Things tend to fall to pieces before they come together. Then suddenly, the growing pains sprout new blooms.
My life has been and remains a testament to this cycle, and probably will be as long as I live, or at least, as long as I continue to challenge my own existence.
At the beginning of June, I turned 28, officially accepted a job offer, and began to feel at home in St. Augustine.
I think everyone who moves somewhere that isn’t their home and embarks upon an entirely new existence, goes through times when they love their surroundings, and times when they want to get the hell out and retreat, regardless of how things are going on the surface.
Happily, after ten months of feeling constantly back and forth, I can wholeheartedly say I’ve reached a breakthrough point. I still miss my family every damn day, but I am consistently feeling at home and at peace here in St. Augustine, more than I feel when I do return to my home town. This has resulted in a huge turning point for my pysche.
During my birthday week, in honor of the above occasions, Andrew and I got all fancy (our version of fancy) and ventured out for a vegan feast. The feast was also in celebration of our love, and the fact that we have chosen to be our honest selves, regardless of the challenges we face, while striving to do what we love.
There are a number of people out there who will tell you that you have to be something other than yourself to do what you love in life or just to survive in this world. They will try and convince you that you have to play games, sell yourself short, sell out, be a “yes” man or woman, dress a certain way, or pretend you’re someone you’re not if you want to be seen and heard. I argue, based on my own findings, that none of this is true. Of course, it all depends on how you define and measure success.
In 28 years, I can’t say I’m sure of many things, but I am sure of this—It’s possible to be yourself, do what you love, and keep yourself afloat while doing so.
The Freedom to Choose
When you tell someone you’ve quit your job, you’ll hear various warnings, such as gaps on a resume, or a concern for your sanity, or your financial health. You’ll be put on the spot to answer questions like, “What’s next?” or “How’s the job hunt going?” Looking back to the beginning of 2014, quitting my job remains the best decision I could have made at the time, because it afforded me the flexibility to train for my first marathon, travel back and forth to St. Augustine, delve into a relationship with Andrew, plan and execute a move across the state, take my time figuring out a new city, all while testing out the whole freelance, working for myself thing.
Was I sitting on a pot of gold while doing this? No way. I had money saved when I started this journey and I’ve paid attention to every dollar spent since. As a result, at no point have I dropped into a deep, dark, debt situation, or any debt at all. On the contrary, I’ve been spending less and moving toward a more minimal way of living, and saying no to everything that doesn’t align with this decision. I see this not as a sacrifice, but a freeing choice.
On Doing What You Love
Along with this being the most monumental growth-filled season in my personal life, I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I do and don’t want for a career. (Let it be known I don’t like using the “c” word).
I’ve spent hours, days, weeks and months reflecting on what working for my worth looks like. Through these reflections, I’ve realized while I am someone who cherishes positive affirmations, I’m not someone who gains fulfillment from people clapping for me. Getting published here, or having my work featured there is a nice nod, sure, and should not be discounted as it allows me to connect with new audiences and raise my voice of issues that matter to me. But the art of having my name on something that is applauded or recognized isn’t what drives me. Neither is doing freelance work for a variety of entities I don’t have a personal relationship with. So then, what does drive me?
I’ve realized, I am someone who cares much more deeply about using my words to connect, to challenge, to help, to heal, or to simply shed light, than I do about writing itself.
As of the middle of June, I transitioned from contributing to St. Augustine Social Magazine to working full-time in an editor capacity. I’ve always loved magazines—the smell, the tangibility, the shelf-life that lasts for more than a day, or a week, the visuals, all the many pieces and parts that go into this coveted print realm, and of course, the stories. This position is one that came about organically. And it’s a position that aligns seamlessly with my desire to be more fully involved in this city I call home, by connecting and giving back through telling the stories of those who live and breathe life into this community. It allows me to work closely with and for a family-owned company run by individuals who genuinely care about what they’re creating and sharing with the community (number one selling point for me).
While returning to a full-time work schedule has dramatically altered my day to day routine, and has been a total shock to my system, it’s a welcomed shift for me. It’s a shift that has worn me out here at the beginning, but it’s one that is gradually offering new, welcomed momentum that will aid me not only in this position, but well beyond, and in all of my active, creative, food-based endeavors and experiences. I believe it will offer new momentum for me to be my best self and push myself out of confines I’ve subconsciously created for myself here in St. Augustine.
On Being Yourself
A couple of weeks ago, I sat alongside area media for dinner at the Casa Monica Hotel’s new Costa Brava Restaurant. When everyone spotted the vegan dish the chef happily whipped up just for me, the subject of my decision to be vegan, and the positive effects of plant-based eating came up. This quickly turned into a conversation on accessibility of farm fresh food locally, and the lack of sustainability within the meat and dairy industries.
A lo-fi snapshot of the meal, complete with tomato water, via Instagram @sarahkmccartan
Having something so close to your heart and rooted in your being come up naturally in the context of community is a beautiful thing. It reminded me no matter where I go, and what mix of people I’m a part of at any given moment in time, I can, and should always be, who I am at heart—a Vegan on the Run.
The same goes for you in whatever path you’re choosing to take in this season of life. It’s such a simple concept, but it’s something I firmly believe gets easily lost along the way. In the end, doing what you love doesn’t define you nearly as much as approaching whatever it is you are doing, with a humble, driven heart.
Whatever you choose to do, I recommend being your honest self while doing it, or not doing it at all.