Fasten your seatbelts because this blog post is going to be really raw. I’m finally ready to share the pivotal moment that changed everything in my life and led to my transformation from corporate employee to pattern design entrepreneur.
As some of you know, I spent many years working my way up the corporate ladder at global retailers including Esprit, Gap and Old Navy. Things seemed to be going along just fine but, in early March 2012, during the annual review period at Gap Inc., I got called into my boss’s office and I’ll never forget the words he said: “Your job has been eliminated.”
He went on to describe the exit process and who knows what else. I wasn’t listening anymore because I was in a state of shock. I had always gotten good reviews, raises and bonuses. I’d been given opportunities to move around and try different roles. I was just about to celebrate 15 years with the company.
I remember him telling me to take the rest of the day off and, in a complete daze, I climbed into my car and started the drive home. It was a beautiful day in San Francisco and as I drove along the Embarcadero, my first thought was: “I can’t call my husband in the middle of the day with this news. It will be way too distracting for him.” I called my mom.
Trying to make light of the situation, I think I said something like: “Well, in today’s news, I just got laid off…” I think my mom said: “You’re kidding?!?! That’s not possible…” I don’t remember much about that conversation except that she was completely supportive, saying things would be okay.
Well, things were not okay and I didn’t know how to handle it. It’s hard to describe but I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that this company, where I’d worked for almost 15 years, wasn’t offering me something else. I’d moved around before when a function was re-organized and I had always been offered, or had found, another role where I could be effective, support the company’s goals, deliver results and continue along the corporate career path.
Instead of taking time to rest and reflect after years of constant travel and stress, I was determined to find another role somewhere inside the company. I kept thinking: It’s a huge company. There are lots of jobs. I don't want to leave. There has to be SOMETHING.
I started reaching out to division heads and human resources leaders across the company to:
· set up informational interviews,
· let them know I was available, and
· highlight my accomplishments
They took my meetings, listened, read my resume (or didn’t), nodded and said they’d let me know if something appropriate came up. But nothing did.
One meeting in particular stands out. Soon after my boss terminated me, the company announced that he was getting a huge promotion. His replacement was starting soon and I was eager to meet him. My thinking was that since he was new, he might want to build his own team and there might be a place on it for me.
After walking him through my year-end results and giving him a chance to look over my resume, he looked up and said: “Who did you piss off? With credentials and results like yours, you must have really pissed someone off!” In the moment, I didn’t know how to react. It had never occurred to me that I’d pissed someone off and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out who that might be or why that would be his interpretation. Go figure.
I didn’t find another job there and struggled to hold a corporate job anywhere for several years afterwards. I was determined to land a corporate job somewhere else in the Bay Area and while I did get hired at several places, nothing stuck. One job that lasted 6 months led to another that lasted 18 months that led to another that lasted a year until I finally gave up.
Here’s where the story changes.
Throughout this period, my husband and teenage son were incredibly supportive. So were my parents and many dear friends. I was depressed and in a continual daze going through the motions in a never-ending series of job interviews. I needed something to help me snap out of it.
The idea of starting my own business was floating around in my head but I didn’t have any idea where to start. As it happened, a former Gap Inc colleague, Jennifer Lee, reached out to talk to me about her Build Your Business the Right-Brain Way book and programs. She had left the company several years earlier to pursue her passion.
It’s a wonderful self-paced course about how to start your own business with a creative mindset. Click on the image above to explore her programs.
At some point in the course, I was introduced to Carla Sonheim, a fabulous, quirky artist based in Seattle who teaches and curates online art classes of all shapes and sizes. I was immediately drawn in by her website, her personality and her class offerings. My husband bought one of her classes for me for Christmas and my new life began!
I’ve never met Carla but I love her dearly and owe her so much. I highly recommend her classes. Click on the image above to visit her website.
My exploration of all kinds of art and creative ventures led from that first class. Most importantly, they brought joy into my life again. I’d wake up smiling, eager to get started on a new project or finish an assignment. Wonderful friendships grew out of connections made inside Facebook groups full of other students taking the same course together. These environments are supportive, encouraging, joyful. This experience completely changed my outlook on the next phase of my life.
Along this journey, I discovered pattern design and I’ve been hooked ever since. Hours spent learning Adobe Illustrator fly by without me even noticing. Diving into the intricacies and infinite possibilities of making a repeating pattern is completely addicting. I don’t want to go to sleep! And I jump out of bed eager to keep working, playing with color, scale and layers.
I’ve discovered a whole world of pattern designers who are eager to support each other and share the joyful possibilities available in this creative career path. Here are images of my newest patterns on pillow shams. The feeling of bringing your designs to life on real products is indescribable!
Wow. Fast forward to now. I’m full of gratitude as I build my own small business around my passion for pattern design. It took twists and turns to get here but I’ve arrived and I’ve found my calling. I’m eager to share this passion with you in the hopes that it brings you joy and fulfillment as it has me.
I invite you to explore my beginning pattern design class which I’m offering for just $10.00. I want to make learning pattern design accessible to as many people as possible. It’s called From Sketch to Wrapping Paper.
Click on the image below to access a short video where I describe what my students love about this class and my passion for teaching.
I’m currently hard at work preparing to launch my monthly pattern design membership. If you’re interested in learning more, please join the waiting list. I’ll keep you posted with more details as the launch date gets closer.
Join me tomorrow on Facebook for my weekly Wednesday chat at noon PST. We’ll be talking about… you guessed it: Pattern Design!
And remember, It’s Never Too Late To Create.
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