No. 189

When Your Path to Freedom is Anything But

I remember winter days at my last job. I arrived to work at 7:30am, just as the sun was really beginning to leave its mark and brighten the sky. By the time my day of work in my grey cube was over at 4:30pm, the sun had disappeared again.

That was not the life I wanted.

And so I quit and decided to be a freelancer. I had no thoughts of running a business at the time (even though that’s what I was beginning to do) — I simply wanted long lunch hours, days sitting outdoors at cafes on my computer, time to travel.

For a few months, that was my reality. I wasn’t always making enough money to pay rent, but I wasn’t trapped anymore.

Until I was…by the work. I had a good reputation and with that came more projects, more clients, more time at my computer. I felt trapped by what I had created for myself.

Luckily, I came across the right business coach at the time, who helped me maneuver and start hiring people. And the business grew. Revenue was tripling, doubling, growing and with it, I was hiring new team members. I was creating something I loved…and unexpectedly hated.

Now, truthfully, there’s so much I have to be thankful for with my business. It’s allowed me the flexibility to travel, to move, to be with my mom when she was sick.

Except, in looking back at the last year, I can see how it didn’t allow me to actually be with my mom in her final months. I was physically there, but there was always a problem to occupy my mind and time. There were meetings that I took in her kitchen and phone calls I had to make. And while we did have time together, we didn’t nearly have enough time together. Not the really good type of time. Not what I wanted.

And after she passed, my business didn’t give me the time I needed to grieve. I took the day of my mom’s funeral off but was back at it the next day and the next. I still haven’t had a break.

In December, my schedule really started to control my life: I was in 7+ hours of meetings each day, sometimes missing lunch, then had to work late to get caught up on emails and proposals and support my team. It was work-rinse-repeat, even on weekends.

And so this experiment I began in the desire to have more freedom has made me a slave. It has stripped from me the parts that make me most myself: my creativity, my hobbies, my friends, my loved ones.

I’ve spend the last week feeling the winds of a tornado inside me, one that threatens to sweep me away for good if I cannot control it. Every dissatisfaction and disappointment and hope has emerged, like giant spotlights showing me that I need to make some big changes, or risk hating my life.

And so I’ve been asking myself:

What is it that I really want for my life?
Who do I want to be?
What are the things that make me who I am?
What is non-negotiable for my life?
Who do I need to spend time with?

It starts with a word: Create.

This is the year I create and craft and build the life I truly want. I’m creating structures in my day that give me space to reflect, to breathe, to write, to be more myself.   I’m saying NO to anything that doesn’t feel aligned. I’m making shifts in my business so I’m no longer its slave — no doubt that means it will change, but it will become what I need it to be.

Will it all happen within a year? Maybe not, but it’s time I shift the path I’ve been walking on.

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Credits

Jane Reaction

(logo and original branding) is a graphic design and art director who works with with small businesses and creative entrepreneurs, creating cohesive and interesting brands and websites.

Carrie Coleman

(photography) is a wedding photographer, whose goal is to capture the visual expression of a couple's love through timeless, organic images. She is based in Charlottesville, Virginia.