Don’t (please) look at me

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Not only am I an enigma to some, floating away as fast as I arrived, I am also a complete contradiction. To put it rather bluntly, I am simply an introvert who is trying to be an extrovert…or wait? Am I an extrovert who is dying to be an introvert?

No wonder people are generally left confused by my presence. I am obviously giving off some mixed signals here…

Trust me, even I can’t figure it out and I happen to be an overly self-aware individual. I find myself screaming at the top of my lungs to be heard, yet covering my ears like a small child, shaking their head, begging for silence. I crave the chaos and excitement of intense crowds yet I find utter peace and comfort in the solitary cocoon that represents my home.

Yet, even when I achieve that sweet yet savoury moment, I despise the silence.

This week has allowed me the opportunity to explore these contradictions in my personality through the eyes of the media. I have been faced with such extreme examples that it has been simply impossible for me to ignore their magnitude. And through all my shrewd yet dull observations, I am left pondering:

Why do I keep trying to be something that I am not?

Resolutions for 2014

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A very special friend in my life has given me some (somewhat) unsolicited advice with intent to have me start 2014 off on the right foot. You know the type – the friend who will force you to face your inner-most demons completely out of the blue, usually over a bottle of wine, without any attempt to sugar-coat the truth, all in the name of friendship. A true gift. So, with utter nonchalance in tone, I have been advised ‘to simply suspend my disbelief’ for all the amazing things that are happening to me. ‘For they are all warranted and earned – you deserve it…’ And with that deadpan look only a true friend can give, the statement hit my core, whether I wanted to face my demons on that particular evening or not.

When I reflect back on 2013, it would seem that each time I have experienced a new event in this venture or overcome some strange challenge (that I never even imagined that I would have to face in the first place…), my reaction has always been one of awe and shock at my good fortune and dumb luck. Sheer happiness. Utter joy. Things that were once thought impossible, have become possible and I often struggle to figure out the ‘how’ while in the moment. As a result, my reflexes and instincts are becoming compromised. It’s as if everything in my mind is bright and acute with my peripheral moving in slow motion. I can’t seem to react in the same way. I’m able to both hear and see what is going on around me but not at the same time. It’s mildly surreal.

And this dissonance/happy state may be putting me at a business disadvantage.

For it is only when I have a quiet moment to sit back and process the events of the day (with a well-earned glass of wine) can I become objective. After some reflection, I begin to recall the feeling as though I am missing something but because I am on such an adrenaline high in the moment, my senses seem dull, weak and just white noise in the background. I’m simply overcome with gratitude to notice anything else. So, while I am trapped in this stunned and blind state, am I really asking all the right questions? Am I really being thorough in my analysis of the situation? Am I really protecting my interests and not allowing myself to be taken advantage of? Am I unnecessarily creating serious potholes in my path that may be making my road more bumpier than it really needs to be?

2014 will be an interesting year. I have no doubt I will continue to be amazed at the challenges, experiences and achievements which lay ahead.

But I think I need to work hard on not trying to understand the ‘how’ or ‘why’ of a situation and focus more on the ‘who’ and ‘what’ in a much more jaded fashion. The real way that I deal with everything else going on in my life…

Not all mullets are created equal

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I didn’t think it was possible for any man in this day in age to actually posses a mullet outside of Walmart. Perhaps this was why I was so shocked at its presence in the opulent and private dining room of a very expensive restaurant – it was completely out of context. You must understand here that this was not just ANY mullet, but this was the very definition of a mullet – in all of its mystical glory. I struggle now to accurately put it into words – for it can only be described as hockey hair – business in the front, party in the back – complete with soft curls falling softly down the nape of his neck. I’ve seen variations of the mullet over the years but nothing as authentic as this particular version EVER in my adult life.

And – since I happen to be the “luckiest” single woman ever – this short, stocky and poorly coiffed man was to be my dinner companion for the evening.

What can I say – the universe likes a good laugh at my expense…

Yet, to my utter surprise, he turned out to be the most interesting and intriguing person I have met in a very, very long time. A bold statement I know – but I am speaking the absolute truth. We spoke for several hours, vaguely aware of the hum from the other dinner guests, about everything from business, to politics, with everything in between. We had exceptional similarities in our life experiences, could match each other with our knowledge and analysis on most subjects yet offered the other a completely different perspective that allowed for the discussion to flow without any sense of time or quite frankly, any engagement from the other guests sitting at our table. I was so focused that I actually forgot about the existence of his mullet entirely – and it became some strange mirage in the distance…

On my way home, I found myself looking forward to our next meeting. Yet despite my warm and reflective state, I also chastised myself sternly for my earlier reaction, and needed to remind myself that appearances are just that – appearances – and MY snap judgement of an individual based simply on how they are styled is very dangerous and utterly superficial on my part. I ought to be ashamed of myself. I began to feel very guilty for my small-minded thoughts at the start of the evening, for they turned out not only to be misleading but completely inaccurate.

I’m fairly certain he knows that people quietly giggle about his appearance – how could he not. But maybe that’s why he keeps it – because despite the giggle – it also means that he becomes unforgettable.

Which makes him the most unassuming marketing genius for his business and brand. Mullet and all.

I’m still here!

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I know what you have all been thinking over the past couple of weeks while enduring my silence and lazy re-blogging posts (I have a couple of real gems you know…) -where is she?! So, I feel the need to clarify a couple of things:

No – I have not given up.

No – I have not gotten bored with this venture.

No – I did not fail with my product or sale cycle. My customers are very happy.

No – I have NOT gotten distracted by something really shiny (although I am not ashamed to admit that this HAS happened to me in the past…).

I am still here – learning, testing and evaluating every aspect of this venture and quite frankly, myself. It’s been a very reflective and eye-opening couple of weeks to say the least.

I am very happy to report that I experienced a genuine sense of satisfaction in my life as a result of this venture. While celebrating my achievement in a rather dimly lit restaurant last week, I was caught a little off-guard and ended up feeling a very different sense of pride and emotion for what I have accomplished – without any hint or warning. And it wasn’t the fake sense of pride (like I usually have), but one that was felt much deeper within my soul. It was a little odd and disconcerting to me because at first, I did not know how to react to all of it (this MAY explain all the giggling). For I have completed my first wholesale contract – delivering in-full and on-time, effectively ending the product development cycle and finishing what I had rather unwittingly started all those months ago. And while listening to the praise that I was receiving from across the table, I realized that I wasn’t simply brushing it off or undermining it unconsciously like I usually would.

For once in my life, in my never ending game of me against the world, I finally felt that I was an equal competitor on the playing field. And it felt amazing.

Well, this is a new concept – me actually accepting praise?! This first sale has provided me with some critical data that I can now use to move forward with WAY more confidence than before. I have been able to test my boundaries and limitations in this process to understand what works, doesn’t work and most importantly, what I fear and what is holding me back.

So, I am reading. I am quiet. I am reflective. And I have a new favorite restaurant.

But I am certainly not giving up. Not by a long shot.

Are you afraid of the dark?

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It’s a funny feeling moving forward without really knowing where you are going. While I wouldn’t say that I am afraid of the dark, I certainly recognize its subtle warning to tread lightly. But what is it out there that is stopping me? What force is causing me to react so tentatively yet luring me forward at the same time? What is really lurking out there just beyond my reach?

I have been watching the dense, dark forest representing my goal for a very long time, but always with a keen awareness of the firm grip holding me back whenever I would venture too close to its edge. But now, without warning, this grip has been released – whether by force or fate – and with a child-like sense of curiosity, I blindly wander in without any real path.

It’s eerily quiet. I am desperately trying to coax my eyes to adjust to the darkness, hoping to catch some light reflecting off the shadows. But my eyes fail me. I am trying to not trip on the exposed roots or hit my head on the low hanging branches – ducking and diving purely on instinct and luck. I can hear the ground beneath my feet, reminding me that I have entered this place willingly. But my attention is drawn to my heart beat pounding in my ears, growing louder and more pressing in its rhythm and intensity.

I am completely alone.

Time no longer exists in this strange place. I have nothing to gauge it against to know if I am gaining ground or falling behind. I look around, searching in a naïve attempt to find safety, only to find nothing of comfort. I must continue to move for if I stand still, the quiet evils of the darkness will most certainly consume me. Am I going in circles? Everything looks the same as before. It is only by chance that I stumble upon a tiny opening of safety and I realize that I have been holding my breath the entire time. I gratefully take this moment to re-establish my bearings and quietly bring myself back to the original sense of calm and curiosity that led me here in the first place. My heartbeat continues to pound in my ears. Something is drawing me forward and my feet move once again in an unknown direction, my body unable to stop. Why do I submit to this pull and not just resist? Aren’t I supposed to stay still when one is lost in the forest? Shouldn’t someone be trying to save me?

And then I realize that I couldn’t even find my way back to the beginning even if I wanted to. And nobody knows that I am here.

It is the most compelling and strangely exhilarating feeling I have ever had. I do not know how, if or when I will emerge from this dark place or in what state. The only thing I know for certain is that I am exactly where I must be.

And surrounded by all this darkness and uncertainty, I couldn’t be any happier.

Wanderlust

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I am becoming tired of having to pay for parking. Clearly I need to re-think my financial goals and buy a piece of land downtown, put up a parking meter and whistle my way off to prosperity. Alas, we all know that this is simply not in the cards for me but one can wistfully dream, no?! The consequence for my achieving a free parking space downtown is simply to park further away from my destination and enjoy a little walk in the sun – a real “first world problem” to be had. This particular evening was gorgeous and of course, I knew of a quiet, secret spot to park that I hadn’t used in many, many years.

On the way back from my hunter/gatherer journey for food, I had a moment that literally stopped me in my tracks. For it suddenly dawned on me that I was walking the exact same path that I had taken countless times a day – ten years ago – for the first time once again. It was surreal because absolutely nothing had changed in this little spot in the world. The cracks in the pavement were in exactly the same places. The fence was still crooked and rusted. The trees still encroached overhead, causing a mini umbrella of safety over my path. And I was carrying far more than I had thought I could for this distance. I was literally re-living a moment from my past.

While making all of these subtle observations of my surroundings, it became clear how much I have changed in all these years yet this little place has stayed exactly the same. Death and life; marriage and divorce; pain and personal growth; sudden job loss and opportunities; wealth and poverty; the absolute extremes to be felt in human experience. And all things that I had no idea would ever occur to me as I blindly walked into my future taking this little path for granted all of those years ago.

I still take my new paths now for granted in the same oblivious manner as before. I wonder how different I will be when I have the fortune to re-visit them once again. But you’d think I would have gotten some sort of GPS system by now to avoid a fork in the road…

Some things never really change

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I find now that I have really immersed myself into this design venture, I can sense that my identity is shifting slightly and re-aligning itself more towards its natural internal rhythm. I have never really been one to follow the crowd – I have always been a little quirky in my sense of style. The only difference now is that I understand its power and have accepted my fate in the matter. I am no longer fighting to be something that I am not.

I can recall a time in high school when I found the most beautiful sequenced skirt in a dirty old vintage shop in Toronto that absolutely glittered in the sun when I walked. I think I was 14. That’s when I started to assign value to clothing – as being not utilitarian but as something that holds an emotion; all with the ability to communicate non-verbally when I was not always able to do so using the basic framework of teenage language. I have to thank my dad for indulging my budding sense of creativity at that time; patiently waiting in a shop, looking completely out of his element, all while paying the bill.

No one at my school had anything like it. I recall even the teachers commenting on my sense of style at that time. It barely fit and was probably overpriced for what it was but it completely made me different from the crowd and loved how I felt when the light reflected off of it. I have no idea where that skirt is now or if someone else is using it as a means of fashion communication. I do secretly hope that it is wandering around somewhere on another young woman’s hips, providing the same joy to her and fueling the creativity for the next generation of fashion stylist.

Something new on the horizon?!

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I’m on a plateau right now. Not a bad thing – it is completely expected and inevitable in any venture.

I read a great article yesterday on the dangers of being on a plateau, why it happens and how to get over it. Getting used to my surroundings, bad timing of a launch, getting distracted by noise instead of listening to the core issues and perfectionism are all some of the reasons why this phenomenon occurs. All seemed very logical to me. But, the overarching solution to all of these pitfalls simply involves taking a risk and somehow re-creating that sense of excitement of forging off into the unknown once again.

I’m not going to lie; my gut has had a couple of (quiet) reactions to certain aspects of this venture. They have been secretly filed away, ready for some unknown use in the future. And don’t get me wrong, I have been grateful and in awe of all the information and feedback that I have received thus far. It’s been phenomenal! But now that I have learnt a little, maybe its time to review those gut reactions and really have a good listen to them. What are they been trying to tell me? And have I been simply ignoring their intensity because I have been just thrilled to have had the opportunity even presented to me in the first place and did not want to seem ungrateful. Have I been caught in a “Don’t bite the hand that feeds me” scenario?

So, I’m back in Montreal this weekend with a list of items and businesses to inspect and evaluate. A couple of meetings scheduled with people to see what they have to offer me. It never hurts to ask, right?!

The goal is to stand firmly on this little plateau of mine and take a good look around to see what may be lurking over this new horizon.
It was a long, challenging climb to get to this level. I’ve sat and enjoyed some well-deserved rest and reflection. Now, its time for me to get back up and start climbing once again.

Clearly I must be an adrenaline junkie.

A sudden craving for pickles…

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I found that I really needed this week to take a step back from my venture and just let the magnitude of what I have accomplished simply set in. I also needed to spend considerable energy this week on the practicalities of my actual paying job, which happens to fund this little adventure. Some choices in life are simply unavoidable.

And I am left feeling exhausted. I dragged myself to the office today with my only consolation prize being a massive quantity of hot coffee; the only quiet pleasure afforded to me at my desk while I plan out the activities of my day.

Oddly enough, I am finding this sense of exhaustion very interesting. On the one hand, I have an opportunity which fills me with excitement, takes me to new places that I have never been before, pushes me outside of my boundaries of what I think I am capable of, fuels my drive to succeed and feeds my creativity like no other. But it cannot pay my bills.

On the other hand, I have a job which drains me to no end, provides no opportunity for creativity and dulls my senses and instincts in order to accommodate for life within the corporate structure. All with zero opportunity for challenging and pushing me outside of my boundaries. Yet it pays my bills.

I’m definitely in a bit of a pickle here. Because I do enjoy having my bills paid. And BCBG is not cheap. And they are so damn convenient now that they have locations in all the malls around town…

So, how do I take my venture and turn it around into something that will actually pay my bills?