Your eyes don't deceive you, West End Girl is shiny and new! It's undergone a software upgrade and has a new design that's a lot lighter (in both weight and colour). It'll make reading here easier on your eyes, and allow my photos to shine in their full glory. There are still some kinks to work out and I'm sure I'll keep adding and adjusting along the way, but the bulk of the work is complete, yay! Huge thanks to Damien from CanTrust Hosting Co-operative and my lovely Bruno for all their help making this ominous task much less daunting! Now, where were we? I've got so much to catch you up on... Don't worry, I'll break it into several posts so I don't write a novel!
Three months ago, I was a week into my "sabbatical" and I wrote about taking some time off. It's hard to believe the summer has flown by this fast, but I've filled it with a ton of self-care, traveling and having visitors, and a huge focus on personal development. It hasn't given me any kind of magic epiphany about the future and what I am going to end up doing with my life, but it has given me more clarity around several really important pieces of the proverbial pie.
Phillip said: "...for someone who has given so much to the community, maybe it is time to be thinking about your own change". This actually caught me by surprise. I had been focusing for the past 5+ years of my life on helping others reach their goals, and on helping further the Drupal community. These were great years too - I learned a lot, and I contributed a lot in both my work and volunteering. But I realized it'd been an extremely long time since I had connected with my own dreams around what I wanted my life to look like, I'd even abandoned a lot of my long time hobbies when I got too busy with tech stuff. I had really lost touch with this, and I hadn't even realized it. I had a real opportunity to step back and make very conscious change now.
And Jacob said "The one thing I can say about having a longish time off is that it is a great time to develop habits that are important to you. Like a martial art, or an instrument, maybe a writing practice..." Great idea! I knew that he was onto something and that I'd better seize on this. I decided to focus on making three things in my life more habitual: yoga, creativity, and flossing (yes, as in teeth). I've done pretty well on the yoga, and I'll say moderately on the creative work (I'm still more in a dreaming/planning/playing phase than a making phase) and flossing - at least better than before then. But much less intentionally I also re-adopted an old habit: daily writing practice. I used to write a journal very often when I lived on my own, and I didn't realize how much I missed it, nor how much it helped me to sort out my thoughts.
So yes, thank you for taking the time to post your comments!
Work + Career + What I want to do with my days
I'm 31 right now. About 15 years ago, I ordered my first course cataglogue from Emily Carr (the big art school in Vancouver). I remember getting it in the mail, and it was so colourful and I think it came with a section or brochure on "Student Life". I layed on my bed and leafed through this thing for hours. I wasn't very happy with where I was by midway through highschool in Saskatchewan, and was starting to dream and plan for going to school, preferably on the west coast. And what they were selling, I wanted it. I felt for the first time like this is it, this is where I belong. I was excited and nervous and thrilled and nervous... And only in grade 11. I ordered it again the following year, and started looking forward to working on my big application project. I imagined what it would be like spending my days on Granville Island, being an art student, living the dream.
When I eventually brought my plans up with my parents, they didn't share my excitement. I don't remember all of the details, but what I remember is that the financial support that had been offered to me for university wasn't there if I wanted to go to art school. It was only there for practical, realistic options that were assured to keep me from living a life of financial ruin, ie. "real university".
I felt defeated and hurt, but moved on and applied to "real universities" (ironically, though Emily Carr was more of a college back then, it's now a fully accredited university), got into them, and eventually settled on going to Simon Fraser University, where I bounced from major to major for 5 years until I finished my BA with a major in Human Geography and a minor in Fine and Performing Arts (where I'd focused on art theory and theater lighting design).
I never found what I really loved to do, and when I wasn't having luck finding a job related to my geography degree after graduating, I then proceeded to enter a MA program in Health Geography. That's right - 3 more years of meandering through life without much passion or purpose. I'm not going to say I regret the choice, since I had no idea what else to do at that point, and in strange ways it led me to where I am today, but my heart sure wasn't in it. It was drudgery. So much so that I started a crafty business (now defunct and long before the days of Etsy and social media) to keep myself happy and sane while I was doing my degree.
My crafty business needed a website, and it happened to get built with Drupal. I learned how to theme and maintain the site, and tinkered with it endlessly. When I finished my MA, and again couldn't find a job, I had no idea what I really wanted to do with my life. I started doing a little bit of freelance Drupal work to support myself (since my crafty business wasn't making any real money) and then on a whim applied for a job at a web design company that I thought I had no chance of getting. Only, to my surprise I got the job (which was a godsend at the time), and two weeks later I moved downtown and started my then unrecognizeable new life. That job didn't turn out to be ideal for me, but I learned many skills there and grew up a lot, and built my life into something more like what I'd imagined. Living independently in downtown Vancouver, by the beach (!), networking, learning, growing.
For the next 5 years (1.5 there, and 3.5 at my subsequent and most recent job) I became an expert in all things Drupal. I became a respected member of the open source community, poured endless hours into my volunteer work there, managed many projects and clients, landed contracts, and helped build a business made up of wonderful people. I also got too busy to keep my crafty business going and put it on hold... permanently. I gave a lot, and I also got a lot out of the work I was doing. Confidence, more independence, business skills, community management skills.
I was extremely invested in what I was doing and grew to love it, even though it was defintiely a "high stress" job at times. To an extent, I was able to work more when my health supported it, and less when it didn't. I worked from home a lot, so that I didn't completely wear myself out... or so I thought. But after a couple years of work topped with a high profile volunteer role, I became pretty frustrated and deflated with hitting wall after wall with not being able to see the progress I yearned for. Soon I started to question why I was spending all of my time and energy on things that no longer felt fulfilling as far as my own personal goals went.
Personal goals? Oh wait... What the heck were my personal goals??? Maybe that was the real problem. I didn't remember what they were, so I just kept doing what I was doing.
At that point, I stepped down from the volunteer position and quickly stopped working on Drupal community stuff altogether, and after another year and a half, realized it was time to leave my job too. I desperately needed a change, and thought I'd go out on my own and freelance. But the time I had to myself after leaving my job led me to think about why I was doing this work. It was challenging, and it was abundant - there was a ton of demand for what I could offer. But I just didn't feel like doing it anymore. Not right now at least.
I agonized about what to do for weeks on end. I wanted to give myself a bit of time to at least figure out what my options were. So I made lists of what I could reasonably do, and some more fantasy dream jobs, weighed pros and cons and possible salaries. But I was completely paralyzed when it came to committing to a direction to go in. That is, until I encountered this question:
In ten years, will I regret not having done this? - Marie Forleo
Wow, so simple but it hit me like a ton of bricks. I read through my list of options and easily answered yes or no, yes or no. No, I won't regret it if I don't immediately start doing freelance project management work. It'll still be there in a few months or even years if I start feeling the passion to come back to it or find a project that really lights my fire. But you know what I've already regretted not doing for fifteen years? Going to art school! Better late than never, right?
It just so happens that Emily Carr, the school I wanted to go to when I was in my late teens happens to be about a 10 minute drive from where I live. And self-actualized 31 year old me knows that if I still want to do something this much then I should just go for it.
So that's it, my 5-year plan is out the window and the next four months are going to be dedicated to taking four continuing education classes at Emily Carr - two in the first half of the semester, two in the second half. Textile printing, painting, drawing, mixed media. I've got a big stack of textile design books sitting on my desk, and am in progress of doing a bit of business planning. I'll tell you more about that in due time.
Who knows if this will be what I imagine, maybe by Christmas I'll realize this isn't for me and I'll re-evaluate again. All I know is that for the fall I'm going to focus on living the dream of my 16 year old self. I think she was onto something. And I think I deserve to give myself and my dream life this little bit of time after avoiding it for this long. Don't you?