Evolution, Embraced

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I have a total inability to commit to “a brand.”

This used to really bother me, but I took a step back and realized that in my photography, I refuse to commit to a style, and in my clothing choices I am all over the map, I love every genre of music, read books and watch documentaries on every subject under the sun. I am a dynamic and ever-evolving human. Expecting that in business I would ever be content to stay committed to a single logo and vibe…absurd.

In establishing better systems for myself, I recently decided to tackle the total chaos of my Dropbox account. Thousands of disorganized files were sorted into a simplified system. While doing this, I had a lot of feelings regarding the many various business names, vibes, and logos I have used over the nearly two decades I have been an entrepreneur. There was some shame, some regret, some amused embarrassment. There was also delight and a lot of warm & fuzzies as I recalled how I felt at that point in my life, the work I was doing.

I noticed that there was a pattern – I would hop between playful, soulful, and stripped brands. The stripped brands were always after feeling flaky and pulled in too many directions by my whims, and feeling like it would be better if I just had a simple text logo and everything beneath it could change – that never worked, either. It’s boring!

When I first started creating my new container system for my work – this series of sites all rooted under my main site, I thought it made sense to have a single brand, all the same colors and a slightly different vibe for each container. It all did, and still does, come back to the concepts of weaving – as the ideas of weaving together the bits of ourselves, our histories, our stories – those are themes that have always been present. It’s not a concept I dreamed up out of the blue, it is the theme that is (lol) woven into all I do. Even in my darkest periods, I fell back into themes of unraveling. The clarity in these themes became apparent with the creation of Family Mythology, my genealogy container, the idea of the thread that connects us, the stories we weave – a mixture of truth, fiction, misunderstanding, and wishful thinking. These stories shape us.

It did not, but should have, hit me at first how perfect it all was. My grandmother’s maiden name is Weaver. This is a part of who I am.

I originally could not think of a name for my photography container. I played at the ideas of crafting our own legacy, and after much headache settled on Modern Legacy – even though I hated it. Then inspiration struck last week and the Weavers logo fell out of me and into Illustrator. It was beautiful and perfect, and I was in love.

It also didn’t match the intended branding I’d planned for all of my containers. It forced me to rethink everything. And like that, everything burst into life, as I broke out of the box I was trying to put myself into, and realized that these containers can be anything I want, and they can change at any time, as needed, as I evolve.

This is the trouble, I think, with the solopreneur – we don’t realize that we are whole humans, not just a brand – and when you are the brand, it will inevitably need to change in totally unpredictable ways, as we do, as we grow.

I will talk more about the specific brands on my branding website – this post isn’t really about the brands themselves, as much as the realization that I need to stop feeling icky about evolution, sticking it under the label of flake. I am committed to growth and development – it makes sense that I embrace how I am shaped and reshaped by that process.

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A Place for Everything

In 2016, thousands of people downloaded planners I had designed. I couldn’t use the planners myself, I was only good at organized thinking in theory. In practice, I couldn’t maintain a simple intentional habit to save my life. How many planners, notebooks, systems have I purchased only to forget they exist within days?

I started really pushing into habit development around then, but it wasn’t until 2018 that I was able to implement and diligently maintain a daily practice. For a time – but then something would happen, a minor roadbump, a major depression – and the habit was abandoned. I’ve been struggling to reestablish habits since the beginning of the lockdowns, which threw me completely off course. I could manage for a few days, but overwhelm would set in.

In March I started taking meds for (previously undiagnosed) ADHD – the immediate effects were amazing, I started experiencing life in a brand new way, free of the fog, exhaustion, and pure chaos that was my constant. Then I adjusted to the meds, and those benefits started slowly slipping away. We upped the dose, and after the same outcome, we took a bigger leap up. In May, I started at 60mg, which is still lower than the Vyvanse ceiling, and still avoiding Adderall, which admittedly scares me a bit.

It’s been three months. Three months of calmly and blissfully putting things in order, cleaning up 36 years of disorganized existence. Almost every day I wake up smiling, ready to embrace whatever the day has for me. Some days are still gloomy or unmotivated, and those days are powerful – because I am still capable of functioning, still able to manage my thoughts and not spiral into anxiety, and able to remember clearly that it’s just a day, and tomorrow will be good again.

All of that was not really the point of this post – such a rambler.

One of the things I’ve been able to do is adjust my thinking about routines and organization – something I’ve been in a lifelong struggle to master. I realized that so much of what I’d tried to create in the past was built around the Pinterest-worthy systems of should. I wanted things to be pretty and perfect – but that’s not how I function, that is not who I am. I’ve instead begun to adapt systems to how I actually think and live. I will talk a lot about that here.

I’ve come down to the core concept of containers to manage systems, and it is being applied in all areas of life. Yes, it makes sense if we are talking about tangible (or digital) items – but this concept is also applied to the less tangible thoughts, habits, relationships. A place for everything, and everything in its place.

I think my favorite, and obvious, container solution I have implemented is an inbox & processing system for all things. For so long I would spend hours creating a perfectly organized system for something, and then when I was actually doing a task I would forget the system existed. I would create a file structure for saving documents, but when I was actually working I didn’t want to spend the extra 30 seconds finding where it went, and I was focused on the next thing – so it just went wherever it landed. There are some areas where I have built processing into the routine, no longer allowing myself to put it off – putting away laundry is the best example. But for most things, I’ve created spaces (inboxes) for things to be processed when I am in processing mode. Rocks collected, bookmarks, files downloaded, photos taken, items purchased. There is a place for everything, including the things out of place.

One thing I still need to develop a system for is how to manage my ideas, which I am more full of than ever. Part of all of the system creation I have been doing is also tackling the messes of the past – and with the ideas system, I plan on sorting through the piles of notebooks, multiple google doc accounts, and very likely even old messages with my best friend. Out of curiosity, I did a quick search of our Facebook messages – over 400 instances of “I have an idea” – how many were immediately forgotten or abandoned? Most.

As a person who loves to be spontaneous and live according to my whims, I believe deeply in systems. Having systems in place that support your lifestyle, and the simple functions that are involved with living, you have more time and freedom to do whatever the hell you want. For me, it’s not about rigidity, rather it allows for more stress-free adaptability. When I know everything is taken care of, it’s not a big deal if things don’t go according to plan. I know nothing will get out of control, and I have a roadmap back to order.

The sites that I am currently building (I am hoping to launch this week!) are another system, for the less tangible. For so long I thought of my website as a finished thing, that I just needed to build it and they would come. In reality, I never used my websites, I always hated them as soon as they were done, and nobody ever (not ever) found me through them, it’s not why they existed. They existed because I thought they should – you just should have a website if you are an entrepreneur. The ability to give a web address to someone, plug it into my profiles, was the only real benefit.

Now, however, I see them totally differently. I see them as freedom – I get to just create, to do the work I love, and I am building the containers (websites) and systems to help me organize and share that work, instead of letting it collect dust tucked away in a forgotten folder.

Everything feels so wildly different these days. I am so excited for all aspects of life.

Timey Wimey Stuff

Recently I started saving vintage photos to use as references in drawing. I’ve always been a bit of a history nerd, but since I started doing genealogy, the interest as reached levels of obsession – and using old photos of my own family as drawing references are what started me on the genealogy journey. I love how so many of my interests just follow the thread of curiosity from one to the next.

I used to think I knew a lot about history. There’s something different about studying the past from the perspective of regular people, not the stuff deemed important by the powers that be. I knew nothing. It seems every time I start researching one topic, I come back up with a dozen questions that should have been answered in the history books. Even vintage photography tells so many remarkable stories about how people lived, struggled, loved.

I originally started collecting the photos because it’s easier to find the kinds of subjects I want to draw in vintage photos. However, it has sparked so many other curiosities – and it’s one of the reasons I want to get back to my camera and photography, Ilove that we can tell stories through images, that they speak so clearly and yet hold so many mysteries.

Life’s a Beach

For the past few weeks, we’ve headed to Wisconsin to spend time along the river. Last summer we didn’t have our own vehicle, which made me reluctant to drive anywhere not essential. More than that, I was just generally depressed – I’m sure covid played a role, but I was mostly just tired of my own bullshit.

This summer has been absolutely amazing, just immersing myself in life, spending time soaking up the sun and my kids in all of their chaos and joy.

One thing I haven’t been doing enough of is taking photos, even with my phone. I can honestly say I don’t regret it, I’ve been so caught up in the moment that I simply forget. I am going to try to do better, however, and am putting systems in place to support that desire.

We’ve been doing a lot of rock collecting, learning about the rivers and creeks in our favorite places.

Just blissed out.