it hit me. I cried for two hours straight when I realized how happy I am and that I am finally doing what I love. I’m not ashamed to tell you that. I don’t care. There is no shame in admitting to any of you that I am happy, and there is no reason any of you should be anything less than happy.
If you start today, who knows how fast it might happen for you. It took me a year to get it all sorted out, and it was a difficult year, but it is ending on an extremely high note. And trust me when I say my year didn’t begin on a very good note.
If you aren’t sure how to start, then start by doing this. Write yourself a list of things that stress you out and make you angry or unhappy. Be specific. Put it all down on one sheet or paper if you can fit it all there, and take a step back. Now do the same thing with a new sheet of paper, but only write down the things that make you truly happy. Jot down the things you love, how you enjoy spending your time, and what your ideal life would include. If the first paper is full of random scribbled and angry notes and there aren’t many on the second sheet, you know where to start.
Take that first sheet of paper, the one with everything that bothers you and makes your life harder in some way, and hold onto it. And at your own pace, start crossing those things off. You can only cross them off once you’ve done something to either make them bearable or to remove them from your life entirely. Once you know what is making your life miserable, you can start doing something to make it better. If there are things on the second sheet of paper that you don’t do enough, use those things to replace something on the first list.
For example, working a job I hated was a huge part of what was wrong with my life, and when I slashed that off my list, I replaced it with my photography and fashion.
I know it’s not as simple as walking away from your job without any warning or plan and everything suddenly working out. It was a struggle for me when I did quit my job, but I was already making some money on the side from my personal projects. But hey, if I had a bunch of money stashed away, I would have quit and gone on a nice like trip to Europe or something.
Stop putting off those trips you always wanted to take. Stop doing something you hate because someone else told you that you have to. Do what’s right for you. I’m doing what’s right for me, and I have never felt better. I am more confident than I was before, less stressed, and my schedule is so flexible I could take the next few months off if I chose to.
I smile constantly, I feel good every day, and I can even see a very clear difference in the quality of art I’m creating. Everything got better when I started removing the stressful parts of my life. So why would you want to wait? I thought I could, and I would still be waiting if I didn’t have a moment of clarity in January of this year that made me realize I had been wasting too much of my life on other people.
I am happy. I am learning to love myself. I am who I want to be. I am doing what I love and still paying my bills. And it’s only getting better from here.