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)