A Story of Transformation: Building a Life on Foundations, Not Facades
Editor’s note: For the past few months on Instagram and Facebook, we have been posting a Sunday morning “transformative” quote in collaboration with jewelry designer Emily Maynard of Elva Fields. We originally discovered Emily through her IG account @elvafields and were drawn to the soulful quotes she posted. When we contacted her to discuss a possible collaboration, we learned that these quotes were not only meant for others, but served as a personal source of hope and strength as she underwent a major transformation in her own life. Her story of transformation is reminiscent of many we have heard in our entrepreneurial community, so we asked her to share her story in the hopes that others who find themselves struggling with similar issues will know they are not alone…and that there is a path to transformation amidst the painful process of change.
I stood in the checkout line, flipping through the magazine until I came to the article I was looking for. The woman staring back at me from the page looked confident, happy, successful; smiling and surrounded by a studio brimming with earrings, bracelets, and necklaces she had designed and crafted for her growing jewelry business. I’d spent years working and hoping for this kind of acknowledgement and recognition a feature article in a major publication yet, here at the moment of its arrival, I had an aching and profound sense that I’d somehow gotten it all wrong. The void I longed to fill with accolades and accomplishments remained as hollow and hungry as ever. It wasn’t enough. It was never enough, and the gaping chasm between the woman in the photograph and the woman waiting in line grew deeper and wider, despite us being one and the same. My inside, it seemed, simply didn’t match my outside, and I felt like a fraud in my own life.
Less than a year later, my marriage would be over, the jewelry studio closed, assistants on to other jobs, my belongings in storage or moved to my tiny shoebox of a rental home in an entirely new neighborhood, and my carefully-constructed façade cracked, broken, and tumbling around me. I sat in the painful realization that my business was successful largely because I’d ignored everything else, building my entire life (and sense of value and worth, as a result) around what I did for a living. As it turns out, I wasn’t doing much of the latter living and seeking validation from a career to the detriment of family, friends, and self is among the emptiest of pursuits there are in this world.
There was and is great humility in admitting to myself and to others that things were not what they seemed; that my life was far from image-in-a-magazine perfect. Rather than resisting the upheaval that accompanied acceptance of this reality, I slowly began to consider the possibility that there could be beauty, even purpose, in the painful process of change. Perhaps I’d been given an opportunity to do things differently. Instead of consulting spreadsheets and schedules, I found myself praying in earnest as the way to guide and form my hours. Without a day full of meetings and conference calls, I spent time quietly thinking, meditating, allowing space for the shift. I began to really know myself. No photo shoots, no 70-hour work weeks, no hiding out in a hectic studio. Without the distraction of “success’ (skewed as it had been) I was slowly building a foundation instead of focusing on the façade.
[bctt tweet=”Seeking validation from a career to the detriment of family, friends, and self is among the emptiest of pursuits there are in this world.” via=”no”]
I was suddenly a single mother without full-time child care, and my two young daughters, previously deemed an inconvenient disruption to the work day and therefore rarely invited to the studio, were more and more present, often spending entire afternoons with me in the new, much smaller space. They passed the time stringing loose beads with scraps of wire pilfered from spools or from the floor, humming happily, thrilled with the discoveries of pattern, color, and style as I helped here and there, teaching them how to make their designs into wearable necklaces with lengths of vintage fringed trim from our flea market adventures.
I wasn’t sure how to make sense of this new normal, this blurring of lines between work and family, and I fumbled often. Witnessing their pure delight in the process and deep pride in their creations, however, I was struck with an idea. What if I could bring this experience to other children, especially those who might not otherwise enjoy an opportunity in a studio like my own little ladies have so often with me? And what if I could find a way to bring others into the story, helping to propel and fund the project with a product made by hand and with love, just like the jewelry I’d always made and for which the company had been so wonderfully celebrated for a dozen years? Sure, things had changed, but there remained a few constants in this new paradigm.
[bctt tweet=”Without the distraction of ‘success’, I was slowly building a foundation instead of focusing on the façade.” via=”no”]
This week, nearly three-and-a-half years after life took that unexpected turn, I will launch a new collection called Little Ladies, named for and inspired by my beautiful daughters. The necklaces each feature vintage trim and colorful beads, much like the designs we crafted together around my studio table during that tender, tenuous time.
The best part? A portion of each necklace we sell will provide materials and supplies for an underprivileged child to make a necklace of his or her own in monthly classes I’ve begun teaching at a local community center called The Cabbage Patch.
Where I once desired attention and admiration for my achievements, I now see how much I truly have to offer. I feel compelled and called to bring brightness, love, time, and talent to others. I want to share my gifts for good, celebrating the unique spirit in those who may have rarely been recognized before. Because I delight in sharing creativity and beauty with my own children, I am able to extend that joy to children I’ve barely met but love already. This is work that matters, that feels good, that makes a difference. I had lost myself in the work, but I found myself there, too, and the life I’m building one of great love, giving, and service is perhaps my greatest creation yet.