Smoke & Mirrors

My name is Beca. I'm a 30 year old woman living in the swamplands of North Florida and even though I feel at home here, I don't fit in here. I'm a weird girl who has been trying to be a cool girl since the moment I put on my first training bra but now all the cool girls are trying to be weird and I don't know where I land on the Richter scale of cool but I'm so full of feelings about the whole thing. So I'll start from the beginning and see where it takes me.
I had a fucked up childhood - but maybe we all think we had a fucked up childhood - and it's taken me the last 10 years to grow from it but it still influences the way that I approach life. I always wanted to be a writer, but writing about the deepest darkest things in my life have since proven impossible - too close, too raw. But now, I'm into the second half of my 30th year, surrounded by smoke and mirrors, inundated by social media, constantly comparing and contrasting how cool or how weird we all really are and I have a funny feeling that putting it all out there is more important than ever.  I am isolated here. We have the occasional visitor who comes, brightens our life, and then leaves and we are back to being closed off from the world. Except we aren't, truly, because everyday, we get dings on our cellphones that tells us someone is thinking about us, that someone has something to say to us. Validation for our work, reprimanding our mistakes, or just the tap tap of a little heart button that says "Hey, I like this."   
Maybe you come here, or to our social media, to buy the things we make (thanks), or maybe you come to read what we share, or for another reason that I don't know or understand. Maybe it's just for the cats, or the food. I don't know. But you're here. So, I'm here too. I've always struggled with living up to the expectations I have of myself, and the expectations others have of me. I lay my intentions on the table - friend, partner, artists, daughter, business owner. I am defined by these labels.  And I start with a thick stack of "yeses." But wanting to please everyone, and maintain this image of cool, smart, funny woman who has her shit together can be a heavy weight to carry. Now add to that the weight of constantly being able to compare your life to thousands of other's lives. Or what they share of their life. Whether its fact or fiction or a marriage of the two, it doesn't matter. We don't see the smoke and mirrors, we see a truth far too heavy to add to our own truths. So, instead of being inspired by each other, or connecting on a deeper and more honest level, we resent each other. We hate-read, we troll, we compare constantly. I never expected to feel bad about dinner plates or light fixtures or vacation rentals or how thick of a stack of orders we have or just the length of my hair, but I do. 
I recently got hair extensions, and weirdly felt so much more confident when I had them clipped in, but then I would look in the mirror without them and just feel gross. I wasn't even comparing myself to other people at that point. Just me with or without fake hair, and it finally inspired me to tuck those clip-ins in a drawer and embrace my weird bleach-burnt, broken ends mullet until it grows out. Because that's what I have to do to feel okay. So there is a part of me that says, get off the internet. But I am a baby of the 80s, I grew up with AOL and instant messenger and chat rooms and live journal and myspace. So, stepping away from social media (especially since paying our bills depends on me sharing our work online) isn't the answer. Seeing past the smoke and mirrors, that's the answer. Tucking my phone in a drawer isn't going to solve the problem, but tucking away my weird insecurities, comparisons and underlying feelings in a drawer will be a solution.   
The last few years, actually, ever since we moved from Tennessee to Indiana, have been a slow decent into the deepest depression I have ever felt. We we're on top of the world, it seemed, then made some not so great choices for our business and our life, and haven't yet been able to recover. I look back and realize how it could have gone differently, but it didn't and I'm not ready to let go, so the only option is bootstrapping until we get back to where we want to be. It's weird and hard to share that with a bunch of strangers, but it's true. Some people make great choices in their life, they're financially sound, they seemingly have it all together, they play it safe. We're not those people. We take risks and not all of our risks have produced rewards. Rather they produced lessons. That's part of life. 
My mother, who I sadly haven't seen in a long time, told me once "life isn't fair" and I know that now more than ever. I am not a victim, even though it is easy for me to take on that role. I accept my flaws, and struggle along with everyone to fix them. I wish I could say that my business was perfect, that I was great with a budget and paid all of my bills on time. I wish I could say that I had a savings account, but I don't. And I won't ever regret using our savings to help out people we love, or that we have had some amazing adventures and made THOUSANDS of connections with people who have purchased our art. I don't regret failing and struggling, because that means I can get better, and life may get easier and I will have those "normal" things that I desperately want in my life, someday...
But right now, the marble "countertops" in my photos are really just 12 x 12 marble tiles I got from a yard sale that I set on top of the linoleum countertops in my mother-in-laws kitchen, where we are currently living. The fairytale nature photos are of our backyard, and yeah, they're amazing, but sometimes I'd rather be wandering around target or seeing a movie at the theatre, but we're 2 hours from the closest of either of those and sometimes we don't have gas money or time to go into town, because that's real life. That airstream we're renovating - it's been sitting, acting as a storage shed, for months, because we haven't had the motivation to work on it. Sure, I use social media to share things we've made that are in our shop, but there are days that I just want to post a photo of something without getting shamed about a previous made to order item taking too long. I get it. I understand. But I am a real person. I am full of weird feelings that are exacerbated by, and also calmed by, my interactions with other humans, even if its just via typed words on the internet. 
I know I'm not alone in this, in the reaching out past the smoke screens. I know that we all have levels of comfort when it comes to connecting and sharing. I have my own walls and my own boundaries. But being present, and being real - those are things that matter to me right now. Being true to myself, even if it's a self I don't really love right now, is going to make all the difference in figuring out who I want to be. I still don't know where I fit in, but I am here, now, doing my best to step past the smoke and mirrors. 
(Photos by Doug Switalski, words by Beca Lewis Skeels) 

4 comments

  • I genuinely felt every word. Wonderfully written and sincere. Keep pushing forward, we’re all right there with you!

    Allyson Clements
  • I grew up with two sisters and a mother who was obsessed with comparison. My mom used to hang photos of models on our refrigerator as motivation when I was in high school. I moved out of her house at 18, but it took until I was about 28 or 29 to get her voice out of my head. I totally understand the whole comparison thing, but know that you are not alone. I think the thing that’s helped me the most is to work on my self talk constantly. I’ve read books like the Secret and You are a Badass (by Jen Sincero) and they have helped SO much in making me see that I CAN rewire my brain if I want too. Now, at nearly 36, I hear my own voice more than anyone’s and that is so reassuring.
    No one’s life will ever be as perfect as their social media projects it to be. That’s the beauty and the curse of social media. Hell, I’m guilty of it too. I have this opportunity to create something online, this image of my life, and it gets to look exactly how I want it to. From an artists standpoint you can see how appealing it would be to create a beautiful collection of photos. From a reality standpoint—no one has that life.
    Keep doing what you’re doing girl. You are an amazing person, you are honest—and that means more than all the pretty pictures in the world.
    —julie

    Julie
  • Hey Becca.
    Great honest post. It doesn’t surprise me at all that you wanted to be a writer – you’re such a natural at it. So, when I read your posts a lot of it hits home for me. I bet it does for a lot of people. I’ve had major ups and downs in the success of my vintage business and blog – and it’s been an emotional road trip for sure. Sometimes I’m on such a high, and other times I want to sell all our devices and never look at social/the entire fucking internet again. I’ve been praised, held up, admired, criticized, insulted, and probably the most hurtful, ignored. I’ve made a lot of money, dove in too deep and ran out of money, and am catching up slowly. I don’t know the solution. Try to do better where you can. Know when you’re giving too much. Know when too much is being asked of you. Remember what’s most important and work hardest at that and for that. I got six years on ya and I still haven’t figured it out. I just love reading what you have to say about it. I’ve always thought you were living an interesting life – but even though your pictures are perfect, you never gave me the illusion that it was a fairytale existence. Never really met a person quite like you. Peace friend!

    xoxo Jill / Lune

    Jill
  • Thank you for sharing this. We’re all struggling and I just wanted to say that you bring joy into my life with your honesty and apparent effort to be authentic. It means so much. I constantly struggle with who I am and who I want to be. Solidarity. ☺

    Cindy

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