Looking Back, Moving Forward

2014 was one for the books. I am thankful to say it was full of incredible experiences from which I've grown in countless ways. From spending a few nights in snowy Michigan with a dear friend, to wandering the streets of Portugal and Spain, to reconnecting with old friends against the New York City skyline, to caving in Kentucky, seeing family in Atlanta and eating all the food in Portland... it's hard to believe I've had so many incredible opportunities this year. Sprinkled in between those trips were many little moments that are just as worthy of gratitude: moments that taught me how to be a better partner and friend, moments that reminded me of the importance of self-trust and self-worth, moments that reminded me to show up for each day and give whatever I could.

The year ahead feels like a giant blank canvas, and I'm excited to see what it will look like in the end. There will be some big transitions this year, and while I'm a little nervous, I'm looking forward to the opportunity to grow and build a new life. I am ready for a change.

I've been thinking a lot about the idea of choice lately. One of the perks of being a freelancer is the plethora of choices, of ownership, you get to have every day: which projects to take on, what pitches to write, what your value is, what standards you have for your work. I've been so enveloped in choices as a freelancer that I've forgotten to step back and look at the plethora of choices I have in how I handle my personal life as well. The idea of choice is an empowering one, but for some reason not always an obvious one. We can all choose to look at our problems with curiosity rather than anger. We can approach our futures with hope rather than crippling panic (admittedly, I struggle with this one the most). We can choose action over worry; compassion over indifference. We can choose to take a leap of faith or remain in a situation that doesn't serve our values. 

There are always a million things swirling in my head about what I'd like to change in my life, but for 2015 I want to work on the intention behind each choice. To remember that I always have a choice. Plain and simple. It can make or break us. Life will always throw curveballs no matter how careful or calculated we try to be, and this is the best reason I can think of to continue in the pursuit of passion, exciting opportunities, unknown chances. The pursuit of choice.

The past year has been really good to me, and I look forward to welcoming 2015 with open arms and heart.

What about you? What will you choose in the coming year?

Life Lately | Winter Madness

Life Lately-Winter Madness | High Fives for Everyone
Life Lately-Winter Madness | High Fives for Everyone

This winter has been a particularly rough one, at least mentally. All these grey days have really sucked the motivation out of me, but I'm pushing through it as best as I can. Winter has never been my favorite, but I've been challenging myself to see every grey day in a new light through my photography and art. The other day on a particularly frigid morning walk, I happened to look over and see two swan lawn ornaments popping their heads out of the snow. These are my favorite moments: the little unassuming ones, the ones that remind you of the light at the end of the tunnel. This snow won't last forever, the temperatures will start climbing soon, the damp Spring air is just around the corner. It was just the reminder I needed to get me through these last few weeks of winter. Photos from my instagram feed. You can follow along @highfivesforeveryone.

Freelance | Year One

My First Year of Freelance | High Fives for Everyone
My First Year of Freelance | High Fives for Everyone

A year ago yesterday, I walked out the doors of my day job for the last time and jumped into my dreams of a full time freelance life. I can hardly believe all that has transpired in that time: I've learned countless new skills, taught some classes, and even got to work with one of my dream clients. This past year has been all at once terrifying, exhausting, exciting and just all around crazy. It has also been the most exhilarating. There were a lot (a LOT) of times I wondered if I'm capable of handling it all, if I have what it takes, if I really want to do this for the rest of my life. Then I remember that beyond the haze of doubt and confusion, I have total ownership of my life. Every single triumph and every single failure, they are mine. More than anything, at the end of the day I feel accomplished and proud, and that's worth all those moments that test your spirit. The theme of the last 4 years of my life has been “pursuit” and now it’s starting to be “achieve”. I always kind of imagined I’d be stuck in the pursuit, so it all feels a little surreal that some of my dreams are coming to fruition. All the things I’ve done, all the things I perceived to be failures or setbacks helped me to get to this place right now, which is the place I’ve been dreaming about for a long time. It feels pretty awesome, and just makes me believe more than ever that you’re always where you’re supposed to be, even when it seems like you’re not - the key is to keep the eyes on the prize because eventually that big break will come through. It won’t come without a lot of questions and self doubt and frustration and, yes, failure.

I can hardly believe all that I've accomplished, professionally and personally. The hurdles of self-doubt and the floods of questions have only served to make me a better business owner, a more intentional and skilled artist. I am certainly still learning the ropes, I still have so many skills to improve and goals that are waiting to be accomplished. I am still learning the seasons of the business, and the seasons of my creativity, how to make them live in harmony. This journey has been all at once exciting, liberating and empowering. There were more scary moments than I was prepared to handle. And despite the many times I've asked myself "Can I really handle this? Am I totally insane for doing this?" I have never once regretted my decision to pursue life as a freelancer. I still have many moments of discomfort with the uncertainty about the future, but I cannot help but feel one thing: I am so ready to take on year two. Ultimately, this year has given me a strong sense of accomplishment, a deeper clarity on my goals for the future, a stronger focus on where I want to direct my business in the future, all of which I could never have predicted a year ago.

In the year to come, I hope to dedicate more time to teaching (something I discovered I really enjoy), to push my work and skills to higher levels, to travel more, to connect and collaborate with other creatives, to open a new online shop, to write and reflect more often, and to continue going after those dream clients/projects. Cheers to year two. Let's do this!

Ever So Thankful

Gratitude has played a large role in my day-to-day life as I grow older. Finding any small reason to feel thankful every day has undoubtedly gotten me through one of the toughest years of my life.

The list of things I am thankful for is pretty endless, but in no particular order here are just a few noteworthy things that make my life just a bit brighter.

Cheers to travel and adventure, no matter the distance. To cheese. Lots and lots of cheese. And wine. New recipes. A family that never ceases to be supportive. Friends that are hilarious and brilliant. Sunlight bursting through white curtains. The scent of garlic cooking, and sharing meals with friends. I'm even thankful for the dark, sad, shitty days - because they've helped me grow and evolve in ways I never could have otherwise. The ability to keep in touch with friends living halfway around the world. Those elusive moments of stillness. Warm blankets and cat snuggles. A career that challenges and fulfills me and allows me to dream big.

I hope you dream big, too.

And Happy Thanksgiving, wherever you may be in life, it is all beautiful.

Take the Leap

I am about to make a big transition in my life. In so many ways, I'm unprepared. So often we're told to be fully prepared before making major decisions -plan for your future, save your money, wait for the right time. The last few weeks have been pretty exciting and unexpected and have lead me to this: I quit my day job. If you remember, this was one of my 2013 wishes, but to be perfectly honest, I didn't think it would happen this soon, if at all. In my mind, I'd make the leap into freelancing once I had a stack of money saved up, and perhaps a few more steady clients under my belt for added security. But as recent circumstances unraveled, it became apparent to me that I had to make a choice, fast. I am a chronic overdoer, and it's really hard for me to take a step back from anything. I'm passionate about so many things, enamored with so many ideas, and I want to do them all, and often I'm delusional enough to think I can. However, I was really starting to push my limits and my mental capacity was suffering: simple things like cutting an apple felt too complicated, and that's when I knew it was time to make some changes.

The thing is, there's never a perfect time to start anything, and that couldn't be truer than now. This economy makes the world a scary place, but I also think it's liberating. It's natural to cling to this idea of stability during these times, and hold onto what we think is safest. But experience tells me that no job is safe or stable, no matter how successful the company is. That is why there is no better time to dig your heels into the ground and create your dream job or pursue whatever it is you love most. Certainly there is the possibility for failure, but there is also opportunity for incredible growth, and the life you want.

If there is a hunger inside of you, feed it with what you love.

So, with that, my dreams of being a full time freelancer have come true, and I still have not fully processed that fact yet. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't absolutely terrified, but I sure as hell am ready. Here goes!

Sleepwalk With Me

Have you seen Mike Birbiglia's movie Sleepwalk with Me? I loved it so much I watched it twice within a 12 hour period. It beautifully discusses relationships, marriage and most poignantly the struggle to realize your dreams and has the same candor as This American Life stories (which only makes sense, since it was co-written by Ira Glass). If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it.

Here's a really great tidbit from the movie: "It wasn't going so well, but I kept telling myself that it was. I think to be a comedian you have to be a little bit delusional. particularly starting out, there's just so much failure. And amidst that failure you have to tell yourself that it's going quite nicely, because if you didn't, you would just never get on stage again."

And a hilarious but beautiful take on love: "Falling in love for the first time is such a transcendent feeling. It's like eating pizza flavored ice cream, your brain can't even process that level of joy... I really feel like our whole lives no matter how low our self esteem gets there's always a part of us that thinks 'I have a secret special skill, that no one knows about.' and eventually, we meet someone who's like 'You have a secret special skill!' and you're like 'I know, so do you! Let's eat pizza flavored ice cream together!' And that's love. It's a mountain of pizza flavored ice cream, and delusion."

(image source)

A Toast.

Happy 2013, friends. Cheers to new beginnings, a clean slate. Here's to friends in other cities, states, countries. To living today. To taking risks with your head and your heart. To being enough. To the hope of new adventures and beautiful challenges. To all the moments that destroy us and those that give us the strength to rebuild. To travel. To treasures. To the unexpected. To that perfect morning light and happy accidents. To hello and good bye and forever and never again. To all the ordinary moments we forget to appreciate, and those that change our lives forever. To first dates and breakups. And to dancing. Always dancing.

I don't have any grand resolutions this year. I'd just like to focus on being more present, and intentional with my actions. If I can do that, I think it'll be a pretty fantastic year.

(Photo by Vivian Maier)

Thank Your Body

In September I started a yoga teacher training program. To say it has immensely changed my life would be an understatement - learning about a whole new philosophy and approach to life that makes sense to me has changed my perspective. The benefits to yoga practice are infinite, but it felt fitting to share one particular moment of gratitude that really changed things for me. After a particularly rigorous class, I felt a deep appreciation for my body. I was thanking it for allowing me to do these challenging poses I was asking of it, for holding me a little higher. The moment right after that was the surprise that appreciating my body had come so naturally in that moment. The concept of thanking my body was foreign to me. I spent many years plagued by intense insecurity about my body, sometimes to a crippling degree (and living in an image-focused society, I know I am not alone). All those negative feelings started falling away the more I did yoga - the more I asked of it and the more it gave to me a new strength and flexibility that I finally had the mental space to appreciate.

We are often sent mixed message about our bodies. If we love our appearances too much we are vain and lack modesty - but we are also constantly expected to exude confidence to be attractive. And while all of this is happening, there are images everywhere of perfect bodies, or magazine articles about ways to achieve perfect abs, lose five pounds, tone your thighs. What makes a body perfect? And why is perfection something we regard so highly? If we ever achieved perfection, what would we have to look forward to? The standards for perfection are so arbitrary anyway. My thighs are big and my stomach is not flat, but I have a damn good immune system. So why is my focus more about lamenting those parts and not on the fact that my body is indeed really really good to me?

So often we ignore our own bodies when thinking of gratitude, but it's the only thing we have for our entire lives, and we ought to show it a little more love, no? I'm not totally cured of my insecurities, but I've been walking a little lighter these days. I hope amongst the myriad of things to be thankful for in this world, you will make space for one more thing.