Life is funny. As kids, people ask us, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” as if there were any real possibility that we’ll know who we’ll be, what skills we’ll have, what passions we’ll possess in 20+ years. And then, there are plenty of us with ever-changing passions and evolving ideas, unwilling to stick to one singular thing for long.
Cutting to the chase, I’m shutting down Oak Story Design. I noticed a week or so ago in my Facebook memories, that it had been exactly 6 years, to the day, since I announced that I would be pursuing design full time. And it has been a fun, unexpected 6 years! I’ve built a business from the ground up, learned a trade that I was never formally trained in, found myself booked out 6 months in advance, and did a pretty darn good job at it.
I found so much joy in the constant learning and building. I loved always trying to make the business better and pushing myself to design in a more advanced and beautiful way. I marveled at the transformations I was a part of and was honored when the transformations were more than in just the home, but in the clients too.
But that joy and spark is gone now. This job no longer excites me most days, and that’s really hard to face each and every day. For about a year and a half now, I’m been wrestling with this idea, trying to change things to bring back that spark. I’d worked so hard to get here, it felt like I had to be missing something – there had to be a tweak I could make or a process I could change – something that would bring back the excitement.
But I’ve come to the conclusion that my experience isn’t changing and that it’s time to end this chapter. I don’t enjoy the work anymore and that affects every area of my life – my clients can feel it, my family can feel it, my friends can feel it, and most importantly, I can feel it.
And here’s the thing, I’ve said from the beginning that I shifted into this career as a way to “live the life I want” and stop living in default mode. Too often we get caught in “autopilot” and months or years (or even decades!) pass before we look back and realize that we haven’t been happy for far too long. That’s time we’ll never get back! So, here I am again with the “check engine” light on, and I can’t ignore it any longer. I need a change.
I’ve learned a lot in these 6 years and maybe even more in this discernment process I’ve been in over the last few months that I want to share…
I’ve learned that I can do anything I set my mind to. There are so many resources out there. With those and some grit and determination, I can learn and do anything I want. And you can, too, honestly, if you set your mind to it.
I’ve learned that running a business is not for the faint at heart. It is hard work. You are the CEO, the CFO, the Accountant, the Marketing Director, the trades person (in this case, the Interior Designer), the Salesperson, the Office Manager, and even the Janitor. Plus, you and you alone are responsible for your livelihood, your income – if you don’t produce and succeed, you don’t get paid. You stay up at night worrying, you constantly think about the business, you receive and handle all the complaints (and compliments, too, to be fair ;)), and you do it alone for the most part (at least when you first start up).
I’ve learned that we’re all so much alike. Almost every home I’m invited into, the owner says something along the lines of, “Oh gosh, please don’t look at the mess” or “This is so embarrassing, but we’ve put this off for so many years that now we’re living with [this or that]” or “I just feel so lost and don’t know where to start” or “My house/bathroom/kitchen is making me crazy. It stresses me out so much”. If everyone only knew that they’re not the only ones. I’m invited into the most intimate part of your lives, in some ways, and I’m here to tell you, we’re all struggling. And let’s just go ahead and acknowledge that our homes aren’t the only area where this is true. You are not alone.
I’ve learned I put a lot of my identity in what I do or produce. I’m actually still very much working on this. But if my kids were currently in this boat, I’d grab their little (adult?) faces and say, “Oh sweet child, you are not your career or job choice. The essence of you is so much more than that. You were loved from the very beginning simply because you existed. And you’ll never feel fully loved if you’re constantly trying to earn it. You are enough, as you are.”
I’ve learned life has seasons, and something can be good – even, really good – for a season and that it’s ok to let that season pass. In fact, that’s the way of the world, right? What nature teaches us? So, let’s honor those seasons, be grateful for them, learn from them, and move on to the next.
On a similar note, I’ve learned that rarely are any of us living in the exact same season of life and we have to do what is right for us and our families in the context of the season we are in. I can’t compare where I am with another person or where I should be according to Forbes magazine. I can’t even compare where I am with where I thought I would be at this point in my life. I believe there are choices we get to make in every season to make it work for us, to maximize the precious time we get with family and friends, and to live into the very best version of ourselves.
Shifting gears, I’m grateful for each and every client I’ve had. I’m especially grateful for those first few who put their trust in this inexperienced designer and then spread the word so graciously. And I’m grateful for the countless repeat clients I’ve had; there’s no greater compliment.
It was literally a childhood dream of mine to become an Interior Designer, but I truly didn’t think it was possible. I’d always say, “In another life, I’d be an Interior Designer” Well, I did it…in this life! What a joy and an honor. I’m proud of myself for taking the risk. I’ll never regret this season, if for nothing else, for the fact that I got to live out a dream.
So, everyone’s inevitable question is, “So, what’s next?!” And the answer is, “I don’t know.” And, I’ll tell you, I’ve also learned that I don’t like living in the unknown or in-between. This is not my jam. But I’m trusting that this, too, is a season. One that is here for me and one that will all make sense in hindsight. I’m leaning into the discomfort in hopes that I’ll learn what I’m meant to learn.
I do know I hope for bigger and better things in my future. I hope to be able to speak truth into people’s lives in a way that is impactful and long-lasting. I hope that I’ll live more fully into who I was made to be and the things that actually and truly light me up. And I hope that this story and experience inspires someone out there to take the leap, do it scared, and live fully alive. Don’t wait. It'll be worth it, I promise.