I have recently experienced a breakthrough in how I think about the pursuit of ‘my dream’. In this post I want to talk about how and why I have come to a place of clarity and focus.
THE OLD ME
All throughout my schooling I was extremely disciplined. Maybe it was because I felt pressure from my parents to succeed, maybe it was because I knew that in order to get a scholarship at an Ivy League school I had to have an impeccable resume, or maybe it was because I never wanted anyone to know that I am severely dyslexic. Either way, for the majority of my life my top priority over my social life and mental health was to achieve something above and beyond the expectations of my teachers and classmates. This taught me so much and so little, all at the same time.
When I graduated high school, the ‘at all costs’ drive in me evaporated. This is why:
Attending one of the world’s most prestigious art schools had been my dream for most of my life. But the closer I got to college, the more I realized that I craved learning how to navigate ‘the real world’ much more than spending another 4 years in a classroom. So, I cancelled my enrollment in university and decided to enter the workforce. The overwhelming lack of structure and direction that followed this decision led me into a long period of depression. I felt as though all of my hard work had been for nothing because I had no Idea how to succeed and be happy in the ‘real world’.
I thought I was somehow inherently broken because I didn’t know my ‘life’s purpose’. I bounced from one job to the next, each time feeling hopeful that I had finally found ‘the job’. However, when the honeymoon phase of the work wore off and once I started to feel the drudgery of doing the same thing every single day, I would quit soon after. Each time I would blame myself for not foreseeing my dissatisfaction. Cliché millennial mentality, I know.
I started to figure out what my ‘dream’ was, but I beat myself up even more because I felt clueless as to how to make it a balanced and profitable reality. In December of 2016 I lived off of my savings and made Youtube videos full time. I made $00.04 cents in Youtube advertising revenue from over 350 hours of work and by January I was broke. This month was by far the happiest, most creatively free times in my life. It gave me a glimpse of how I wanted to live my life if money really was ‘no object’. I realized that more than anything, I wanted to travel full time and create content online. Like many entrepreneurs my age, I had expected overnight success and when I realized that it would be a long, hard, and lonely journey, I felt very discouraged.
Not long after this time, I started smoking every day. (And I don’t mean tobacco). I don’t regret this time in my life--I think the teenage years and early twenties are the best time to experiment and try new things before you have major responsibilities and people relying on you. But in short, spending time with ‘Mary Jane’ stunted my ability to build momentum. My relationship with smoking went something like this: If I was feeling really down, let’s say a 3 out of 10 or lower, smoking would bring me to a 5 or 6. But I have never been able to maintain 9 or 10 while smoking on a regular basis (meaning more than maybe once a month).
I began to settle into complacency and started surrounding myself with people who were settling too. The people in my life were saying things like “I don’t know anyone our age who is making money and living their passion. The only people I know who have money and are able to do their hobby full time are in their 60’s. Those types of people have money from a job that paid but that wasn’t fulfilling”.
“Do you know how many people try to do what what you dream of doing and fail?”
“I wasted so much time and money pursuing my dream, don’t do the same”.
I began to believe it.
LEAVING THE LIMBO
During this time, I fell in love with someone who couldn’t come with me if I did pursue my dream. He saw me and loved me, all of me, and was looking for ‘forever’. Amidst my clouds of hopelessness, our relationship became my purpose and main source of happiness. Over time, I built my life and future around him. He believed in me and taught me so much that after a year of being together, for the first time in so long, I felt the strength and confidence in myself to pursue my dream again. He was one of the biggest reasons I was able to pull myself out of ‘limbo’. But the hardest part of choosing to change my ways was knowing that the life he wanted was not in alignment with the life I realized I most desired.
When my partner and I separated, I was forced to face the big question, “Without him in the picture, what do I want for me?”. Now I knew, with complete certainty, and for the first time in my life I decided to go all in.
I started by doing all of the things I knew I had to do, but never did. I took ownership of my fitness, my mental health, my nutrition, my social life, my future, and most of all, my finances. I incorporated exercise, meditation, journaling, and task organization into my everyday routine. I stopped smoking and I distanced myself from the toxic people who were not helping me become a better person.
I show up, every single day, rain or shine, and I get shit done. I don’t miss a beat with phone calls, emails, eye contact, friendly posture, firm hand shakes, and arriving on time. If I see a window in my calendar where I am not making money, I find a way to make a new client or up-sell an existing one so I can reach or surpass my income goals. No matter how much or how little I am getting paid on a design or website, I put in more hours because I know that I don’t just want raving testimonials, but I want a portfolio that I am beyond proud of. A portfolio that looks like it is dripping in dollar signs and allows me to bring in bigger and better clients. Ria Hardcastle the BAMF with the ‘at all costs’ attitude is back.
I am writing this article to inspire those who relate to ‘the limbo’, but most of all to hold myself accountable. This journey will have its ups and downs, but I cannot give up. May no substance, no ‘failure’, no love interest, no distraction, side track me from my ultimate goal. I know now that the only way for me to achieve my dream life is by being relentless.
FULL TIME TRAVEL AND A CREATIVE CAREER
I must pursue this with my all, because my happiness, no, my life, depends on it.