It took me a long time to find myself, and if we can be really honest, I'm still in the process. It's the kind of thing that is lifelong. So, as I'm in the midst of new growth, reflecting on past growth and how I got to be here gives me a new perspective on who I am.
Growing up, I always had this feeling that I didn't quite fit in with my peers. I was a bit of an outsider, looking in. I was one of those creative artsy kids; you know the type. I was also your regular teenage girl racked with self-doubt and insecurities. For so long, while I was growing up, I didn't really know where I fit into the equation of life. Nobody that age does, but at that point in your life, there are all these important decisions to be made that start to shape your future. At the time, it feels like you don't want to make the wrong choice or choose 'wrong.' Even then, I worried so much about taking the wrong path that I wanted to take no path at all for a while.
Then there was a game changer that came in the summer between my junior and senior years. As a 17-year-old who had just gotten a car, I found a summer job at my mother's insistence and of course... #gasmoney. I was going to nanny for a local family and I spent that summer watching their four kids. We spent our days playing outside, jumping on their giant trampoline, and throwing our own mini pool parties. It was a pretty nice summer situation, to be honest, but the best thing it did was give me my own money. Those sweet, sweet, dolla bills, yo.
After my first full week of working, I took my paycheck and cashed it immediately. And because money burns a hole in my pocket as nothing else can . . . I went to our local Walmart and bought both a sewing machine and some black and purple polka-dotted fabric. It was not cute, but it didn't have to be. It was a test, a minor gamble in the arena of fashion at the very affordable rate of "make it your damn self." Could I make something myself? I didn't even buy a pattern or even look their way. I just bought the fabric, some elastic, and thread and headed home.
When I got home, I set it up and I realized that it was a lot easier to sew with a newer machine than my mom's ancient Sears sewing machine which was the perfect shade of millennial pink. A couple of years before, I had gotten into sewing with my sister and we had tried to make some handbags but the machine was so old and dysfunctional, so it never really worked right. It really probably just needed to be serviced, but we didn't know if it was worth it since it was such an old machine. It smelled like a mix between my grandma's house and burning rubber. Looking back, that smell meant it probably needed a new belt. #themoreyouknow
Sewing with my new Brother sewing machine was a breeze compared to my mom's beastly machine. I don't think it took me more than an hour or two to make my first dress. It was stupid easy, but it gave me the confidence to try more. The dress itself was cute enough that I was proud to wear it as my pool cover-up with the kids. You gotta flaunt what your momma gave you and my mom gave me those dope sewing skills.
What happened next had a cascading effect, though. That one dress turned into more and more and more until my dresser was stuffed with my own creations. Making something out of nothing felt mesmerizing to me. It was like I was in a trance and the only way out was to create more and more and more. I can tell you truthfully that I never pulled myself out of that, 15 years later . . . still stuck in love with making things from scratch and building from the bottom up. It's a huge part of why I love working with startups and new product lines.
I spent almost all of the money I earned that summer reinvesting it into myself. I bought fabric to make brand new skirts and also t-shirts to reinvent. I would go to the Salvation Army store and buy big dresses with lots of fabric and make them into something new. Those transformations were the beginning of my own transformation and that summer was my creative awakening.
After the nanny job wrapped up, I needed to find another job to keep going with my craft and because I still had a car I needed to gas up every week, you gotta #work girl. My mom and I went back to school shopping for some new kicks at Famous Footwear and she asked the manager if they were hiring (mom...) and they were! I filled out an application and interviewed with the manager Bob the next day. He offered me the job on the spot. What better job for a creative gal making her own skirts and dresses? I was #livingthedream. For real. But really, it became a big problem and the beginning of a footwear addiction that may or may not have gone on indefinitely, long after my employee discount left.
The shoe store job itself was great, but the best part was keeping me rich with fabric. For my first 3 months of school, I made a new skirt every night or I'd make two in one night, so I'd still have a new skirt on the days I worked at the store. It wasn't until November that I started to repeat my handmade skirts and I wore a skirt every day. Literally. I wore only skirts my senior year with the only exception: final semester exams.
I was lucky to have a guidance counselor that knew about my skirt problem and instead of recommending therapy, he recommended going to college for fashion design. Thank goodness for his suggestion and my willingness to listen. I've been blessed to have such a vibrant career in such a competitive industry. This feeling is also what drives me to want the best for my clients and the companies I work for. Once you know what is possible and all takes is hard work, you can transform anything.
A funny extra tidbit about my skirt days: A couple of years out of high school I was working at the shoe store over the summer break from college and a girl from my high school checked out. She was a senior now. She immediately remembered who I was and asked if I was "Skirt Girl."
Looking back, I'm so proud I was able to be who I was without concern for what other people thought of me at such a young age. I might not have been confident, but I was committed to being myself . . . at any cost.
I'm proud that I didn't let the fear of judgment stop me from being who I wanted to be when I was younger and becoming the person I am today. It makes me feel like my own kind of superhero.