As we near the finish line, I have realized this house is like a person to me. A person I know inside and out. I don’t think I know anyone so well—myself included—but I have come to love this house and have learned more than I ever thought I could . . . about the process, the people involved, myself and the business. I don’t know if I’ll ever have this kind of opportunity, again, but I got to live my dream, and for that I feel eternally grateful.
I read a book called The Artist’s Way, about twenty years ago, and one of the questions author Julia Cameron asked went something like this: If you hadn’t been born to the life you’ve had, what is the one thing you’d be doing differently? She went on to say, basically, it isn’t too late. She gave an example of a person who—at the age of sixty—said, “I’d have become an Olympic skater.” He started working with young people to get them started. And it fulfilled him.
When I read that passage, I thought, “I’d be a writer and a designer and an artist and a gardener and a teacher,” before convincing myself those were all pipe dreams. I made great money as a lighting sales manager and didn’t dare rock the boat. And—I rationalized—I had nice gardens and fulfilled my passion for design in every place I had ever lived, from the first apartment to the fifth and final house at 8237. In retrospect, the truth is I didn’t have much faith in myself. And I certainly didn’t think other people would like my work enough to hire me to do anything for them.
In 2000, I had just moved back to Indiana from Portland, OR, and the family who had rented my house and told me they were moving—which decided my move—changed their mind and were staying. “No,” I said, “I have a moving van with all my stuff coming in two weeks. I based my move back on your decision.” That’s when I learned about squatter’s rights. My youngest would be starting 4th grade. I wouldn’t be able to take a job that required travel. My three kids and I ended up living with my gracious sister for five months, till I could evict my tenants, who’d gotten three continuances and planned to move then, anyway. I tell this part because it’s when I went back to teaching and realized how much I love it. I became a Visiting Instructor at Purdue, earning 24,000/yr., with benefits but only had a two-day teaching commitment. Had I started this endeavor then, today might be different. As it was, I lived in a 3,000sf home and needed about 5K/mo. to maintain the lifestyle I had created for my kids and me.
Bottom line: I couldn’t finish raising my kids on 24K a year, before taxes. So I taught while I looked for that six-figure job and borrowed equity against my house. In the eleventh hour, a custom lighting manufacturer in CT hired me, and I resumed life for another three years. I don’t know if you’ve ever been part of a merger or acquisition, but in the lighting industry, the last thirty years can be summarized in either of those words. And, when a company works to position itself for buy-out, job security doesn't exist.
By 2006, I was forced to sell my house and move to something more affordable. Determined to never be caught jobless, I taught nights and did freelance writing while I searched full-time for the next big job. No sooner did I move to my current (and I hope last) house, than I got the next position as a Regional Sales Manager with a company in Ohio. Once ensconced, I started teaching again, only by this time, the best I could hope for was two classes/semester. Universities may charge an arm and a leg for tuition, but I will attest: it does NOT go to pay instructors. Little could I possibly know that the Universe was at work, providing me lesson after lesson telling me to work for myself. The days of working for the same company and retiring 40 years later with a gold watch died with corporations taking care of their workers.
So, remembering the words of Julia Cameron all those years ago, and—by now—having met and fallen for a real artist—who sustained himself as an illustrator for most of his adult life (he said good-bye to corporate America in the 80’s), I took the leap. And—no matter what happens after this house is completely finished—I won’t regret having left “the job.” I still haven’t completely processed this experience . . . and I’ll share that once I do, but it has been one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done, beyond motherhood.
The client moved in December 12th. It was NOT like anything you’ve seen on HGTV. I had hoped to stage such a dramatic unveiling, but this isn’t television. Last minute faux pas (where on TV they break for commercial, then come back with a solution already implemented), some of ours took up to two weeks to remedy. So, when she texted me that “I’m coming today; I can’t wait another second,” I told her to bring her work clothes.
All in all, the project was a labor of love with very few “you must be kidding” and a lot of “thank you, God.” And, the most important part is that the client is happy. Very happy. She’s already thinking of ways to promote me. So that means a lot. I’m tired as hell. But on the plus side, I lost weight and exercised every muscle in my body, cleaning, moving in furniture, cleaning, unpacking, cleaning, knocking down boxes, cleaning, wallpapering the bathroom, cleaning, installing the mural, cleaning and scrubbing the tile, post grout.
She wants me to do gardens and landscaping in the Spring. I hope I’ll be very busy by then. I also have a lot of projects I want to try my hand at that would work nicely for an Online store . . . so we’ll see. I’m going to the high school, as soon as it resumes, to see about teaching a pre-college Composition class at 8237 HQ, and I’ll reach out for classes in Gratitude and Self-Empowerment through writing, so I’m excited to see what the future holds!