week nine.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Nine weeks ago, I started a creative project.

I was coming out of one of the worst seasons of my life. If you’ve been following along, you know the story. I had just spent 10 months in the deepest depression I had ever experienced, paired with episodes of anxiety that flooded me everyday. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, and I felt like I had totally lost who I was, the person I had grown to love so much. I moved back home, without a job, a relationship, and a bottle of antidepressants. I had quit my job, unfortunately watched my relationship with a man I deeply care about end, and crawled back into my childhood bed trying to figure out what the heck I was going to do now. It was all ingredients in a recipe I’d rather not eat, something I wish I could trash and just start over.

After a few conversations with some trusted friends, who had supported me through this past season, I decided to take a few months off. Off of everything: trying to get back to where I was, trying to fix my broken relationship, trying to get back to normal. I distinctly remember telling one of these friends about browsing for jobs, when she abruptly asked me, “Leah…how long have you been home?” to which I answered “…three weeks?” She was astonished I was already trying to get back out there. She reminded me I had literally been through hell, and that I probably would benefit from some time to recover, even though I felt the pressure to start over again, right now. “Take some time to yourself. Travel. Write. Volunteer. Rest. You’ll know when you’re ready to get back out there."

I took her words to heart. I let myself stop feeling guilty about being unemployed and living with my parents. In fact, I found out my situation was a lot more common than I realized. People became coming out of the woodwork, through through messages and social media, voicing their support and recalling moments in their life where they found themselves in the same place I now was. And yet, they all managed to make it through. After a while, they came back to their selves and their lives, in full force.

I knew I wanted to get there, but I let myself breathe in the space I was. And I sought out things that brought me joy, things that I knew would help me process, heal, and move through this space. I came back to the one thing I’ve always loved, writing.

I started there, with something familiar, something comforting. Something I had already planted, deep into my life. I let those roots grow deeper, exploring new territory and spaces I had only dreamed of. I stopped letting the opinions and words of others stop me, and instead fueled my creativity and authenticity everyday. I decided to dedicate nine weeks of my seemingly endless summer to my online blog and brand, build my long-awaited YouTube channel, write more than I ever have before, and just create, in it's simplest form. My weeks of unemployment soon became space to dream and build from the ground up. I would spend upwards of 8 hours a day writing in my notebook, editing on my computer, or storyboarding a new video.

And nine weeks later, it’s hard to believe how much has changed. I no longer wake up in the morning worried about the day might hold - in fact I wake up excited to take on what’s before me, what I could learn, what could happen. A few weeks into the summer project, I accepted a job with a company that is rooted in creative thinking, an employment opportunity that has helped me realize how insanely passionate I am about writing and content development.

As the summer, and the initial timeframe I set for this creative project comes to a close, I want to share a few reflections and things I have learned. I have found this practice very useful, both to recap what I’m learning throughout my life, but also to continue searching for and understanding the deeper purpose for rough seasons. Below are a few foundational things that I have learned throughout these past nine weeks.

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The Intensity of Content Creation

Okay, I always felt like writing on my blog came somewhat naturally, but I guess I’ve never set the expectation to create content, literally from nothing, on a set time-table. It was way more intense than I realized. There were plenty of weeks when I assumed I could let it slip by, and just wait until the weekend to update my blog or the channel. But, I knew I set this goal for a reason, and I wanted to stick to it. If it was a priority for me, I would find the time to do it. But that's not to say it didn't come with challenges of it's own.

Similar to the way your muscles feel the tension and pain of a workout after…well, not working out for a long time, my creativity muscles felt drained after a few weeks. It took some searching to find ways to refuel my creativity in order to be prepared to produce content for the following week. And, that meant building it into a schedule, prioritizing doing things that would benefit my content creation for the upcoming week. Reading good books and watching/reading other content creators. Letting myself dream without fences or boundaries. Writing, trashing, creating, editing, and letting myself just make things. It was a beautiful process, a cycle of filling myself up with things that inspired me, and creating things I was proud of, which in turned, continued to motivate me to keep going. I feel as though I’ve struck gold with this whole thing, even though it took me a while to find the perfect formula.

Respect for Other Content Creators

In the same line, I have a renewed sense of respect for other content creators. Those daily vloggers you watch occasionally on YouTube? Yeah, they do some ridiculous work each and every day. That blogger you enjoy reading during your lunch break? She has probably written and spent more time editing than you could have ever imagined. Podcast series you listen to on your daily commute? Someone probably spent hours in front of a computer editing audio to get a perfect cut. I didn’t even realize the depth of work that goes into running a blog or consistently producing content on an YouTube channel, until I actually tried it out for myself. And I was only producing content once a week. Some creators out there do this every, single, day.

I’ve been trying to prioritize practicing empathy lately, since I’ve felt my life suffocated by anger and frustration in a lot of various situations. I know that’s no way to live, and so I’m trying to constantly place myself in other’s shoes – whether by actually trying my hand out at what they do, or mentally envisioning myself in their sneakers. This is just one small example of learning about the hard work content creators do, and it’s been a humbling process to put myself beside them and my work out into the world.

Creativity is H*cking Important

13/10, very important. Creativity has suddenly surfaced as this insanely important, very necessary, and foundational piece of my life. It feels like I’ve gone through an internal transformation, where the highly organized and detail-oriented person from college has shifted into more of a free-spirited, creative individual who wants to continually flex her right-brain muscles in all she does. I don’t think I’ve lost those foundational pieces of who I am (ie: I still run my weekly schedule via google calendar and keep my inbox at 5 or below emails), but a few other things have resurfaced, and found their place upon the shelves of my mind.

When I was a child, I loved being creative. Somewhere along my path to adulthood, I stopped prioritizing those pieces of my personality, in favor of things I found to be more valuable for my future. Little would I know that creativity would resurface as one of the foundational concepts in my healing process, and newfound life. I can’t imagine working in a job where I can’t be creative. I can’t imagine not being able to write, or storyboard, or create videos. I can’t imagine my life without this cornerstone. It fuels what I do and keeps me motivated. It tells me I am unique, I have something to share, and I have methods to communicate it with the world. It tells me I am valuable. And I plan on keeping it around for the long-run.

Just Let the Damn Thing Go.

Alright, real talk. I was going through some old files on my computer this past week, and saw a photo of my staff of students from my time at CSUMB. I felt the guilt rising in my throat before I could even comprehend what was happening. I looked at their faces, and wished I could have done so much more for them during my short year as an RD. They deserved so much better. They should have had better. And I couldn’t give that to them. I want to write for them, about them, on this blog, but I just can’t get over everything.

I know, it’s not my fault. But that doesn’t fix the guilt, the shame, and the sense of failure that still exists. I just keep telling myself to let it go. Just let the damn thing go. Along with practicing empathy, I’m trying to practice letting go of things that are outside of my control. Like things that happened when I quit my job, people I’ve lost contact with, mistakes I’ve made. One of my favorite ways to do this is to go running. As my body sweats in this God-forsaken 105+ degree heat, I feel like my body is physically letting go of all those things I’ve white-knuckled gripped over this past year. And nothing beats coming home, showering off, and feeling like my body, mind, and soul, are clean. That clean slate becomes the space I create out of, free from guilt and shame and past mistakes.

I also pray. For those students, for the people in my life I’ve wronged, for God to continue shaping and teaching me. He’s doing work, and I know I am along for the ride.

Strength & Dignity

As I continue growing, past this strange year, and into the unknown future, these are two concepts I want to continue valuing. I have done a lot of writing over the past nine weeks, most of which actually hasn’t been posted on the blog. It’s been more personal writing, processing through everything, and figuring out what I want to do next.

And what I want to do is hold these two things up in my life: the strength I have shown and continue to exhibit throughout my life, and the dignity I know God has bestowed upon me as His beloved. I am strong, and I have dignity. I am valued, I am loved, and I have a future beyond my wildest dreams ahead of me. As sappy as it sounds, sometimes I find myself repeating these things to myself throughout the day, in the mirror, as I meditate to fall asleep, into my long mileage runs on the weekend. They stand as reminders of who I truly am and what is still before me. Yes, verbal affirmations are still one of my most regarded love languages, and I don’t see any issue with telling myself these truths consistently.

I’m not out here trying to be a picture-perfect Proverbs 31 woman. I’m here to be Leah. The Leah that God created, who wears her hair braided down her right shoulder, with her timely sarcastic humor, love of breakfast food and cheeseburgers, and highly regarded opinion of cats. It’s the Leah who still keeps every letter that’s ever been written to her, plays a ukulele, and loves to dance. The same Leah who takes 6:30am meetings as an opportunity to watch the sun rise over Highway 99, while listening to Chance rap about the faithfulness of God. Leah is strength and dignity, and I want to believe and live into that everyday.

The Future?

And the future after this creative project has wrapped? I guess you’ll just have to stay tuned…

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This project has been one of the greatest things I've every done, and I think will become a foundational part of the story I tell about this season of my life. It's incredible to have something concrete to share from these past few months, an illustration of my life through the healing and discovery process. 

Thank you for being a part of the journey. I am excited to continue creating and sharing it with all of you. For the first time, in a long time, I feel confident in saying this: The best is yet to come.

Respectfully submitted,
Leah

1 comments

  1. Content writing is interesting but the main thing required is creativeness. If you have creativity then you can write some good stories that people will surely love to read.

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