Every design starts with an idea pushing into the brains of creatives, waiting for the pen to meet paper in anticipation of its new form. What lands on the blindingly white sheets are flawless, idealistic sketches for elongated torsos, a pair of extra long and extra thin legs with the perfectly proportionate bust and hip widths, topped off with a universal heart-shaped face. The sketch is never quite to scale but formulated around the most rare, almost non-existent, body type. These little drawings are like everything in life - curated from our imaginations, our highest hopes, and vast dreamscapes. These unrealistic sketches are symbolic for the vision and plans we create for our lives inside our wildly inventive and confident young minds.
It’s not until we get older, phase out from our youthful immaturity, that we realize life is never like the sketch. It can’t be and it never could.
We are imperfect as humans, beautifully flawed, and made to withstand the most powerful of storms. We’re drenched, tattered, and windblown when it passes, but we’ve survived it. We learned an umbrella is not enough coverage in a hurricane. And eventually, we recognize our resiliency and growth through it. But innately, we all feel a great sense of loss and over-exposure from experiences like these first.
I know my dream in life growing up with a passion for style and design was to literally have it all. The consistency of an elite, world-renowned fashion designer, a happy home filled with love and laughter from my husband, myself, and our stunning children, and a schedule book filled to the brim with fashion shows and world travel. But my journey well into adulthood has looked nothing like the brain sketch I teased my inner child with throughout the early years. Instead, I have had to scrape my way to where I am today, surviving a horrendous job market and an economic crash, moving away from my familiar support in Africa to find more employment struggle and financial losses (and gains - it’s an ebb and flow), and at one point literally becoming a woman without a country. Not having a home has always been one of my biggest fears and I was forced to meet the challenge fairly early on in my life. One could estimate that I had not accounted for the possibility of being completely dependent on my current employer to dictate whether or not I had a country I could reside in. I tried returning to my sweet homeplace back in Africa, but things had changed. I was turned away because of the claim that since I was a white woman I could not be from Africa and I was no longer welcome there.
There was no partner in the picture, no children running about a cheerful homestead… life was turning out nothing like the sketch I’d arranged for as a child. I felt disappointed in the way life was shaking out - I felt like a failure. Since I couldn’t meet this impossibly unattainable level of perfection or constant rotating definition of success, I felt unworthy of my own existence. I remember tearing up photos of myself trying to erase me from reality - I told everyone it was because I needed to minimize my belongings since I moved around so much, but deep down I knew the truth. My life wasn’t anywhere near what I had imagined it would be and I was afraid of what the next pieces of story were going to look like compared to my original mind-map.
Years of wisdom, healing, and courage have brought me to understand that no matter how hard I try, no matter how hard anyone tries, life will never, can never, look just like the sketch. Sure, there will be some elements that may resemble the initial plan, but we are intricate, complicated creatures that don’t have nearly as much control over things as we like to believe we do. We are not magical, we are not stagnant, we are constantly evolving beings that can have a plan going in but leave with a completely different mission. I understand this now. I respect it. And I am even learning to be grateful for it because even though life hasn’t gone like I thought it would there are a lot of ways I am better for it. I have been pushed to overcome and have found empowerment in the spring back. I know now I can face any obstacle in front of me.
I am a survivor, a thriver, a leader at heart, one coming into practice.
No, life is not like the sketch. But that dress was drawn for dolls. You are real. It may take a hard look and a lot of time but you’ll realize too that your life is so much better than the sketch because it’s authentically you!