Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Love Letter...

Dear Friends,

I am sorry it's been so long since I've written, but I hope this note finds you well. I know you must surely have been wondering what's happened to me and Verabelle, and after much time away, I thought an update was in order!

I have spent the past year taking a break from professional crafting to have some time to reflect and refocus my direction. As the holiday season came to a close back in the winter of 2012, I was feeling very burned out and drained, creatively. Sadly, it felt that Verabelle had become more of a job than a fulfilling creative outlet for me. I felt that I was "producing" more than I was "creating," and that was the last thing I wanted Verabelle to be.

I decided to step back for a bit, thinking that I would return to Verabelle once I'd had a break, expecting to feel reinvigorated about the work. But the longer I was away from it, the less I wanted to go back. And as my life moved forward, the more and more if felt like Verabelle was something from my past and not of my future. It took me a long time to come to terms with that, though, to really admit that I was stepping away for good.

During this time, I was focusing my energy on traveling and adventuring, as well as my part-time work, grant-writing (which helped afford me the break). And I put a lot of thought and feeling into what really brought me the most happiness, returning to a discovery process that I had used to get Verabelle started when I decided to leave the 8-5 world. The question I started asking myself back then - and again throughout the last year - was "What do I want my life to look like?" Sometimes it's hard to use our brains to think of what makes us feel happiness in our hearts, but I've found that this question helps me to visualize and tie the two together.

Before, moving from the more corporate world to a creative one, my answers were things like, "I want to be able to go to bed and wake up whenever I want, to able to do what I want when the mood strikes." "I want to work by a window with the sun streaming in." "I want to be able to wear whatever I want every single day, so that I really feel like myself." "I want to be able to create things again." As I was visualizing all these things, I thought it was going to be to have a writing life, but it turned out that it was to have a crafting life, a different sort of creating.

This past year, as I took a break and reflected, I realized I had everything I had asked for. I had made it happen. That was a great feeling to acknowledge that and be grateful for how far I'd come. And I took a moment to thank myself for all the work I had done to get there. But I had been living that life for a long time, the one I had envisioned for myself years prior, without taking the time or emotional energy to refocus and redirect. I had been on the same, steady course, but the life I had chosen for myself and spent years working for wasn't quite the life I knew I needed now. It was time to shed that skin.

So, again, I asked myself, "What do I want my life to look like?" And though many of the same things still applied - namely, creativity and freedom - I found there were new things. I heard myself saying, "I want to be able to travel as often as I want, to sometimes be gone for long periods of time, but to still have a place that feels like home that I can return to. I want to feel less tied to things, to have less and to love what I have more. I want to explore more of the world and also more of my own home state, to see the back roads and hear the stories of the people who live there. I want to tell the story of place and of the depth and richness that I will uncover. I want to inspire others to have a life well-lived."

It took some time for it to all come together. There were times I thought I needed to return to writing or more traditional ("fine") arts, to go back to school for a list of studies that, truthfully, I can't even fully recall now. Then one day I was sitting by a window with the sun streaming in, surrounded by a pile of maps and travel books, planning a road trip to Florida. I had checked out a book by Jane and Michael Stern (the road food gurus of America), "Two for the Road: Our Love Affair with American Food," which turned out to be a memoir, unessential to my research. But I started reading it anyway and couldn't put it down. As I was devouring their story, it hit me. THIS was what I needed to be doing! They had it all - they had the life I had envisioned! They had combined travel and discovery on the road into a creative profession. And just as quick, the idea smacked me over the head: adventure maps!

So here I sit now, having just launched this new project, a new life adventure, a new life, really. And as I have been going through this official and very public new beginning (our Kickstarter launch!), I have been reminded so much of what it felt like to begin Verabelle - the excitement, the hope, the hours of tireless behind-the-scenes work as an idea comes to fruition. And it made me sit down and reflect again.

Now, with a year's distance between me and Verabelle and the stresses and disappointments that made me leave, I can feel the fullness of my gratitude for what that experience was. It was a wonderful and beautiful life that brought me so much happiness. Every day I got to wake up and create, to surround myself with history, with beautiful things that inspired me, and with memories of my loved ones that made me feel wrapped in their love and lessons. I got to connect with so many lovely people who appreciated my work and who found their own connections to it, and I can never even begin to describe to you the power of that and how much it still means to me! It was a beautiful, beautiful life, and I thank you so much for being part of that!

I think the hardest part of leaving Verabelle behind has been to leave you all behind and to find a way to tell you that I am leaving. That I have left. And I suppose that's why it's taken me so long to write this. But I hope that I won't have to leave you behind. I hope that you'll come along on this new adventure with me. That is the idea, anyway - to inspire others to add more adventure to their lives and to help them find a way to do it! I think in a way Verabelle was that, too. I hope it was, anyway - that the things I created inspired something in you to want to live more deeply, more beautifully, more true to yourself...

Thank you, all, and please, please do keep in touch!

Very truly yours,
Amanda Aileen

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