In December of 2017, I quit my job. I decided that I would pour everything I had into making my art into a sustainable career. I was done with bosses, done with co-workers; I was just done with all of it. I wanted to experience doing things in my own way; and I was going to do it all by myself. I wanted to be completely independent.
I was falling perfectly in line with the cultural expectations of my generation. Though it is starting to change in very tiny ways, these expectations of independence is not a culture that fosters vulnerability, especially when it comes to women in business. In the current narrative of independence, vulnerability has no place. Being independent is about being strong, standing up, doing for yourself; it feels edgy and hard.
But what began to happen was that the more I moved closer to this ideal of independence the more I actually moved closer to the truth of our reliance upon each other.
I quickly realized that though I had stepped out on my own, there was no way that I could do it alone. I had to become closer to people than I ever had before. I had to interface with clients, store owners, and market owners. I had to market myself and my work by using social media and other front-facing opportunities constantly. It would be the only way I could succeed.
This was terrifying for me. I have been an introvert most of my life, and the thought of having to share myself publicly and regularly was quite overwhelming. I had to put myself in front of you; I had to be vulnerable. And not fake vulnerable, or “I am being vulnerable so you will buy my work,” but real authentic, feel it in your bones kind of vulnerable. It felt like a death sentence. How, after being told how to be, what standards to meet, what grades to get, and what was expected where who I was didn’t matter as long as I met the standards of approval, could I all of a sudden share who I am with you in a genuine and authentic way as to connect with you and gain your genuine support?
I started to struggle with what I thought I was supposed to be, an independent business woman, and what was actually needed in my business. To end my struggle, I had to meet this ideal fed to me about independence and I had to see why I wanted that independence in the first place. What I discovered is that I wanted to be independent because I believed in the illusion that it would free me from the confines that society put on me. It would free me from the arbitrary rules that ask me to disconnect from the truth of who I am so I can be accepted into a group and society at large. Independence was thus not the freedom I sought, it was rebellion against that which cut me off from myself.
Rebellion does not create anything new. It destroys that which was created previously; which can be, and often times is, necessary. But the energy of rebellion does not bring forth new systems that will stand strong. It is the energy that breaks us from the cage; but it cannot build the new structure for our lives. Quitting my job was my rebellion. But a few months after, I had found myself in the land past rebellion, and
on the new and fertile ground of creation. Here I learned of my true desire: to live intimately connected with my truth and be fully connected in society.
Figuring out the answer to my question and putting it into practice has been the scariest thing I have ever done. For there was a reason why I originally disconnected from my truth, and that reason was acceptance into my social groups, survival. By stepping into my own authenticity, it meant risking total and complete rejection, death. This may seem extreme, but when you are a child you quite literally cannot fend for yourself; at the bare minimum you must have acceptance from your parents or at least one adult so that they will feed you, let alone cuddle you and meet your emotional needs.
With my discovery, I want to set the record straight.
I am a business owner, but I am in no way independent. I rely everyday on someone from my community saying “I choose to buy your work because I see value in it.” If you have purchased a book, card, or piece of art from me, I want to extend deep amounts of gratitude and appreciation to you. You have directly contributed to my livelihood. Instead of having one person or company who writes my paycheck, I have various members of my community.
This business does give me more freedom, and maybe that is where our wires get crossed. Instead of looking for independence, we are really seeking freedom. But freedom doesn’t come from being a single actor apart from everyone else. Freedom comes from the ability to live authentically, to make choices that flow out of that authenticity and to continue to be supported by our communities. Freedom has nothing to do with being separate from other people. When will we stop living within the illusion of independence and start living in the truth of interdependence and reliance on our communities for a happy and sustainable life?
Last November, someone said to me that they admired me for my independence. In that moment, my heart sank. They had misjudged me, for I had moved further from independence than I had ever thought possible. I wish I had been able to share with this person all that I am sharing with you now.
With all this being said, if you wish to look for independence as I did, may I suggest that you take a risk and search for freedom and authenticity instead.