When "Everything's Okay" Isn't Enough: Ashley's Story
Welcome to my new blog series, Tapestry. Every other week, a guest contributor will tell you their personal story of how their career path led them to a new journey as an entrepreneur. Hopefully you'll gain some ideas of how a copywriter can help you to define your personal narrative--because in this age of authenticity, our stories are our brands.
We're often told that having a great career, a beautiful family, and a cool place to live is the equivalent to "having it all." But what happens when you have it all, but there's still something missing? This week's guest, Ashley Gartland, discovered that "good enough" sometimes just isn't good enough and found a way to make an okay life a Hell Yes Life. Take it, Ashley!
Admittedly, I had it pretty good. I was working as an established food writer in Portland, Oregon – arguably America’s hottest food city at the time. I had an interesting job, a flexible schedule and a very loose “office” dress code to adhere to. And the perks were pretty good, too. I’d stayed at luxury hotels, hobnobbed with food scene celebrities and gone backstage into the kitchens of Portland’s finest restaurants all thanks to my media credentials.
And yet, about six years into my food writing career, the glamour started to fade. It was around that time I had a little girl and started feeling like my work as a writer paled in comparison to my role as her mother. I’d had doubts about my career before having Addie but they were nowhere near as strong or as magnified as they became during that hazy postpartum period.
But anyone who’s been a new parent knows those postpartum months feel like a lousy time to make a leap. I was so busy keeping up with the baby and my writing gigs that it never seemed like a good time to explore a new career. So I kept punching the clock. I told myself I was placing too much importance on my career (the old it’s just a job argument) and that I should start acting grateful for what I had.
I didn’t think my family deserved to deal with the risk that was inherent in any job change. So I settled, reasoning that I’d have time to consider other paths someday down the road.
The problem was I didn’t really believe the stories I was spinning in my head. And I didn’t like the fact that someday didn’t have a real date attached to it. The truth was I wanted to have passion for my career again. I wanted to feel like I was serving some purpose beyond highlighting the latest restaurant trends or profiling a popular chef. I wanted to do something important to help people and, for me, food writing wasn’t it.
Every time I sat down to work, I fought back from yelling “is this all there is?”
That went on for 3 years. Yes, 3 years. (Again as a mom, I believed my family needed stability. If food writing provided that, who was I to argue?) So, I wrote copy for a new email newsletter. I penned a cocktail column that provided plenty of supplies for our home bar. I worked on a cookbook that should have been my dream project. The job still had its perks, to be sure, but through it all I felt trapped in a career I no longer wanted.
It was around this time that I popped out another kid. Like her big sister, my daughter Kennedy has been a gift in so many ways. But one of the most important things she’s given me is the chance to right the wrongs I made as a first-time mom. And by wrongs I’m not talking about all the “mistakes” I made trying to navigate life as a new parent. I’m talking about the way I treated myself during those early years of Addie’s childhood.
I acted like I was the least important person in our lives.
The biggest mistake I made as a first-time mom was trying to be everything for everyone except myself. I was self-sacrificing to a fault and ignored my needs and wants because I was so wedded to the idea that it wasn’t my time. And by constantly feeding myself that line, I was all but ensuring that my time would never come.
That scared me shitless. I saw my future unfolding in front of me and I didn’t like how it looked. I pictured a middle aged version of me who was still waiting for her time to come. She was still stuck in the same unfulfilling career and still neglecting her wants and needs in work, and life. And she’d sacrificed it all to provide for her family without realizing that the most important thing she could do for them is take care of herself.
Finding My Path
I wish I could say that was my “aha moment” – that I pictured a future I didn’t like, immediately quit my writing gigs and found my true calling. But the reality is that it took me many months to shed my identity as a food writer and decide what I wanted to do next.
Though I knew I needed to take action, I struggled to find the time. And when I did carve out an hour or two, I was consumed with guilt for taking time away from my family to figure out my life. But I also wanted to believe that taking care of me – including finding time and ways to pursue my dreams now, not later – was essential to my happiness and my family’s happiness as well. So I sought help from my friends and family, started working with a life coach and fought like hell to change my mindset so I could start making space for me in my life.
The ironic thing is that my greatest struggle as a mom has become my greatest gift. Eventually, I started looking into new careers and decided that I wanted to become a life coach. When it came time to define who I wanted to work with, I didn’t hesitate for one minute. My calling is working with new moms so they can find ways to be great parents and individuals too.
My tribe was waiting for me – I just had to find them.
Ashley Gartland is a life and wellness coach who works with new moms to find ways to be a great mom without losing themselves. She works with clients to navigate the pressures of being a modern day supermom and learn to give more to themselves so they can realize their dreams, desires and needs now. If you’re a mom who wants to learn more about her work or sign up for a free introductory coaching call, visit www.ashleymgartland.com.
(All photos by Hazel & Pine: www.hazelandpine.com)
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