I was 26 years old when I bought my first condo in Boston. I was single, and I had never lived anywhere long enough to decorate it in any serious way. My previous roommate, Sandy (Hi Sandy!) had inherited her grandmother’s furniture when we were renting our first place together, so although that place did feel like actual adults lived there, it had nothing to do with me. Sadly, the furniture was going with her to Ohio, and I had to figure out how to decorate 7 different rooms.
Add to that, the 2 months between when I had to move out of my old apartment, and when I closed on my condo. I was couch surfing. Gigging, teaching, working 24/7, having to navigate the lovely world of real estate on my own, feeling very house-poor, and very furnitureless. It was all totally overwhelming.
I had no idea what my style was, where to buy things, or what I wanted my place to look like. I had no idea where to start.
It had a blown glass base that was striped with orange, white, and light gray. I didn’t know if it even worked, but it was perfect. It lived in the backseat of my car for those 2 months of limbo and it was one of the few things I moved into my place after I closed.
From the lamp, came a color scheme that I was drawn to, and before I knew it, my living room walls were painted Benjamin Moore’s Tangelo Orange, and I had found the most gorgeous and comfortable gray velvet sofa, light wooden bookshelves and the requisite white Ikea chairs that ever 20-something needed to own in 2002.
Bit by bit, it all came together in a cohesive design. Bit by bit it not only became home, but it became the most perfect expression of ME.
Fast forward over 20 years–In my work as a mindset and career coach for creatives, I speak with a lot of people who are feeling that sense of blurry overwhelm–in their lives and in their careers. They know they want more, they just don’t quite have the clarity they want around what it is they want, exactly.
They’ve outgrown their current shell, but haven’t found a new one yet, and that is leaving feeling raw, vulnerable, and scared. Much like I felt in those 2 months of limbo–driving around with a lamp and a cat in the back seat of my Honda Accord.
For my clients who know exactly what Point B is, it’s relatively easy for us to create a roadmap and figure out which steps to take to get them there. But not everyone is starting out with that clarity. Not everyone is able to articulate exactly where they want to be headed.
They just know it’s not “here.”
So what is a person, bursting out of their creative shell, supposed to do in the meantime?
I know what you’re thinking. “How am I supposed to start, when I don’t know what I’m starting?”
(I knew I liked that lamp)
It can be a tiny part of the puzzle. It can be:
“I know I want to be home more on the weekends.” Great. Start by saying no to one crappy weekend gig that comes up and spend that time doing something you enjoy with the people you love. Start with just part of one weekend day.
It can be “I’ve always been curious about photography.” Great. Take a photo. Then maybe take another one.
Or, “I know that if I have to teach one more beginner, I’m going to scream” Okay. Start by nurturing your older students more. Create one interesting opportunity just for them. (My cello teacher would buy a block of tickets for a Chicago Symphony concert whenever a cello concerto was on the program, and sell them to us and our parents. It was so fun to all go and sit together!)
Or, ”I know I want to make art. I’m not clear on what kind, or where I would show it, or what who I might collaborate with on it” Great. Just wake up tomorrow and make some art.
But here’s where things can feel complicated:
“I have too many ideas–and I don’t know which one to start first!” (sound familiar?)
I have a few clients who came to me in this state. It can bring up so much confusion, a sense of discombobulation, identity crises—all of it.
What has worked for each and every one of them?
Just starting. Each one. Whenever there was an opportunity.
It will all feel totally disjointed at first. You as a performing artist. You as a pedagogue. You as a thought leader. You as a community anchor. It will seem like four different projects. Four different lives. Four distinct parts of you.
Until they slowly start to come together.
Until you are known as a community anchor for your thought leadership as a brilliant performer and pedagogue.
And that’s the moment you’ll have clarity. It will all make so much sense to you (and everyone around you, too) and with this 20/20 hindsight, you will see that every uncertain step you took. Every unclear and blurry start was a step towards this whole.
And as one of my clients said in a voice message the other day “It just feels like everything we’ve done has been part of this master plan to get me to exactly where I was meant to be.”
I don’t know about a grand master plan. That’s between you and whatever level of spirituality you live with. But I do know that in a world with so many possibilities, so many options on the table, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by what we don’t know.”
We don’t know if it’s the right thing.
We don’t know if it’ll work.
We don’t know if we’ll like it.
We don’t know if other people will like it.
We don’t know what it will lead to, or even what we want it to lead to.
So let’s take those unknowns off the table. They were never going to give you answers anyway.
What DO you know?
Start with that. Trust that the rest will unfold from there.
P.S. Want more content like this? Sign up to get my weekly newsletter, The Weekend List—small tidbits of goodness, along with a curated list of interesting articles, books I love, and discounts and early access to some great programs and events!
P.P.S. I’d love to write exactly the kind of content you are looking for! You can help me do that by filling out this (very) short survey. It’s 100% anonymous, and I’d be eternally grateful.