Real Talk: Starting a New Chapter is Scary

by Grace Bonney


One of the things I read all the time in business or entrepreneurial publications (or even just Instagram inspirational quote land) is to leap forward without fear. To make a huge jump and just trust it will all work out. Looking backward? Never! That would be showing signs of regret or weakness or doubt. And for some reason mainstream books and publications seem to be averse to the idea of expressing vulnerability or looking closely at the complicated tangle of feelings that arise when you end one beautiful chapter in hopes of starting a new one.

But that’s not me. I’ve learned over the past few years that clean starts don’t exist. Blank slates are a myth. And looking forward without bringing some of the past with you is darn near impossible (and that’s okay!).

So today I want to get back to what I used to do a lot of here: talk honestly about how hard and scary creative and business (and just general!) life can be. I’ve gotten a lot of emails and DMs over the past 24 hours after we announced that this would be our last year blogging at Design*Sponge, and they boil down to this: “You must have something BIG up your sleeve — what is it??” or “So brave! You must feel so good and freeing to move forward and start over again!”

But I have neither of those things. I have nothing up my sleeve, no secret project waiting in the wings to announce and I definitely don’t feel that looking for a new chapter is easy or freeing right now. Does it feel right? Yes. But does it also feel terrifying? YESSSS.

I’ve been quietly following a lot of women who’ve closed their companies after over a decade in business and have been watching to see how they handle those feelings and negotiate them publicly. I’ve been incredibly inspired by our own Erin Austen Abbott who closed her beautiful shop, Amelia, and is doing more independent work now. I’ve also been following Little Paper Planes founder Kelly Lynn Jones as she closed her shop in California to become an art teacher. They’ve both spoken openly on their feeds about the mixed emotions that come with closing something that has a community around it and all the pressure and fear and worries that can come with that. But watching them experience joys (and hardships) and new feelings and experiences they didn’t expect has been so uplifting and hopeful.

I know a lot of you reading have been through moments like this, whether they’re professional or personal. And I’d love to know what your experiences were like. How did you handle that mix of feelings? Fears, doubts, regrets? Did you stuff them down or let them breathe out in the air and face them head-on? What new feelings and experiences and growth did you encounter that you maybe never even knew you could?

As we navigate this final year together and talk openly about things, I’d love to continue to create space for honesty and meaningful community dialogue around these bigger issues that don’t always get tackled online. Entrepreneurship isn’t always high-fiving and inspirational quotes, sometimes it’s scary and made up of a potent mix of fear and faith. How did you find your faith to move on to something new? xo, Grace

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  • I’m right in the middle of this transition. After 5 years of struggling with the debilitating effects of my cancer treatment, I decided to quit my 15 year career in video game production. We sold our house and moved to an area where that industry doesn’t exist. I haven’t worked in over a year and I’m 5 classes away from finishing a degree that was meant to propel my old career.

    Right now I’m focused on recovering my health, but I’m grateful that I have this space to process the emotional aspects as well. I did not realize how important my job was to my self image. It’s taken me almost a year to stop introducing myself to people as a producer. Nearly all of my network is in the industry and I’m realizing how shut off that’s made me to other opportunities. It’s also been hard grappling with the fact that I was genuinely good at what I did. I liked going to work. I’m jealous of people who get to go to a shiny office building with a manicured landscape and sit at a desk all day. I miss that sense of purpose and accomplishment that comes with working on a project with a team. I also miss having a reputation that proceeded me.

    My biggest fear right now is whether I’ll be able to achieve that same level of success again. I don’t necessarily mean the money, though it would be nice. I had worked myself up to a point where I could see the impact I was having and influence a project for the better. I don’t want to be a grunt again.

    I’m taking a break even from my schoolwork while I’m working through some particularly grueling physical therapy. My goal after recovery is to finish my degree as I’m hoping that working through my capstone project will give me some direction. After that I plan to volunteer with organizations I’m interested in so I can both see them up close and start rebuilding my reputation.

  • Layoffs are happening at the company I work for – and at age 64, I am very concerned I could (any day now) get the axe.
    However – I need to remind myself that throughout the great recession I was gainfully employed, and in fact, switched jobs several times between 2009 and 2012. Although I’ve tended to downplay it, I am resilient – and am trying to keep the faith in that resilience.
    Keep. The. Faith. In. Your. Resilience.
    I expect you have an agent. Tell that agent to get you a deal with Netflix. Why should Netflix import all the great design shows from Great Britain (Great Interior Design Challenge, Amazing Interiors) when we have talent here?!
    Get thee to Netflix. And then bring me on as a producer.

  • Oh Grace, this is why I love you so much! This is exactly what I needed to hear right now. I have left my job that has been unfulfilling for quite some time now. My last day was on my 50th birthday. While I have ideas as to what I want to do, I have no clear plan yet and it is terrifying. What if I jumped too soon? What if the net won’t be there to catch me? What if my wings are strong enough to carry me? What if it IS too late to become what I might have been? So get the quote thing; they are inspiring and I look for them often for motivation but oh my gosh what if they are just lip service?
    The one thing I know in my heart of hearts is that I did the right thing. I am trusting (or at least working on trusting) that I am strong enough, that I have my community to help me and that ALL of the things I have done so far in my life have been building to this new thing. So I am breathing it out and facing my fears and praying that if I am wrong, the net will appear.
    Wish you much love and luck in figuring out your next step and thankful that you have this community to help you do it.

    • Sheri, I turn 50 next month and I quit my unfulfilling job last January. It is so scary but was the best thing for me to do. Hang in there! I read Meera Lee Patel’s book “My Friend Fear: Finding Magic in the Unknown” and it guided my through the tumtulous change. Best of luck to you!!

  • Starting over at any age can be arduous and filled with trepidation. I used to consider myself a professional restarter, I understand now that that is not true. We are the culmination of our systematic choices and I agree one hundred percent , we cannot leave all behind. Failure is the tool no one tells you about until its too late. Its my failures that have given rise to better decisions and bolder choices. I made the choice to leave my career of 23 years to focus on what I wanted to do creatively, DESIGN! Does that me a failure as an optician? I think not. I am the continuation of lessons learned and mistakes made. I am the happiest I have ever been and I feel the most centered as a person because of changing my path in life. Not everyone has the luxury or freedom to change paths, be grateful you do. Use this path toward something more balancing and satisfying to your soul.
    I think your BRAVE. We need more brave women in this world! Kudos.

  • I have been a long-term reader/lurker and I was moved to comment by how familiar the emotions you write about are! I recently quit a job which was in an extremely toxic environment but which also blessed me with the most incredible community and growth. It was both a frightening but necessary step, and thankful and afraid/lost is how I still feel. Three months later, I’m slowly coming through the post-burnout haze to figure out what my next steps are. I am extremely lucky to have a family willing and able to support me (and listen to my ramblings) as I process it all. I’m also realizing that I am much more than what I do/have done for a living, no matter how much of myself I might have given to a job at a time, and that each experience can and should be leveraged for future adventures. Thank you so much for this community and for sharing your journey!

  • I’m in the middle of a few years of incredible change, both personal and professional, and it’s as painful and exciting as one might imagine. For me, it’s about focusing on the little steady steps that lead to big change. For example, in 2017 I moved from my four-story house of ten years into a four-room apartment, which ended up being much better than I had anticipated. Now, in a few months, I will pack my life into four suitcases and move with my cat to South America. I have a general plan and I’ve done my research — visiting my new city twice last year to check (and double-check!) — but it’ll be hard and so new. However, I am welcoming this because I really spent too long in my current situation — my town and my job — and welcome the challenge and adventure! The biggest surprise for me was seeing how attached I was to my old work identity, which didn’t pay well but offered a lot of power and prestige but also opened me to malicious scrutiny and intense criticism. Letting go of the title was hard but enjoying the new freedom is amazing; honestly, I’m so excited just to be ME again — for the first time in almost 15 years!

    My goals are to become fluent in Spanish, which is my third language, and experience life in this wonderful country. I did something similar elsewhere in my early 20s but, oh, did I mention I’m in my mid-thirties? Very few people do this at my age! I’m lucky to be in this position financially even though I recognize I’ll be going back to much more spartan living and daily struggle, as privileged as I will be. I know this change is worth it because, even if I don’t like it or it doesn’t work out, I can return and see where life takes me next. (Again, I am so lucky to have family and friends who support me!) This open mindset is thanks to a few years of good therapy and a low dose of SSRIs — hooray for good mental healthcare! That was also a big step on my journey, painful and scary but ultimately so positive and important.

    There are many trade-offs. For example, I’d love to be in a steady partnership but, as a queer person living in a conservative small town, have had very few local dating options. However, were I do have a loving spouse and children, moving abroad like this would be much harder and more selfish. I wouldn’t move if I couldn’t take my cat but also have settled for having only have one pet when I’d love to have a flock. While most people don’t move abroad on a whim, I’m finding that many of my college friends are in a similar time of change in their mid-thirties. Some are focusing on life with their partners and kids, setting deep roots; many others who are also single are changing careers, moving home to help with ailing parents, and the like so my situation — and your situation — are actually quite common, as you said! I’m loving the conversations I’m having these days with my peers and friends of all ages: it’s so good to talk about the struggle, to share my experience with those starting out, to relate to those in the same boat, and hear the wisdom of those who have been there-done that and can reflect and advise.

    I am looking forward to reading what you and others share here! And since I haven’t had the chance to say it yet, thank you for all you’ve done for and with Design*Sponge these past 15 years and best of luck on your personal and professional journey!

    • Best of luck to you Lena! I think the move will be wonderful. You have the wonderful luxury of being adventurous with your life- pack it in baby!

  • Great post Grace. While I personally haven’t been in this position, my former boss is going through this nearly exact thing now. I work at an ad agency that started with two dudes in a garage and her. She poured 12 of her most formative years as an adult into the company, rising in the ranks to become the general manager. Last year, we went into a merger with 8 other companies and I think her expectations for that outcome didn’t match up to the reality. So she resigned, with no plan and other than 3 months of long service leave. A lot of people, including all of us that work with her everyday, couldn’t imagine she would leave without something else lined up, mostly because work really defines who she is. For her, I think that’s a big part of needing to leave. So now she’s just taking time to figure it all out. A big part of that for the immediate future is not working at all. I hope she, and you find what you are looking for and know that it’s normal not to have all things figured out all the time. Good luck Grace!

    • Hi, Laurel. Yes. The design world is a revolving door of grand successes and abysmal disappointments. When a business closes another opportunity then presents itself. But it takes hard work and the ability to ALWAYS look ahead. One thing I’ve learned after 44 full-time years in the art and design business is that, if you have true passion for what you do, there are no wrong turns. I’ll say it again: “There are no wrong turns”. You re-invent yourself and use your past experiences to flesh out your new job/business. I’ve done it seven times in my life ( I’m 66) . Anyone can do it if you have PASSION. Best Regard and Good Luck to you and also Grace who is going through this right now, Art Donovan, Southampton, NY

  • I left a marriage with a baby in tow and kept my menial, low-wage job for security and to be able to spend time with my son. I regret never having the faith in myself to move on, but my son did benefit hugely and I guess that is the payoff. I still wonder what would have happened had I garnered the courage to move/find a better paying position. Life is filled with second guesses and second chapters. You created an amazing site that contributed to my life, empowering me in small ways. I’m sure you helped countless others as well. If you can do that, you have nothing to fear – you will be great.

  • Grace — This is my second comment in a week (and most likely my fifth comment on the internet ever), and I’m only writing because of how much I admire you. Yes, closing up shop is scary, but so is starting something new — and you did that, and you did it amazingly. So much so, you inspired so many others. I’ve started a handful of brick and mortar businesses/organizations in my life, and they’ve all done well, but I procrastinated for a decade on starting a tech company because of fear. I wrote plan after plan, but couldn’t bring myself to pull the trigger. You wrote an article along the lines of “what I wish i knew before starting DesignSponge” that finally pushed me over the edge and made me feel like starting this new crazy venture was the right thing to do even though so much self-doubt and outside advice was telling me not to do it. Your essay is still saved to my computer in the ‘inspiration’ folder. And today, my startup is up and running and making a difference (even though hardly the one you’ve made with DS). Thank you for being honest about what a scary time it is, but also know that there’s a bunch of people out here who aren’t scared for you because you’re a badass businesswoman, a creative talent, and an inspiration to so many of us. I have a strong feeling you’ll land on your feet and inspire a whole new generation of people with whatever you do.

  • I did something similar – left my dream job after a few years to start my own business, with no real “next.”. I had no plan of what that would look like, I just felt like the “window” was right. So I jumped.

    I remember overhearing my manager tell her boss I was leaving.

    He said, “What! Where is she going?” She said, “Nowhere.”

    What my manager meant was that I wasn’t leaving to go to another company. I didn’t have anything lined up. AND THAT’S OKAY! Freeing, really.

    Your next step will come. You don’t always need to know what’s next, just know what’s not “now” – and if this isn’t your now, I can’t wait to see what you do next…in due time.

  • Grace,

    Just commenting from a personal perspective…

    In a therapy session recently, I was talking with my counselor about emotional suppression. And the gist of it was: your emotions come out whether you like it or not, it’s about if you want to have control over that expression. Meaning—the subconscious WILL get those feelings out…sometimes it’s in some very weird/unpleasant ways. So, just a general note of encouragement to keep reflecting, keep naming the feelings because that’s 75% of the battle.

  • I come from difficult circumstances and worked my way to being a successful corporate attorney in one of the most desirable US cities. Then I walked off a cliff, or so it felt, by moving to a small midwest town with no job, and no plan. It was pretty devastating to my sense of self. I felt so lost and disoriented, and I also felt guilty for “throwing away” the kind of life we’re told we should be striving for even though my “looks great on paper” life didn’t feel so great. It was, hands down, one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. It started me on a journey that continues to this day, and even ten-plus years later, I’m still mining the depths of what that choice exposed. It felt like a rending at the time, and maybe it was. Sometimes our rigid and fixed ideas of who we are have to fall apart before we can discover ourselves anew. That process can be painful, but I think it’s ultimately more painful and dangerous to our well-being to stay stuck.

  • Grace, I love this so much. Your honesty is one of the things I love so much about Design Sponge. I’ve been reading for years. I’m feeling the same way this year. I’m actually going through a transition. I’ve written my blog for 7 1/2 years but wanting more. My father passed away last March and his death was and is still hard for me. We were very close. It made me realize just how short and precious life is. How important you need to follow your dreams but also need to do things that you find fulfilling in your own life. Over the summer I tossed and turned about what my next move would be. I still want to blog as it’s my creative outlet and I love connecting with my readers, but I wanted to help people as well. I launched e-Design services in September and am now doing local design in home for clients. I’m still learning and branching out can be scary. I’m so glad that I’m designing. I know you’ll be directed. It’s okay you don’t know what your next steps are. Thank you for writing such a beautiful post and making Design Sponge such a wonderful community.

  • After teaching for seventeen years, I told my principal last January that I wouldn’t be returning for the next school year. I didn’t have a job lined up; I just knew it was time to go. In February I applied for and was hired for a dream job and in June I moved from Nashville, TN to Washington, DC. Homesick, I cried for two months straight, but I knew if I just felt what I needed to feel I would come through to the other side. I’m on that side now, rebuilt in a new way, falling in love with a new city while still appreciating the one in Tennessee (which I can visit because we kept our house and airbnb it). Leaping can be scary but it is so worth it. The book “My Friend Fear: Finding Magic in the Unknown” by Meera Lee Patel was my guide as I made the decision to quit and move on. I’ve loved DS all these years–it has brought light and joy to my day, and I wish you all the best as you make this leap. :)

    • I feel the same way, Kim! My husband and I just moved from our great jobs and great city (Denver) to a new dream job (for me – and a good-but-not-dream-job for him) and, honestly, a city I don’t like very much. I’m two months in and I cry a lot and entertain irrational thoughts of packing up and moving back. But! Like you, I know that missing my “old” life so deeply is both normal and temporary, and letting myself feel those things is healthy. It’s messy but still hopeful – and I know my perspective on everything will be the deciding factor in how it all turns out.

  • Hi Grace,
    I’ve been changing and following along side you since the beginning. My husband and I started our business in 1990. In the beginning we designed primarily artist’s books for museums and art galleries. In 1994 we bought our first letterpress and the only place it would fit was in the pantry of our home. It is there that Pantry Press was born. We moved the press to a storefront in 1997 where our focus for the next 10 years was designing and printing letterpress stationery of all kinds. Our business changed out of necessity every five or so years. We moved the business one last time to a studio we built behind our home in 2007. We also started another business while we worked from this location. In 2013 we felt fatigued, lacking joy and sorely in need of inspiration. We had always loved our work and we were no longer ‘loving’ it. Inspired by Stefan Sagmeister we embarked on a six-month sabbatical seeking inspiration and time to be creative on our own terms. That lead to selling our home, studio, printing equipment and a ‘plan’ to simplify our life. Since May 2014 we have been working on designing a creative life that brings us joy. In truth there was not a plan. For three years we lived, travelled and worked from a 1990 VW Westfalia. Our goals continue to change. I am sure at this point you know your only choice is to follow your gut. Wishing you the best in the present and the future and may you continue to love the life you choose and design. And the past is part of our identity…how can we not look back to look forward!

  • Grace how brave you are.Very brave and self aware. As one creative to another, we are unique individuals. We thrive on the energy of this expressive planet, the interaction and connection. We FEEL nature, color, emotion, synergy and love. We are not static. You have created something very special with Design Sponge. It has been my go to site when I have been blocked and needed some inspiration. A lifeline to creatives in sea of shallow negativity. I will miss it but nothing lasts forever…. You already know the answers to your questions and whatever future you follow, it will succeed because you put your whole heart into it with intent. Creatives, like you, above all must have flow in their lives…. that is what you are doing… moving forward and following your creativity. That is what keeps life worth carrying on! Follow that voice.
    In great respect, Amber W.

  • Grace, I think the answer to your question “how did you find the faith to move on to something new” is within you. You, I, everyone lives a life of change and challenge. Change comes in many forms – becoming a parent for the first time, becoming an empty nester, starting a business, ending a business, dealing with an illness, dealing with tragedy, starting a marriage, ending a marriage, leaving home, leaving the country, caring for elderly parents, caring for a disabled child – the list is endless. All of your life experiences, however, have been a teacher and bestowed wisdom upon you. With reflection and the support of your loved ones, I think you will find your answer. Wishing you happiness and success in your future endeavours.

  • Hello, Grace.
    I’ve had some big transitions in my life, and not all of them were in my control. How did I handle them? Some I handled gracefully, others cost me a lot emotionally and professionally… but I’m still standing. In fact, I’m more than standing, I’m actively walking toward my dreams and goals, but this did not happen overnight.

    I think these big transitions can be really intimidating (sometimes reality-shattering!), but they’re also a good moment for reflection on what matters the most to you in your life. If the blog isn’t fulfilling to you anymore or if you’ve grown past it, then it’s great you’ve got your final deadline set. But the ‘what next’ questions never go away. Regardless of the industry you’re in or how many successes/failures you’ve had. It just doesn’t go away. It’s literally ‘the struggle is real.’ And reading between the lines of your post, I think you might be burned out. So… what’s worked for me? Reflection and time… and also nothing. Do nothing for a bit.

    Best of luck, whatever it is you decide to do (or not do).

    (saw you talk at RISD at the beginning… back in 07?)

  • And, once again you illustrate how the future will be female. THIS is how society needs to shift. Embracing vulnerability and honesty and the hard sticky stuff that comes between the bright shiny stuff. Women do this, and we have been belittled for it and told that showing that side of ourselves is “less than” and “undesirable”. Once we can value and lift up the vulnerability and (dare i say it) emotional aspects of life regardless of gender, we’ll be that much closer to equality. Our society will need to shift to value sensitivity and transparency over bloated egos and aggression. THANK YOU for taking us one step closer.

    • I am female and I do not want the future to be female. Men and women are different. This difference is not a flaw, but, I believe, complementary. Yes, there are men in society that behave badly. But, likewise, there are also women that behave badly. Immoral and unkind behaviour is not gender specific. Too often we, the human race, judge others (races, sexes, groups, cultures, individuals etc) in a negative manner and this judgement is often based on biases, myths, incomplete information and knowledge. We are very quick to judge and force our own ideas and opinions but slow at compassion, kindness, listening, and dialogue. Kiki, it comes across to me, that you believe that males are incapable of compassion and empathy. That is a myth. I lost a good friend to cancer on New Years Eve, she was only 52. Her last 4 days were spent in hospital. Her husband and two sons (aged 22 and 20) did not leave her side. Her husband slept at the foot of her bed, her two sons slept on either side of her bed. They are devastated, struggling and overwhelmed with grief. These men are loving, kind, respectful and decent. There are many men like them, kind and decent. We are all, male and female, living and experiencing life cyclically. There are those times in life when we are coming out of a difficult situation and there are those times when life is relatively trouble free. But coming around the corner and something that we can’t see is a difficult and challenging time that is going to collide with us. And, every single person living is in one of these cycles. The world needs less judgement and greater compassion and kindness.

      • Hi Sel,

        First and foremost, I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend and we are sending our love to you and your friend’s family. That is a horrible thing to go through and as someone who also lost a dear friend right after the New Year, I am there with you.

        I agree that the future shouldn’t be defined by gender, but I understand where the sentiment comes from. I think a lot of people who identify as women have felt un-heard and un-supported for so long that they’d like that imbalance to be flipped. I would prefer true equity and a future where gender doesn’t matter at all (though I understand that’s not easy to do and doesn’t address the pain and damage inflicted by sexism over lifetimes), but I understand where the whole “future is female” sentiment comes from.

        In issues like this, I try to look at what people actually type and how we’re each individually interpreting it. When I hear Kiki say, “the future is female”, I assume it’s being connected to general “female empowerment” movement happening right now. Which is by no means without problematic elements, but it’s coming from a place of wanting to right a historic and systemic imbalance.

        When she said, “Embracing vulnerability and honesty and the hard sticky stuff that comes between the bright shiny stuff. Women do this, and we have been belittled for it and told that showing that side of ourselves is “less than” and “undesirable”.” And she’s not wrong. Women are routinely belittled (and held back) for being “too soft” or vulnerable”, I hear someone who is pointing out the reality that women are systemically held back, punished and paid less because of traits that are associated with femininity, like softness and vulnerability.

        I don’t see her saying that men are incapable of those things, but that those traits, which society has currently decided to associated with women, have been used as tools to oppress women and should instead be seen as assets, not liabilities.

        I would be curious to hear your feelings, and hear which part of her comment made you feel as if she’s saying men are incapable of compassion and empathy? I don’t see that anywhere in her comment but I’m always open to hearing how things sound/feel to other people to better understand how we all bring different interpretations to what we read online.


  • Dear Grace,
    One thing for sure is you are an amazingly creative person and no matter what you decide to do your muse will be in it! Whether you start a shop, or teach children art, curate a museum, or create a show..You have such an innate sense of style, culture, and design we all know it will be beautiful!! You also have such a deep and intimate way of connecting to people you could do absolutely anything!
    I know that with being deeply committed to my work it was impossible to imagine that I would ever want to do something different.. I had not intended to change what I was doing, I had worked on my own building a career as a professional artist for 30+ years. I had always been able to keep the self critic in check. My gallery support was good, my sales were good, but after a dark period when my parents died and then I experienced an autoimmune illness my art naturally changed and got very dark. Slowly my inner villain started developing the nasty habit of criticizing the work I was doing day after day. Eventually I began hearing from one of my gallery dealers that I should go back to my previous work (which was moody but not black). And of course that was not possible. The move away from my work started innocently by my deciding to sell some of the objects I had collected for painting. I spent more and more time on an online shop getting nice feedback about the photos and the shop. It became so easy to justify spending time on it, where each photo of an object translated into a sale that was not critiqued by me or my gallery dealer. I had never planned to move away from my painting, I had even passed up an opportunity earlier to write with an author I admired because I could not picture giving time away from my art to writing.. But 8 years went by with the vintage shop and I realized it had happened on its own..I had at least temporarily completely given up my painting. The vintage shop is a very transient thing, it does not have the meaning or permanence that my paintings have, nor has it the bits of notoriety that being an artist had but it has been a real gift because it’s allowed me out of the critical pit I had dug for myself and made me realize that I really don’t have to be defined by one thing. If you were to tell me 10 years ago that I would take an almost 8 year break from my art career I would have not been able to picture it.. Part of me wishes that it would have been the writing that had gotten me loose from it but I’m 63 and there still time for another career.
    On Christmas I fractured my ankle and have had to close my shop for three weeks now. I am starting to think..hmm what if I don’t open it again? Its hard to organize people to package and ship things with crutches so at least for a few weeks or months I will be painting or writing… And very curious to see what happens next!
    I will really miss design sponge!!It has always shown me that I am not alone in the creative world, whether in my studio, or in my online shop.. But I know what you will do next will be just as excellent..and there will be a whole new world of people like me who will be grateful for it!

  • Several times in my life there have been points where it is clear that I have reached the end – of a job, a relationship, an apartment. I have faith to follow my path even when I don’t know where it’s going, I only know which direction to go to move on from where I’ve been. I wish I were smarter about these things, that I saved more money, that I had started out in a more lucrative business in my 20s when I had the energy to work so hard for others. At this point in my life, I cannot work for anyone else. This is my time. I’m going to do what I want choose with the hours and days of my life. It’s entirely possible that I will fail but there is no other option but to do it.

  • Hi Grace,

    I’m a 49 yr old female who has transitioned little by little in the last 3 years. Honestly, baby steps. First my daughter got caught up with the wrong crowd of kids and really messed up in school, ran away and got into trouble with the police, then the same year my husband was diagnosed with cancer. The worst kind. Brain cancer ( he was only 41) and yes I lost him a year and a half ago, there have been many layoffs at my job, and I feel like I’m reaching the burnout phase. I was my husbands caregiver, a mother and had a full time job during all of it.
    What I have learned is starting over does not have to be a huge to-do. It means getting up everyday and doing what feels right in your gut, with your significant other, for your kids, or just for YOU.
    My daughter is now 18 and doing her senior year for the 2nd time, but she has straightened up and grown up and seen a lot in the last few years. Many times I thought I wouldn’t get outta bed, but every time I did I was starting over. Now when my daughter graduates this May, we will be starting yet another chapter in our lives. Scary? Yep life just is sometimes, but we somehow overcome that and we move forward. That is what we are doing and who knows where it will take us. But we are ready!
    But now that I have read so many of these replies I feel better knowing I’m not the only one in transition.
    As for you, you will find your new path and a new journey. You WILL make it just as good as your last. I wish you the best and much happiness getting there!

  • Thanks for posting something that seeks to acknowledge both sides of change. I’m also in the midst of a big life change at the moment. I’ve kept my job, but moved 2,000 miles from everyone I know and love.

    I’ve found it frustrating that when I try to voice the dichotomy of my feelings (yes! It’s exciting and terrifying all at the same time!) people only focus on the positive. I imagine the drive and the reconciliation are different for everyone.

    For me, it was almost an impulse – a feeling that I had to move to this new place to grow. And I don’t think I could have understood until I got here just how painful growth is. (Feel free to take this with a handful of salt – I’m 7 days in, sleeping on an air mattress and just learned my only friend here is leaving.)

    In the end, we come out on the other side, and we learn and grow and are likely better for it. But metamorphosis is painful, despite the resultant beauty.

  • I am so grateful for your bite of reality here regarding following dreams, jumping off cliffs and the hyperventilating hopes of inspirational quotes. As a calligrapher and lettering designer I have been known to do those inspirational quotes to sucker people into taking all kinds of chances and feeling good about things that are actually kind of terrible. I find much to be inspired by in words and aphorisms and I do use them in my daily life. But it’s important to realize that there is real risk in following your dreams and there is often zero net beneath us.

    Not all career and direction change is voluntary. My long-time design career has been severely challenged by a toxic combination of DIY, social media, image proliferation, and the downsizing of the human beings at design agencies who hire other human beings rather than trying to do everything themselves with clipart. I have had to do many pivots and face the true terror of maybe not working as a “professional” at all. At the same time, (while worrying) I have been reinventing myself as the fine artist I always longed to be. Only to learn that that field also has its incessant pressures and demands and requirements, for self promotion, for consistency, and simultaneously for innovation 24/24. The most useful tools in my survival kit are meditation practice and surrounding myself with intimate groups of peers who encourage, critique and make great potluck dishes. Thank god for those who cook. I will look forward to following the course of your path, if you share it on some new platform, and will cheer you on. Thank you so much for the magic of Design Sponge.

  • My husband and I are both business owners and, after 15 years, we feel like we’ve come to the end of the particular career roads we are both on. My husband sold his ownership in his business and I’ve put mine on hold for a year. We have no idea what will come next for us, but we’re both ready for a new phase in life. We’ve decided to take a sabbatical in 2019 to take a pause and take stock of our lives and where we’d like to go from here.

    We’re leaving tomorrow and will be towing a teardrop trailer all over the US this year to visit parks, friends, and family. We’ve experienced the whole spectrum of emotion getting to this point: stress, fear, excitement, doubt, exhilaration, and anxiety.

    We’re scared, but also excited. There is no change without fear, so we choose to feel the fear and move forward with it. As we head out on our adventure tomorrow we don’t know where we’re going, who we’ll meet, how we’ll feel, or where we’ll end up a year from now. We’re just following our hearts and taking what feels like the next step for us. I feel strongly that it’s important to follow your intuition, so that’s what we’re doing. Sounds like you’re doing the same, Grace! I have no doubt yours will be an interesting journey, as I’m sure ours will be as well.

  • Grace, Thank you, thank you , thank you, not just for your post, but for the beautiful community you have created and cultivated. For years and years I have enjoyed all things design from your DS–especially DIYs (you were all over it way before it was a trend and tv network!)–but only in the last year or two did I start reading your essays, after I began following you on instagram. Thank you for your honesty and bravery and pouring your heart into everything you do. I am so very excited to see what’s next for you.

    Everyone who has commented here, I sincerely thank you. It means the world to me, to hear others’ stories. I am currently navigating the unknown and it is super scary. At the end of the year, I quit my job of 2 years and career path of 9 to go “nowhere” (I hear you, Michelle Gage!) and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I left because what was not a good fit to begin with, slowly became a very bad fit and even detrimental to my health. I’m taking the time now to find something that engages me, gives me energy, and–this is a stretch goal–provides some purpose. I don’t think I’ve even made it to the middle of the process, so I can’t properly reflect on it yet. All I know is uncertainty can be overwhelming at times and being home alone at my kitchen table can be isolating. I know I’m not alone, far from it, but it feels like it at times. Reading everyone’s posts was the exact encouragement and inspiration I needed, and it could not have come at a better time. So, truly, thank you.

    Can anyone direct me to a community online for people who are in the thick of it? “It” being the scary, uncertain journey to one’s next chapter. Should I create one?

    • “All I know is uncertainty can be overwhelming at times and being home alone at my kitchen table can be isolating.”
      Nothing has resonated more with me lately. Thank you for reminding me there is someone else staring at the kitchen table yearning for purpose to find its way to the table too.

      I was listening to a conversation about a similar topic between Krista Tippett and Tami Simon this morning.
      Simon mentions: “I’m a human being who wants to give and live in integrity and have enough money to support my life and to live a sustainable and beautiful and abundant life.” It was a nice reminder that we are all only human, and its okay to ask for beauty and abundance when taking a brand new step in a wildly different direction.

      Love and Light


  • Hi Grace,

    First of all, I love your name. My precious neice is Grace and her mother (my sister) is Bethany Grace. What a lovely article to read in the midst of my cyclonic primordial soup phase! I particularly enjoyed reading all of the comments, which made me feel so much less alone and way less cray-cray! I am a TV producer, have been in London, UK for the past 12 years and ten years before that in LA. I have recently been doing a podcast about embracing a future without my own children, after years of infertility and pregnancy loss. I now also do support group and one-on-one coaching in this area. That work has led me to question the TV career. Can I do both or do I have to choose? And if I turn my back on TV will it take me back if I change my mind? It is all unknown and scary but feels inevitable. And the real fear is remaining complacent and in a narrow comfort zone. To some degree, I believe in doing something every day that makes you feel uncomfortable. It makes you more brave and equipped to face the unexpected. Good luck on your journey. It sounds as though you going to be just fine. Even when it doesn’t feel like it.

  • I’m facing a decision. I’ve built a business and life that fulfils me in a foreign country that I moved to when my husband got a job here. He is now being offered a role somewhere else in the world. Do I pack it all up and start again? Am I strong enough? Or am I so strong that I’ll do it despite everything I stand to lose? And what can I gain that I don’t know exists yet? I believe in seizing opportunities but should I not also believe in everything I have created for myself, everything that wasnt luck but hard work and stick with it when it is going well? Am i losing out by doubling down? Will I regret it if we don’t go? Or will I feel resentment if we do? I’m so full of questions and I don’t feel I can consult anyone in my life because they will all have bias. How do I decide what is best for me, for us, for our son?

    • Hi Victoria

      First, congratulations on building a business that fulfills you. That is a huge accomplishment and I just wanted to send a huge digital congrats on something that deserves to be celebrated.

      Now to the matter at hand: you’re facing a big decision, and I think one of the things that comes with something like this is that there probably isn’t a “right” answer that will leave you without any small regrets or questions. I think your love for your family and your love for your business are obviously huge parts of your life, and giving up either would be a huge deal. I would suggest a few discussion points to think about- not knowing your financial situation (or how your business provides financial support for your family):

      1. If you’re able to discuss this with a counselor/therapist/coach at some point, I think that is a good place to start. It can be so helpful to talk to someone who can act as a third party to negotiate this big decision.
      2. Have you spoken with your husband about your feelings? No matter what the decision ends up being, clear communication about all of this is really important to talk out as a team.
      3. It sounds like you moved once for your husband’s work, so I just want to put out there: if your business goes a long way toward supporting your family (which I’m assuming was the case with your husband’s job and was part of the reason you moved?), you and your business deserve just as much consideration as your husband’s job did. Meaning, if you all moved for his work before, it’s only fair that your family consider staying for your job, too. Again, I don’t know the details of your business, but this discussion (of staying to keep your business) should 100% be on the table.
      4. I think the only way to avoid resentment here is to talk openly about ALL of these feelings with your husband. You both need to know how you feel, what these jobs mean to both of you, and what your family needs to be sustainable. I would highly suggest doing this with the aid of a counselor, therapist or trusted coach who can help you navigate what could be some difficult conversations.

      Best of luck – I hope things work out in a way that let you continue to feel inspired and fulfilled by the work you are doing.