At years end of 2016, I was working very grueling hours as a successful visual merchandising manager in the fashion industry, in New York. I was going into my fifth year, and although I loved the creative aspect of working with my team everyday and producing work I was proud of, as a whole, I was really, really struggling. I had worked myself to exhaustion always working to be twice as good: twice as smart, twice as dependable and twice as talented than my white counterparts. As the only black visual manager in my district, not having a face that looked like mine in the next role I was striving for, started to wear down on my soul. I knew, deep down, that I wasn't living up to my fullest potential as a creative. I knew it was time to make a change — but I wasn't sure what that change would be. Quite frankly, I was miserable, uninspired and in much need of a vacation.
On my train rides home from work at night (in between nodding off because my sleep deprivation was real) I'd look at the maps app on my Iphone. I would zoom out of my current location, so that I could see all of South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. In my mind, I would plan travel excursions — hoping from Morocco to Madrid then Paris and Rome. My desire to travel was growing more each day. But, my boss didn't make it easy to put in vacation time (taking time off was frowned upon at my job — I know sad, right?) I would be made to feel guilty asking for too much time off so, I rarely did. I felt stuck, day in and day out working for a company I didn't feel at home with nor supported by.
Eventually I hit a tipping point, ironically and rather fitting, around New Year's Eve. I had been having a phone conversation with my mother (more like me complaining about my job and her listening) when she said “Mondraian! You can do whatever you want to do, nobody is stopping you. Just do it!” I'm sure she told me this before, but this time her words really struck a cord. I was usually the person offering positive words to others and now I was the type of person to wallow in self pity? I decided then and there that I needed to read ” The Secret” again or watch some “Oprah Super Soul Sunday's” — but, most importantly take back control off my life. (thanks mom!)
The Vision Board
After, burning some sage and speaking some major affirmations into my life; I finally got my mind right. And what was one of the first things I did? I made a vision board for my life. A vision board, is a tool used to help clarify and maintain focus on a specific life goal. In my case, my goal was to create an entirely new life for myself as my own boss who had the freedom to travel. I filled it up, with images of young black female creatives, entrepreneurs and of course beautiful travel destinations. In the photos I selected, It wasn't just me traveling alone. I had a network and community of women who were daring to travel the world too. I also added inspiring quotes and affirmations, one of them being, “I am my own boss”. Was it possible? Could I be my own boss and travel the world? Seeing the images come to life helped me admit to myself that I was really unfulfilled. Honestly, it's ridiculous how often we are afraid to admit, even to ourselves, what it is we truly want in life, but my vision board allowed me to do that. I topped off the board with a picture of Effel Tower. I told myself that 2017 would be the year I saw Paris for the first time.
When the board was finished, I placed it on the wall in front of my bed. I was determined not to let the board sit in the corner and collect dust, like past attempts to manifest a vision. I thanked God everyday for my blessing, visualized and trusted that one day my dreams would become a reality. In the morning, before bed and whenever I found the chance, I looked at my vision. What I wanted was right there in front of me, literally, and slowly, I started to make little changes in my life.
I asked around for freelance visual work, started networking and surrounded myself with anything and everything I could to break into the #freelancelife. I started finding myself in situations where I would meet one person, who would introduce me to another and slowly, I started getting work. I set my sights out on a freelance career but I wasn't earning nearly enough money to leave my unfulfilling full-time job. It was four months into the new year when corporate did layoffs at my company, and surprisingly, or not surprisingly — I was one to get the boot. After five years — I walked out of my boss's office that day with no regrets, a feeling of freedom and might I mention a pretty hefty severance package. The universe had shifted in my favor. Giving me the extra push I needed to get out there and make my dreams a reality, while giving me a financial cushion! (it was nothing but God!)
The Twilight Zone
The key, for me, was staying focused on my overall vision. I had spent so much time looking at my vision board everyday, that I no longer needed to, I had memorized it my mind. I starting putting together plans to go on an international trip, but I wasn't sure I was ready to go alone. A few weeks after my release from the corporate world, a new friend of mine Filecellia invited me out dancing. Despite fighting the urge to netflix and chill at home alone, I went. That night, she introduced me to her friend visiting from California, K Ingram of Black Girl Khronichles/ Khronichles by K/ Kultured Movement (in other words a #blackgirlkillingit in the fashion and travel game). There I was, on a dance floor in Brooklyn, listening to K talk about a Europe tour she was curating for ten black girls, that year. The girls, together, would start in London and then journey to Paris and end the tour in Iceland. (At that time the Twilight Zone opening theme music started going off in my head). The universe had did it again! All the time I spent visualizing my life as spelled out on my vision board was paying off. The very next morning, I looked through K's website and watched all her vlogs in Bali and Tokyo. Here was a black girl who was doing “it”, she was creating her own happiness in her career and traveling the world. It would be an understatement to say that I was only just inspired by her. I emailed K, right then and there, the train of opportunity had revealed itself to me and there was no way I couldn't jump on.
Vision Turned Reality
I'd done it! I was officially a full-time freelancer journeying to Europe, only seven months after creating my vision board. I dreamed of travel and a network of black women. But, I couldn't have dreamt of the bonds I would from with the other ten girls while on the trip. It was my first solo international travel and I was naturally nervous meeting all new women. But, every girl welcomed me with open arms and were all genuine and beautifully unique. I wouldn't have wanted to dance under the shimmering lights of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, bask in the steam of the blue lagoon in Iceland or walk through the graffiti covered tunnels of London with any other crew. Each black girl inspired me in their own way and seeing myself in their similar testimonies made me feel at home. The feeling was I had found a tribe of kindred spirits. I envisioned myself traveling the world with a network of black women, who had similar interest and it came to fruition. Each girl shared with the group their dreams and passions and seeing them live their truths only inspired me to keep living my own. I felt lucky having been able to share my love and light them as well. Even, today months after the trip the bond lives on. Continuos amounts of support and love are always being sent my way. I can truly say I gained ten sisters after the Black Girl Khronichles 2017 experience. I will forever be grateful that I am apart of this sisterhood of black girls that support each other and shares in one another's glory and what makes us unique in our own rights.
Recently, I moved and was unable to bring my vision board with me. But, when I look at photos of it, I am shocked by how much I accomplished in one year. I even couldn't help but laugh to see how far I have come, from how miserable I was at my old job, to literally now working in real estate, making my own schedule (being my own boss at last) and having freelance projects going on the side. Seeing my board also reminds me of how much I still have left to do, including a lot more travel.
It's almost vision board making time again and the dream is not over yet. Next up? I'm visualizing myself making money as a digital nomad to travel the world, and I like the way it looks.