What happened to the Collective?

If you came here looking for marketing and web design, I’m afraid you’re too late.

For fifteen years, I had the honor of telling my clients’ stories in words and pictures. For more than seven years, I also enjoyed a prosperous, expansive creative partnership. I loved my work, I loved my partner, and my life had meaning.

One day, I woke up and realized I didn’t love it anymore. The colors had drained out of my world. The work had taken over my whole life, much like the cancer that invaded my body years before. I was in constant pain and was suffering from crippling anxiety and depression.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that, when you’re not on the right path, the universe will turn you upside down over and over again until you listen. I came to a point where I knew I was dying inside. I had to choose between being brave and being dead.

I chose to be brave.

Making the Hard Choice

I am fond of saying that, at any given moment, you’re only one decision away from being your best and truest self.

For a long time, I believed that life was hard because I had to make too many choices. I had to decide to get up in the morning, and to go for a jog, and to eat a salad instead of cake. (I often failed at the last two, and sometimes the first).

I had to select the project I would work on that day, often juggling competing priorities that made it feel like I was stumbling around in a hall of mirrors. Every moment, the world confronted me with another decision I felt ill-equipped to make.

I didn’t want to believe there was one choice that, once I finally made it, would change everything. But that’s exactly what happened.

Once I made the hard choice, everything made sense. The path forward, which had been hidden from me for years, lit up like a Christmas tree. Every decision that followed became easy and automatic. That’s when I knew I was going in the right direction.

Do I grieve for the life I left behind? Of course. I was Chief Smarty Pants for a very long time. I put a lot of energy into that version of me, and into the relationships that were important to her. I may very well walk around with one hand over my broken heart for years to come, but at least I’ll be true to myself.

On Fear

For many years, certain people that I trusted told me a story, and I accepted it as true. They told me that I was fearful, that I would never be strong enough to make the hard choice, that I would never allow myself to be seen. They told me I needed to be saved.

But there is another possibility. Perhaps out of loyalty and a need to be loved, I willingly sacrificed myself. That possibility gave me power. Because if I chose to sacrifice myself, I could choose differently.

In the end, those people who expected me to stay small came into my life to challenge me to be big and beautiful and whole. For that, I am grateful. Today, when I think about where I’m headed, and what I’m willing to do to achieve my dream, I know my own courage. And that gives me hope.

The anxiety still comes. My heart gathers speed, threatening to explode out of my chest. I bury my face in my hands, as if hiding from the world will protect me. And then I remember…anxiety is a habit. You’ve got to breathe through it.

If you can, find the courage to accept things as they are. You will be okay. Once you can do that, get quiet and listen. The next right step will appear.

Et tu?

It’s entirely possible this latest adventure will end in utter disaster. To this I say, “Who cares?” Because it’s the journey that matters, not the destination.

I hope my story inspires something in you. If you can gather your courage and take a hard look inside, you never know what you’ll find.

Comments (17)

  1. Pamela Potter March 3, 2015 at 11:46 am

    “Because it’s the journey that matters, not the destination.”

    I am finding on my own path that this is the single most important thing we can learn.

    I’m pretty sure it is also the most difficult.

    I can’t wait to see where this will take you!

  2. Eva Miller March 3, 2015 at 12:10 pm

    Congratulations, Ann! You are setting an inspiring example. Best of luck in your new adventure; I’m excited for you and to see where it will lead.

    And I too have had that experience–of things being easy on the right path, hard on the wrong one. It’s an important indicator.

  3. Mandy March 3, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    Ann, you are an inspiring writer – I am completely intrigued. As an artist, I respond to the visual and the essence. I shall be picking up a copy of your book.
    Good job.

  4. Mary March 3, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    Beautiful, Ann!
    ‘Anxiety is a habit. You have to breathe through it.’
    What an encouraging, uplifting thought. Thank you!

  5. Amalie Jahn March 3, 2015 at 1:51 pm

    You are already a success. Believe it cuz it’s true.

  6. Christina Sarlo March 3, 2015 at 8:16 pm

    Wow. Since the day I met you, Ann, I marveled at how everyone in the room adores you! In your presence, I experience such inner strength, courage and joy for life, that it almost takes my breath away.

    I’m so honored to know you and to walk with you a bit on your magnificent path. You are a shining star to many. Let folks know if you forget…if that vision gets dim, if the weight of life is a burden. We’ll flock to your side and walk with you in joy.


  7. Paige March 4, 2015 at 7:10 am

    Ann… you’re post made me cry. I am on a very scary personal journey myself and your words made me feel empowered! Thank you for sharing your wisdom and I am looking forward to hearing more from Ann 2.0!

  8. Mac Bartine March 4, 2015 at 2:34 pm

    Great first post, Ann! Onward and upward!

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