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.


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!

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70 Responses to sink or swim: the one where i flee the cubicle.

  1. Kyla Roma says:

    Oh my gosh, Ashlee! This is such amazing news- I can’t wait to hear all about your transition! 🙂

  2. Janna Haynes says:

    Amazing! You are so incredibly brave I can’t believe it. So much luck in your future endeavors, I am guessing you’ll be just fine. I, for one, am glad to know you’ll be continuing to bless us with your words. I soak them up, appreciate everything you say and hope this blog breathes life into your creativity, not burden.

  3. Kelly says:

    Oh Ashlee. I’m soooooooo excited for you! If I was still in Sac-o-potatoes, I would swing by with a bottle of champagne 😉 and some yogurtagogo and jump up and down with you. Yay for change and for the courage to go for the things we want. I’m so proud of you and can’t wait to see where your journey takes you. Congrats!

    much love,

    Kelly´s last blog post ..The woman at Ninfa’s

  4. Allison says:

    Wow. It is like you are me. I just reread the middle part like 10 times (from: “2011 will forever go down in history as the year I had my first real ah-ha moment” to “I was still contributing forty hours a week to someone else’s dream.” – except sub in 65 for 40… damn law firms). Exactly. The. Same. I’m doing it too. 6 weeks behind you, and not precisely the same day-to-day. But on December 15 I’m joining you on your adventure. Just, it will be my adventure. I’m SO excited for you. I’m so excited to follow along – through the ups and the downs. But even the downs will be all yours. Yay!

    Tangentially: It’s a long weekend here in Canada this weekend and I got given a hard time for having to leave at 2pm this afternoon to catch a flight to visit family. “What is this” demanded my boss. “Leaving early for your birthday and for the long weekend in one week”. On my birthday I was in the office from 7:45am – 6pm. Just made it all the more clear that it’s time to go.

  5. Paulette Hawes says:

    Congratulations on pursuing your dream!!

    We are so proud of you and can’t wait for your online store to open.

  6. Olivia says:

    fabulous news! congratulations on your ah-ha moment and the many adventures to come!
    Olivia´s last blog post ..done. finished. finito!

  7. Lesley says:

    Congrats, friend!
    Lesley´s last blog post ..Apple, I thank you.

  8. SushiMama says:

    Whoo hoo! Congrats on making the leap!
    SushiMama´s last blog post ..What should I be reading?

  9. Ana F. says:

    Good for you! It takes courage for a decision like that and it truly inspires me as I am going through the same kind of professional moment.

    Good luck! I’m sure you’ll do great in this new phase of your life!
    Ana F.´s last blog post ..The clock has been ticking. And it’s loud.

  10. Sarah Maren says:

    Ashlee! I am SO excited for you!!! Only great things will come from this. When I let the day job go and committed myself to my art everything went BANANAS. I have no doubt that will happen for you as well. You are a STAR! Congrats on the leap!

  11. ashleyTIA says:

    Ash!! So proud of you. I know you are going to do great things. :))
    ashleyTIA´s last blog post ..The one with all the books.

  12. Holly says:

    This is awesome, Ashlee! I love hearing people follow their dreams & work for what makes them happy. I wish you all the luck in the world on your new adventures 🙂

  13. Becky says:

    This is amazing and it is brave and it is beautiful. And you have my FULL backing.
    Becky´s last blog post, apple.

  14. Briel K. says:

    That’s awesome! Good luck with your transition. I look forward to reading about it.

  15. YAY, so these are the new changes you’re making professionally! Congratulations, Ashlee. Good luck and wishing you the very best!
    Laura Marcella´s last blog post ..What is the Average Age of a First-Time Novelist?

  16. Oh My Gadd!

    You are at the right time and place for this. The typical 9-5 job is available to everyone, you are not everyone, you are unique so go for it. Some people never do what it is they were born to do, they die unhappy and unfulfilled, that won’t be you. Be happy, you are a delight and I adore you.

  17. CONGRATS, Ash! This is incredible news! You’re going to have so much fun with your new adventure! Mad props for having the guts to strike out on your own! You’ve got what it takes–I can’t wait to see what happens next! Best, Sarah

  18. Raquel says:

    Hooray! I am so happy to find that you are putting your dreams first. You will do so well.



  19. Congratulations on taking the leap of faith to follow your dream! It is always worth it. Even if the paycheck never shows you that. (but hopefully it does!!) Glad I came across your blog! 🙂

  20. Ruth says:

    How exciting, Ashlee!! you are so awesome and inspiring. I hope I get to spend some time with you when you are down in LA for Laur’s bday weekend.
    Ruth´s last blog post ..bon iver.

  21. Garrett says:

    You will do amazing! Congrats on this big leap and having the courage to do it!

  22. Ashlee! I am beyond proud of you. The best things in life are typically the result of a scary decision. Congrats to you for being a risk taker! And a little quote for ya: “A ship is safe in the harbor, but that’s not what ships are made for.” ~ William Shedd

  23. Erica says:

    This is amazing news! I’m so excited for you! I’ve been struggling with this a lot lately and hearing your story and your leap of faith in pursuing your dreams is inspiring. I hope one day to make the same leap 🙂
    Erica´s last blog post ..rockstar love.

  24. Rashell Choo says:

    Congratulations!!! I’m so proud of you!!!
    Rashell Choo´s last blog post ..Happy Anniversary And A Trip Down Memory Lane….

  25. Laura Good says:

    Ashlee–I am really excited for you! You are an amazing photographer and writer (among so many other amazings as well!) I’ll be following your journey out of both curiosity and a desire to support your dreams.

  26. No doubt in my mind that you will succeed!! Congrats on your leap of faith! You have a whole army of friends and colleagues backing you no matter what you do, so trust yourself and we will all be here for you!

  27. Amanda says:

    You go girl! So excited for youI I admire your creativity and your braveness to do such a thing!. I wish you all the best. And I’ll tell you one thing for sure. I’ll be a customer! 😀 xoxo

  28. Congratulations! I know you are going to be fabulous and amazing!

  29. Laura says:

    Good for you! What an inspiration you are!
    And what courage!

    God bless!
    Laura´s last blog post ..Transformation

  30. Sarabell says:

    Congratulations, go Ashlee! So excited to see all that you accomplish!
    Sarabell´s last blog post ..Thankful Thursday

  31. Congrats and So excited for you and living your dream.
    Julie@my5monkeys´s last blog post ..Grab Bag Friday #1

  32. Congratulations! It’s so inspiring to watch you follow your dreams.
    Nicole Geurin, RD´s last blog post ..Q&A with the Dietitian: Low-Sodium Lunch and Snack Ideas

  33. Stephany says:

    So exciting! I’m proud of you for taking this leap to follow your passions and dreams. I can’t wait to see where you go from here! 🙂
    Stephany´s last blog post ..2011 Resolutions: October Recap

  34. Brittany Wesely says:

    Good for you, my friend! Best of luck in this new adventure.

  35. Brett says:

    proud of you in so many ways … i’ll keep my day job if it means getting to see you thrive.

    Happy wife = Happy hubs

  36. Chelle says:

    Good luck!!!
    Chelle´s last blog post ..dreaming of pumpkins…

  37. Irene says:

    Hey girl! That is absolutely awesome – congratulations on fighting for your dreams! I know what you mean about not recognizing yourself – I just took a similar leap of faith mixed with a lot of trepidation, in hopes that it’ll yield a more real me. So keep going for it…you’re not alone and your adoring blog readers are rooting for you! 🙂

  38. victoria says:

    hello 🙂 i was going to send you an email but i couldnt find your email address. i know this is random, but what photo editing software do you use? oh, and what kind of camera do you have?? i love your photographs:)!

  39. victoria says:

    and ps – i ♥ your hubs 🙂 hahaha

  40. kelly ann says:

    I am SO beyond happy for you. And so, so, so, so, SO proud. You are incredibly inspiring, my friend, and I just know that God has big things in store for you. I’m so glad I get to witness all of this… your future is very, very bright. <3 Lots of love, xo.
    kelly ann´s last blog post ..the waking sleep.

  41. iris ashley says:

    YES! I’m so happy for you! I know you’re going to do amazing things, especially with writing and photography! Excited!
    iris ashley´s last blog post ..get well soon

  42. Garricyn says:

    wonderful! wonderful! wonderful!! You are a blessing to our family and to all who meet you!! I can’t wait to see what does in your life!!

  43. Mara says:

    Oh my gosh Ashley! I am sooo excited for you! This is an amazing adventure and I know it will lead to amazing things!! Can’t wait to follow along and hear all about it 🙂
    Mara´s last blog post ..look book: cheetah cheetah pumpkin eatah

  44. christine says:

    congrats to you! this is an incredibly brave move and i wish you all of the success in the world! though with your stellar talents, i know success will happen. 🙂
    christine´s last blog post ..Guest Post: 4 Day-Trips from Bilbao by Liz of LizenEspañ

  45. jackie says:

    ahhhhh! i’m so excited for you 🙂 this seems like such an obvious option, but i understand having to go through a lot before you got here. good luck with everything 🙂 can’t wait to hear all about it.
    jackie´s last blog post school!

  46. Becky says:

    Congratulations! I’m so so excited for you!
    Becky´s last blog post ..Four

  47. Vanessa says:

    Congrats love! That is SO amazing!!!
    Vanessa´s last blog post ..Fall is here!

  48. Christine says:

    I AM SO EXCITED FOR YOU!!!! This is such an amazing opportunity for you and I have no doubt you are going to thrive. The bigger the risk, the bigger the reward–congratulations on making the leap 🙂
    Christine´s last blog post ..Postcard from Wellington waterfront

  49. diana says:

    Cheers for moving forward! I know whatever you do, you’ll be awesome at it!!

    (ps- i also have my BA in Communications. yay for an almost dead degree!)
    diana´s last blog post ..With These Hands

  50. Sheila says:

    Congratulations! I just love it when I read about posts like this. Good luck on your new adventure!
    Sheila´s last blog post ..CNA Certification

  51. SO excited for you! I love when people quit their jobs and follow their dreams. Putting your efforts towards your own endeavors is so much more rewarding.

    Yay you!
    Tami — Teacher Goes Back to School´s last blog post ..Things To Do While We’re Away

  52. So happy for you girl! I’m in the same boat! It’s been a huge blessing thus far!
    jennifer blair´s last blog post ..Birthday Weekend

  53. Michelle says:

    WOW! To even have the courage to do this says one thing, “You are amazing!” I wish you nothing but the best on your new adventure! Good luck!
    Michelle´s last blog post ..Sushi Making

  54. giedre says:

    That’s SO EXCITING! Nothing like grabbing life by the horns. 😀 I wish you the best and look forward to seeing all the awesome-ness unfold!
    giedre´s last blog post ..Shooting me

  55. Anna says:

    Congrats Ashlee! How exciting! You are an inspiration to me… 🙂
    Anna´s last blog post ..Happy Birthday Graham!

  56. Victoria C says:

    Congratulations! This is scary and brave and I’m sure it’ll pay off for you! I hope to one day find a career that makes my heart sing like yours! I wish you lots of luck. 🙂

  57. Jaclyn says:

    Congratulations Ashlee! You’ll do great! I can’t wait to hear about being self-employed!

  58. Tina Jett says:

    Good for you. I had my a-ha moment a few years back, though only implemented it two years ago. I also know two things to be true: a) I may still be figuring out how my puzzle pieces fit, but I know I can never go back, and 2) having a partner that supports you wholeheartedly makes all the difference in the world. Good luck and welcome to the club.

  59. Lana says:

    That is fabulous Ashlee! So proud of you for “swimming”. I needed this encouragement myself. Excited to see what the future holds for you! =)

  60. Caroline says:

    I’m so excited for you!! I admire you so much for realizing you weren’t happy and making a change. I only just graduated from college in May and I already have this feeling the office job isn’t going to be for me. I would loove to be a photographer and/or writer, or something else that uses more of my creative side!
    Caroline´s last blog post ..Chicago Marathon 2011

  61. suzy says:

    yay ashlee!!!! very happy for you. 😀
    suzy´s last blog post ..{online}

  62. Alli Fuller says:

    Congrats my friend! I couldn’t be more excited and happy for you. It’s such a great time in your life and the fact that you have a supportive network will help you through it all. We all love and support you! Go get em Gadd!

  63. Lauren says:

    Congratulations on taking the leap. This is wonderful!
    Lauren´s last blog post ..Writing a Book is Scary

  64. Dani says:

    So excited for you friend!
    Dani´s last blog post ..Learn to Use a Semicolon

  65. Yenifer says:

    Best of luck to you. I find myself is that exact same place. And as a photography lover, I want nothing more than for my career to involve my love for the art!

    Here’s to following your dreams!!!

    Yenifer´s last blog post ..Red Bottom Shoes….Worth it?

  66. Monica says:

    So Happy for you! I am sure it will be a beautiful adventure. 🙂
    Monica´s last blog post ..Occupied.

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