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A few weeks ago, MML reader, Ann of the blog Glamourshoes sent me a great email explaining how she has done such a wonderful job “designing her life” by pursuing a variety of passions throughout the past twenty years. But she is now at a new crossroads: life after raising three awesome children. From the bit that she shared, I knew her story has a lot to teach us all. For those of us who are just beginning life after school, Ann’s story points out that we can design our lives in multiple ways throughout the years. And for those who are also in Ann’s shoes, her story demonstrates that a new “life design” is necessary to stay inspired, purposeful, and fulfilled.

Enjoy!

Ann’s Designed Life

When Jess asked me to write a guest post about how I have designed my life at various stages, I was surprised.  I discovered Jess in a desperate attempt one night to find something, ANYTHING, to inspire me!  My creativity seems to have evaporated and I’m not sure how to find it. I tend to let life just happen to me and then I have to intend my way through it!  Making under my life struck a chord as I am realizing that perhaps I need to intentionally design the life I want and then intend my way toward  it, instead!  Aha!  That’s the way it’s supposed to work, isn’t it?

I married and had kids young and now two of my three kids are in college and one is about to start high school.  At 44, my life as a full time mom is coming to an end.  What in the world am I going to do with myself now?

My intention out of high school was to move to New York and write for a fashion magazine.  I fell in love, got married and had my first child at twenty.  Quickly, my intentions shifted to proving a young mother could be a great mother!  My husband was starting medical school and I realized I would be the present parent and that I needed a plan.  I decided early on that I never wanted my children to doubt for even a minute that they were loved, so I told them so with words, hugs and kisses, everyday.  I chose kindness and honesty as the virtues I would work hardest to instill.  I made sure I respected them as individuals and that I listened to their opinions.  I was kind to them even when I disapproved of their actions, and I was honest with them when I made mistakes.  Teaching them to be self reliant and providing them with the best education possible were some of the ways my husband and I made this happen.  He lets me lead when it comes to parenting but he always backs me up!

At 25, I had my second child.  I still wanted to write for a fashion magazine, but moving to NYC, wasn’t going to happen at the moment.  We moved to Texas for my husband to do his residency.  My intentions had conflicts.  So, I found a job as an editorial assistant at the Dallas bureau of Women’s Wear Daily, which is the trade paper for the fashion industry and based in New York, with bureaus around the globe.  For three years I had a blast.  It was a very small office and so, not only did I answer the phone and type letters, I got to be a stylist for fashion shoots and write the occasional article.  My first priority was being available to my kids, but by design, I was able to also take care of my personal priorities.

At 30, my husband and I decided to move back to Louisiana and our family, with the intention of designing our future.  It was finally my turn!  My husband had a fellowship for a year and I would finish school.  My new love was design, but as there are no design schools in our town, I would take basic classes and when our year was up, we would go somewhere that offered the education I wanted.  Our kids were five and ten and the challenging toddler years were over.  Then, we found out that my husband’s vasectomy hadn’t taken, and we were pregnant again. Perhaps the universe had other plans for me!  We decided that having three children required the help of grandparents and that staying in our hometown would provide us with a better quality of life.  We would stay until we got past the difficult toddler years!  I agreed, but started adapting my dream, again.  I looked at my life and determined what I needed to be happiest in my present situation.  I decided I needed to find work that would have something to do with design, that would be part-time, as I had three kids to manage and that would get me out of town several times a year.

About this time, a friend was opening a hair salon and asked if I would put a gift shop in front.  Isn’t it amazing how once you make a decision, the pieces seem to fall into place?  It would be a small store with jewelry and accessories and she would run it, for the most part.  I didn’t know anything about running a store, but it was small enough that I would learn on the fly and at least, I could sell good design if I wasn’t going to be able to learn how to create it myself.  So, I would bring beautifully designed things to my city, I could make my own hours, and I would get to go on buying trips three to five times a year.  Perfect!  It was successful.  After about a year, another salon owner asked me to do the same in her place and I had a friend join as my partner to help keep my work and home lives manageable.  One of the salon owners opened a clothing store and she asked us to partner with her. She would buy the clothes for the store and we would continue to provide the jewelry and accessories, but on a much larger scale.  Before long, we merged everything and my buying extended to clothing and shoes, as well.  We were going to market in New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Dallas.  It was fun, but my hours away from home became longer and longer.  Suddenly, My oldest child was leaving for college and my infant was seven years old and wanted to know if next year I would be able to drive on any field trips, as I hadn’t been able to make it to even one during second grade.  Uh-oh!

I made the difficult decision to close the store and return to being more present for my family.  Our children become adults very quickly.  I intended to enjoy as much of what was left of their childhood as possible.  I volunteered at the school, drove on those field trips, traveled all over the south to attend hundreds of my son’s soccer games, and I carpooled to dance class and soccer practice.  Soon, I was bored.  They were in school all day and there were only so many field trips a year.

I was looking for something else to do, so I made that list of what it needed to look like.  It would have something to do with design, be part-time, so I could be available to my family and it would allow me to use my creativity.  About that time, I was looking for some new furniture and found a picture of a beautiful, very simple iron table costing $10,000.  It occurred to me that I could probably go anywhere in the world and learn how to make that table myself for less than $10,000!  With a few phone calls, a welding machine was on loan and a very dear friend who is a metal artist, agreed to give me lessons.  Within months, tables, candle holders, fireplace screens and pet beds had been made.  Word got out and through many of my contacts with the clothing store, commissions came in, and I was in business.  Hollywood came to town and flaming fire-pits were ordered for a television movie.  I was proud of my work.  I felt like I was really doing what I was supposed to be doing.  I was having fun, until I bit off more than I could chew! I took on a project that required more labor and skill than creativity, and it shut me down.  It took me away from my family for too many hours and even though I was making very good money and building a name for myself, I finished the job and didn’t want to weld anymore.  That was three years ago.

So here I am, right now, today, in that same position, trying to figure out what to do with myself.  It feels a little different this time, though.  I know that the hours and the time I have to commit to this new project will expand in the next few years.  This really can be the time when I can selfishly devote myself to my dream.  My family needs less of me and it is necessary that I find work that I love to fill my soul when my nest empties for good, in four years.  So if I build something slowly in the next few years, it’s possible that I will survive the transition swimmingly!

So, what does this new dream look like?

It will engage my creativity.

It will allow me to make my own hours.

It will involve travel.

It will make me smile.

It is work I can do alone but then share.

It will be financially profitable, but work that I would do even if I didn’t get paid.

What puts a gleam in my eye?

Beautiful design

Contemporary Art Museums

Landscaped sculptural gardens

Shoes

Jewelry: sculptural, geometric, vintage rhinestones and beads

Mid Century Modern furniture

Modular homes

Oversized objects: giant sculpture, wall-sized paintings, bib necklaces

Books: Design, Foodie Memoirs, Artists Autobiographies

New York City, New Orleans, London, Denmark, France

Flea Markets

What will make it Happen?

Consistency, Honesty, Kindness, Creativity, Love

How will I merge all of these things and turn them into work?  I don’t know, yet.  I do know, that when I start stating my intentions out loud, they start to come true.  So I think I will keep turning ideas over for a while, and eventually one will begin to work its way out.  It will be very important to devote some time to figuring out what I’m feeling and really listen to my inner voice!  She’s in there, and she has much to say!  I just need to start paying her a little more attention.

  • Great post! As a mom of young kids I easily get disappointed with my current path… it seems like all the free time is spent taking care of them and not taking care of me or my desires for a career. It’s inspiring to see the other side of it… that as my kids grow I will be able to rediscover my path (or start new ones!) and it’s never too late.
    Loved this! Thank you!

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  • Loved this too!
    I’m 45 and have 3 kids who need me less and less every day. Like Ann I’m ready for the next stage of my life and I’m in the process of designing it {my new life}; it feels great, and very exciting!

  • Anna’s story is so inspiring. I love stories of how women’s lives change and adapt to their needs throughout the years. It gives me hope that I’ll be able to manage mine in the same way. 🙂

  • It’s nice to see a story that’s not complete…someone who doesn’t know her direction but is searching for it. I think a lot of us are in that boat and it’s kind of nice to see that even after having kids and several successful careers, it’s okay to find a new passion and career.

  • Anonymous

    Wonderful post!

  • I really enjoyed this post. I appreciate your sentiment that not attending every single little thing does not make you a bad mom – rather being an individual in addition to being a mother/wife – makes you an even better mom!

  • Ann

    I am so glad you guys found my post inspiring. As a woman, it’s hard to “do it all” as well as we would like to. The only thing I’m certain of is that everything does change. I’ve found that if I’m able to adapt and change with the world around me, life can be really good no matter where I find myself. I think its also really important for mothers to remind themselves to be the kind of parent you want your children to be. You wouldn’t want your kids to forget about their dreams. It’s easier to continue looking for mine when I remember I am their example. Thank you so much, Jess, for believing I had something valuable to share. Your blog is very inspiring! You deserve a round of applause! Clap!Clap!Clap!Clap!Clap!!!!!

  • lovely post. love your thought process and agree that verbalizing intentions brings them closer to fruition. good luck!

  • thanks for sharing such an interesting story. it’s inspiring to learn that “designing your life” isn’t always a straight road! it’s what you do in the curves and bends that define your purpose and happiness.x

  • imogen

    wow! just wow. I’m 24, single with no kids, and only at the beginning of my career. Ann has an amazing outlook on life. Wow

  • Even though Ann and I are at different life stages, I found her story so inspiring. We all have moments where it feels like our dreams aren’t coming true. I feel like I’ve put my dreams on hold while my husband’s been finishing law school, but the truth is… I’ve learned and grown so much in the past three years! I didn’t really give up my dreams; instead, my dreams changed and grew with me. Thanks for the reminder!

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