Tuesday, January 24, 2017

What Do You Do?

And so, what do you do? A casual conversation starter we all receive and we receive it often. How about this weather? Where are you from? Have kids? Married?..... 

What do you do? 

For a long time I tried to separate what I "do" and who I "am". I didn't want my line of work to define me as a person. As many know, I am an attorney-turned-designer. Practicing law, I always felt the work I was doing wasn't inwardly reflective. Maybe it was the practice area, maybe it was the specific jobs, the clients, I really don't know. But what I do know is that in my gut it just wasn't right. Something wasn't clicking. I wasn't gelling, and I certainly didn't want my work to be who I was, specifically a line of work I really didn't enjoy. I always pushed that inner voice way, way down and decided no one likes their job. No one actually enjoys getting up to go to work. Everyone secretly has a dream to do something else. This is totally normal, so suck it up and carry on.

And to some extent, that's true. Adulting isn't always (ever?) fun. It's a rat race and we're all participants. But eventually I had to ask myself, at what point is it costing me more than it's providing for me? For my family? 

After three years of law school, and then three more years in practice, I had my first child. Motherhood changed me in many ways, but one I am forever grateful for is the way it changed my perspective on my career. Being a mom made me realize just how much I wanted a change, and perhaps that voice that kept pestering me wasn't as "normal" as I'd thought and shouldn't be dismissed. 

Years ago, Jeff Henderson ( via Buckhead Church ) gave a sermon on God's thumbprints on your life. What has He so uniquely equipped you with? What gifts has He given you that are clues into what He has planned for your life? (Honestly, even if you aren't a believer, this is worth a listen). 

For a long time, I mostly ignored those thumbprints. I wanted to make money. You can't make any real money in creative work, right? That's what I told myself. I wanted to be a career woman. I wanted to work at a big lofty firm with a big lofty reputation and have a big lofty job title. And those goals are TOTALLY ACCEPTABLE and most commendable. Except that those weren't my personal goals inwardly. Those were goals I had set for myself outwardly. How I wanted others to see me. How I wanted the world to view me. They weren't personal goals I strived for. They just weren't me at all, but I thought somehow if I were impressive to those around me, I'd be filled up on the inside. All the while ignoring the thumbprints God placed on me. Ignoring that voice that kept telling me this was the wrong profession, the wrong path for ME. I know now that voice wasn't just "normal". I truly believe it was God speaking to me. (actually I think He was screaming at me to wake up).

Now, I'd be lying to you to say it wasn't (and sometimes remains) really (extremely) hard to tell my husband, my family, my friends - "oh hey, yeah that degree I worked tirelessly on, this profession that I've basically dedicated the last 6 YEARS of my life to? Yea, I've decided it's not going to work out. "

Ignoring God in the end has made it that much harder for me. If I had followed that voice and what He had in store for me from the beginning, I could have saved myself many difficult conversations, financial obligations, and most importantly, time. That image of myself I was trying to paint for the world to see? Yea, try explaining that you are an attorney-turned-designer without some form of confusion! God did, however, use those years in law to shape me in other ways. I developed friendships I can't ever replace. Obviously I learned things I wouldn't otherwise know. I grew up. A LOT. But mostly, I learned discpline. I got through one of the hardest experiences of my life all for a career I wasn't truly passionate about. 

So, what was the inner voice? For me, it was clear in my free-time. In law school, any "down" time I had, it was spent reading up on interior design. Home decor. Trends. Styles. Watching HGTV. Flipping through magazines. Designing rooms on paper. Drafting fake house plans. Scrolling through Zillow and flipping houses in my mind. You name it, I was doing it. It's funny, looking back now I can remember doing these things from a young age at my dad's drafting table. I can remember building and creating furniture for my Barbies. I can remember changing out my doll's bedding and using building blocks to create new houses. If that isn't thumbprints at an early age, I don't know what is. 

After law school, I started this blog. I started decorating our first house and used all of my spare time pouring my energy into it. That's when friends and family took notice and started asking me for advice on their own homes. I started designing rooms for people I knew just for the fun. The feeling of pulling together a space for someone completely overwhelmed me, in a good way. The satisfaction that came from this filled up my soul. Seriously. It did. It wasn't for three more years, however, that I finally decided it was time to listen. Time to fully embrace that path. 

And it's been difficult, to be honest. Not just financially difficult. Let's face it, I don't make the money that I did. But it's also been difficult to completely trust God. There have been bumps in the road. Some days I think I've done the exact right thing. I've got flexible hours with the kids. It's good. Other days I am wondering where my next job is coming from, and whether I am doing this right. Whether I know what I am doing AT ALL. 

But, here's the thing. In all of this, I think my experience uniquely equips me to understand the clients I'm wanting to serve. The newlyweds wanting to pull together their first home on a budget. The stay at home mom that just needs a point in the right direction. The married-with-kids that don't have a ton of money to spend on design, but know they want a home that's comfortable and beautiful. Believe me, I GET IT. I know what it is to want a "Pinterest" room on a "penny" budget. I get that! I do. I also know that it is very much possible! 

Interiors don't have to be custom, to-the-trade, or designer brand to be stunning. Yes, I said it. They DO NOT. I'm not sure I'd truly understand that had I not done it myself. I can't tell you how many spaces I've created all from HomeGoods, Overstock and Goodwill! I know we all want inspiring homes that make us say "aaaaaaah" as we walk through the doors. Some of my favorite rooms over the years have also been the most affordable. I thank those clients and friends for trusting me to pull it together. Those Penny-Pinterest rooms are some of the best.

I thank my husband who has completely trusted me to switch cities, careers, and incomes. I thank my friends and family who encourage me to continue on a creative path. And I thank God for all but hitting me over the head with truth. Grace.

The Houston House, LLC is still a baby, but I thank all of you who have helped raise her along the way. It certainly does take a village. 

So, what do I do? I help others achieve a home that makes them feel good. I help families organize the chaos. I help friends come home at the end of the day to a space that's inviting and warm. On any budget. On any scale. That's what I do.

Forever thankful,





Julie said...

Bravo, sweet Ashley! You make such a difference in people's lives and I'm proud that you're our daughter-in-love and the mother of two of the sweetest and prettiest granddaughters around. You are so very talented and smart. I'm glad you've found your "calling" where you can exercise your gifts.

Laura Russell said...

You have definitely found your calling! I love your comment about flipping houses on zillow. I do that DAILY but will never enter, much less buy and flip any of them, but I have so many great plans. One day... and then I'll hire you as my decorator!

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