About eleven years ago, when I was still in high school, dreaming about all the things I could do with my life after graduation, an idea formed in my head – I wanted to open my own bookstore at some point. I came up with a strategy for achieving that goal and part of that was to attend a three-year job training for booksellers-to-be. So after graduating, I signed a contract with a local bookstore chain and started my job. And – well, as it turned out it wasn’t really my thing.*
During these three years, I became more and more clueless about what I ultimately wanted my life and career to look like.
But I had one dream that I could never let go of. I had always loved crafts and making art. And I knew that I wanted to start selling the stuff that I created. It still took me one more year, though, to make the first step towards that dream. Back in 2014, I opened a shop on a platform that basically was the German equivalent to Etsy. But I never actually offered, let alone sold, a single item on there.
What happened was that, for one, I had started a university program after leaving the bookstore and was also working part time so I was pretty stressed all the time and had trouble finding energy to work on my shop.
But the larger factor, I guess, was that I was scared. Scared of not selling a thing, scared of the attention, scared of failing, scared of not being able to manage everything that owning a shop would entail all at once. And I had major bouts of impostor syndrome – what if I was only imagining being good at these things? There’s an infinite amount of people who are more creative and more talented than me, so why should I even try?
And I gave up. For several years, I not only stopped working on my shop but I also stopped creating things. Until I found myself in a dorm room in the US, in the middle of my year abroad, studying a subject I didn’t enjoy and I realized I had lost something on the way.
A friend helped me realize at the time that I need to find my creativity again. So my first step was to buy a journal, start bullet journaling and sharing my spreads along with some personal writing on a free WordPress blog. I came back home from the US, went through reverse culture shock (that lasted for half a year) and a full-blown quarter-life crisis, quit a master’s program I had only started two weeks before, found a part time job, moved my first blog to the one you’re reading now and started working on my online shop again.
And that’s what I’ve been doing for the past nine months. It’s hard. And there are moments, days and weeks where I have trouble coming up with the energy I need to push through with this because all the things I have to figure out and get done before opening the shop overwhelm me a lot (Germany has some very strict legal rules for selling stuff).
But then there are also the moments when I realize that once I take the first step, even if it’s just a very tiny one, it will all get easier. This past summer, on one of these days when I felt overwhelmed by everything, I had a moment where I thought “Ok, it’s all a bit much right now but what is one thing that I enjoy doing and that I can get done fairly quickly?”. This was when I thought of logo design. I’m not a design pro and I don’t have any fancy design programs except a really old version of Photoshop. But I enjoy playing around with the templates and elements on Canva. So this was what I started with and pretty soon I had my own logo and I suddenly felt super motivated to get started on all the other items on my to do list.
I haven’t written anything on here since January because I needed to concentrate on my shop first. And it took my a few rounds around the neverending cycle of taking the first step to being overwhelmed to starting again… to find my groove. But I think I’ve found it.
I guess what I’m trying to tell you here is, 1.) if you have a dream but find yourself being overwhelmed by the long process of getting there, just take a tiny first step. Something really small and easy that will help you find your motivation again. And 2.) if it’s your dream you can make it happen. You will make mistakes along the way but that’s part of the journey. There’s always gonna be people who seem to have their shit together more than you do or who appear to be more talented but so what? Why should that mean that you can’t make YOUR dream happen?
I’m still scared. I still get bouts of impostor syndrome. I still feel overwhelmed at times. But I know that taking baby steps and putting one foot in front of the other will get me where I want to be.
So don’t give up. Take small steps. Achieving your dream might take you half a year. Or two years. Or ten. But if you never start, you won’t ever achieve them. Small steps. Small steps. Small steps all the way.
*Nevertheless, I still finished the program and I’m kinda glad I did. Not just because I earned a degree but also because working with customers everyday was super beneficial for my self-confidence and I also made a few very good friends. But that’s a story for another day.