Receiving the news that you or a loved one has a frightening health condition like cancer certainly puts your life into perspective. Being told you have the same scary disease as your mother, even if your diagnosis isn’t as serious, makes you do a lot of soul searching.
It took about 6 weeks for my body to recover from surgery to treat early stage ovarian cancer in the beginning of 2017. I’d had surgery before, and for me abdominal surgery was actually physically easier than the surgery I had to repair a femur fracture in 2012. But as you might imagine, the emotional recovery was exponentially more challenging.
When my body was almost back to normal, I headed to the Utah desert with five friends to tag along as they biked the White Rim Trail in Canyonlands National Park. I ended up being able to ride about 60 miles of the 100 mile trail, and it felt absolutely incredible. It was unseasonably warm for early March, and a big dose of sunshine was exactly what I needed.
For 3 nights we camped, we took turns cooking gourmet food, and we dipped our toes in the Colorado River. We lounged in hammocks hung on Cottonwoods and Pinyon Pines, had deep conversations about life, and forgot about the world for a while.
By the end of the weekend I felt alive again. I was so grateful to have a body that was healing and so thankful it could take me to such a beautiful, wild place. I was completely and utterly filled with love and gratitude.
Brian felt the same way, and convinced me to head back to the desert the following weekend. The old me would’ve talked him out of it, convinced I needed to stay home and catch up on work. But something had shifted in me…suddenly joy was the number one priority above everything else. In that moment, there was nothing more important than spending quality time with my husband and having fun in the great outdoors.
Later on in March I flew to Maryland to visit my family and spend time with my mom, who was in the middle of chemotherapy. She was of course exhausted, and she and my dad were nervously anticipating a business trip he was scheduled to take in a few weeks. Even though the trip was right around the corner, I volunteered to come back and keep her company while my dad was out of town, and she graciously accepted.
On that second trip, my mom ended up needing a blood transfusion, so I took her to the chemo clinic, which turned into a tiring all-day affair. I’d brought my laptop so I could work while she dozed. As I sat there tapping away at my keyboard while she slept, I thought, this is what it’s all about. Being able to be here with her when she’s vulnerable and in need is priceless. This is what freedom feels like. Having the choice and ability to be here right now feels like my dream life.
Rewind about six months, before either of our diagnoses. It was the fall of 2016 and I had been working for myself for about two years. I had gotten frustrated with not making enough money as an entrepreneur, and I had started aggressively searching for a “real” job. In the span of about three months, I had twelve job interviews and three or four offers, but none of them felt quite right. I ended up settling for more part-time freelance design work to supplement my entrepreneurial endeavors.
Sitting there in the chemo clinic with my mom, I suddenly had an epiphany: I have everything I need. I have complete control over my schedule. I get to go play in the desert whenever I want. I get to spend time with my family when they’re going through a rough period. I have my health. I have good friends. I have an amazing husband. I may not be making the kind of money I was when I left my last traditional job, but truly I feel like I have it all, and that makes me feel like the richest girl in the world.
It was then that I made a decision. I would never go back to working for someone else. My freedom to work from anywhere, be with anyone I want to be with, and do the things I want to do, were all too valuable to even measure.
And then, magical things started to happen. It was like once I let go of believing I had to make a certain amount of money to consider myself “valid” or “successful”, my business started to take off. Once I started just feeling grateful and focusing on all the things I loved about my life, doors started to open.
The most notable jump in growth was when I followed my inspiration to create my first line of wedding stationery, something I had been thinking about but not acting on for several months. Creating the designs didn’t even feel like work, and they started selling almost immediately. Additionally, working with brides (contrary to popular belief) was amazing; I loved talking to them about their love stories, and the positive feedback I was getting was so personal and heart felt. I felt connected to my customers on a new level, and that was very satisfying.
Since then, my business has continued to grow quickly, as I’ve continued to make frequent trips back East, travel abroad, and get outside for adventures most days. I fell in love with stand up paddling boarding, rediscovered yoga, and I dedicate at least an hour every day to my personal growth and development.
You always hear the stories of people who are on their deathbeds, wishing they’d gone on more vacations, spent more time with family, started that dream business, learned to play an instrument, or written that book. I can tell you with full confidence, that I will NOT be one of those people. I know that when I’m 90 years old, I will look back at my life and think, I really have had the best life…I did it all, I had it all, and I loved every minute of it.
I’m writing this because I want the same for you. I want you to go live your dream life, whatever that means for you. I don’t want you to wait for a big epiphany to hit you after you’ve gone through something traumatic like I did. I want you to start now. And if you don’t know what your dream life looks like, go figure it out. To quote one of my favorite online business gurus, Marie Forleo, everything is figureoutable.
Stop living on autopilot, stop making excuses, and stop settling. There’s so much more out there for you. When you let go of what you’re “supposed” to do and open up to the possibilities, and when you truly believe that there is more, life will surprise you in the most awesome, unexpected, beautiful ways.
Have you ever had a moment in life that made you pivot big time? Have you ever had something scary or negative happen to you, that made you stop and reconsider your direction? Have you ever been blessed with something that put your life into perspective and made your priorities shift? Tell me your story; I’d love to hear about it!
Hi Julia! I came across your artwork several years ago during a visit to Breckenridge. I’ve been following you since then. We just returned home from Colorado last evening, but this time with a torn ACL. It makes my heart sad seeing the Rockies in the rear view mirror as we near Denver. I was especially sad this time that my vacation had been ruined by a silly fall, really and that I hadn’t truly been able to spend more time ON the mountain. I had an epiphany this morning, though. My work life balance has been nutty for years now and was looking to worsen here shortly. I know now that this injury, as inconvenient as it is for my family (husband especially) is meant to slow me down for a bit. I needed a break but couldn’t find a way to do it. While this is not the way I would have wanted to slow down, I have been forced to and that’s ok! I’m glad your health has returned. I will continue to look forward to your posts.
Hi Janine! Thanks so much for sharing and I’m sorry that you are going through this. My husband has also been through an ACL tear and it is not a walk in the park. For you to be able to see this a blessing in disguise so quickly shows incredible strength and insight. It is not easy to do so, but you recognized it fast, and that is an amazing skill to have, so congratulations on that 🙂 I wish you a speedy recovery and the period of rest that you are really needing! Take some time for YOU!