At the beginning of this year I felt sure that amazing things would happen. I had a positive attitude and an open heart for all possibilities to come my way. And boy did opportunities come flying my way! In this blog post I want to recap my amazing year, but not in a way to boast or show off. To be honest, half of the things that I did this year felt completely scary and out of my league. But looking back on the year I see a brave young woman who took advantage of the word YES!
We live in a time where comparison traps and imposters syndrome haunts many. Social media is really the blame for this. We spend a lot of time looking at what others are doing, saying, and making, while our lives just pass us by. Then when amazing opportunities come our way we feel like they aren't meant for us, or we aren't ready for the challenge. Well this year taught me to step up to every opportunity that came my way, with confidence and grace.
At the beginning of each year I create a detailed goals list. It is comprised of "stretch goals" and "smart goals" for my personal and professional life. Stretch goals are those huge dreams and aspirations that you don't know for sure how or when you will ever achieve them. On the other hand smart goals are those goals that are attainable with a solid plan of action and a timeline.
I am very specific about the things that I want and I try to be as detailed as possible about how I will attain them. I believe that this step is important for a fruitful year because how can you exceed and propel yourself forward if you don't know what you want nor how to get there? You can check out my goals for the year below. It is no secret at this point because the year is over and I feel proud of what I have done and 85% of the things I wanted to accomplish were completed!
Im going to give a couple examples of how saying yes to things that you don't think are in your lane can actually be what propels you forward.
In January, my friend Jen G. who owes Coalition Snow, a badass female snowboarding and ski company, calls me up and asks me if I would like to come to Mammoth California to snowboard and also speak at a conference. Of course I am flattered but also very confused because I had very little to no public speaking experience and I had never snowboarded! Jen is such a dope woman. She has this way of making you feel powerful within your own right. I sat on this invitation for a couple of days because I was really unsure if it was something I was capable of doing. She told me the talk would be about "Manifesting diversity within mountain town entrepreneurs". I have never felt more unqualified for a talk in my entire life. I couldn't see how the little work that I had done so far made me qualified to talk to people on this subject.
Thats something important to think about though. I didn't see what made me special but obviously Jen did. She would not have asked me to come and speak if she didn't feel like I had something to say. The universe (or whatever force you believe in) would not bring opportunities your way that weren't especially meant for you. They are meant for you to either succeed or to learn, not fail. I don't like to look at failures as loses, they are learning moments. So with that in mind I said yes to Jen. I got my bartending shifts covered and packed up my ski gear for California. Note that traveling to California for the first time and learning to snowboard were two things on my goals list and not even one month into the year the opportunity presents itself! Manifestation is truly incredible.
Once I arrived in California it was pretty rough. The airline lost my luggage! So I flew out to Cali to snowboard without any of my gear or cloths. Luckily enough I met some incredible locals who allowed me to borrow clothes and gear for my stay. I'll never forget that bartender in the town of June Lakes, his name was Art, and he met me at the mountain at 8am to give me pants, butt pads and a helmet! I then went to try and take the 2pm group lesson only to find out it was full. It was a bummer cause I wanted to get on the slopes that day but the instructor offered me a FREE one hour lesson the next morning because of the inconvenience! Y'all know how expensive snow sports are so I was beyond grateful that I could keep that money in my pocket. I really enjoyed learning how to snowboard in such a beautiful area. There were other Coalition snow athletes there that I could lean on for support which was really helpful. My bags never came by the way. They showed up at my house two days after I got home!
At the conference, Mountain Ventures Summit, I prepared myself for my talk. It was suppose to be a panel discussion but I was the only speaker so it was really just Jen kind of interviewing me. I was so nervous, but grateful that Jen showed me the questions in advance so I had some time to think about my responses. Once my time came it was a packed room, I would say about 20 folks in attendance (there were 3 other talks happening at the same time and the rooms were very small). Jen went through a few questions about how I got started with my art career, what drew me to Denver, what I like to do in the outdoors...the easy stuff. Then it got juicy. I talked about how I thought small mountain towns could be more inclusive of other cultures, and ways they could encourage the POC already in their town to become more active in the community. I honestly don't remember my words exactly but I remember everything being really well received. I would look around and all these small business owners and town officials were jotting down notes and nodding and smiling at me. After our time as up I had a line of folks waiting to chat with me and ask me more questions. It was pretty surreal because I truly didn't expect it to go so well.
That night we had a group dinner for the conference. Im not a shy person but I am certainly not a chatter box because as you can probably imagine, I was the only black person there. Something I have just gotten use to since moving out west and spending time in little mountain towns. I was in line to get food from the buffet and started small talk with a gentleman names Johannes. He said he really enjoyed my talk and he even looked up my art and said he was a fan! We made small talk in line about our travels and the weather but once we sat down he started telling me about this small chain of boutique hotels he was opening all across the west. He was referring to LOGE camps! He told me about their artist program and how one artist dresses an entire location. This was incredible news for me to hear while just casually eating dinner. I wasn't sure why he was telling me all this until he invited me to be the feature artist at their newest location in Breckenridge, Colorado. He wanted two murals and a collection of artwork for the rooms! WOW! I was honestly shocked! This was my second scary opportunity of the year while I was still experiencing my first. I was apprehensive because though i have experience with mural painting I was way out of practice and had not yet done a large wall alone. But again, opportunities are brought to you for a reason. The universe knew that I was ready to tackle this so I said yes! We exchanged emails that night and 5 months later I painted two huge walls, both over 1200sqft all by myself! I also created 8 detailed illustrations that I had to print AND frame for all the rooms. You would have laughed if you saw all 90 large framed artworks stacked in my car to drive from Denver to Breck! It was such a challenging yet incredibly humbling process! Even though I thought it was out of my league and way above my pay grade, I nailed it! The LOGE team loved what I made for them and it was my biggest and highest paying job to date!
In April I was contacted by Stephanie of Summit Sister, a women empowerment camping retreat, to teach an artist workshop at their summer retreat! Teaching was on my goals list for the year and it made me nervous but very excited at the same time. Art is a tricky subject to teach and inspire people with because it can be so personal. So many people feel like they aren't creative and being able to pull that out of folks is really difficult. I had only had experience with teaching kids at the time and that was a rough. I accepted the opportunity of course, despite the doubts in myself and it was one of the most enriching experiences that I have had this year. I tapped into a part of my compassion that I didn't know that I had. I was able to bring out the best artist in those ladies who had never picked up a brush. I taught two workshops that were three hours long and everyone walked away with a calm confidence in their abilities. It was beautiful to be apart of.
That weekend of workshops with Summit Sisters inspired me to find more ways to connect with people through art and nature. I then went on to teach three more art workshops this year all over the country with the Women on the Road group and Vanlife Diaries tour! I met amazing folks while in Moab Utah, Taos New Mexico, and New Orleans Louisiana! This is my first year traveling as an artist and teenage me would be filled with pride because this is the life I have always wanted.
In June I took the plunge and left my very comfortable bartending job. It was extremely scary to do because a steady income and health benefits are all any adult ever needs. Though i was extremely good at my job, it just wasn't enough for me though because it was not fulfilling and it wasn't making me happy. At the time my art jobs were picking up and I was constantly giving my shifts away. It seemed like a now or never time to see if an art career could really sustain me. So I left my job on good terms and the knowledge that restaurants aren't going anywhere anytime soon. I can always go back and do it again if for some reason art doesn't work out. And wow, I am so happy that I took that leap of faith. The most nerve wrecking, life altering change I could make as been working out for the best. It has now been 6 months of me being 100% full time freelance artist and I don't plan on looking back any time soon.
This year I had the pleasure of working with larger brands that I never imagine I could be connected with. Brands like Munk Pack cookies, Hoka One One, North Face, and of course Merrell!
If you follow me on IG you would've seen that I entered into a t-shirt competition this summer with Merrell and Backpacker Magazine. It was, hands down, the most challenging thing I have done all year. I was contacted by a friend at the magazine who nominated me to participate. I normally do not bother with contests but I knew Merrell was an amazing brand and does good work for DEI so I thought this would be a good way to introduce myself to them. I came up with a design that I pulled deep out of my heart. I took this contest extremely personally and was very vulnerable with my design choice. I really wanted to stand out and stand up for my community. The amount of love and support the design received was more than I ever imagined. I wasn't the only one taking it personally. Thousand of strangers were also taking it personally but voting every single day from all the phones and computers they could get their hands on. Folks were changing their bio info and printing out flyers to spread throughout their communities. I never in my life would have thought my artwork could gather such a response. You can now buy that t-shirt on Merrell.com thanks to the dedication and passion of so many folks! That yes moment was truly the highlight of my year.
These events are only a very small fraction of my year. I also did two live painting events at the summer Outdoor Retailer Convention which was so dope! I had two solo art shows in Denver. I started rock climbing, joined Brown Girls Climb and even got to design my own chalk bag with Dirt Chalk bags! Flew my mother and sister from Baltimore to Denver for a week immersed in nature. I attended a handful of revitalizing women's weekends in the wild that always change me a little for the better. Took an epic week long vanlife roadtrip with three friends around the four corner states all while raising money for the Navajo Nation! Lastly, I even took a couple personal vacations to be sure that my personal/mental health was always keeping up with the chaos! This year has been abundant in the best way possible. I truly owe it all to the "say yes" mindset. I would not have made the connections or gotten the opportunities that I had if I would've let imposters syndrome or the comparison trap control me.
If you've made it this far I thank you for you time. I encourage you to make a clear plan for 2020 and say yes to the things that scare you! Keep your heart and your mind open to possibilities unknown, and when you don't know the answer, always choose joy!