sink or swim: the one where i flee the cubicle.

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.” -Steve Jobs

I still remember the day I had to declare a major in college. Staring at a computer screen full of options, contemplating which box to mark with an "x" to define the path I would choose for my education and (hopefully) career.

History. Genetics. Biotechnology. Math (shudders). The opportunities were endless.

I could be anything I wanted to be.

I stared at the list, and it stared back at me. Only one option looked viable.

Communication.

Ah, there it was. The perfect fit. Communication, in my opinion, was a brilliant choice. Who wouldn't want to hire someone with a degree in communication? Isn't that the foundation for any successful employee or leader? If you can communicate well, you can conquer the world!

Or, something like that.

Off I went with a new backpack in tow, full of freshly sharpened pencils and beautiful blank notebooks. I was ready to learn. Four years later I walked across a stage, and was handed a single piece of paper, reassuring me that my efforts were not in vain. I survived. I finished. I was a college graduate (insert trumpet sound here_____)!

Enter: the real world. Creating a resume from internships, writing cover letters attempting to convince employers that said internships were "valuable experiences", good interviews, bad interviews, did-that-really-just-happen awkward interviews. It was all a blur. A good, challenging blur. And now...seven years, one college degree, and three full time jobs later, here I am. Ready to sink or swim.

I sometimes think the past seven years have been an experiment. What works? What doesn't work? What do I like to do? What do I not like to do? What am I good at? WHO AM I? How does God want to use me and the talents he has given me?

And while I don't have the answers to all of those questions, I am happy to report that 2011 will forever go down in history as the year I had my first real ah-ha moment. This was the year that I looked at my life, really looked at it, and decided to make a change.

To be honest, for the past six months I've been struggling. I spend eight hours a day in a cubicle, and come home every night only to get back on a computer. So I can write. And edit photos. And pour myself into creative extracurricular activities that make my heart skip a beat. Six months ago, I was thriving with this schedule. I was hyped up on Go Girls and felt like I was on top of the world. Opportunities were flying at me from every direction and I couldn't get enough.

But now? I'm sinking. As the months dragged on, I found myself utterly exhausted, and nothing was fun anymore. Everything became a have-to instead of a want-to. Editing photos became a chore. Writing became a burden. I began to dread going to work in the morning. I started to hate this blog, and everything associated with it. I didn't even recognize myself. I was tired and cranky all the time, and was so disappointed with the work I was producing. I felt mediocre in all aspects of my life. Like I was just "okay" at a lot of things, but I wasn't great at any one thing. I wasn't improving because I had no time to invest in learning. Everything I did was forced, and a C+ effort at best. I couldn't get past it, and I couldn't get better. I was just...stuck. Stuck in mediocrity. Which for me, is basically synonymous with failure.

So, what's a girl to do? Well, there were two options. I could let myself sink, or I could kick my legs and swim. Thankfully, my ah-ha moment arrived right in the nick of time. Something had to go, and I wasn't willing to part with writing or photography. As much as I love my full-time job and the fulfillment it has brought me, I was still contributing forty hours a week to someone else's dream.

After a lot of thought and a lot of prayer, I've decided it's time for me to pursue my own dream.

As of November 1st, I will officially be self-employed as Ashlee Gadd Creative.

Doing what? Well, to be honest, I'm still figuring that out. For now, I can tell you that I'll be writing, both here and other places. I'll be launching an official photography website, and (eventually) an online shop with prints and greeting cards. I'll be transitioning into a more prevalent role with The Violet, as well as continuing to contribute both words and photos to each issue.  Oh, and I'll also keep working for The Citizen about fifteen hours a week, doing what I do best there (see: wedding blog & social media).

I can't tell you how excited I am to start this new adventure. It's not going to be easy, but I truly believe the long-term benefits will outweigh the initial (and probably ongoing) challenges. I could never do this without the wholehearted support of Brett, who has encouraged me from the second I actually stated my ah-ha moment out loud. It is because of him, and the grace of God, that I know I can do this.

And with that....let's virtually toast to new adventures! Cheers!