Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Taking the Leap - Revisited

"Meadow Creek Spring"
Oil on Panel

WARNING: long, rambling post ahead... Sorry!!

Nate and I took a long walk in the woods last night, and while we were talking we realized that this week marks a year since we became a self-employed family!! I've been at it longer than he has, since I quit my job when I had Aspen a year and a half ago, but when he quit his corporate job a year ago it upped the ante for my art business. My art officially became one of the ways that we pay the bills, and we both embarked together on this crazy journey that we like to think of as following our dreams.

I'll admit that there have been ups and downs, and I've had my moments of lying awake at 3:00 in the morning wondering what the heck we've done, but I don't have any regrets, and I'd do it all over again if I had to. I've been a bit stressed out lately, mostly because the news is so negative these days - in my darkest moments I wonder if we made the right decision to do all of this. In all of my other moments, I KNOW it was the right decision.

I've been slowly going through the archives of this blog and categorizing my posts, and it's been a really positive experience to look back over the past few years and see where I've come from. When I started this blog two and a half years ago, I was lead process engineer on an $800 million scrubber project for an oil-sands refinery in Canada. I was frazzled with the stress of being in charge of the process design phase of such a huge project (hello - those are my initials on every drawing and calculation!), managing people for the first time, and dealing with the pressure of being the only female engineering lead on the project, not to mention the youngest by about twenty years. My life was defined by my climb up the corporate ladder, and I was heading for a nice job in project management. I made a lot more money than I do now, and I was completely miserable.

For reference, here I am, enjoying the scenery in the middle of an oil sands mine in Ft. MacMurray, Alberta (and this was a day with a GOOD view - normally I was sitting in a cubicle staring at a computer):

Actually, if you REALLY want to see how far I've come to get to this point, maybe I should rewind to my days working for big oil down in Texas. Here I am getting ready to inspect some equipment during a chemical plant shutdown in Baton Rouge, Louisiana - you know your job sucks when the chemicals are so dangerous that you have to dress like this:

Of course, we also spent a lot of time being really bored in the construction trailers, which was also not the best way to spend a day:

I was working for ExxonMobil at the time, and my job (when I wasn't inspecting equipment), was to design computer programs that would optimize the amount of money the plant would make on a given day, depending on things like oil prices, chemical sale prices, etc etc. It was incredibly unfulfilling, and I hated Houston, so we moved back to Colorado and I got a job designing pollution control systems for coal-fired power plants. More my style, but I still wasn't happy, and I started this blog to rant a bit about my job and talk about some of the things that made me happy, and it morphed into the art blog it is today.

When I look back at the girl I was then, I'm thankful that I was able to see how unhappy I was, and that I knew exactly what I really wanted to be doing. Before I got pregnant with Aspen, I had decided that I wanted to try and make it as an artist, and I started to get serious about taking the right steps to make it work. I think I first started talking about taking the leap in the two posts here and here. At the end of the first post where I talked about making a career change, I said the following:

"I don’t want to play it safe forever. I don’t want to have a long list of excuses someday. I’d rather aim for brilliance and fail than say I never tried for fear of exiting my comfort zone. I want to move forward - I want to choose experience over excuses."

When I read those words the other day, I was in the midst of a stressful day and they immediately gave me a sense of peace. I realized that over the past year and a half I've left the comfort zone and challenged myself, and I've had more wonderful experiences than I can count. I love my job with every inch of my being, and I'm content with my life. I have a beautiful, sweet daughter, a wonderful husband, and I'm living where I want to live. I'm surrounded by beauty every day, and I'm following the dream I've had since I was a child to be an artist. And in following that dream (and working with Nate to achieve his), I feel like I'm being the best role model I can possibly be as a mother. I'm blessed to have this opportunity, and I'm going to try my hardest to do my best at what I truly believe I'm meant to be doing.

Now, isn't it a good thing that I have this blog to remind me where I've come from? Nothing like a little reminder of my past life to move me from a place of stress to a place of peace!


  1. THanks for the reminder to sit down,review and be grateful. Too often we find ourselves living either a wish life or doing nothing but complaining about the life we do have. You were soooo right to make the change. Never fear change but use it as a tool. You have used it well and it already has paid off. Thanks also for sharing all the great art work in the past 2 1/2 years...sounds so much better than, Thanks for all the Process flow diagrams.

  2. Wow, a lot of changes in your life. Good for you though getting out of the rat race and doing something that's so good for your soul. Your paintings are wonderful and you can see it's what you are supposed to be doing. Good luck

  3. I am about to take the leap...more like a hop actually. I am going part-time on August 1. You inspire me – making the big leap look exciting and very doable. Your story gives me courage and the conviction that this move is going to work out. THANK YOU

  4. Stacey, your words, then and now can be such a voice of truth for others who are struggling with those choices. Safe and risky both take lots of work. But hard work can be joyful when you're building your dream. I'm in your corner!

  5. Thanks for that post, Stacey, and for sharing your feelings about making the leap. It's as inspiring as your paintings are.

  6. Peter - I think you've earned the honor of being my only blog reader who knows what a PFD is. And yes, even when things are going well it's human to think the grass is greener!

    Barbara - it definitely feeds my soul, and that's worth so much more than status or a big paycheck.

    Michael - I just wished you the best of luck on your blog!! I'm sure you'll succeed and love it.

    Susan - you said it well - I could work hard at something I don't love, or I could work hard (probably harder!) at my painting, and love every minute of it. Seems like an easy choice!

    Joe - sometimes I wonder what the point is to all of my rambling, but I figure there are a lot of people out there who are in the same position I was a few years ago, and I'd love nothing more than to help inspire someone to make a dream become reality.

  7. What a wonderful, inspirational post. It's funny to think that someone as talented had a such a different life. I hope in a year or so I can work from home and be a professional writer. Like I've said before, to have a job you love that pays the mortgage is a great goal.
    Thanks for sharing!

  8. You so made the right choice. Look at you in that chem suit.

    "I feel like I'm being the best role model I can possibly be as a mother." There is reason number one right there and the only one you need.

    I made a similar leap of faith and have never regretted it. I did not have a crazy job like yours though and I had no money.
    I cant imagine where I would be if I had not had the courage to follow my heart.

  9. Kristen - it's funny, I sometimes feel like I work twice as much as I did when I used to have a corporate job, but being able to do what I love makes it SO worth it.

    Frank - you're absolutely right - knowing that I'm doing the best thing I can do for my daughter is the one thing that makes me feel like I'm doing the right thing even on my worst, most doubtful days.

  10. As you know, I have been there too and all I can say is -Well done, Stacey!

  11. I am SO HAPPY you became an artist! What a great story.