At one time, I had prints of my artwork framed and sold locally. I also offered my designs printed on aprons. These sold well and I enjoyed it. I especially enjoyed meeting and becoming friends with the shop owners.
But at some point, I began to feel I was spreading myself too thin. Something was off. I wasn’t spending time doing what I really loved, which was drawing and painting.
One of the co-owners of a beautiful little boutique nearby, called asking me for more aprons. I loved her store—the kind of place you could meander through for an hour and lose track of time. But I noticed she was always frazzled. She told me that some nights she stayed up until 2:00 a.m. working in the store restocking. Her minivan was always spilling over with inventory and she was constantly running.
When we spoke that day on the phone, I found myself in a tug of war with her. She said, “I need more aprons and I need them ASAP!” I found myself hesitating and said, “I just can’t do that right now, I’m rethinking everything.” She said, “But the customers love these and are asking for more and I need them ASAP!”
What was happening, I later realized, is that I was reaching a conclusion about my situation right in the middle of our conversation. I finally said, “Here’s the thing: I just don’t want to do this anymore. I need to stop. It’s not working for me. I need to simplify my life and go back to my painting.” What happened next I will never forget.
There was a long silence on the other end of the phone. And then muffled sobs. And then outright sobbing. When she could finally speak, she blurted out, “I don’t want to do this anymore either!” I said, “You don’t have to!” She said, “I’m not going to! I’m done!”
She was not running her store—her store was running her. It was sucking the very life out of her. She didn’t enjoy it. Owning a shop was an idea she’d always had. And now she had it. The problem was, the idea of owning a shop and owning one in real life, were worlds apart. Her dream didn’t turn out to be right for her. She told her partner she needed to leave and made an arrangement to bow out.
Several years later I ran into her at an art function. She came up to me and threw her arms around me and said, “My father became ill the year I left the shop. I got to spend the last year of his life with him which I never could have if I’d stayed. Spending time with him was the most important thing in my life. You gave me that gift. Thank you. I love you.”
When I do what’s right for myself, it ripples out into my world and affects others. It’s so important for me to check in with myself and ask, “Why am I doing what I’m doing? Is this what I truly want to be doing now? Is this what I need to be doing?”
It will serve no one, absolutely no one, if we create something wonderful, but make ourselves unhappy or ill doing it. I don’t believe life asks that of us, do you?