For the past three years, I’ve really only allowed myself to focus on one thing: work.
Now I know that sounds unhealthy but my work is also one of my greatest pleasures and passions, so you can see how I let myself get away with this for so long.
Writing has always been so special to me. I’ve written in a journal for as long as I can remember so to find myself exploring a career that allowed me to write day in and day out was beyond exciting — it felt like a dream. It’s as if I was freed from ever “dreading” my job.
Fast forward to now, almost five years in, and I’m beginning to notice something…
By fully immersing myself in my passion-driven career, I’ve neglected my ability to enjoy and explore anything outside of my work.
It is a blessing, so much greater than I could’ve ever imagined, to do this line of work. I truly love what I get to do but is it everything? No. The only thing that’s everything is the gospel (which I can openly admit I’ve neglected at times, too).
Here’s what I’m trying to say — I basically haven’t allowed myself to learn, explore, and play with anything new (or old), anything challenging (or unfamiliar), or anything that didn’t make me a profit.
Yeah. Not good.
I never have considered myself a “money chaser.” I’ve always believed money comes and money goes. You can’t take it with you when you die and I’ve always had a deep rooted peace and understanding that God will provide.
But, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t often check out when I wasn’t doing a task that made me money, grew this business, or promoted my brand. Up until this fourth year, I always just assumed I was checking out because I was tired (duh, after my insanely long, brain-heavy work day). Or, even worse, because I felt like I was “above” social conversations and/or any moments of leisure. I thought “this is just a waste of my time because I could be doing something to actually better myself and my company”…
But now I’m seeing it all differently. I simply wasn’t focused on all the right things.
My personal life was my professional life.
I consider it a BIG advantage that I started my own business right out of college. It felt as if I’d gotten a head start from my peers. To be sitting at the table with 30+ year olds when you’re not even able to legally drink feels pretty good. It’s affirming and quite honestly a huge honor. I’ve never taken that for granted or ever felt like I was better than anyone else but it’s just fact that I was ahead (when it came to actually starting).
Although I’m insanely grateful and SO GLAD that I decided to pursue my business early on in life, it definitely stunted my growth and experiences in other areas of life. I spent my first year of “adulting” working insane hours while not really making consistent money. I think in my first year of freelancing I made less than $20,000. I was BROKE so I can promise you, I wasn’t going out with friends to the bars or taking a girls trip to Key West. I actually lived at home for three months after graduating and once I moved into my own apartment, that’s when I was REALLY broke. I remember I moved out in March and I had my worst month profit-wise in April. One month in to doing this adult thing all alone. Between security deposits, new furniture, setting up wifi and electric, and groceries, I was maxed out on my first credit card before I had ever physically swiped it. (Yes, I didn’t get my first credit card until after graduating college.)
I was really only making enough to pay my bills and that was it.
I remember I wanted to go over to my parents for dinner (hello, free food) but I didn’t even have enough money to put gas in my car. I scraped up $5 in CENTS to get me to their house and back (and I stole some canned goods from my mom’s pantry to hold me over until some invoices came through).
That first year was rough but if I’m being honest, I didn’t mind one minute of it. I knew what I was building. I knew it was temporary. I was laser focused on what I knew was to come if I just kept at it. And honestly, that is what made it all the more empowering than it ever was hard. I was betting on myself and mind you — absolutely NO ONE (outside of my boyfriend) was aware of my situation. All my friends and family thought I was killing it! I just got my own one-bedroom apartment in a good part of town. I had a pool view! I was “crushing it.”
I was drinking protein shakes and sipping Trader Joe’s $2 cabernet as if I was sponsored.
Luckily, I’m beyond fortunate to say that this very limited season didn’t last long. I never had to scrummage quarters to pay for gas after that one month but there definitely were still deep ebbs and flows over the course of my first two years. I had months where I made great money (blew it all) and then I’d be tight for the next two months because clients’ needs would change. (Man, I wish I hadn’t bought all that unnecessary crap from HomeGoods.)
It wasn’t until year three that I started to find some true consistency along with some better accountability in my savings. I knew how it felt to be broke — and fearful that I’d have to fess up to being broke and ask my Ma for money. Instead, I told myself I’d stop wasting the hard earned money the Lord was blessing me with and I’d be more mindful with it.
Circling back, you can gather that I really had to invest all my time and energy into my business those first couple of years because if I didn’t, I simply wouldn’t have made it. By the end of year two, I was doing okay. I was making good money for my age and I was living comfortably but I wanted to go farther. Maybe it was the money talking (or now that I’m an outsider looking in, I think it was God’s provision calling me to more) but I was dedicated to making this thing big.
Year three was explosive. I wish I could say that there was some magical hack I did to grow but honestly, I just kept doing the exact same thing I had been doing. Then, I took the leap when I knew I couldn’t sustain the load on my own and started growing a team of writers. By focusing on our customer service and keeping good relationships with past and current clients, we just started to grow and be sought after by more businesses. Glory to God.
Year three was all about making the company a legit one. We rebranded to who we are now, The Collective Source, and I invested all my time and energy in building an incredible team and sophisticated brand.
Now, here we are, at the end of year four and wow. Finally, there are some major shifts taking place personally rather than professionally.
A Change in Perspective
June 19, 2021. It was a hot summer day in Stuart, FL. We were visiting my boyfriend’s mom for the weekend. Having cocktails over random conversation in the pool when we suddenly got on the subject of where we’re going to move once our lease was up in January. We were living in a highrise right in the heart of Downtown Fort Lauderdale. We wanted to start house hunting but the market quickly killed that dream. I jokingly suggested moving out West for a year. Ya know, since we enjoyed visiting Utah for my birthday trip at the beginning of the year so much. Little did I know, it was in that moment that we planted a seed that would foster a cross-country move come the new year.
Both Florida natives and having no ties out West, we found ourselves with an opportunity to move just outside a little town called Livingston, Montana. If you’re one of the 17 million viewers to watch Yellowstone, we actually ended up in the real-life Paradise Valley. And let me tell you, it is quite a paradise.
If you would’ve told me I’d be running my own company right out of college to then moving across the country to Montana, I would’ve told you there’s no freaking way. But I guess that’s the beauty of actively pursuing a life according to God’s plan rather than your own.
When friends and family asked why we were deciding to move out here, we always said something along the lines of “we just want to try a different way of life,” or “we want to get away from the noise/all we’ve ever known,” or (the simplest answer), “we can’t buy in Florida right now so we’re waiting it out in Montana!”
We both really didn’t know what to expect when we got here. I mean, the whole move was unexpected in itself but we knew life would obviously look a lot different. What we didn’t expect was how it would feel different.
Change took place in the physical sense (obviously) but emotionally and spiritually, my perspective was completely transformed. Stripping ourselves of all we’d ever known made space for us to think rather than just do, notice instead of ignore or overlook, and — probably most importantly — respond instead of just react.
We’ve spent most of our time at home. We’ve adventured out and experienced nature in its most natural form. We’ve tried new things… things that make you feel like a kid again. I learned how to ski — which was a combination of childlike fun and pure terror when I thought I was good enough to fly down a steep mountain. We’ve made snow angels and built our own bonfires. We’ve hiked unfamiliar places and peered out at unexpected “guests” that graze in our backyard. We’ve tried new recipes and implemented a new standard of ingredients into our home. We’ve done our best to truly practice Sabbath and disconnect from the world for just one day out of the week. We’ve studied the Word and haven’t missed a single Sunday service since we got here. We’ve spent quality time together and focused on truly deepening our love for one another. Basically, we’ve focused on living.
My Soul Awakened
I still love my work and I still want to scale this company to insane heights but I also want to be present and play. I know this might sound silly but being so young in the world of business, I cut myself off from being immature at anything. I identified growing up with function and purpose and effort. I didn’t think I deserved play and leisure until I “made” it. I thought “making it” was not having to be strapped to a desk five days out of the week. But what’s funny — there are seven days in a week and I didn’t allow myself to play and enjoy any of them.
This was my thought process—
Yeah, I could jump in the ocean but that means I won’t look presentable for dinner out unless I wash my hair which isn’t worth it since I just washed it yesterday.
Yeah, I could try to host a girls night in, watching movies and drinking hot cocoa but I know everyone would rather go out to the wine bar and dress fabulous.
Yeah, I could close my laptop for the weekend and delete email off my phone but then my clients won’t think I’m reliable and that I’m always on top of my work.
Or even worse…
Yeah, I could start every morning in the Word or I could go ahead and get started making money.
The saddest part is, for a while, the only time I felt like I had a lot of “fun” was when I was drinking. Liquid courage allowed me to let my hair down, or dance in the kitchen, or not check my email. I’m not an alcoholic but wouldn’t you consider that a drinking problem? I mean, isn’t that the societal equivalent for adult fun?
Here’s the thing. I have always loved my life. I’ve always loved my work and I don’t regret how I’ve spent my time. I’m just becoming more and more aware of how it all gets placed. There’s no perfect way to live your life. It’s simply not in my nature to act a fool, ride with the windows down, and twirl around in circles to my favorite songs. If that’s you, fantastic! We all have different ways of expressing leisure and joy and play.
For me currently, leisure looks like Sabbath spent on Sundays, lounging around without a thing on the agenda and drinking coffee in bed. Joy looks like exploring this land and capturing it in image and video form. Play looks like trying new things in the kitchen, dancing while making dinner (sober), and singing while doing the dishes. I’ve even learned to leisurely write again — bringing out my 100-year-old typewriter on the weekends when I have an inspiring message I want to share and store away for future generations to (hopefully) read one day.
None of this is big or extraordinary. But it is life-giving. And, in the simplest yet most transformative way, it’s awakened me — back to my whole, unapologetic, and fascinating self.
Now, I want to encourage you to step away from your “adult” mind, and allow yourself to play — in whatever way that means for you.
Try something new. Try someone old. Try someone challenging. Whatever you do, don’t find yourself putting limits on what awakens your soul. Be rich in all things. Be the best at what you do, but then allow yourself to just be. I promise you, there is so much joy and abundance to living life in the rhythm of all things.
Katie Dyal is the founder and editor in chief of The Collective Source, an online media source and full-service copywriting agency. Her motivation stems from her deep-rooted passion for words and incredibly talented team. She aims to build a company culture like no other and assemble an online publication that’s available to anyone who feels led to read it. She is a Christian, aspiring author, and Florida native currently living in southwestern Montana.