We’ve all done it: at one time or another, we’ve all played roles in life, following what we think others expect of us rather than what we know is right. For Katelyn Wood, the creative force behind Love.Luck.Kisses&Cake, the realization that she wasn’t living out the life she wanted to came to her just a few years ago. What started as her blog in 2009 has slowly morphed into a full-time passion project, and over the last few years, she’s expanded her brand into a popular line of American-made stationery and giftable goods as a direct result of realizing a creative void in her life and setting out to fill it. Since shrugging off the heaviness of everyone else’s expectations and doing what she truly wanted, her delightful designs and contagious happiness have made her brand stand out to Martha Stewart, The Today Show and various celebrity clientele. A combination of drive and passion, Katelyn’s brand celebrates the everyday — but life wasn’t always so peachy. Today Katelyn is joining us to share a personal essay with the hope to inspire others to start following their own internal compass. –Sabrina
I think we are all doing our best to live an authentic life. The tricky part seems to be knowing how to define success and happiness for ourselves and being able to acknowledge when the answers change as we do.
Growing up, I did everything “right.” I excelled at the tasks set ahead of me and went down the path I was told would lead to a successful and happy life. You know how the path goes — it’s a little something like this: go to school, graduate from college, get a job, get married, buy a home, have a baby, live happily ever after…
I was midway down this road when I started feeling something – or rather the absence of something. I had been working towards these goals my whole life, following this one-way map to success, but I wasn’t truly happy. It felt more like contentment and I wanted my life to mean and be more.
It was an easy diagnosis: my life was lacking and I needed to do something about it.
Finding My Creative Outlet
I didn’t know how or when, but somehow my heart had been put in the backseat. As a young girl I would spend my free time baking, writing poetry, dancing, swimming, drawing and making cute cards – I proudly them called “Kate Made Cards” and my family would put them out on the fridge to display. As I grew older, I lost sight of those instinctual passions. It seemed that my true desire to live a creative life had been weighed down by the expectations I had made to measure myself.
So I began prescribing myself some new habits. In my spare time I started focusing on the things that made me happy and began re-investing in myself and the things I felt strongly about. After a while, it became clear that my path needed a new direction. I wanted and needed to live a more creative life.
My initial solution was to start a blog. At first it was a hobby — a passion project — an easy outlet to manage between my 9-to-5 life. I slowly started spending my weekends exploring all the things that inspired me. I was showcasing finds from my favorite shops and designs from my favorite creatives. There were no expectations, rules or deadlines. I was just doing it for the joy of it — getting to design, create, and connect with others.
It didn’t take long to feel the effects of this new creative cure. I was learning new things, meeting new people, and was starting feel like myself again – in fact I was feeling great, like I was really doing something with my time and others seemed to be taking notice. As the popularity of the blog grew, my desire to do more grew with it.
Turning My Passion Project into a Business
I admit that it took me several years and a bit of courage, but I finally acknowledged what my heart was shouting out at me. I had to let go to dream big. I took off the heavy luggage of everyone else’s expectations and I jumped off the path to start chasing after my own internal compass. With a full heart and a bit of gumption I withdrew my entire life savings to expand my blogging brand into my own design and retail business.
Having learned a valuable life lesson I decided to take early stock of what I wanted to accomplish. I wrote down the following list (which still holds true today):
- I want to live a creative life.
- I want to make products that make people happy and inspire moments of connection and meaning.
- I want to make products with conscious care and production.
- I want to support and celebrate my community.
With those goals in mind I decided to take a cue from my younger self and began to plan the initial launch of my retail line starting with a grown-up version of those “Kate Made Cards” that had brought me so much joy as a girl.
Where I Am Today
Today I love what I do. I get to blog about the amazing community of designers, makers and local businesses that inspire me and I get to create goods for my shop that encourage everyday giving and gifting to the people that mean the most in your life. I have never worked harder, but I have never felt more rewarded. It’s a real hustle every day, but when I talk about what I do, I can’t stop smiling. By redefining my own version of success and happiness, I was able to start taking confident action in pursuing what was important to me and what I wanted my life to be. Sure there are still bumps in the road, and the path seems to always be going uphill, but it’s a challenge I am happy to take it because it’s my own.
Looking back on a year ago, I see my struggle with comparison and the pressure to stay within the lines. It can be scary asking yourself questions that you might not know the answers to yet – but you have to start somewhere. I now know how important it is to keep asking yourself questions and to keep being honest with yourself and what you want your life to be.
Continue To Ask Yourself
The following 10 questions are ones I ask myself every once in a while — and ones you can ask, too, as a check-in with yourself to make sure you’re on the right path and to overcome the pressure of others’ expectations:
1. What does a successful life mean to me? Why do I believe that?
2. Does my current path lead to that life?
3. What do I do/or could I do to make myself happy?
4. Do I currently feel happy and fulfilled?
5. How and why did I get to where I am in my career today?
6. Do I feel excited by what I do?
7. Do I feel valued or get value from what I do?
8. What do I like and dislike about my situation? Do the “likes” outweigh the “dislikes”?
9. Do I feel like I can grow and learn new things that are of interest to me?
10. Do I make excuses to keep myself from change?
Question what you want out of life and check in with yourself often, and above all else, today I ask you what I wish I had the courage to ask myself sooner: What does a successful and happy life mean to you? Are you on the right path? It’s never too late to take a turn for the better.