Things I’ve learned while letting go
If you’ve been a regular reader for a while, you already know that in November 2011, I closed my jewelry shop (and if you didn’t… um, surprise!).
I opened Catie’s Blue back in July 2007, and promptly made jewelry my life. I lived and gleefully breathed beads and techniques and jewelry designs full-time for over four years, and had a fair bit of success at it. Most importantly, I used it to define myself. I was a jewelry designer, and lots of people still know me as a jewelry designer.
I was, and am proud, that at 25, I started my own business and made a decent run of it. Not too many people can say they did that, and it not only felt great, but it introduced me to the world of Etsy and connected me to other handmade artists around the world. That one decision to start selling my work radically changed the course of my life.
Before, I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like in 5 years, because I was stuck in a dead-end job and had no dreams. After, I still can’t imagine what my life would be like in 5 years, but only because the possibilities are endless and the decision is mine.
So, if you’re thinking that closing that shop wasn’t an easy decision, you’d be right.
Anyway, I haven’t really talked about closing much here, because I didn’t give myself a whole lot of time to process the decision and what it would mean for me after. Don’t get me wrong, I thought long and hard about making that decision before I made it, and it was absolutely the right choice. But I didn’t give myself a whole lot of time to grieve a little.
Instead, I closed right before Thanksgiving, which, as we all know, is the busy season for everyone (I need to work on my timing a little). Between celebrating with my family, flying back and forth, and just dealing with the holidays, there wasn’t time for me to give myself time think.
That changed once the new year came. I’ve been giving myself what I need right now – time to just think about what comes next.
And rest. Lots of mental rest.
And now I feel a little more stable and ready to share what I’ve learned from the whole experience. So, in no particular order, here are the lessons I’ve learned while letting go.
Your job does not define you.
This was a hard one for me because when I started, I was so excited to be a jewelry designer. I was so excited about creating again and feeling passionate about creating again. In my head, it got mixed together and I hung on to being a jewelry designer longer than maybe I should have because if I wasn’t a jewelry designer, what would I be?
Deep down, I already knew that I was more than my job or my resume or anything I had done. But it took me longer to mentally prepare myself and get comfortable with the idea of being something else. It took me a while to realize that I can still be passionate about art and jewelry and creating, but that it can manifest in some other way.
And it was strange because while I don’t like labels in general, I was clinging to a label. I had a death grip on being a “jewelry designer”, even though at the end I wasn’t making any jewelry (nor was I happy). It was a slow and humbling realization, and I can’t pinpoint one thing that I did or read or saw that made me realize it. Only that one day, the majority of me was okay with not being a jewelry designer than the day before.
When you’re not happy, your body tells you so and your life reflects it.
I believe in signs. My life experience so far has only reinforced it. When I feel soul-deep unhappiness or misalignment, it translates and ripples outwards. Call that a little woo-woo, but I’ve seen it in my own life.
When I wasn’t happy in my last office job, I stopped caring about doing anything well, my job performance suffered, and I was physically sick all of the time. When I wasn’t happy with the way my business was going, I spiraled downward and burned out big time. When I wasn’t happy creating jewelry anymore, I couldn’t stand the sight of my pliers and I completely avoided even looking at my beads.
At least for me, there are signs. And I’ve gotten better at seeing them and recognizing what they mean, and cutting off a bad spiral before it starts.
When the people that care about you find out you aren’t happy, they are extremely supportive of your decision to let go.
If there’s one big takeaway for me, it’s that the people who honest-to-God care about you and your well-being give a crap if you’re happy or miserable. Talk about being validated.
I am still totally floored by the reception I got when I made my first closing announcement. The comments on that post and all of the private emails I got absolutely touched me. I was really worried about the reception I would get; I was nervous about what people would think. And you know what? I should have trusted my friends more than I did. Because you all came through for me exactly when I needed you to. Even previous buyers emailed me with kind words, and all of that put together was incredibly moving.
Thank you for that.
Letting go is not a bad thing and change isn’t always traumatic.
When I was finally honest with myself about what was working and what wasn’t, I didn’t feel sad; I felt relieved… and free.
I knew that this was a big change that would take a big effort and a lot of energy. And I knew while the shop closure would have a specific end date, I’d be in transition for much longer. For the first time, though, I was okay with that. I welcomed it. I couldn’t resist change anymore because I was in control of the decision.
And I started seeing change as just a thing that happens, not that it’s inherently bad when it does.
Sometimes, things just run their course.
And it’s okay to grieve a little when a chapter ends. It’s okay to miss it a little because it was a big part of my life. It’s okay to wander around a bit after. And it’s okay to be a little sad.
Have you learned a lesson while letting go?