In an instant
In an instant, my world collapsed. It wasn’t just the absence of planes in the sky or the way people wandered around blank and numb. By then, I’d turned off the news, not wanting my young children to be more frightened than they already were. Like most, I did what I had to do to get through the days. I even bought a flag and hung it on my porch — solidarity with my country, grief for what had been lost. I went to work, interacted with a new boss I couldn’t stand, and did my job. Until, that is, I didn’t have one. 9/11 had destroyed the economy and crushed the annual fundraiser our small non-profit depended upon. As fast as the planes had hit the buildings, and with the same shock of disbelief and terror, I was unemployed.
I was a single mom, raising my three children alone. There was little in the way of child support, only a pittance in my savings account, and a new mortgage I couldn’t afford. Everything in me froze. Where would I find a job? How would I care for my kids? Through long and sleepless nights, I stared at the ceiling, my heart racing. Then as winter crept up frost covered windows, something in me started to thaw. Could my layoff have been a gift? Was there a message in all of this?
I had been an artist for years, wrestling my clay and wax at night and on weekends when my children were sleeping or occupied. I had placed a few pieces in local galleries and even sold some, but never enough to let me quit my proverbial day job. Making art was the only thing I never gave up on, the only thing that offered my hard life a measure of relief. In those cold days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, while I worried how to keep the heat on, a voice kept whispering, “Now or never, girl. It’s now or never.”
I made the leap. Instead of job hunting, I started making things, submitting my portfolio to shows, and praying. Instead of reacting to my circumstances, I would change them, take control of my life for the first time, and become the woman I wanted to be.
The first show was hard, but I sold just enough to pay my bills and get to the next one. I learned everything I could about my new business and applied it quickly. The second show was a little better. By summer, I was making more money than my old job had paid me. It was hard. Really, really hard, but I was doing it.
I worked seven days a week building sculptures as fast as I could. Some of them I didn’t like, some were okay, and others had that glimmer of something that sparked my breath. It didn’t matter what I thought about the work. It sold. All of it. What I thought was terrible brought a buyer to tears. The art moved people. I learned how to talk about my work and share the personal stories that inspired the pieces. I learned how to price, when to spend money and when to save it, and how to be myself. Instead of dressing to impress, I dressed for comfort so I wasn’t self-conscious while selling my work. Every six weeks I took to the road for a week or two. I hired nannies — something I will always regret — missed my kids, and worried they felt I had abandoned them. In some ways, I did. There wasn’t a choice. They needed food, clothes, a roof over their head, and a decent education. Their teenage years were hard on all of us. Every time I wondered if I was doing the right thing, I thought that if I gave up my passion I would teach them to do the same. I couldn’t live with that so I chose to model what it takes to make it and spent as much time with them as I could.
Fast forward twelve years. My children are grown and I am proud of them. They are wonderful, self sufficient, and kind. I met the love of my life and married him. I am internationally collected, exhibited by top galleries, and living the dream come true. Then, unexpectedly and in the weirdest way, I threw my back out permanently. My studio days are numbered, my income is dropping, and all of a sudden I’m writing. I released Shaping Destiny last year. It is the story of how I found my voice as an artist. Having just released my second book, Pipe Dreams, I am reminded of that first journey. Like then, I’m facing a road that is long and hard, but I trust it will be infinitely rewarding. I can do this. I can face my fears and conquer my misgivings. That little voice is whispering again. “Now or never, girl,” it says. The difference this time is that I know who I am, what I can do, and have a family who understands and supports my process. Because I believe in myself they do, too.
DESTINY ALLISON: Destiny Allison is an award winning sculptor, businesswoman, and community builder, but writing was her first love. Last year, she published Shaping Destiny: A quest for meaning in art and life. The non-fiction work was recently awarded 1st place for non-fiction/memoir in the 2013 Lucky Cinda Global Book Contest.
Pipe Dreams is her fiction debut and other fictional works are soon to follow. Allison believes that our lives are our greatest works of art and that we have to be who and what we are, not who and what we’re supposed to be. This theme is reflected in her written works, sculptures, and business endeavors. Allison lives in Santa Fe, NM with her husband and dogs, alternately missing and celebrating her three grown sons.
Pipe Dreams on Amazon
SONIA MARSH SAYS: Destiny, I truly admire how you were able to turn your love for sculpting into a profitable business, and how you found a way to juggle your business and home life with three kids, as a single mother. Now you’ve switched to another creative outlet: writing, and from your strength, talent and determination, I’m sure this will be another successful part of your life to celebrate.
(Destiny Allison is on a blog tour with WOW! Women on Writing. I requested she write a “My Gutsy Story®” which she accepted.)
Be Inspired to ‘Bring Out the Gutsy in You’
Are you ready to take the next gutsy step in your life? I’m hosting an event in Orange County on Sept. 26 that will inspire you to act on that dream you’ve been holding inside.
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VOTING for your favorite July “My Gutsy Story®” starts on August 1st-14th. The WINNER will be announced on August 15th.