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the things i did before i found what i was meant to do…

Olle-eksell-illustration

Olle-eksell-illustration

The other day I was looking through all the drawers of supplies in my office. There are drawers for jewelry-making tools, screen-printing inks, calligraphy pens, yarns for knitting, fabric and needles for sewing, charcoal for drawing, and a ton more supplies for hobbies I once had at some point in my life. They made me wonder if I've been too fickle. Did I think I was going to become a jewelry designer, a calligrapher, a professional knitter, an artist, or a clothing designer? Maybe. Did I buy a ton of supplies only to never use them again? Yes.

At some point while I took at stab at doing these things and using all these tools, I realized they were fun but not meant for me in the long run. As you try new things, you learn what you like (and also don't like) about every hobby and experience—and all of that leads you closer and closer to the thing (or things) you are ultimately meant to do. In my case, I figured out that I love designing products (but not crafting them by hand), I enjoy interacting with people directly on-line or in small groups (but hate schmoozy and non-personal "networking"), and love being able to get my ideas across in various formats (like blogging, books, and videos).

So, I guess what I'm saying is get out there and learn about stuff (especially for those of you who feel lost in your career or your job path because you haven't found "it" yet). It's better to experience and try new things you might be interested in—even if it's just out of curiosity—then to sit and wonder what might have been. Because in some way, it will all lead you to making your mark in the way that only you can.

{Illustration by Olle Eksell

110 comments

  1. This is a great post, Joy! It sounds like you are in my space, reassuring me that those drawers [and closets, and shelves…] are working towards something!
    (=

  2. I totally agree with this post. I started out in print design, then moved to digital and am now a web project manager (which I really enjoy) but I recently fell in love with knitting. It was one of those things I always wanted to know how to do but was scared to learn. Took lessons 2 years ago and now I’ve been selling baby blankets to friends like crazy and am hoping to expand more and learn even more. I’m kicking myself for not giving in to my creative desires earlier.

  3. this makes me feel a lot better about the fact that I only realised i wanted persue graphic design aged 28! i do feel like i’ve tried an awful lot of different creative things along the way though, and i’m sure they have helped to get to where i am now, in some way!

  4. I felt so inspired reading this post today! I also needed it a lot! We are not wasting our time, once we realize that something doesn´t passionate us so much as we thought in principle… it is just an important path on the way! Kepp on trying, kepp on failing!

  5. I love this post and totally agree with what you’re saying! Some people feel that they have to become accomplished at every new thing they try. It’s more about discovering what you love and don’t love and having fun along the way.

  6. I couldn’t agree with this more! I did exactly the same thing and have boxes filled with ‘stuff’ from when I tried out making jewellery, sewing fabric, hand binding books etc. Part of me feels like perhaps I wasted a lot of money on these materials and tools which I now don’t use and that people might think I have a short attention span and quit easily! But I know that I had to try all these things because a) I wanted to, b) you don’t how much you like something until you have to do it many times over for a deadline and c) only by trying lots of ideas could I find out what I really enjoy, what I’m good at and what it is that I want to do with my time. But as that’s a quiet little voice that says these reassuring words inside me it’s hugely encouraging to know that someone else, and someone as successful and happy as you, has been on the same journey! So thanks. x

  7. Joy,
    Thanks for this validating and inspiring post. My drawers are like yours, filled with supplies for whatever whim I had or will have. I believe forays into experimentation will eventually inspire or inform new work. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on being creative!
    Emily

  8. Its wonderful to hear these words from a blogger I really admire. I didn’t finish college, because I could never decide on a major; hobbies come and go and, like you, I have a graveyard of tools to prove it. (On the bright side, if I ever need to stamp out my correspondance or knit an afghan the tools are waiting for me.) It took me a long time (nine years) to figure out what I wanted to focus on and I was almost embarrassed to commit to it, wondering if it was just another phase.
    Reading your words was yet one more confirmation that the last nine years were not in vain, but that every experience I’ve had, every hobby, was just another course in the class of life. Thank you!

  9. After reading your post and the comments, it’s reassuring to know I’m not alone. I’ve taken up so many hobbies and I’ve always felt a hint of guilt with some of my abandoned supplies. But you’re right, it’s all about the experiences.

  10. wow, this just hit home for me. Last year I was designing jewelry and actually succeeding with my little Etsy shop. I even had my designs sold in a little Brooklyn boutique. Before that I was creating unique cupcake variations, and was very much into creating special decorations for them for weddings and showers and holidays. All throughout I had been obsessed with designing paper goods. Stationary. Cards, notepads etc…it wasn’t until my wedding this past October that I had done every paper good for it that I realized, ok this is it. I need to give this 200% and see how it goes. I just started and I’ve recently delved into creating notebooks and researching production. This post made me feel so much better. I too thought I was just fickle. Thanks!

  11. I feel a lot better. I just graduated college with a degree in Art History (after changing it from my Printmaking degree in my JUNIOR year), and I’ve been everywhere. Photography, printmaking, blogging…i’ve tried it and realized that I am better at writing, research and browsing Pinterest. I feel lucky that I’m only 24 and fresh out of college, but also incredibly scared. Before it was my family asking me when I was going to graduate, and now its every one asking me when I’m going to get a “real” job. I have a vision for what I want my life to be, but I have yet to find that career path that will make that image more clear. Thank you for these inspiring words!

  12. oh man, i definitely needed this! i am totally going through that process right now. i have a fellowship that is coming to an end next month, and i’m trying to figure out what to do next. it’s also great to read that i’m not the only one with a million different supplies spread out between dozens of hobbies. so thanks for this post!

  13. I really needed to read this right now. There are so many beautiful things out there that I want to be a part of, but I still feel like I’m finding my niche for what really makes me happy. I too have a closet of stuff for each of my passing whimsies, but I think it’s fun to look back and who knows? I may want to knit something at any moment, and I’ll be ready.
    kristaandmichele.com

  14. Your post really resonates with me (and a lot of other people as I can see from previous comments)! I’m going through a phase in my life right now where I’m just delving into everything and anything – knitting, textiles, apparel design, watercolor, yoga everyday, juicing, whatever! – and trying to see what sticks. Ultimately, I hope that one or a few things become my core source of happiness (and maybe some income) so that I can shift away from my current job and lead a more creative and simple lifestyle.

  15. This post is pretty much what I’m going through right now. I mentioned to you and Bob before that my end goal would be to own my own coffee house. But then after going to Coffee Fest, I realized that there’s so much more in the industry I have yet to see and learn about. Maybe I can be a buyer, a roaster, a barista trainer… whatever it is, I came to realize that as long as I’m in the coffee industry I’d be happy with whatever job I end up having. And the blogging part (which I have you to always thank for), can be a side thing that can turn up to something bigger than I can ever have expected. Thanks for sharing this.. really. It helps to know that although I’m not there yet, that I’m doing something right.

  16. Oh my… these words touch me in a way that I can’t express! I feel them as if they were my own! Because I also have so many supplies and stuff that I’ve bought and I’m still in search of something truly unique to make and handcraft (if that’s my path!)
    So lost and overwhelmed by so many things that I can do and I’m glad that I am not unique in all this messiness!

  17. oh i love this. i’ve always been afraid that people see me as a quitter because i never stick with one thing for long (the longest was ballet for 16 years…but i gave that up when my babe came along). i know it’s because i haven’t found what i want to do yet! i’m glad i’m not alone 🙂 thanks!

  18. Thank you for being so delightfully identifiable. I spent so much time in offices and in politics (gasp) before I had the courage to toss it aside for an impractical career in writing. Sometimes the ability to jump into something new with both feet is the best skill to have. 🙂

  19. Thank you for this post. I have to agree with the majority of the comments — that this really hit home. Sometimes it’s hard to turn your back on something you’ve committed to in a career, to pursue something else that is closer to your heart. I appreciate you opening up and sharing with us. Thanks!

  20. i can’t thank you enough for this post. i am in that very process right now. i’ve been super into writing, then yoga, photography, drawing, and a few other things. bought supplies and books for all of them. just the other day i was telling my mom i felt fickle and wasteful to have bought so many things i no longer use. but to think of it as a process that’s leading me to what i will ultimately do, that is so helpful and reassuring. i love it. thank you.

  21. So true!! Thanks so much for putting into words exactly how I’m feeling right now. I know what I’m interested in, but just can’t seem to pin down that one niche that I’m meant to pursue. I’d rather try several different options to find what clicks, than being bored or miserable in a line of work I don’t enjoy.

  22. yikes…not every hobby has to be a profession. what has this DIY/Etsy world turned us into? LOL I love embroidery work. I’m actually pretty terrible at it. I don’t even display the work I do in my own home. But I like it. Keeps my hands busy. Sometimes it’s the process, not the outcome. And I certainly don’t want the pressure of AM I MEANT TO DO THIS on my shoulders every time I pick up a hobby. hahaha

  23. i’ve been thinking about this same thing recently [like so many others i’m sure]… thinking back on the jobs i’ve had at one point or another that have all contributed to the path of me finding what i feel like i’m meant to do- what i love to do.
    thanks for sharing this snippet of your story, it’s so encouraging to me… because as an artist, there are still those moments where i feel a little all over the place. 🙂
    you’re so inspiring joy! hugs!

  24. Love this post! It’s so true, sometimes all you need is a little courage to explore new ideas and take a few risks, and before you know it you’ve found a new path! Thanks, Joy!

  25. Joy,
    In the midst of making what could be life-altering choices about my career and what I am “meant to do,” your post gave me a little coin of courage to add to my bag. Thanks.

  26. This me right now in my life. Boxes of crafts, writing journals and sewing machine collecting dust. But recently I have narrowed it down to photography and fresh new blog. I have been executive assistant in TV Development far too long and writing has been my new outlet. This was one of your best post so far since I have been following you. Love it!

  27. Great post! I totally agree that it’s only with trying do you really figure out what you love and are meant to be doing. Knowing is better than wondering 🙂

  28. So agree with you! every step, every experience, is heading us to what we really be meant for. And this does not mean that the ultimate or actual activity is THE one, the past ones were THE ones for that moment, and the ones that led you to your present… uf! philosophic comment, from a woman with a degree in tourism, year of working in that industry of hospitality… now making accesories and deco objects from home! Greetings from Buenos Aires!

  29. This hits very close to home. As girl in my 20s, a new mother and temporarily living in Alberta I’m really trying to figure out who I am! I just picked up a copy of your blog book and am taking a stab at blogging. Thanks for being such an inspiration Joy!

  30. It’s so important to identify being ok with these things and not feeling that you must do the schmoozing in order to reach goals. Thanks for this.

  31. I just spent the morning working on jewelry (still figuring if it’s my calling) but you’re exactly right! I used linen from my bookbinding supplies, paint from my still fledgling painting kick, random ephemera from obsessive flea marketing, and other things from all of my past hobbies, and they turned out pretty cute. (on my etsy shop this week!) i agree it’s all part of the journey. we should all be so lucky as to end up like you though!!
    thanks for the great post:)
    leslie

  32. Oh, I totally agree. I just wrote a post about the eighteen jobs I had over fourteen years, and it really made me realize how all those experiences contributed to my happiness today. Thanks for this post — sometimes it’s good to have the reminder that people you admire had to find their way too.

  33. This is such a great post! I recently moved and came across my “hobby wasteland” in my drawers, boxes and closets. It made me have a similar sentiment — that it was all a lovely path of self-discovery!

  34. Thanks for this. I’m still trying to find my niche and can’t seem to get there. From animation, to calligraphy, to graphic design, photography, illustration, optometry, psychology, nursing, medical research.. Ack. Still can’t figure it out.

  35. ha, yes youre right! i think that hobbies lead to discovery too. not always that they are going to turn into a job but they allow you to explore things in a more casual way that help you figure out more and more about what you enjoy and what you dont. 😉
    joy

  36. This post absolutely resonates with the stage of life that I’m in. I too have plenty of dreams and I spent a lot of time wondering the ‘what ifs’ so I’m glad I took the courage to start my blog, even if it’s just something small because i don’t wish to look back when i’m 50 regretting the ‘i should haves’
    xx

  37. This post is so encouraging. We have been feeling like we are in this boat right now and figuring out where we are supposed to be. Starting a blog has definitely helped give us some direction and a great way to put ourselves out there since we also do not prefer traditional networking. Thanks for this little tidbit. Love reading your posts!

  38. This post is so encouraging. We have been feeling like we are in this boat right now and figuring out where we are supposed to be. Starting a blog has definitely helped give us some direction and a great way to put ourselves out there since we also do not prefer traditional networking. Thanks for this little tidbit. Love reading your posts!

  39. This post is so encouraging. We have been feeling like we are in this boat right now and figuring out where we are supposed to be. Starting a blog has definitely helped give us some direction and a great way to put ourselves out there since we also do not prefer traditional networking. Thanks for this little tidbit. Love reading your posts!

  40. This post is so encouraging. We have been feeling like we are in this boat right now and figuring out where we are supposed to be. Starting a blog has definitely helped give us some direction and a great way to put ourselves out there since we also do not prefer traditional networking. Thanks for this little tidbit. Love reading your posts!

  41. This post is so encouraging. We have been feeling like we are in this boat right now and figuring out where we are supposed to be. Starting a blog has definitely helped give us some direction and a great way to put ourselves out there since we also do not prefer traditional networking. Thanks for this little tidbit. Love reading your posts!

  42. This post is so encouraging. We have been feeling like we are in this boat right now and figuring out where we are supposed to be. Starting a blog has definitely helped give us some direction and a great way to put ourselves out there since we also do not prefer traditional networking. Thanks for this little tidbit. Love reading your posts!

  43. This post is so encouraging. We have been feeling like we are in this boat right now and figuring out where we are supposed to be. Starting a blog has definitely helped give us some direction and a great way to put ourselves out there since we also do not prefer traditional networking. Thanks for this little tidbit. Love reading your posts!

  44. This post is so encouraging. We have been feeling like we are in this boat right now and figuring out where we are supposed to be. Starting a blog has definitely helped give us some direction and a great way to put ourselves out there since we also do not prefer traditional networking. Thanks for this little tidbit. Love reading your posts!

  45. This post is so encouraging. We have been feeling like we are in this boat right now and figuring out where we are supposed to be. Starting a blog has definitely helped give us some direction and a great way to put ourselves out there since we also do not prefer traditional networking. Thanks for this little tidbit. Love reading your posts!

  46. This post is so encouraging. We have been feeling like we are in this boat right now and figuring out where we are supposed to be. Starting a blog has definitely helped give us some direction and a great way to put ourselves out there since we also do not prefer traditional networking. Thanks for this little tidbit. Love reading your posts!

  47. this was so interesting and really inspirational. now that I know what I want to do I am working hard to stay on the path and focus almost completely on it! please stop by my blog and join the awesome giveaway I have going on for a smashbox under eye primer! xx. gigi. food and beauty blogger @ http://www.gigikkitchen.blogspot.com

  48. Enjoying the process is ALWAYS more important than enjoying the outcome. This helps you keep going through both success and failure. I have found that just about all very successful people are wired this way 😉

  49. Hi Joy! It was a JOY to spend an hour with your blog! It happened totally by chance as I followed a random link and It was just what I needed. It pushed all the right buttons. My family and friends have been trying to make me start up a blog as I always have so much to say. I have done probably everything or most from the activities and interests you have described and fitted into the illustration….the thing is that I actually have been successful with each one of them but haven’t followed them through and I want to continue doing all these things and I can never do only one thing at the time. It could get overwhelming and simply makes me feel chained and suffocated and idle.
    It is good that you cracked it at your age, you are clearly a decade or two younger than me, and got focussed.
    I love people and communicating directly in real life but I hate Facebook and the nonsense people a posting on their walls. I hate the idea of writing and sharing my ideas with everyone out there , e.g. no one in particular, but I love adressing people personally on a particular matter. …..so how can I be a blogger…?!

  50. Definitely great advice. As one of the many who are in the midst of “finding it”, I applaud your trial and error process! It’s hard to put yourself out there and try new things, but I’m certain (I think) that the reward will be in one of these treasure chests!

  51. this post is lovely Joy! I’ve been contemplating a big job/life change lately – leaving my corporate life (which can’t really be called a life because it just drains me!) for the unknown. This post is so timely and encouraging! I like to have everything planned, but my craving to try new things and find a more fulfilling and creative path is slowly taking over. It’s so nice to hear someone talk about all the things you did that didn’t take before you found the thing that did! I want to jump right to having it settled, because the process of figuring it out scares me a bit…but the process must happen so off I go to see how it turns out 🙂

  52. i think you have identified the plight of every creative person, at some point in their life! though the temptation to try to do it all still exist [for me]…so this was such a timely post for me. thank you, joy! xo
    -ashley
    ashleyrachelle.com

  53. It’s like you wrote that first paragraph about me! Well put Joy. Keep trying and experimenting. It’s the journey not the destination right?

  54. Thank you for this post, Joy! As always, it’s written with the right amount of encouragement and inspiration that resonates with so many of us.

  55. Your post was very timely for me because I am struggling with finding what I’m “meant” to do. People always talk about following their passions, but what do you do if you don’t have one? Knowing how you came to find your own calling reinforces something that I’ve recently suspected, which is that you just have to try everything that sounds fun, and pay attention to what you enjoy about it. The fact that this worked for you (quite successfully!) is encouraging.

  56. Wow. I was meant to read this post. This is my first time visiting your lovely blog; I came over from Emily Henderson. And, I desperately needed to read this today. So, thank you. 🙂

  57. It always amazes me how things seem to happen at just the right time. I am totally going through this right now… I just broke out my old supplies from art school and realized ho much I missed creating! It had been so long with a new baby, home, and running a business… sometimes we let our lives get in the way of living. I have recently gone through some pretty big life changes and needed this reminder! Thanks for the inspiration!

  58. This was a great post. I completely agree that all our “excursions” are just part of our journey. Sometimes it might just help us understand other communities (for me that was sewing!) Love designing, love clothing-don’t want to piece a pattern together AT ALL. Wonder how buying every single craft book ever written will help me one day….hmmmmm.

  59. This was a great post. I completely agree that all our “excursions” are just part of our journey. Sometimes it might just help us understand other communities (for me that was sewing!) Love designing, love clothing-don’t want to piece a pattern together AT ALL. Wonder how buying every single craft book ever written will help me one day….hmmmmm.

  60. This was a great post. I completely agree that all our “excursions” are just part of our journey. Sometimes it might just help us understand other communities (for me that was sewing!) Love designing, love clothing-don’t want to piece a pattern together AT ALL. Wonder how buying every single craft book ever written will help me one day….hmmmmm.

  61. This was a great post. I completely agree that all our “excursions” are just part of our journey. Sometimes it might just help us understand other communities (for me that was sewing!) Love designing, love clothing-don’t want to piece a pattern together AT ALL. Wonder how buying every single craft book ever written will help me one day….hmmmmm.

  62. This was a great post. I completely agree that all our “excursions” are just part of our journey. Sometimes it might just help us understand other communities (for me that was sewing!) Love designing, love clothing-don’t want to piece a pattern together AT ALL. Wonder how buying every single craft book ever written will help me one day….hmmmmm.

  63. This was a great post. I completely agree that all our “excursions” are just part of our journey. Sometimes it might just help us understand other communities (for me that was sewing!) Love designing, love clothing-don’t want to piece a pattern together AT ALL. Wonder how buying every single craft book ever written will help me one day….hmmmmm.

  64. This was a great post. I completely agree that all our “excursions” are just part of our journey. Sometimes it might just help us understand other communities (for me that was sewing!) Love designing, love clothing-don’t want to piece a pattern together AT ALL. Wonder how buying every single craft book ever written will help me one day….hmmmmm.

  65. This was a great post. I completely agree that all our “excursions” are just part of our journey. Sometimes it might just help us understand other communities (for me that was sewing!) Love designing, love clothing-don’t want to piece a pattern together AT ALL. Wonder how buying every single craft book ever written will help me one day….hmmmmm.

  66. This was a great post. I completely agree that all our “excursions” are just part of our journey. Sometimes it might just help us understand other communities (for me that was sewing!) Love designing, love clothing-don’t want to piece a pattern together AT ALL. Wonder how buying every single craft book ever written will help me one day….hmmmmm.

  67. This was a great post. I completely agree that all our “excursions” are just part of our journey. Sometimes it might just help us understand other communities (for me that was sewing!) Love designing, love clothing-don’t want to piece a pattern together AT ALL. Wonder how buying every single craft book ever written will help me one day….hmmmmm.

  68. Oh Boy! I can relate to this post. I have so many art supplies that I love and can’t get rid of, because “I am going to use them again someday” or because I used to dabble with them. Some people would say I needed to pick one thing, others encouraged the exploration. I am just now feeling as though I am shifting into what feels right, but I wouldn’t trade any of the exploration or fun. Great post!

  69. Bri, I have felt the same way! That people just see this trail of unfinished projects behind me, but I do feel that it is better to try things and let them go than not to do them at all! I am sure people are inspired by the things you are doing!

  70. I’ve been thinking about this recently.
    Quilting is something I now know is probably not for me. I am currently trying to finish up an overly ambitious one I started in 1997! It absolutely must be finished to make room for something else!
    I have also tried doing extra sewing work for other designers at home three times now over a number of years. There is something about it that I don’t like, I finally decided. So I’m moving on to something else. It may just be that I ned an actual studio set-up, I just don’t know.
    Home improvement projects are another area where I just cannot be bothered sometimes. Sure it’s nice to learn some DIY, but there are limits for me.
    I am pretty good about clearing out old projects/hobbies and their supplies if I decide it’s not for me. If you give up on a hobby or craft, pass all those supplies, tools, and books on to someone else and clear the path for something new!

  71. THANK YOU! That is a relief to hear because sometimes I have thought it’s only me who does this, and that I can’t stick with anything (obviously I like to beat myself up!)… But you’re right, it is fun trying new things and then if you don’t stick with it, let it go, because at least you tried. x

  72. I love this post! Even though it was brief, didn’t have anything to promote, etc – it is encouraging to hear reflections from professional creatives. Thanks!

  73. I really, really love this. A friend of mine made a comment the other day, basically implying that I’ve wanted to be a lot of things. It made me a little embarrassed, but eventually I realized that I should be proud of where I am! It took a lot of trial and error to get here, but I’m happier than I’ve ever been, even if that means I don’t DIY (because if I’ve learned anything, it’s that I’m terrible at DIY…). xo

  74. This post couldn’t come at a more relevant time for me! I was just thinking about this the other day. I have taken classes in calligraphy and letterpress. I’m in school for graphic design & web design. One day I think I want to be a typographer and create fonts and the next day I want to do surface pattern design. I’ve tried paper quilling, wedding invitation design, and stamp making. As you can see, I’m clearly all over the place!!! Hopefully I figure out what I’m most happy doing!

  75. OH I can so relate!! From bouncing between medical research, jewelry design, selling on Etsy, then going to FIDM and working in fashion design for a bit, then BACK to medical research while completing another degree in something else, all the while trying out all sorts of new little creative pursuits… I’m exhausted just thinking about it! But you are right– I feel good that I’ve tried these things and I’ve learned quite a lot about myself. Also, it’s ok to change your mind and change you priorities throughout your whole life! <---That's probably the most important thing I've learned.

  76. I’ve always felt strange being the only person I knew that didn’t want to be a specialist in one thing. I now have come to love being a generalist and having endless tools and skills at my disposal. I think trying your hand at lots of things gives you a sense of empowerment that you really can DO-IT-YOURSELF and be self reliant, which in turn I think makes you more creative! I will never do just one thing for my whole career, but that’s whats fun about it!

  77. Love this. Such a weight lifted when I finally allowed myself to purge my craft collections. Rather than worrying about all the possibilities and what if’s that I could do with the stuff I wasn’t really interested in, I was able to focus on what I really love…and grow a business out of it. Thanks Joy! Well said.

  78. I am reading “blog inc.” just now! And founding this post in your blog in this moment in my life means a lot!
    I am an architect and I do love it, but I believe I am not meant to do architecture, I love design that’s what I know and right know I am exploring so many different things, from sewing to furniture design.
    Hope I can descover soon how I’m going to mix it up an finally do what I’m meant to do!
    Tanks Joy! <3

  79. Coming back to this post today for some encouragement! Just started my blog a few days ago and this was such a good post for me to read, had to come back to it! 🙂 Thanks!

  80. You summed up my opinion on trying new things and living life without regret perfectly! Thank you for encouraging others to live life to the fullest:)

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