When I read that it was very likely that my first self-employed business would not be the one I ended up settling into long-term, I was actually quite relieved.
That little bit of info is based on a statistic that can make dream-followers really nervous about diving in and taking the risk with their first creative dream venture. But for me, it felt like relief and permission to take time.
Because I knew that I couldn't just financially make what I needed to, even for our rather simple lifestyle, by just dropping everything else and following my heart back into the portal of Being an Artist, whatever that was going to mean.
I knew, way deep down in that soul-stirring place in each of us, that there was a whole lot I didn't know about where I was headed on my artist's journey. That it wasn't going to be typical. I knew it was going to be something I hadn't ever quite imagined, especially not ten years before, when I was working at a gallery, post-art-school, and wondering what the hell it was all for anyway... wondering so much that I knew there was some other piece of my puzzle, something I was supposed to experience to realize a deeper, more fully expressed version of myself that wanted to be born, something else the artist in me wasn't getting at the time....
I wondered and searched until I found myself on an all-consuming path of graduate school for nursing, and working in palliative and hospice care for the better part of a decade. Whoa.
Lots of caregiving, learning, soul-touching connections, and hundreds of families and deaths later, something in me shifted again, sitting at a cubicle at our hospice office. And I knew it was time to leave that path. I was surprised it was so soon, but I knew what I felt to be true.
When I get these intuitive hits, I experience them through my whole body... a wave of knowing. In a split moment of a sort of altered consciousness (for lack of a better descriptor), I knew I had to leave what I was doing once again, that I had given and received what some part of me had come for, but that my soul-directive had another plan, and it was time again to take action, if I expected to ever realize that potential and live to my fullest.
Following your intuition can be one of the scariest damn things ever, and yet, I have never met anyone who has regretted it - when it has been a true intuitive hit, that is, and not simply fear or ego disguised as such.
And no, you don't get some enlightening moment where it is ALL revealed - what it's all for or where you're going - just for taking the order from your intuitive self. At least I don't. Maybe we get that down the road, past the breaths of this space and time, who knows? Here, though, it's day-to-day, feet-to-earth, with all the uncertainty of navigating our human experience.
If you're lucky, though, you get brief moments infused with a connection so divine it fills your eyes with tears, sends tingles across your skin, and pulls all words from your mouth in a holy, quiet breath of YESSSSS that propels you through the fear and doubts because... something in you just has to.
Following your intuition becomes a choice when it comes right down to it, of course, but to not make that choice would cost your spirit too much.
Maybe that's just my experience of those nudges though, and the fire within that drives me to action once it's lit.
Maybe you can relate: you get the hit, you listen, you make the move, you do the thing - quit the job, leave the relationship, book the flight, make the call, let go of one thing for something else... and then you find yourself nestled in with the choice, waiting to see what the mysterious darkness of it all holds. You keep your eyes open, trying not to hold your breath as your heart pumps faster with life, and you patiently let your eyes adjust to the new uncertainty of whatever it is you've set in motion.
And as the light creeps in... because there is always light if we give our senses a little time to catch up... pieces of the landscape will fall into place - having always been there, of course - and next moves or choices will be revealed. And sometimes those moves will be stumbles to teach you how to be light on your feet, or big mountains to build strength and surefooted-ness in steep climbs.
Because - don't be fooled - intuition doesn't always mean ease-y. In fact, in my experience, there is usually a lot of damn-hard work or truths to face along the way. Every bit of it is worth it, though, as you realize more wholly what it means to live fully alive, awake, willing to change and true.
So when I heard my first business probably wouldn't last, I thought, oh good. And I asked myself, What can I do with my skills where I'm at right now, to create freedom, space and momentum? So that my heart can continue to listen for those next moves, while my eyes adjust to this uncharted terrain, with a destination I cannot fully imagine on my own, as this me, right now?
That's how my very first self-employed business became a mobile foot-care business for the elderly, right in the middle of my transition out of nursing and back to art.
Foot-care drew on nursing skills I had at the time, as well as my desire to help others and offer presence to their stories and days. It allowed me to test the waters of being my own boss, but was not as demanding or taxing as my previous full-time nursing job, by any means. I made my own schedule, got creative about how I managed my efforts... and was able to dip back into my art-making seriously for the first time in years with my excess in time and energy.
Time and energy were the resources I knew I needed first, in order to listen within, closer, to that soul-stirring that never leads me astray. I was able to re-connect to my own medicine, my essence.
AND, I knew that foot-care as my first biz wasn't forever, thanks to that statistic out there. It took the pressure off the part of me that needed to set the artist in me free again, with a totally new set of experiences and perspectives. I knew I could do foot-care for a few years, though. Even if it wasn't my ideal home-based biz, or where I was heading, it was a very helpful bridge between nursing and beginning my creative business. It allowed me to test the waters of self-employment and let my dream creative business gestate.
At the end of the day, the longevity and sustainability of my life as an artist became more important than trying to force something that wasn't ready to walk on its own yet, let alone make an offer in the world.
So maybe there's a bridge for you, too? If you feel a wide gap between where you are and that stirring within that you can't deny, that is pulling you toward your dream, toward something mysterious, new or remembered about who you are here to be - maybe there's a stepping stone right in front of you.
It's OK to support your dreams with what you already have going for you, with a little extra unrelated adventure along the way - in fact, I would recommend it. That doesn't mean you're not really committed to the bigger picture or the total change. One day, in right timing, you will
have to be ready to cut the cord to plan B, most likely (I did, but that's another story) - or maybe not, and that's OK, too.
You will definitely still need to follow some unexpected intuitive hunches along the way, though, and keep checking in with your creative heart, letting your eyes adjust to the new terrain your soul is encountering... or remembering... and look for the way that is already right before you, maybe the side-venture that can support and sustain you... don't worry if it seems unrelated right now. It's not bound to be where you will land, but sometimes it can help get you there and teach you a few things along the way.
This musing down memory lane was inspired by 3 funny things that popped up in my life-radar this week:
1. We were cleaning and came across my official nursing graduate degree, which I thought I had lost. Interestingly, I felt no regrets or doubts at seeing it, and no part of me questioned my decisions along the way.
2. I also found and re-read an old journal from the time when I first went into nursing school, in my late twenties... and it was heart-breaking and revealing in so many ways of what I mess I was, the depression I was dealing with, and how even though the artist in me was very much alive, something in my soul had to steer me to learn other things for a time.
3. And that postcard with my foot-care business logo popped out of a book at me the other night. It feels symbolic to the whole journey somehow.
So, here I am, reflecting on my journey to my own creative business - the one that so much of my path has prepared me for.
And, in case any of it resonates for you, I say: trust your intuition, follow your hunches-wisdom-and-dreams, use your skills and strengths along the way, don't be afraid to switch gears, be mindful of resources and know it's OK to take your time! Your path is yours and it is more than you can even imagine, so start with one step at a time and enjoy your stumbles and discoveries along the way.