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Today’s shared stories come from Jill Metz, Laura Gates and Johwey Redington.

Jill Metz

Jill Metz

In 2007 I was happy. But not the kind of happy that fills you up. I was satisfied but still hungry. I think that was the first step for me in doing what I love, realizing I wasn’t filled up and feeling like I did deserved to be filled up. I was married to the love of my life with two healthy children, a boy and girl and I was Blessed. But after 8 years of marriage I began to feel resentful and dissatisfied. I had been filling up with my family for so long , trying to be perfect and expecting them to be my whole world. Needless to say, that was trouble waiting to happen!

Then came the question…what was missing in my life? It was at that time i began to dig deeper and look at my life and to discover the bigger picture of who I was. What I honestly discovered was that I didn’t even know myself. I didn’t know what I believed, didn’t know what I was good at, didn’t know what my passions were. I had a very challenging childhood and it was more about survival than being a kid. Therefore I lived my young adult years, ages 16-25, trying to be the kid I didn’t get to be. Usually this is the time when people start to look at themselves and ask the type of questions that lead to this discovery of self. I was a late bloomer!

So I had to go back to the beginning and I asked myself, “What did I like to do when I was a little girl?” This was not an easy place to revisit but I have to say with that blast to the past came a great deal or healing, forgiveness, and learning to love myself more. I was the little girl who was always creating something, usually out of nothing. I was the kid who would rather hang out in the craft store than the toy store. I was the little girl who would set up a tattoo stand outside her apartment building in hopes someone would actually pay me to draw a mermaid on their arm with a magic marker.  Just like my mother, God had given me the gift of CREATIVITY! So I went back to that and picked up the old crusty paint brush that had been neglected for so many years and I went to work. I quickly discovered mixed media and things started to make sense, I was seeing the bigger picture.

Unlike some of the inspiring stories you hear here, I did not quit my job and within a year make a good living. I was just too fragile for that and didn’t have the courage or confidence to dive in. I did begin a small on-line business making mixed media picture frames and got accepted into some local art shows. This was good for my self esteem and I started to believe in myself. That was four years ago….

Today I am doing what I love! I have an amazing family who I truly love and appreciate more every day. I have the privilege of being here to prepare their food, wipe their noses, drive them to their cross country and basketball games, send them off on the bus and I’m here when they get home. Mostly I have the privilege to pray with them and for them. The other part of the picture is I’m a mixed media artist!  I have a website, a blog, I teach mixed media art workshops, and still continue to do select juried art shows.  I have been invited to display my work in art galleries and have had inquires about offering a wholesale line. I have recently been exploring the world of licensing and attended Surtex last March in NY City.  I am praying about those opportunities and each new opportunity that comes my way. Last month I finally got the courage to submit my work to my favorite international magazine and I’m hopeful that they will publish my artwork.

I don’t think you can really do what you love for life until you know who you are. I was a mouse on a wheel. To everyone else I looked happy, I thought I was happy. But then I got hungry and I listened to that. I didn’t settle! Instead I began a journey. A journey of FAITH, COURAGE, HEALING, and TRUST. Everyone’s journey looks different, but they all start with a step, and then another step, and then another. I remind myself life is not a race…it is a journey. I can’t worry with how good I’m not, how slow I am, how much time I wasted. I can only take that step today in order to do what I love for life.

[All images courtesy of Jill Metz]

Find out more about Jill on her website here.

Laura Gates

Laura Gates

As a kid I envied people who knew what they wanted to be when they grew up. I didn’t have a clue. I lamented this fact with my dad in the kitchen one afternoon 30 years ago, wondering what my college major should be.

“What if I stuck a hot poker in your foot right now and you had to tell me what you wanted to be?” asked my dad. “Um. A writer?” I said meekly.  Needless to say, I chose psychology and quickly transferred into business. (Parents, don’t try this at home!)

One thing led to another and I ended up working in banking on Wall Street in the wild 80s. Although I excelled and climbed the corporate ladder, I felt creatively vacant and desperately tried to find work in other areas, to no avail.

It was ultimately falling head over heels in love with a handsome young South American that catalyzed the change. In a potentially career limiting move, I quit my job and followed him to South America, where we promptly got married and traveled for a year. After returning to New York I was hired back by the bank, still clueless as to my life calling. My sister urged me to move to California, and a friend offered me a job at a PR firm. In little over a year I was serendipitously given the chance to take over another woman’s business who was pregnant and moving. From one client at $500 a month I quickly grew my company – marketing and promoting women-owned businesses – making six figures within the year.

The early 90’s were exciting times and I was hugely successful, but in the midst of the dot.com boom my husband left me. I was devastated. I managed to keep the business going, but would curl into a fetal position at night and cry myself to sleep. Within a year he married his assistant, a several-years younger version of me. In addition to feeling horribly rejected I had become a cliché – and I was barely over 30!

It was thanks to my husband leaving that led me to my current career as a leadership trainer and coach. One day at lunch a client wanted to know how I was doing. I burst into tears crying telling her the whole story. She recommended I do a workshop that changed her life with Learning as Leadership, and that was the turning point for me. Learning about how my behaviors contributed to what wasn’t working in my life gave me the power to change. And 16 years later, I am working as an executive coach and trainer for the company that leads those very same trainings. Working with people to help them find their passion and overcome the obstacles that get in their way is my passion.

It sounds crazy, but today I’m grateful my husband walked out on me. It was a big kick in the ass and propelled me to truly find my life purpose. It also led to my spiritual quest which has me co-leading journeys around the globe to work with indigenous healers, and pursuing a Master’s in Intuition Medicine.

Now remarried, on the cusp of my 49th birthday, I am once again putting tender green shoots into the ground, exploring new territory. The high school girl who timidly said she wanted to be a writer back in the kitchen that day is finally emerging. I have found my voice through my blog, telling my stories, expressing my authentic self.

As we approach unprecedented times of change on our planet, I am listening carefully once again to the signs the universe is sending me and I wonder. What’s next? But unlike younger versions of myself, I know and trust that everything is unfolding just as it should. And there is nothing I need do but surrender to the Signs.

[All images courtesy of Laura Gates.]

Find out more about Laura on her website.

Johwey Redington

 Johwey Redington

My journey started when I became an architect. My parents wanted me to be an accountant and take over the family business, but I had always been artistically-inclined and knew I wanted a creative career. I was only allowed to pursue a licensed profession, and architecture had the right mix of art and science so it seemed a good choice at the time. As an architect, I loved seeing dreams transformed into well-designed usable spaces which, in turn, promised to provide their users with memorable experiences. That was the satisfaction I got from my job – creating spaces for people to enjoy. (It wasn’t always pleasurable though. Most of the time, I was wrestling with contractors and building inspectors! Still I loved what I did.)

Being married and having children changed my priorities. At this stage in my life, I found myself juggling between the competing demands of my professional career and motherhood. I was living two lives – architect during the day and wife and mother at night. (At times, the architect would even encroach on family time!) I started to feel no fulfillment in my work anymore and desired to give my full presence to my two daughters – at least in their formative years. So after several years of professional practice, I became a full-time mom.

The transition from architect to stay-at home-mom wasn’t easy. I grew up in a society that doesn’t place much value on parenting as a valid and distinguished occupation. And for someone as career-driven as I am, I somehow felt displaced. People went from “Oh wow, you’re an architect!” to “You stay home all day?!? What do you do?” Somehow they don’t give much credit to the challenging, demanding, and stressful job of being a mother. I didn’t know how to label myself. (What do I put as my occupation? Leaving it blank makes me feel like a bum.) I was loving taking full charge of my children’s upbringing (I was even homeschooling them) – I knew what I was doing was vital and important, and that I was the only one who can do it – but I couldn’t reconcile who I was to the world.

Throughout all these, I continued to create. Art is inherent in me – I’ve always known it is essential to my soul. It’s what made me fall in love with architecture in the first place. It’s what makes me come alive – the ability to express and interpret my experiences visually and creatively. As a full-time mom, I was able to explore more freely and play more creatively. I rediscovered the joys of mixed media and book arts, developed my skills as a photographer, and got introduced to the world of fabric arts. The best thing is that art integrates well to our family lifestyle – it doesn’t compete with my role as a mother and wife, in fact, it complements it.

In this path of putting my children first,  I eventually learned to deepen my awareness for each present moment. In so doing, I gained a greater sense of freedom and self-understanding. I’ve come to terms with what’s really important to me and developed a confidence in my abilities that I lacked before. This gave me the courage to share my journey and open my art to the world. And now, in this current stage of my life, I’ve decided to build my career as an artist as I continue to be a mindful parent (and person in general). Sometimes I get scared, sometimes my confidence wanes. It’s a whole new industry, a whole new community. But my inspiration never falters and I keep on moving forward.

So what does it mean to do what you love? For me, it means living every minute of each day as fully as possible, even if I have to live my life in stages. At present, I’m enjoying my moment-to-moment relationship with my family and I’m creating to my heart’s content. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

In retrospect, I wouldn’t change anything in my past (not so easy to say when experiences are fresh) because I believe that everything that happened in my life brought me to where I am today – and where I am right now will bring me to something even greater in the future. I know this because I believe and I keep on trying. And wherever my art will take me, I know with confidence that I’ve already carried out my life’s masterpieces – my two lovely daughters!

[All images courtesy of Johwey Redington]

Find out more about Johwey on her website.