Defining my Own Badassness


Since I was little, my mom always stressed to me the importance of education in achieving stability and security. I was told that in order to be 'successful' one must attain a degree. I was told that I could do anything I wanted in this life but that I must acquire an education to fall back on in the event that things didn't go as planned. Now, don't take my mother the wrong way. She meant well and only wanted me to have what she did not. As a new mother and wife by the age of 19, soon-to-be divorced, she didn't have a college or even high school diploma to fall back on. She is successful in her career now, but as a single, education-less woman, she struggled to get there. Her plan was one of those that did not go accordingly and for that reason her sole purpose was to make sure that my story would be different, smarter, and without struggle. 

Growing up I was a straight-A student. A lot was expected of me and a lot, I delivered. I graduated near the top of my class and was accepted into the University of California, San Diego where I was on track to major in Human Biology as a pre-med student. I struggled a lot those first few years to feel happy and to find what I wanted out of life. I knew I was good at school, but I didn't know why I felt unfulfilled in what I was doing. When I felt I had hit a breaking point, I ended up taking a year off of school to pause, reflect, and reevaluate. In that year I met and started dating Aaron, my now fiance, and I concluded that perhaps what I needed was a change in major. Maybe I just wasn't getting my degree in the right thing, I thought. After visiting Haiti three different times and feeling like I was and had always been passionate for working with children, I decided to pursue a career in teaching and went back as a human development major, with an emphasis in child psychology and a minor in education. For the first time I loved what I was learning and was excited to go to class. To everyone around me, I was happier and had finally 'figured it out'. Although I never voiced it to others, I still found myself thinking and doubting that this was really what I wanted to do. I could see myself being a teacher but I couldn't shake the feeling that I might be silencing a suppressed passion for something else. 

Working full-time on top of school full-time and a boyfriend meant I had little me-time. I had always been a creative-type and to stay sane pursued photography, baking, and spent many late nights painting. I craved creative expression and I craved working with my hands. I got into interior design and building. I built my bed out of wooden palettes, sanded and stained them. I built my coffee table out of reclaimed oak and shelving for my kitchen. I started a blog to document what I was doing and I fell in love with the time I spent with my hands in motion. These moments were the ones where I felt mentally free, joyful, and fulfilled.  

In my final year of school, I stumbled across the art of weaving. It's intricacy and it's beauty captivated me and I immediately knew I wanted to try it. I bought a few skeins of a yarn, a small loom, and I began to teach myself. I was hooked (yarn pun, hehe) and before I could finish my first piece, a friend had reached out to me inquiring about purchasing the weaving. Knowing I could make another one for myself, I thought, 'why not?', and sent my first piece off to Seattle. I began making the second one and again was approached if it was for sale. Both friends and people I didn't know started asking me if I could make them one and suddenly there was a bug in my head that I could not shake. A bug that asked myself, 'could I actually do this?'.

Meanwhile, I had graduated college and was headed into a masters-credential program at UCSD to continue my pursuit of teaching and Aaron and I were now talking about plans for marriage in the future. That bug of a question did not really go away but I did get better at silencing it with my own fears and doubts. Doubts that my work wasn't good enough and fears that surround the unknown in pursuing an entrepreneurial career. After all, I was headed into a stable career that would mean security and comfortability for myself and my soon-to-be husband. I comforted myself with the thought that weaving would be a great hobby to bring me joy and fulfillment while I pursued my career. I quietly dreamed and schemed for months of launching a website where I could sell my pieces and worked hard to perfect my craft. After a few months, I launched kindredandcopper.com with a few weavings for sale and I released my dream into the world. The two weavings I put on my site SOLD OUT and I was suddenly receiving custom order requests. But all the while, I never let myself dream of anything more than a side hobby, not even to my partner who was closest to my heart and desires.

It took a great deal of guts to put my dream out there in the world. It felt vulnerable to invite people into a dream that felt naive, silly, and wildly unattainable. I only felt okay because I could say, 'but hey, look at that this piece of paper that says I am successful!' I let my diploma and my bulletproof 10-year plan define my worth. And most of all, I let what other people thought of me and what other people viewed as 'success' define me. 

Then somebody went and messed up my whole plan. My fiance and partner in life, whom I thought I had concealed this struggle from since I had even concealed it from myself, went and called me out on my bologna. He sat me down, mega-intervention style, and asked me if I was happy. He brought up all of the things I had white-knuckled and suppressed and oh man was I caught. I was defensive and immediately shut it down. I gave him the answer that I had so often given myself; That I was choosing safety and security for our future and that I was doing what was right for us. There's something remarkable to be noted about the people that God puts in your life that know the desires of your heart even more than you do at times. Thankfully, I was able to later see that he was right (don't tell him I said that though) and in hindsight, I'm grateful that he could see right through me.

I had launched my website just one month before my final masters/credential program application was due. I told myself that he was wrong and that I would still be applying. I even went as far as to acquire all of my letters of recommendation from previous teachers I had interned with. Over that month, a number of unforeseeable and quite hilarious events occurred. One of these included stumbling across an article by Darling magazine on "Why I Regret Getting my Masters Degree" about a teacher (of all careers) that had an existential realization that she had suppressed her passion for creativity and chosen safety and security. Are you kidding me!? I sent it to Aaron laughing at the irony but not succumbing to it's truth. In that month I met a handful of badass women who had left their security in search of joy. One was also on-track to be a teacher and one worked in a bank, both leaving their established careers to pursue creative endeavors. Friends began to fill me with affirmation and everyone around me was saying the same things. I think at one point I even told my best friend I hated her (not seriously), but I felt as though no one was on my side! For a smattering of reasons, I also happened to take the Enneagram test during this time and as you may have guessed, I learned that I am a 3 or an 'achiever'. Achievers strive to be successful. They are the ones who get straight A's, pick up extra hours at work, are very image conscious, approval seeking, and place their worth in their achievements. In unhealth, they are so good at being a chameleon in each group of people they encounter that they may even lose themselves. At times they can worry too much about how they appear to other people and spread themselves thin trying to please everyone else around them but themselves. They place their worth and value for themselves in their achievements and in others' perceptions of them.

Ouch. I laughed off the accuracy in this, albeit feeling called out and a little wounded. All the while, door after door continued to open in regards to my weavings and dreams, and the decision slowly started to feel a painstakingly no-brainer. I'm honestly convinced that God was just laughing at me that whole month. 

In the end, I chose joy. I did not submit my masters application and feared a few hard conversations with the people that were expecting otherwise. But they too, did not go as planned and I was more supported and loved than I ever anticipated. So many people that I meet say that they are proud or impressed by my confidence to take such a leap, some even stating that they are jealous of my guts to really go for something. But the truth is, I'm scared. I'm unsure of what is in store for me and often don't feel very confident in my decisions. But I live for the little glimmers of 'oh, THIS is why I am doing this' and I don't regret my decision. I take every little comment about my work and what I'm doing deeply to heart and it fuels me to keep going. Even if I fail, I know that I have permanently released my need for safety, validation, and to appear successful in the eyes of others. I've found that I am successful, even in my nothingness, and that I'm the only one that can decide that. Sometimes I sit in my car and say out loud, "I am a badass". Sometimes it's a whisper and I have to say it three or four times before I start to believe it but everyday I say it a little louder.