life, lately: Hello, 2017

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Happy 2017, friends!

2016 went out with a bang on this end. In late October, R.T. and I went to an open house on a whim and ultimately ended up buying a house in Tacoma, WA (about 30 miles south of Seattle). It was the only house we toured, but it was very much a when you know, you know thing for me. I knew it had to be our house. We got keys on December 12th, spent that week painting, and moved in the following weekend. We’re mostly settled in already, which is mostly thanks to R.T.’s efforts.

A quick look at the other things I’m digging lately:

reading: The Big Leap (can’t believe I hadn’t read that earlier!), Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton. I promised to report back on Year of Yes – it was one of my favorite reads of 2016. Shonda is fantastic.

fryeboots

wearing: Second-hand Frye boots – I love these so much, but they’re showing wear earlier than I would have expected. (I probably don’t know how to take care of them…) TOMS Desert wedgesTara gave me a pair of these (in taupe) during a pre-move purge while ago, and I only just started wearing them. LOVE. I found a black pair on Poshmark recently. I’m in love with a slouchy Crane Clothing beanie lately, too… As much as I dislike cold weather, I do like getting away with not doing my hair every day. Ha.

office

smitten with: My new office and studio spaces. And our new fireplace. The house in general, I suppose. My letter board. The lighting kit I just got last week – it’s super inexpensive, but makes SUCH a big difference for taking photos in the studio at night. (I mostly use this for Instagram – and now for FB Live – YMMV in more pro-level settings.)

indulging in: I just indulged in about a month of slow-working… generally only working a few hours a day and taking a lot of time off. Some of this was intentional – I always aim to be off for the second half of December – but some of it was just the timing of our house closing and our move. Now I’m not feeling very inclined to indulge – I’m more focused on being productive. (That’ll fade soon, I’m sure… probably when all of the TV shows I like come back from their mid-season breaks!)

creating: I’m anticipating a lot of creative work this month – both in my business and on personal projects – but for the last little while, I’ve mostly been focused on turning this house into a home. I did create a new offering last month, though. It’s been awhile since I offered a low-budget starter site – but here they are! Launchpad Sites!

listening to: in terms of music, I’m really into Passenger lately. Podcast-wise, I really loved the Being Boss episode with Nicole Antoinette. I’m also really enjoying Jess Lively‘s adventures on The Lively Show.

celebrating: becoming a homeowner, obviously! Opening my own tiny, intimate Facebook group and getting brave with the folks who are hanging out there.

looking forward to: Everything ahead this year! It’s going to be a big year for my business and I’m excited for the brilliant business owners I’ll get to help and collaborate with this year. I’m also looking forward to SPRING and the warmer weather adventures that I’ll get to enjoy with R.T. (hiking, camping, etc).

How about you? How’s 2017 shaping up so far? What are you excited about?

there will be no divorce.

therewillbenodivorce

I’m just about to hit the one-year mark of leaving New Hampshire to embark on this Portland experiment. It’s been a year of non-stop stretching, transformation, growth, discomfort. A year of both agony and elation even more than most years. I’ve shared really openly about the challenges of this year — which you know very well if we’re friends on Facebook.

There’s one more story that I want to share, though, before I close this chapter and begin my second year here.

I left a year ago because I wasn’t happy in my marriage, and I’ve spent this year exploring what that meant.

To be more accurate, I wasn’t happy with my life as a whole, and that oozed over into being unhappy with my marriage — but I had no way of knowing that at the time. That was the point, actually: I needed some space (apparently 3,000 miles) to figure out where my unhappiness came from, and where it ended.

The truth is, lot of it was me. A lot of it was boredom and stagnation. A lot of it was (is!) my own inability to accept love as an imperfect person. Some of it, though, was a disconnect between my husband and I, and what we wanted, and where our lives were headed.

It was, of course, a really uncomfortable place to spend the better part of a year. I’m a chronic over-sharer (I love that about me!) but the potential end of your relationship isn’t something you navigate publicly.

The issues were almost entirely mine. I struggled quietly for awhile, only sharing my surface-level concerns with him occasionally. Eventually, though, I realized that I was struggling alone with what should have been a shared issue. (This was before I read Conscious Uncoupling, but it’s a concept Katherine Woodward Thomas talks about in her book, which I highly recommend.)

So, one ordinary Tuesday — via text message, of all things — I admitted to him that I was close to asking for a divorce, and I asked him to help me deal with that.

I expected him to hate me. I know that I would have been angry and defensive and hurt. Instead, he said, “Let’s work on this. We are not finished yet.”

I got really honest with him. Over the course of that week, we spent about twenty hours on video chat. Talking. Crying. I felt really hopeless. I’d convinced myself that I wasn’t cut out for long-term commitment. I thought it was too late to fix things.

Then, one night he said off-handedly, “I’ll still visit you in Portland. You’ll still be my best friend.”

In that moment, all of the guilt and resistance and sadness and fear that I’d been carrying crumbled around me. There he was, basically being slapped in the face with all of my failures as a person and a partner, saying that he’d love me even if I left him.

That changed everything. I remembered that we were on the same team, and what that meant. I decided that, if he could love me as I left him, it wasn’t so crazy for me to ask him to love me while I struggled with being a restless and imperfect partner. We could do the work. He was right — we weren’t finished yet.

For us, it wasn’t just that we were capable of conscious uncoupling — it was that we were capable of getting through this tough stuff. We could hold hands and intentionally tromp through the muck together.

Even though it was my muck. Even though it sucked that I had to ask that of him.

I imagine it’s close to impossible to be in that situation without feeling guilt and shame, but I worked really hard at reframing that. I remembered a slightly-older-but-much-wiser friend telling me in my twenties that she started every day asking herself if the life she had with her partner was worth the effort, and that every morning so far, it had been. I was startled by that at the time, but I understand now.

Being committed (to our partners, to ourselves, to our businesses and jobs and families) isn’t a choice we make once. We want to believe it is. We want that day — the white dress photo opp party day — to be the day. But it isn’t. It’s not the first day we make that commitment and it’s certainly not the last.

There’s power in that — in choosing to do the work, even when it’s messy and hard. In acknowledging that it will be imperfect far more often than it’s easy. In recognizing that there is always more to be done — there’s always some amount of rounding up.

I’m telling you this because I didn’t read a lot of these stories last year. I read a lot of happily-ever-after stories, written by a variety of people in a variety of life stages. I love to love the happy Instagram families with beautiful cookware who seem like they must never have an argument resulting in one person sleeping on the couch (let alone moving across the country).

The happy divorce stories were plentiful, too. The “I ended my marriage and I’m free and I’ve found myself and thank god I had the courage to leave” stories. And those are good, important stories.

But neither is my story.

This is my story. I found myself by being unhappy in my marriage and honest about that.

Maybe you’ve never loved someone so much that you felt trapped by that love. Maybe you’ve never looked at your partner and thought, “You fucking astound me, but you also make me want to run away to the woods forever, and I don’t know if I can do this for another day or month or year.”

But I have.

I find it easier to be alone, but so, so much more fulfilling to be in partnership.

So, every day, I begin with a good, hard look, and I think:

No. We are not finished yet.

I’m grateful for that, and for the ability to apply it to all of the other areas of my life, and adjust accordingly.

Discontentedness is a message, and I urge you to listen.

(But I also urge you to do the work.)

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PS. The title of this post comes from the song of the same name by The Mountain Goats.

If you need permission…

permission

My trainer* and I are sitting on the floor of her gym while she explains a new technique to me. Internally, I’m asking her to reassure me that I can do this. To tell me that I have what it takes.

I want her to see in me something that I don’t — that I’m afraid to look for.

I want her permission to be great.

That’s been a theme for me this summer. I’ve hired all of the professionals I should have hired years ago, partially because those things needed to be done, but also in an effort to feel ‘legit’.

I caught myself doing this, of course, that day at the gym. But then a voice within me asked, “Why does she get to decide? Why does that validation need to come from her?” (All of my inner voices are kind of fed up with my bullshit.)

It occurred to me then that she will only ever think that I am great if I show her that I am, and that’s true in every area of my life. In all the ways I don’t show up because I’m afraid of being judged or rejected, of messing up and being exposed as an imperfect person.

Instead, I sit quietly on the edge of everything I have the potential to be and wait for… what? For the fear to dissipate, for this to require less vulnerability, for someone to take me by the hand and drag me there… Maybe just for someone else to give me their approval. To check some box that says, “Yes, you’ve qualified. You may proceed.” (No such box exists, of course.)

If you can relate, come sit next to me. I’ll tell you what I most need to hear right now.

Show up. Be seen. Do great things. Brag about your achievements. Teach what you already know. Flounder publicly and own it. Connect with other humans by being human.

(If you’re waiting for permission, this is it.)

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* I recently hired a personal trainer. Pretend this makes me hip or fancy or something. Really it just means I’m too lazy to move my body without paying someone a lot of cash to hold me accountable. (Glad we cleared that up.)

it doesn't have to be easy to be worth it

doesnthavetobeeasy

Yesterday marked six weeks since I came to Portland.

This is the place I’ve wanted to be for nearly a decade, even though I hadn’t even been here until 2012. But, as I’d suspected, when I did visit, it felt instantly like my home in a way that no place ever has. I was called to this city.

I built it into my own personal utopia. Everything would be good when I moved to Portland. My people were there. And all the green, and the quirky shops, and the endless opportunity for adventure in the city and beyond. I would someday move to Portland and my life would be perfect. I told everyone. (“I will eventually end up in Portland, Oregon” was even in my bio on my ‘about’ page years ago.)

So, in February, I finally did it. I moved to Portland. By myself.

Initially, it was supposed to be temporary. I was just supposed to politely excuse myself from winter in New Hampshire, and then slide quietly back in to my regular life there when the snow melted. But as soon as I left, I knew I would not be going back to stay. And I really wanted to make that make sense. (You’ve likely seen my gushy updates on Facebook the last couple of months.)

The truth is, it hasn’t been blissful or easy everything it was cracked up to be, and I’ve really struggled with that.

Yesterday, Mara said, “I feel like you think you only deserve to have this experience if it’s really good.” I felt a rush of grief. That’s my truth.

I’ve felt like I have to prove that living here is, indeed, my dream life.

It had to be pretty amazing for me to be willing to leave behind my husband, my best friend & all the people that I love, my favorite babies (who are all turning two in the coming months — my favorite age), the place that has been my home for the better part of a decade.

And it has been amazing. But it hasn’t been easy. Moving to a new city by myself has been really, really hard. Often, I feel truly, desperately exhausted.

I’ve asked myself many times if it’s worth it. If I really want to be here if it’s such a struggle – if it’s just real life and not pure bliss.

I do. Of course I do.

It’s easier to sell the story of I found my dream life here and it’s happily ever after, but the real story is a little less fit-for-Instagram.

I am restless in all areas of my life. I am a person who likes to be challenged. I like to stretch. I like to look back and not recognize the person I was a year ago. Every so often, that requires completely removing myself from my comfort zone and tearing down all of my walls to see what’s left.

Being here in the midst of all this change is hard, but staying and stagnating in a life I’d outgrown felt impossible. In some ways, I find it easier to do the hard things.

There are so many people and things that I miss, and some days I miss them more than I love living in Portland.

But overall, I’m growing into a new version of myself here in this wacky city.

So, maybe the true story of this grand experiment isn’t as butterflies-and-roses as I’d like to report, but it’s what I chose and what I continue to choose. I’m starting to find comfort in that — in letting it feel difficult, and trusting that the people around me will understand that something can be both really hard and totally perfect for me right now.

It doesn’t have to be easy to be worth it. When we’re growing into ourselves, in our relationships, or (maybe especially) in our businesses, it can be tough to avoid getting caught up in our visions of what things should look like. Let’s give ourselves permission to embrace the journey for what it is. Sometimes we’ll doubt our decisions. Often, we’ll feel we’ve gained some momentum just to stall out again. The path to our best possible lives is winding. But we have nothing to prove to anyone but ourselves. (Let’s prove it to ourselves.)

Today I need…

whatineed

This snowy morning, I need:

  • an iced latte with soy milk (ignoring that almond milk is better for me)
  • no overhead lighting (even if it means moving more slowly)
  • the flannel quilt my mama made for me wrapped around my shoulders as I respond to emails from the comfort of the sofa
  • a little time to read blogs for inspiration and internal high fives for my fellow business owners
  • a hot shower and the space heater in the studio on high

I used to wake up lively and I miss that about me. It’s a sign of age, of the mellowing I’ve done as I trade youth for wisdom. I turned 31 last weekend, and I’ve been thinking about the woman I’m becoming. I finally, finally feel like I’m shedding girl and I’m glad for that. I am grateful to not feel young anymore. I’m relishing in all the truths I’ve learned about myself through the years – including giving myself the gift of gentle starts to my mornings.

But I do miss waking up ready to conquer the world. Perhaps I also need to add to my list:

– to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

What do you need today? I’d love to hear from you on Twitter.

Gentle Metrics of Success

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In the early days of my business, success meant able to make rent. Then able to take random afternoons off. Then, if we’re honest, back to able to make rent. Then able to support my partner. Then, as each of those things became easily attainable, earn six figures a year.

I think that’s where a lot of us land. 2012 was meant to be my first six figure year. My second full year in business, and my first 100% self-employed (no part-time nannying, no contract coding gig). As each month ended, I found myself noting how close I was, how easy it would be to hit that milestone. On December 27th, I wept in my partner’s arms as I realized I would close my books for the year at $97,548. I had failed. Nevermind how hard I’d worked, or that that was more than twice what I’d made at the agency job I’d left to start my business, or that I’d enabled my partner to not have to work that year.

In 2013, I did it. In fact, I passed the six figure mark in early October. Mission accomplished.

Except, to be honest with you, it kind of sucked. It wasn’t the life I wanted. It was time to re-evaluate. It was time to tear it all down.

My goal for 2014 was to step back and get really clear on my intentions for my business. I began asking myself questions like:

Why am I doing this work?
Who can I most help?
How do I want people to feel during and after working together?

and

What makes me feel successful?

There had to be a more gentle metric than six figures.

I knew that to figure that out, I would need to work with fewer clients. Go deeper with them.

Making a website or building a brand is about more than perfectly placed pixels and a darling aesthetic. It’s about connection and conversation.

I realized how important — essential — it was for me to talk to my clients regularly. In 2014, coaching & strategy sessions were optional. I learned so much about my work from those sessions, from the clients who elected to do that hard work with me. My work became meaningful to me in a totally new way.

Being in the trenches with my clients meant that I needed to create space to be gentle with myself. Any sort of coaching work requires a really intense exchange of energy and it’s essential to fill up your own tank pretty regularly.

So, that meant self-care practices like:

  • slow starts to my mornings (no guilt about not getting to my desk until 10am) or,
  • mid-afternoon Netflix breaks on the sofa to let my mind rest, and
  • a commitment to move my body, drink more water, make more art

That lead to working mostly 6-hour days, compared to the 12- or 14-hour days I’d been working since starting my business.

It became a cycle that fed itself – I worked less, so I had more time to rest and create, so I had the energy to do better work.

I fell so deeply in love with my business. I would have been content to earn a lot less than I had in 2013 – I didn’t care about earning six figures anymore. To my surprise (though maybe not to yours, wise one), I didn’t earn less at all. I continued to have more five-figure months than not, and closed my books for 2014 well into six figures.

I finally feel successful, and it’s not about the money. I feel successful because I’ve gotten better at treating myself well, at finding that elusive work-life balance, and at making a major difference in my clients’ lives and businesses. I feel successful because I know that the work I’m doing in the world is important, and I don’t have to run myself ragged to do it. (In fact, just the opposite. We have to put on our own oxygen masks first. Of course.)

Six figures isn’t the right metric for me. I can comfortably earn less or more than that and maintain the lifestyle that I most want to have.

In fact, as I was reflecting on success and cooking up this post for you this week, a new metric of success appeared. On Tuesday, I had the thought that I wanted to move to Portland, Oregon for awhile. On Wednesday at dinner, I mentioned this to my partner. By Thursday night, I’d rented a place in the city. I’ll be there for most of February and all of March. That’s success to me – having the freedom and resources for that sort of experience. (More on this upcoming adventure soon.)

As you dream & scheme about the year ahead for your life & business, I encourage you to define your own, more gentle metrics of success. Reject any standard that causes you stress or bores you or just doesn’t make your spirit come alive. If you’re not sure what success looks like to you, go back to the most important question: Why am I doing this work? All of the answers come from why.

Ease: a lovenote to close 2014

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Photo via Death to the Stock Photo. Words via Empty Hearts by Josh Ritter.

New Year’s Eve. I’ve spent days avoiding writing this end-of-the-year post. I don’t feel ready to say goodbye.

2014, you were my year, and I have loved you so.

This year: ease. That was my word of the year. It chose me in October of 2013 and followed me all the way through. Prior to this year, I’d spent more than a decade working myself to the bone, basing my worth on being someone who was busy, ambitious, focused, stubborn, good.

This year: Making time for creativity, movement, and rest. Working with amazing perfect-fit clients. 30-hour work weeks. Laughter. Friendship. Digital Strategy School. Coaching, courses & a retreat with Mara. Working with Fabeku. Whale watching. Music. Reconnecting with a long-lost best friend-soulmate & the resulting joy, comfort, healing. Adventure. New ambitions. Release. Getting to know myself in a new way and feeling contented with that person, with the path that she is on.

This year: I changed my name. My business turned 5. I paid off my 5-figure tax debt (from 2012), and all of mine and R.T.’s credit cards. We bought a second car, adopted a second chinchilla, and said goodbye to our last rat friend. I bought a new camera (and then fell out of the habit of using it, but I’m working on that). Visits from/adventures with Sara, Emma, Michael, Savannah, Mara, Cookie, Jess, Joanna. I spent two weeks in Michigan, a weekend on Cape Cod, and a handful of days in Vermont. My little sister visited for several weeks and then moved to Hawaii to get married. My baby brother graduated from high school and then left for the Air Force.

There were hard times, of course, but when I reflect on this year, what overwhelmingly stands out is the joy and contentedness. The good far outweighed the bad. It’s honestly the first year in a long, long time that I can say was gentle and restorative.

Ease. It was hard for me at first. I was addicted to struggle. I got better at it. I’m in recovery.

Next year: I haven’t chosen a word yet — or one hasn’t chosen me. (It’s possible I haven’t been listening.) I am always, always excited about the start of a new year, but I believe that 2015 will be a different animal. I’m sensing change, reinvention, opportunity. There are quiet whispers in my heart of struggle, sorrow, but I know that difficult times always pave the way for new growth, so if those things should arise this year, I am ready to embrace them and learn the lessons they have for me. I am ready.

Are you ready?

I’m here. Let’s hold hands and step across the threshold together.

Here’s to 2015.

lately…

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Way back when my dear friend Sara and I were the two nerdiest teens ever, we wrote each other letters that spanned the course of several days. They were typically 7+ pages long. At some point we started doing these little status posts at the start of each day:

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I scribbled a couple of things out in this photo because I want Sara to stay friends with me. Do note that there is a ‘left sock’ category, though. We intentionally wore mis-matched socks for… probably years. I still think that’s cool, actually.

I’ve seen similar things done on the web and I’m always really intrigued by them. Susannah does Sunday Check-ins, and Elsie & Emma did this super cute Sister Stuff post awhile back.

I thought it might be fun to offer you a little peek of my personal favorites as of late. Maybe it will turn into a recurring thing! So, without further ado…

Lately, I’ve been…

drinking: a lot of water, thanks to my Camelback eddy (mine is lavender). Really working on my water intake. Also, Marina recently made a cucumber/grapefruit/gin cocktail for a party, and that was pretty delicious. I don’t have her recipe, but this might get you close.

eating: jackfruit! This obsession started when my-friend-who-makes-delicious-things (Marina, if you haven’t been paying attention) made a Thai curry version of these shredded jackfruit tacos. R.T. and I recently made another variation of jackfruit tacos (no recipe because R.T. is the taco master and just wings it), and buffalo jackfruit pizza. I also learned how to make vegan ranch for the purpose of putting it on that pizza. YUM.

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reading: Forest Feast (visually breathtaking!), Isa Does It, The Strategic Web Designer, Women, Food and God, Tell the Wolves I’m Home

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wearing: my Keen sandals – mine are a couple of years old, but this is their current take on the same model. (Sidenote: This is the summer I finally fell out of love with flip-flops. I’m more than a little sad about it.)

digging: my bicycle, the ocean, quiet evenings sandwiched between lots of time with friends, everything to do with tiny houses, particularly Tiny House Nation (we buy the episodes on Amazon), and TINY (available on Netflix)

crushing on: Sas Petherick (We’re working on a project together this summer – she’s totally brilliant + hilarious.)

indulging in: Finding Carter (what even is this show? Guilty pleasure for sure), sour patch kids

listening to: The Bleachers – ‘I Wanna Get Better’ (Lena Dunham directed the music video), Allison Weiss’ ‘Call your Girlfriend’ cover – both on shameless repeat.

proud of: creating healthier habits both food + movement-wise (sour patch kids aside). I recently ran my first non-stop mile since high school! High five, me! (I’ve been calling my running posts ‘Chubby Asthmatic Runner Progress Reports’ on Facebook. Who doesn’t love a humblebrag? Ha.)

creating: a homemade version of a Midori Traveler’s Notebook (loving it), Project Life (I may do a post about that soon!)

looking forward to: Marie’s beta run of Digital Strategy School starting this month, Mara’s Restore Retreat in September, my first whale watch sometime in the next few weeks!

And, scene. Tell me what you’re digging in any (or all!) of these various categories. Especially happy/upbeat songs I may not have heard, because I am in constant need of new music for my jogs.

A letter to myself after five years of self employment

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Dear Me on July 16th, 2009:

I am not you anymore, but I remember what it was like. I still see you so clearly. You are laying on the sofa with a cold rag on your forehead, sobbing. Hyperventilating. You have just rather unceremoniously quit your stable, well-paying job to start your own business. You have $1600 in savings, and that’s not enough to take care of your responsibilities for any length of time. You have no backup plan.

There’s so much I want to tell you. So much I wish someone had told me.

The first thing is this: It’s still hard. You’ll still get exhausted and cry and feel like you’re doing everything wrong, even when you’re not. Other people will often make it look easy, and you’ll always admire that but never relate. On the other hand, people will sometimes tell you that you make it look easy, and you’ll love those people, but suspect they are a little crazy, or just being polite. (Still, say ‘thank you’ and offer something encouraging.)

The second, and perhaps most important thing: It gets easier. It gets so much easier. Eventually you will stop thinking that quitting your job was stupid-brave and come to believe that it was the absolute smartest decision. You’ll learn so much the next few years, and every single thing about your life will be different as a result.

You will initially supplement your income by nannying, by taking a (fortunately short-lived) shady website maintenance gig, and with a part-time development job. Don’t feel ashamed to not be standing on your own yet. You’ll get there. No use starving in the meantime.

You will come to understand the ebb and flow, and not only plan for it, but embrace it. Then the ebbs will cease — because what you worry about will find you, but what you trust will find you, too. I wish you would learn that lesson early. Don’t be afraid. All fear has ever done is hinder your progress. State your goals, believe in them, make them happen. That’s never failed you – not once.

Make your goals big for that reason.

You will find yourself on track to earn your first six-figure year, but as that December ends, you’ll fall $3,000 short and you will grieve. Heavily. As though $97,000 makes you a complete failure.

You will think in black and white this way often. It’s not good for you. Stop doing it.

You will far surpass your income goal the following year, partially just to prove to yourself that you can. But you will be tired and you’ll re-evaluate, and that’s the smart thing to do.

You’ll discover that there is more than one way to be successful.

You will find out firsthand that there are a few things that you can’t just “wing”, and one of those is taxes. Before that, you’ll underestimate one year and have to start a payment plan with the IRS. After months of torturing yourself with shame, you’ll learn that almost every business owner you admire has done the same thing. You’ll caution others not to do the same thing.

You will recognize the value of being vulnerable in business. You will see that we’re all in this together, and there’s no need to keep your cards close to your chest.

You’ll understand the importance of community, and that there is no such thing as competition.

You will make mistakes and be better for them. You will experience the difference a heartfelt apology can make from either side. Be humble when you mess up, and gracious when someone else does.

Don’t get me started on boundaries. (Okay, just this one thing: figure out what yours are. Soon. Stick to them. Be kind about it.)

You will work with truly, truly amazing people and many of them will remain good friends long after their initial projects end. They will change your life, and they will tell you that you have changed theirs. You will rejoice together when they land that contract, and cry together when they get divorced or lose a loved one. You will often feel that the process of creating something together is more than the sum of its parts, and that will fuel you. That will be the stuff that gets you through the patches of 15-hour days (which will almost always hit in April, for some reason). You will start to cultivate those relationships. Clients will tell you they hired you because they felt it in their gut, and those will be the best connections. (I know that sounds a little kooky now, but you’ll see.)

You will realize that any knowledge you possess today is just the foundation for everything you’ll need to learn tomorrow.

You will spend the first two years learning how to be a small business owner, the next two years basing all of your priorities on being a small business owner, and the year after that learning how to be more than just a small business owner.

You’ll start making art again, exercising again, and going on retreats. You will learn to take weekends off, but it will take a long time. You may not ever learn how to take a vacation. You haven’t yet, anyway. Get your shit together. (I didn’t say this was a love letter.)

It will always be hard, but in truth, you will love it more than anything. It will be the best thing you’ve ever done — the most challenging, the scariest, but definitely the most fulfilling.

And, you know something? Five years later, that $1600 will have never left your savings account. You will have never missed a rent payment. That cold rag was for nothing.

I hope you’ll pause to celebrate before moving on to the next thing on your to-do list. You’ve done a great job. Keep going.

Love,
Me on July 16th, 2014

On changing my name.

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“it feels good to be lost in the right direction.” iPad Wallpaper by Breanna Rose

Welcome to my new blog! As you probably noticed, I’ve retired LeahCreates.com and the LeahCreates username across the board. I’m in the process of legally changing my name to Evan Leah Quinn, and to answer a question I’ve been asked a lot the last few days: yes, it would be lovely if you called me Evan going forward.

Why the name change? Well, the short answer is that I’m on the run from the law.

… Kidding.

The short answer is that there isn’t a short answer, and the long answer is pretty boring/anticlimactic. I’ve been rolling around the idea of changing my name for as long as I can remember. I never consciously realized my dissatisfaction with my given first name, but looking back now, it seems pretty obvious. For awhile, as a kid, I wanted to change my name to Heather. As a teen, I was always on a quiet quest to find a nickname that fit me. I remember falling in love with the name Evan (as a feminine name) when I was about fifteen. I’ve used it as an online moniker off and on throughout the years. A few years back, I started toying with the idea of actually changing my name to Evan, but I’d branded myself as LeahCreates and the name change seemed too risky.

When I changed my studio name to SixteenJuly last year, I didn’t intend for that to be a segue to changing my first name, but here on the other side of that, I do feel like I have enough space between my personhood and my business to make the switch. Is it totally without risk? Of course not. Some folks might not be on board. They might have their own judgements about it. That’s ultimately not my business.

R.T. and I knew a couple of years ago that we would eventually choose our own surname. We intended to do it when we got married, but we hadn’t settled on a name by the time that rolled around. It was (perhaps a little too) important to me that we have the same last name, so I took his name right away. In retrospect, I wish I’d been a little more patient so that I didn’t have to do the name change thing twice, but… hindsight blah blah. (Fact is, I tend to jump in with both feet.)

When we started considering Quinn a few months ago, I really loved the name. I was fine with ignoring all of the Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman references folks would certainly make as a result. I hesitated because I didn’t really think Leah Cedar Quinn sounded all that interesting. It was a little flat. Also, as someone with synesthesia, I just didn’t dig the colors. We kept rolling around other ideas. Then, one day last week I woke up and realized that Quinn wasn’t the problem. I knew as clear as anything that I didn’t want to go by Leah anymore. I was ready to be Evan (with both feet). Evan Leah Quinn just felt so perfect. I really love the juxtaposition of the strength of Evan paired with the softness of Leah. It’s a good combo. It suits me.

That’s really the whole story. This name change is not about shunning where I came from or reinventing myself or outrunning anything. It’s about being comfortable where I am, as this tiny warrior who gives herself permission to take big risks. Who is okay with letting people think she’s a little bit crazy if it means showing up and living out loud.

Thanks for coming along for the ride.

– Evan