On October 24, 2014, I left my full-time corporate day job at an insurance company to pursue my dream of designing full-time. Now to many 20-somethings desk-dwellers, actually giving that resignation letter to a job that pays the bills but doesn't feed your soul is a dream come true. And I wish I could say that I still bought into the hype but having already done this song and dance once before, I knew what I was in for was going to be harder than any TPS report could ever be.
Last year, I interviewed a few fellow dream chasers to tell their story alongside my own. I outlined my plan for survival: supplement my business with freelance writing and have a studio for Ready to Stare outside my house. Both of those things did happen according to plan. I ended that blog post with hope. I hoped that leaving my day job for the second time would stick. I hoped that moving home would be a temporary personal sacrifice that would grow my business by leaps and bounds. And most of all I hope that this life would be at least sustainable because I didn't know what I would do if it wasn't. I hoped that a year later, I would be able to write a follow-up post outlining all of the things that happened because I believed in myself, but this is not that post. Well not quite.
I'm going to try and keep this as positive as possible which is why I'm combining this post with a #StareStyle look featuring a tee from Making All The Noise that says "Get Money." I've already discussed how Lil Kim influenced my style. But this year, I needed Queen Bee for more than just style inspo. Lil Kim's confidence and bravado was exactly what I needed to channel to get through this year. I needed to believe in myself more than ever before. I didn't have to just be confident; I had to be fearless. But the irony an "imma throw shade if I can't get paid" message and my own ongoing struggle to survive off a passion-drive life is not lost on me.
I've lived in three different states for the 3.5 years I've run my business. I always saw moving as a way to change my circumstances. Moving home was my last ditch effort to run my business and not kill myself at a corporate day job too. I know I am capable of doing both, but I know it also comes at a high cost. So when I moved home, I made it a goal to "get money" but in a way that did feed my soul. In so many ways, Ready to Stare has grown: a new studio and for the first time a showroom, three new collections, a new website and the introduction of #Staretique. And I've grown too. In addition to the freelance marketing copywriting I was doing, I started writing about fashion, beauty and body positvity and I remembered why I went to school to become a journalist in the first place. I wanted to tell people's stories and open people's minds to new ideas. I feel confident that my work as a writer has done that. And completely unrelated to my professional life I accomplished a life goal in traveling to Sicily and meeting relatives on both sides of my family for the first time.
I hear "you're so successful all the time" but I have to wonder by what definition do people think that? By society's, I am a failure. I am a 27-year-old college graduate who sleeps on a pullout couch in her Dad's man-cave. I have no 401K and financial stability at this point seems like a distant dream to me. I am a baby boomer's nightmare. But before I got into this situation, I decided creating my own definition for success was absolutely necessary for survival. Society's definition of success isn't based on the reality of the many creatives I know and admire so much. And I knew it didn't fit for me either.
I hoped that living at home was temporary but I also recognized that without working a 9-5, I may be at home longer than I wanted. I make peace with that trade-off every day especially when my dad wakes me up by singing Engelbert Humperdinck karaoke at 7 a.m. on a Saturday. At that point, my desire to grow my business and build my personal brand have to be very strong and I'm happy to say there's still nothing else I would rather do than run RTS, blog, and write even if it means a few more mornings listening to Engelbert. I also recognize that the ability to live at home with supportive parents who listen to my every entrepreneurial breakdown and take my blog photos isn't a punishment; it's a privilege.
As a passion-driven person, money doesn't rule my decisions. My definition of success has more to do with who I am able to inspire than the thread-count of the sheets I lay my head on at night. I would rather create a new collection than have the latest iPhone. I define success by my ability to create social change through fashion and activism. Fashion has always been my way to start the conversation. If I can make you stare, I hope I can make you think. I don't know where I will be next year and that does scare the shit out of me, but I do now that speaking my mind is like breathing for me and I know I will still be a loudmouth following my passion in some way or another.
I was going to end this with a cocky Lil Kim quote but while I was writing this, I overhead this quote and it just seemed to fit better:
"No matter how difficult life gets, the important thing is to live it with hope."
Lil Kim Get Money Tee, C/O Making All The Noise
Layered Chain Bracelet, Ready to Stare
Leather Pencil Skirt, Eloquii (similar here)
The Lucy Layered Chain Belt, Ready to Stare