The idea of perception has been in my mind and heart for a while. A few months back I decided to make a change in my company. After 6 years of growing the company offering wedding invitations I decided to stop. It was a difficult decision, one that now looking back I wanted to make a long time ago but I didn’t have the clarity to know whether that was truly what my heart was telling me. There are many factors that push us or stop us to make decisions but one of them is how we are perceived by others which ends up shaping how we perceive ourselves.
Ever since I started my company, I was lucky enough to be “successful”. I put in the work, I was consistent, and I had a big advantage in my favor since I started this journey back when social media had started to be an outlet for artists to put their work out there, so we were naturally reaching a lot of people that appreciated our art. I feel as though we had never had such an accessible tool to be able to express ourselves and connect with people that resonated with it. So, my social media following grew and with that my work was able to reach hundreds of couples that were interested in my work.
The success of my work took me in this busy journey to adapt to the growth of the company. I was constantly thinking of ways to improve our processes, be more efficient, reduce the margin of error and in general be able to take on more clients at a time. At some point in 2019 I started to question my purpose, and this made me look at my journey and what I was doing. I shared some of these thoughts with friends and family and as if everyone had agreed on what to respond all they would say was something along the lines of “you are so good at this, you have built an incredible company, you have a unique talent, don’t give up on it”.
I had a decision to make since the lease of the studio I was renting was ending soon. And if I wanted to keep doing wedding invitations and growing the business, I needed to think of ways to lower our production cost. I decided at the time that I was going to move forward with the company and go all in. So, I decided to explore the option of handling production in house which meant purchasing equipment from early 1900’s, these are the only machines that can achieve the printing methods that wedding invitations are popular for. We scheduled our move and the delivery of the equipment was going to happen the first week of March 2020….
The news were in, everyone needed to quarantine. I wasn’t sure if the movers were going to show up and to be honest, I couldn’t have dimensioned the amount of changes that were coming our way. The first week of quarantine we had over 30 projects put on hold or cancelled. It was a big deal, but my optimistic self saw this as a gift from above since it was obvious to me that learning how to use the new machines was going to be a long learning process. It was still a challenging time since there were many changes that needed to happen, I had to almost immediately let go of the girls that had been helping me for the past year.
The months that came after were surprisingly enjoyable, the pace in which I was moving throughout my days was slower than ever before. But, this didn’t last too long for us in Florida since strict quarantine only lasted a few weeks and in fact it feels as though everything was fast forwarded to 2021 when things were starting to open again and venues around the country were opening back up to host weddings and events. Sooner than anticipated our clients that put their weddings on hold were reaching out with their new dates. Everything was out of the normal schedule and most weddings had shorter time lines for planning than usual, new clients were coming to us and we needed them since our sales were highly compromised during the months of strict isolation. I quickly needed to hire help again, learn how to operate the new equipment, change the original designs for our clients, re-print new invitations and save the dates for clients we had already finished their project, figure out how to deal with material shortages….oh, and yes, our building had a rodent and termite infestation that somehow I ended up managing….In short 2021 was a real shit show that pushed me to my physical, mental and emotional limits.
The company seemed to be recovering but I was using up the last bit of energy I had in me after months of challenge after challenge. By the last quarter of 2021 I knew I couldn’t keep up with that pace and I needed to prioritize my well-being. We started saying no to inquiries and filtering the projects that I felt I was going to enjoy. In early 2022 we were still extremely busy because planning a wedding sometimes takes up to a couple years. I felt as though my hands were tight and I had no other option but to keep pushing. My plan was to reduce weddings and slowly focus on creating products so that I could bring in the same revenue that weddings were creating.
I was doing my best to show up with a good attitude every day and I attribute this to the fact that I had been practicing multiple well being routines on a daily basis, I was journaling, meditating, exercising (when I could because I was so physically exhausted) so I was able to see the lessons during this season, but my soul was craving time, flexibility and freedom and no matter how aware of the lessons I was, I needed more than just observing and taking note on the current events.
My wedding anniversary was in February and my husband gave me one of my favorite gifts to date, he bought tickets for a retreat, and he was coming with me. It was exactly 2 years after we had gone to quarantine and our lives had been tested in multiple ways but this time we were in a beautiful house, surrounded by nature and by people that wanted to give their souls what they were craving. I’m not quite sure if something specific happened in the retreat… if I heard something, saw something or felt something or everything together but I decided to completely stop offering wedding invitations the day after we came back home.
It wasn’t until I said it out loud that I realized the weight I was carrying by doing something that my soul was not in alignment with anymore. I felt lighter and happier I had finally accepted that a season that at some point had brought me so much joy and growth was over. It was time for me to close a door and start a new chapter. Looking back I can see that I wasn’t ready to let go of the person I thought I was, I somehow and at some point started believing that doing wedding invitations was my destiny because I was good at it, I built it, people liked it, it was profitable so how was I going to throw away something that was working? The thing is it wasn’t working for ME and that’s all it really mattered.
In the last few months, I have started to share some of my thoughts and feelings about this season of transition, a journey of exploration and allowing my creativity and curiosity to guide me. I’ve experience some of the most fulfilling months and the truth is they have also been the most uncertain, confusing, messy months because creativity and curiosity don’t follow a straight line. And, I will choose this a million times over the way I felt in the last few months of 2021.
So, this brings me to the perception we have and hold for ourselves and others. The boxes we create that without knowing it keep us trapped in places we don’t want to be. The labels and concepts we give things and situations that somehow build a character we feel we must embody. We are afraid and at the same time proud of people perceiving us in a certain way but what we don’t realize is that we all live a different reality, we all have different needs, preferences and journeys; our perceptions are 100% dependable on our experiences and our believes.
A few weeks ago I had a heartfelt conversation with a family member after they had seen one of my stories on Instagram. They were worried about me, worried that I seemed lost in this journey of transition. Two days later I had a conversation with a friend, who without knowing what my family member had said, went on to tell me that she considered me a person that had her shit together more than anyone she knew and that it was inspiring for her. I laughed, and cried and then felt grateful for being in a journey that has slowly brought me these type of experiences and examples to show me the way.. the way to my heart.. the way that is aligned with what matters to ME and to always be aware of the natural tendencies we have as humans beings.
© Nat Otalora 2022. All rights reserved.
The more I do and create the more I want to share with others.
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