no shame in the struggle

no shame in the struggle doing what you love because it's all GOD* | Amanda Zampelli

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I’ve been wanting to publish this post for a while. Everything I wanted to say was living in my head and I couldn’t pinpoint how to get it out. Then, I couldn’t because I was trying to link up with a company who I thought would no longer be interested in me if they became aware of this part of my struggle (fast forward: they became uninterested on their own anyway).

You see, I used to be ‘that girl who worked for The Happy Planner®’. I used to be ‘attached’ to the 200+ thousand planner fans and sort of ‘in charge’ of fostering that audience. I used get to travel and meet people and participate in fun creative challenges and use my voice & crafty skills to get people excited about the product.

Let’s face it: I was part of the ‘cool club’. The club that has no where to go but up. The club that looks great all the time. The club that’s trending. The club that’s always got something new and exciting to show you. The club that’s popular…and being attached to that popularity made me feel important.

You might think it was hard for me to ‘give up my seat at the cool table’ but spoiler alert: not so much. When it’s time, it’s time.  I wasn’t doing that work because it was cool and it made me feel like I had influence. I was doing that job because I loved all the ways it allowed me to use my creativity, and I loved getting to celebrate other women like me, doing their best to live this big, wonderful, confusing, creative life.

In the summer of 2017, I felt like my job there was done. I helped grow the product and celebrate you ladies, and I knew it was time for me to figure out how to grow myself and celebrate the ideas I knew I could bring to the table.

Now, there shouldn’t be shame in that. I love design. I love paper, the craft & hobby industry, and the idea of innovating new products. I know I’m capable of that work, so I left to pursue growth in these areas, end of story. Although, this is very much NOT the end of the story.

THIS is where the ‘hard’ comes in. This is where you have to constantly remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing. This is where you constantly feel like you have to talk others off the ledge who are panicking on your behalf. This is where you have to convince the people that can help you that you and your ideas are worthy of their help. This is the land of dwindling bank accounts, living within your means, and no health insurance. …an adult version of The Island of Misfit Toys.

It feels like in order to become a successful business woman, you have to appear to have this seamless, ‘under control’, ‘always upward’ vibe, however being on your own is incredibly difficult and isolating. Trying to start something from scratch can’t look like anything but a messy, tiring struggle, so why does it feel so shameful to be transparent about it and acknowledge this is so?

I don’t know the answer to that, but here’s my full disclosure nonetheless…

I start new websites, I release a bunch of printables for free, I share what inspires me, and try to convince myself that ‘Hey, it’s okay.’ // NONE OF IT ADDS UP to equal a lucrative, sustainable creative career in lifestyle blogging and/or graphic design, the way that my ‘about me’ blurb sort of makes it seem like I partake in. I blog and design, and use those identifiers to describe myself, but you would be mistaken if you thought I led this effortless, casual, creative life spending the hours of my morning at home in pajamas memory keeping in my planner, and actually making a living from it.  

The whole of my time since leaving The Happy Planner™ has been nothing but experimenting, struggling financially, and trying to figure out what’s next. This site, all that’s in me to design, the freebies, the newsletter, the podcast — it’s all this bunch of imperfect stuff thats been in me soooo long to GET OUT, and I have kept busy plowing through each one — but at some point in my day, I have to go to work… real bill-paying work.

I reread Big Magic last summer, and one of my major takeaways from it this time around was the notion that I can’t expect my creativity to support me; I have to support it. …like, with a job.

So what job have I been working, you ask? Howwwww have I been supporting this grand experiment of creativity? Where have I been getting the money to live and pay dem damn bills?

no shame in the struggle of doing what you love because it's all God* | Amanda Zampelli

I’ve been waitressing, like, at a restaurant. Glamourous, huh?

I can’t be anything but grateful for it. I’m not grateful I’m a waitress; I’d much rather be getting paid and recognized by doing the creative work I feel I was put on this earth to do (ya hear that, Universe?), but I am grateful for its contribution to my creative life right now.  It has been the safety net supporting the many previously mentioned unpaid hours of creativity, and there should be NO SHAME in that.

I am able to spend most mornings and afternoons focusing on what is going to come next for me, because I go to a job in the evenings and on the weekend that allows me to make money to support my life. Big Magic talks about the mistake some artists make of putting this burden on their art, and I’m grateful to waitressing for being there at this time so I do not.

So, yes: I am 33 year-old waitress, with a Masters Degree in Early Elementary Education, a background in graphic design, two paper collections with We R Memory Keepers under her belt, and two and half years assisting in the launch and consumption of the mega planner brand that is now The Happy Planner®. (That’s me!)

Things don’t seem to add up, but that’s the journey, and it’s been my choice every step of the way. That’s a pretty good thing to be able to say, I think.

All this creative experimentation by day, and waitress-working by night: my whole half of 2017 has been going this way. I know why and it shouldn’t feel shameful. It really shouldn’t. I am in the process of coming up with a plan for how to combine all my skills in design, teaching, writing, crafting, memory keeping, and marketing to propel myself into the next phase of my career.  That shit doesn’t happen overnight.

…and speaking of career, after reading this facebook post by Elizabeth Gilbert — in which she talks about the distinctions between a HOBBY, a JOB, a CAREER, and a VOCATION — it allowed me understand my current place in the world with much more clarity than I had before. She writes:

“Don’t mistake a job for a career, or a career for a vocation, or a vocation for a hobby, or a hobby for a job. Too much of the time, we treat these words like they are synonyms, but they are not. They are gloriously distinct, and should remain gloriously distinct. 

A hobby is something that you do for pleasure, relaxation, distraction, or mild curiosity. A hobby is something that you do in your spare time. Hobbies can come and go in life — you might try out a hobby for a while, and then move on to something new. Sometimes you might make a bit of money out of your hobby, but that’s not the point — nor does it need to be. Hobbies are important because they remind us that not everything in life has to be about productivity and efficiency and profit and destiny. Hobbies are mellow. Hobbies prove that we have spare time — that we are not just slaves to the capitalist machine or to our own ambitions.

A job is how you look after yourself in the world. You may not need a hobby, but you do absolutely need a job.  Your job can be boring, it can be a drag, it can even be “beneath you”. Jobs don’t need to be soul-fulfilling. Don’t judge yourself about your job and never be a snob about anyone else’s job. We live in a material world and everyone has to do something for money, so just do whatever you have to do, collect your paycheck, and then go live the rest of your life however you want.

A career is different from a job. A job is just a task that you do for money, but a career is something that you build over the years with energy, passion, and commitment. Careers are best done with excitement. Careers are huge investments. Careers require ambition, strategy, and hustle. Your career is a relationship with the world. A career is a good thing to have if you really want one, but YOU DO NOT NEED TO HAVE A CAREER. There is absolutely nothing wrong with going through your entire life having jobs, and enjoying your hobbies, and pursuing your vocation, but never having “a career”. A career is not for everyone. A career is a choice. But if you do make that choice, make sure that you really care about your career. Otherwise, it’s just an exhausting marathon, for no reason.

Your vocation is your calling. Your vocation is a summons that comes directly from the universe, and is communicated through the yearnings of your soul. While your career is about a relationship between you and the world; your vocation is about the relationship between you and God. Vocation is a private vow. Your career is dependent upon other people, but your vocation belongs only to you. You can get fired from your career, but you can never get fired from your vocation. My career is dependent upon others; my vocation is entirely my own. You do not need to make money from your vocation in order for it to have meaning. Your vocation is hinted at through your talents, tastes, passions, and curiosities. Your vocation is calling you, even when you can’t quite hear it. When you embrace a vocation, and commit yourself to that vocation, your mind becomes a quieter place. When you accept the divine invitation of your vocation, you will become strong. You will know that — as long as you are tending to your vocation — everything will be fine.

Be clear about what each one is, and be clear about what can be reasonably expected from each one, and be clear about what is demanded of you with each one…but this requires sitting still at times and really thinking things through, with courage and dignity. And it requires an understanding of terms…be sober and careful and attentive enough to know what you are REALLY talking about when you consider the question, ‘What am I doing with my life?'”

There are a crazy number of times throughout my day when I ask myself “What am I doing with my life?” What I’ve decided at this point in time is the following…

Memory keeping, life documenting, planning, blogging, and paper-crafting are some of my hobbies. Sometimes I teach a class on how I do this, and make a little money out of it, but all in all — they are the mellow activities done in my spare time that I enjoy doing.

Waitressing is my job.  It’s what I’ve been doing for money, and when I leave it, I happily go on living my life and trying to further my career.

I want to merge my design, teaching, writing, crafting, memory keeping, and marketing skills into a career …because in furthering my career in this way, I feel it will get me closer to my vocation, or what I feel my purpose is: to make art people can use.

My vocation is designing, engineering new ideas into life. Bringing together communities of women in the execution of these new ideas, helping them function and lead better lives.

Lately, my mom’s been trying to convince me to go back to teaching, for $70,000 a year – even though when I was teaching, I would escape to the bathroom & pray to God to help me through. …even though I would often cry on my commute to work.

I think this is her attempt to alleviate some of the struggle. I get it, because it does get the best of me sometimes. But she knows what I’m trying to do, what I’m trying to build…or at least I thought so.

Behind the scenes, I’ve been working on this product idea and am currently trying to land on a place to help me prototype it. I’m going to try to make money off of it next year…but we’ll see how that goes. IT’S BEEN QUITE THE STRUGGLE…and sometimes I feel the loved ones around you will be there for support until the time comes – in their mind – when the struggle has gone on too long. ??? This baffles me, because at this point, I’m thinking HOW could I stop struggling to get to the place of doing what I love NOW?!?! …I’ve sacrificed so much to get to this point, how could I possibly throw in the towel and go back to the thing I was doing 5 years ago that I completely and utterly abandoned?! Revert? You want me to revert?! Well, then I revolt!

I revolt, but I wonder (’cause 33 hit me funny this year) at. what. cost. ??? Will I be losing these next years to something that might never pan out?

A part of me – since I was 4 years old – has felt like my vocation is to be a really great mom. It’s been a very palpable desire. In all this pursuit & this struggle to get to get paid doing what I love, there’s always been this underlying reasoning that sounds like this: “…because when you (finally) have a kid, you’ll be able to care for them the way you’ve always imagined.” I often get afraid that this struggle will never add up to that.

It’s like the internet gives us an infinite amount of windows (windows, not doors) into what is possible because we see it in others like us, in others that we can point to and smile at and say ‘that’s like me! Look what she’s done! I can too!’ #metoo, right? Or Mindy Kaling’s ‘Why Not Me?’right?  Or #girlboss. Or #goalgetter.  …but what if all we aspire to is not what is meant to be for us? At what point do we know this?

(…and then I catch myself. Haa haa, silly girl…)

We are never in the space of knowing. Nope, never. We’re just not. I’ve resorted to the space of feeling my way through what I should be doing next – it’s very guttural. It’s quiet. It’s instinctual, sometimes derailed by fear, or accompanied by a mini tantrum, but it always comes back as something that needs to be explored.

So I explore it. I try it next. I see where it takes me and what it teaches me…until I have to leave to waitress. That is currently my struggle, there should be no shame in it, and I guess it’s all god*. // I meant to say good* but God works there too.