DESIGN YOUR LIFE: vicki of heavenly metal

Good morning! Today’s DYL is written by a very dear friend and mentor of mine, Vicki of Heavenly Metal. I first met Vicki as a college sophomore. Her adorable and unique boutique, Heavenly Metal, in Ann Arbor, Michigan was one of the first stores to carry Jess LC. Through working with Vicki via my jewelry, and eventually working for her shop part-time, I learned about self-employment and life. Vicki is always ready and willing to impart her advice in an incredibly authentic and honest way.

When I struggled with Jess LC during the first six months in Chicago, she was the only person I could seriously rely upon for business advice. Only Vicki shared my entrepreneurial spirit and understood what was at stake, and what could be gained. When I eventually asked her if it was time for me to throw in the towel, she immediately scoffed and said I had to give it at least one year. And so I took a deep breath, and did just that. Thanks to her long-term perspective, Jess LC is where it is today.

So with no further ado, I give you a peek into Vicki’s wonderful and inspiring life.

DESIGN YOUR LIFE: Vicki of Heavenly Metal

I have a degree in film from the University of Michigan which I put to use for a number of years. After volunteering for the Ann Arbor Film Festival for 10 or so years, I became the Festival Director, a position I held for 15 years. I thought it was my career job, but it didn’t work out that way.

Simultaneous to running the film festival, I cut hair in my little storefront business, Vicki’s Wash & Wear Haircuts. The festival office was in the back room of my haircut shop. When the festival moved out, I began selling Kathryn Arnett’s recycled metal artwork and some locally made jewelry. Word got out that there was a new store in town, so I came up with a name and started attending trade shows to bring in more product…and that’s how my gallery/gift shop Heavenly Metal was born!

Ten months into my new career I was diagnosed with breast cancer and spent the next year and a half undergoing very aggressive treatment that made me quite ill. I was unable to work because I was at high risk for infection. Fortunately friends kept my business going and the community graciously raised funds for me, as I ran out of money. Now it is 7 years since diagnosis and Heavenly Metal has become my dream come true!

I love going to work every day….my shop is cheerful, filled with unique handmade art, jewelry, bags, apparel, shoes….it’s very comfy and cozy and I feel lucky to be earning a living making my shoppers happy. Plus I get to bring my precious Lucy, an 8-lb Papillon, to work with me every day! With the relief of cancer behind me, and the knowledge I have gained owning a retail business, I’ve created a huge intention: take my business to the next level so it can gain national attention. Why keep it a hidden local treasure? This means learning about facebook and twitter and staying current with the store’s online store and blog: so much work for one little person to take on! If anyone has suggestions for me to make my intention come true, please share your thoughts! I’m soooo excited to make this work for me!

Embrace who you are.

I grew up in an unconventional family. There have been many many situations where I’ve felt awkward, where I obviously didn’t “fit in” because I’m not suburban, I’m not conventional, I’m not christian/catholic. But what I am is very deep-seated in me because of all those things I am not. I grew up in a city that had a strong mix of black and white, poor and middle class. My family embraced all (well as long as they were of the same politically liberal belief system as us) and never knew we were different from those around us.

Being different is good.

Not being like the status quo is good and its empowering. I appreciate that my upbringing exposed me to culture, politics, art, music, counter-culture, “free-thinkers”….in fact, I wouldn’t have it any other way! What I learned growing up has made me an open-minded and out-going person who does not fear because of innate mistrust in people. And check this out: I’ve never had harm come to me because of it!

It’s a total waste of time to feel sorry for yourself.

I do have regrets. I attended the wrong high school. I attended the wrong college. I didn’t fully embrace my summer abroad as a junior in high school. I smoked too much pot. I chose the wrong guys. I never left my college town. I made poor choices in my marriage. Shoulda/woulda/coulda. But when I start thinking that way, I remind myself that it’s ridiculous and a waste of time to feel regretful and sorry for myself. When I become envious of people who have great marriages and families, no financial worries, a fireplace and a piano in their house…maybe even a cottage on a lake….I remind myself that it is just silly to feel envious: I made the choices that put me where I am today. Besides, I have two toilets in my house, no difficulties keeping the heat running, a refrigerator full of food, and wonderful wonderful friends: I’m wealthy!

When feeling like it can’t get any worse, remember there are people who have it way worse.

I had breast cancer. I’m fine now, but for a year and a half I was very very sick. When closing in on the end of treatment and the beginning of recovery, many people told me I was their inspiration. I was completely dumbfounded because I didn’t feel like I’d done anything extraordinary, except to live treatment day in and day out, as was necessary. Now that I’m 7 years past all that, I remember that when I was feeling I couldn’t feel any worse, couldn’t have possibly been any sicker, I’d remind myself that there were so many others who had it much worse than me. That is the way I live day-to-day and with the world….but it was pretty brilliant to embrace that when I was sicker than anybody around me.

Life doesn’t come to you, you have to go to it.

It’s a waste of time to sit around wanting, wishing, hoping, dreaming…..if there’s something you want you have to make it happen because it’s not going to wind up unannounced in your lap. Life is hard work. To be who you want to be, to have what you want to have, you must create it, find it, make it happen….willing it for yourself is just unrealistic.

Work hard. Play hard. Relax hard.

Having work is absolutely the most important thing in the world. OK, good health, love, friends, a roof over one’s head…those are just as important but having a reason to get out of bed every morning is crucial! But just as important is being able to play….and to relax. I strongly believe in integrating work, play, and down time into my life….I may not be able to do that every day, but each one requires the other. I feel grateful for knowing and embracing that.

Make the best out of where you are.

I own a fabulous store during the hardest economic times I’ve ever experienced in my 59 years. It’s scary. I have no one to fall back on: it’s all me and nobody else. But I love my business (as do the people who walk into my store) and I thoroughly love what I’ve chosen as my career. I gave up a wonderful career in my early 50’s due to circumstances, a career I felt I’d be with my entire working life, but it didn’t work out that way. I fell into what I’m doing now (though it had always been a dream of mine) and though it’s more work than I’d bargained for, and it’s tough tough tough given where I’m located and the economy of my State, I love the task at hand. I’d love to be closing in on retirement, but that’s not going to happen so I am living my creed and making the best of what I’ve got!

Be happy. Get a dog. Like your work. Don’t waste your time with people you don’t completely love and respect. Don’t burden yourself with the things that didn’t happen.

Check out past DESIGN YOUR LIFE interviews.

This Post Has 0 Comments

  1. beki

    Such wonderful, inspiring advice! Thanks so much for sharing.

  2. susan

    Vicki
    I’m glad I read this! It’s great! The photos are beautiful, and so are you.

  3. Val A.

    Love this! Great words to live by. I even wrote down the “bullet points” so I can remind myself of these things more often. Thank you!

  4. Candace

    I had my hair cut by Vicki today. I feel a lot lighter because I have a perkier haircut, because I really like my new “tunic” I bought at Heavenly Metal, because I got to read all about Vicki, her story, and visit a store that I love and love to support.

  5. I love this especially: “Be happy. Get a dog. Like your work. Don’t waste your time with people you don’t completely love and respect.”

    It all boils down to that, doesn’t it?

  6. Ellen

    Vicki is an inspiration. She always has a smile and knows everyone in town. She’s got a great store with the funnest stuff you’ll want to own. If you need a unique gift, give her a look. I remember her in the 70’s selling flowers off a cart in the middle of campus. She’s still blossoming!

  7. Valerie M.

    Viva Vicki!

    I have never left Heavenly Metals, or time with Vicki and not felt better for knowing her ( and her little dog too )….

    Heavenly Metals, one of Ann Arbor’s best places for gifts for loved ones and oneself.

  8. Myra

    Great to visit your blog, Jess, and it’s wonderful and inspiring read Vicki’s story. We are so lucky to have her and her shop in Ann Arbor!

  9. Dayka

    Thanks for sharing your story, Vicki! There are several points I’ll take away from your story. The ones that really spoke to me were:
    -it’s a waste of time to feel sorry for yourself
    -people have it worse than you
    -life doesn’t come to you, you have to go to it

    I’ve wasted a lot of time feeling bad about decisions I’ve made, but I know that I’m in a good place and I’m where I’m supposed to be. Sometimes you can feel like you’re alone in your thinking and/or with your worries–it’s good to know that it’s not just me. I do believe that quote that when your life gets simple, then universe can work for you in a more simple way. Thanks for sharing your story!

  10. Brenda

    Vicki — I love my wonderful haircuts by you, the amazing clothes, jewelry, and gifts you bring to your store, but mostly — I love you.
    You are amazing. Thanks for sharing your life with me.

  11. Susan T.

    Yay Vick! You are an inspiration, not only for what you’ve been through, but because of who you are and how you look at life. I love you!!

  12. Suzanne

    “Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.” Aldous Huxley

    Vicki,
    You have done incredible things with what has happened to you! It is so true that your shop is an expression of your experiences.

    To encounter you, even for a few minutes, is so uplifting!

    And I feel so wonderful in my new, red, ruffle skirt!

    You always know what I need! Thanks!

  13. Georgia

    Wise words from a true original. Few people I know live as “intentionally” or walk their talk as jauntily as my friend, Vicki. And I certainly couldn’t visit A2 from Portland without a stop at Heavenly Metals. love you, Vick!

  14. Sinead

    I was looking for information about the Ann Arbor Film Festival when I fell upon this blog. Vicki, your very wise words couldn’t possibly have fallen into my consciousness at a more appropriate time.
    I am so glad that you are well. You truly are an inspiration.

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