Say “Yes” to You

photo by Helga Weber
photo by Helga Weber

This is a guest post from Michaela Cristallo.

We’re the masters of our own destiny, or so it would seem. For all the choices we have the freedom to make, though, it’s quite amazing how many of us find ourselves living a life we don’t enjoy.

In the blur of expectations, responsibilities, and commitments, often a whole series of so-called rational decisions lead us to a place we never really wanted to be at all.

Two years ago I found myself in this exact situation. I had just finished a course in fashion design, and was incredibly excited to be planning to launch my own business as a designer doing what I loved. I was full of energy and motivation, and it felt like nothing could stop me.

Instead of launching straight in, though, I decided it would be a smart move to get some experience in the industry first. Unfortunately the fashion industry isn’t an easy one to get into, and six months after graduation I caved.

Instead of continuing to search for work in the industry I wanted to be part of, or just throw caution to the wind and start my business then and there, I did the exact opposite. In a decision I genuinely question looking back, I took a well-paid job in the corporate world doing something I hated.

Rationally, it made sense. I needed a job and I couldn’t find the one I wanted so it was the next best choice. In reality, though, I was walking straight back into a situation I’d known and loathed before.

As expected, my life working there was miserable. It was full of anguish and mini breakdowns that no one except me understood.

Many of my friends and family questioned how I could be so upset working in a “good,” well-paid job where I was treated well and had so many opportunities for advancement. What no one else seemed to understand, though, is that it was so far from where I wanted to be that it made me miserable.

Every day felt like just another day in an endless continuum of being chained to a life I didn’t want, and every hour I’d spend there was one I knew could be better spent working towards my dreams.

Reading this story, you might think working there was some kind of financial necessity or essential stepping stone. Unfortunately, it was neither. I could have easily taken a lesser paid, more enjoyable job, or even a part time one, and gotten by just fine.

What was really holding me there were my own and other people’s expectations.

What I realised (perhaps a little too late) is that I was unable to say yes to my own needs first.

I had convinced myself that if I wasn’t yet starting my business and I couldn’t land a job in the fashion industry, I should do something productive. That “something productive” for me was making some money in the meantime and being seen to be doing something acceptable by other people’s standards.

In doing what I believed to be rational, though, I set myself up for misery.

I struggled to leave that job for almost a year before I finally did because, despite how upset it made me, I convinced myself it was the next best option to living my dream. I hadn’t shelved my dream, of course, but I’d resigned myself to the fact that, until I was ready to take the plunge, this would be my life.

That resignation to a life I didn’t want to be living almost crushed me.

The final straw came on a morning in May a little over a year ago now. I was stressed to the max and at absolute tipping point. In a bout of craziness (or lets call it bravery) I told my manager I was leaving. I had no job lined up and no definite plan, but there was not a day more I could take it.

To others my choice was crazy, and perhaps a little brash. To me, though, it was the best feeling in the world. I was saying yes to me, finally.

A year on now I can confidently say that saying yes to me has been the best decision I ever made.And, despite all my trepidation, when I did things oddly fell into place. Days after I quit I received a part-time job offer, and within weeks I was moving into a studio space just ten minutes’ walk from my house to work alongside a bunch of amazing creative people who are also following their dream.

Today I’m living a life I love. I’m a fashion designer running my own accessories label, working out of an awesome studio space with other creatives, and writing about creativity on my brand new blog.

Of course, not every day is perfect. There have been challenges, setbacks, and low days along the way. Every day, though, has been one I’ve intentionally created by choosing to put myself first, and to me that’s the best feeling in the world.

If you’re in a place you never wanted to be, perhaps you can relate. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt along the way it’s that for all the so-called rational decisions based on expectations, commitments, and responsibilities, there is only really one person you need to face up to at the end of the day, and that’s you.

Start saying yes to you today. It might just be the best decision you ever make.

Do you say yes to you and your dreams? Or do you find yourself trapped living a life you don’t enjoy by a series of seemingly rational decisions? Share your experiences in the comments.

– – –
michaela-cristalloMichaela is a fashion designer and general creative enthusiast who writes on living a creative life at For the Creators. Join her at For the Creators to embrace your creativity and live it every day with passion.

17 thoughts on “Say “Yes” to You

  1. Not to be too “woo woo”, but the universe has an amazing way of answering your wishes, sometimes in spades. I can totally relate to your story, Carrie. I had a job most graphic artists would kill for, but I was uninspired and ready for branch out on my own. However, I had no means to do so just yet. I know I was going into the office with only half effort each day, and it probably showed.

    One day, I was talking to a friend about my situation and she told me that since i worked for a major corporation I could probably go to the HR department and volunteer to be laid off because they usually have a certain amount of people they let go of every year. It sounded completely nuts, but I honestly pondered it for a few days.

    That following Monday, I sat down at my computer and sighed. I murmured to myself, “I do not want to be here”, fired up my computer and opened my email. The first message in my inbox said “IMPORTANT – All hands meeting!”. The second message said, “You have a mandatory meeting with [Executive VP’s name], a man I had never spoken with ever.

    Long story short, my entire group had been sold to another corporation, but they were not taking everyone. In fact, all the art department people get laid off. My colleagues were freaking out, but I was excited. It was scary, but I was happy to be leaving. Now I could finally get off my ass and go do what I was truly meant to be doing.

    So yeah, I get where you’re coming from, and congrats on making that jump.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story Dave, I am starting to believe more and more too that the universe does have a way of answering our wishes.

      So glad to hear that your escape came at just the right time for you, I’m sure you are living a much more fulfilled life today because of it :)

  2. Thanks so much for sharing your story, Michaela. I found it really inspiring, and I needed to read it today. I am at an awkward point in my life where my finances are in utter chaos due to my stupid student loans I took out for interior design school, while at the same time things are really starting to work out in my art career. My family keeps trying to convince me that I need to find a better paying day job, but what I like about it is that it does not place so many demands on my time. Because of that, I have been able to do more to promote my art and find shows to apply for. But they don’t see that. Thank you for showing me that things can work out.

    1. Glad to hear you found it inspiring Tiffany. It sounds like your family are putting a lot of pressure on you to live the life they think is best, but I’m so happy to hear you know you deserve better. What is best for them isn’t necessarily best for you. I say keep pushing forward with your art career if that’s what you love, things will find a way of working themselves out :)

  3. Thanks for sharing your story! I found myself working in a miserable job for some years before I decided to start making art again. That eventually led me to quit my job to create art full-time, but it was a long process. I took classes while I was still working and eventually moved to a more low-key job in preparation to make the leap. At no point has it been easy. For a year after I quit, I would wake up at night wondering how I could have left the security of that job, no matter how stressed and sick it made me. I still have thoughts of getting another job to help “contribute” (that’s my justification) because it is a struggle generating income through my artwork alone. Fortunately, I have the unwavering support of my husband and all my family and friends. Usually it is one of them who convinces me to stick with it when those thoughts come around again, and for that, I am thankful.

    1. Thanks for sharing Heather, I’m glad to hear you decided to put you first and chose your art career over the secure job. I’m sure you are happier for it! Working in a creative industry is always going to be a struggle. I too am not 100% there. I still work at the part time job I found myself a year ago but the main thing is I am putting my dreams and creativity first.

      It’s wonderful that you have a supportive husband, family and friends, that can make all the difference :)

  4. Your story sounds a lot like mine – only mine was 25 years ago. I had dreamed of being a fashion designer and had been sewing all my life. Although I didn’t major in art or design at the university I attended, I was taking costume design courses and working with the drama department in the costume shop. In an unlikely series of events, a very well know bridal gown designer (in the late 80s) was setting up couture shop in my small town, so I had the opportunity to get in the industry without striking out for New York or some other big city. This woman was an absolute nightmare and I only lasted 6 months. I was devastated and convinced that I just wasn’t cut out for a career in design. I walked away from it all. Fast forward to today, and I have rediscovered my first love by using those skills in my ministry to orphans in Africa. My creative life is no longer about my ambition, skill, or worthiness but just being the most authentic version of myself, who I was created to be. So good for you for discovering that waaay earlier than I did. :)

    1. What an amazing story Molly! Thank you for sharing it :) I’m so glad to hear you are now living life as your most authentic self and the work you are doing sounds incredibly worthwhile!

      Isn’t it horrible how one bad experience can completely crush our dreams? The fact that you are today using those skills shows that you had what it took all along, the circumstances just weren’t right at the time.

  5. I left after five years as President of a company because it was sending me into a slow-motion death spiral. Everyone but my husband thought I was nuts. Now I have time to be creative and, more importantly, the emotional energy to FEEL creative. Thanks for your blog. You are brave and deserve credit for that.

    1. What a big leap Dawn! I’m so happy to hear you trusted your instincts on this one and made the change even without the support of others, many people aren’t brave enough to do that.

      The emotional energy is definitely the big one for me. When working in a full time job that drains you, though you might find pockets of time here and there to work on your creative endeavours, it’s the emotional energy that is lacking to feel creative.

  6. Wow! I can totally relate to all these stories. I am struggling also with working a full time job I don’t enjoy all that much whilst trying to work on getting my jewellery business up and running. I graduated from my Art and Design course 2 and a half years ago now, and although I am making progress with my business it is very slow. I also find it very difficult to be able to develop any new work as I don’t have the free time to sit and dream up new ideas! The thing that is holding me back is the pressure of needing to bring in the money, as my husband is only in his second year of a new apprenticship, which isn’t well paid. I don’t know how we will make it work money wise if I don’t work full time, as currently my jewellery work is nowhere near enough to support us. I would love to take the plunge, and am always pondering the idea of getting a different job with less hours, but not having the security of money is a scary thought. Thank you for the inspiration and I hope I can take that leap of faith myself in the near future!! :)

    1. I can totally relate to your struggle Naomi. I found my progress while working full time was very slow as well, I would come home from work exhausted and deflated and very rarely would I feel creative at all.

      The pressure of money is a big one! I’m lucky to have found a part time job that can support me (on a tight budget!) so that I am able to take my time with my business without a deadline or intense pressure to make money. I hope you can find a similar compromise that you can make work for you. Taking the plunge is brave but it’s always good to have some sort of plan in place too to make it work.

      P.S. Just checked out your website, beautiful work :) I see you’re in Adelaide, I’m in Sydney! Always cool to see a fellow aussie online :)

        1. Thanks Naomi, you can check out my blog For the Creators at forthecreators dot com or by clicking on the link in my bio above. Would love to see you there, I write about embracing your creativity and the struggles we face along the way in doing so. It could be just what you need!

  7. I can totally relate to your struggle Naomi. I found my progress while working full time was very slow as well, I would come home from work exhausted and deflated and very rarely would I feel creative at all.

    The pressure of money is a big one! I’m lucky to have found a part time job that can support me (on a tight budget!) so that I am able to take my time with my business without a deadline or intense pressure to make money. I hope you can find a similar compromise that you can make work for you. Taking the plunge is brave but it’s always good to have some sort of plan in place too to make it work.

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