What I Learned In 2018
The year has gone by in a blink of an eye.
I’d describe this year as self-discovery and elbow grease.
2017 definitely prepared me for what lied ahead this year. I don’t think I’d be able to successfully do what I accomplished so far without first having 2 breakdowns, healing, refocusing and doing whatever it took to make myself happy and that included getting my foot in the door of the interior design industry, one way or another.
Working for an eDesign company was not on my list of ways to do that, but when I started, I realized this could be like an internship for me.
The thing is, other than my education, I had no practical experience in interior design but even more specific, no experience selling to the public. I have experience in customer service and retail environments, but selling for commission was new territory for me. I almost lost my position at Havenly though they recognized my talent and my potential. It’s interesting how having your own business means less about design and more about selling and promoting. Having talent is important, obviously, but knowing how to be a good salesperson is right up there with it, maybe even a little (a lot) more important. Thankfully, I shifted gears, took the advice given from the head of design and made some changes.
Shortly after I was given my second chance to prove myself, my mom got sick in February. I came to visit her and made her some homemade soup. Things seemed to improve so, I went home the next day and made sure to call her to remind her to take the medicine she had been prescribed. Then, I didn’t hear from her for 24 hours and both of her phones were off and I had no idea what was going on. I drove down to NY with my husband and son straight after work to check in with her. My mom and I talked every day or every other day so this was very strange to not hear from her at least once and even then, she'd call me back if I left her a message.
I found her in her apartment pretty much knocking on death’s door. I got her dressed and we rushed her to the hospital. My husband left us at the hospital to take my son home to get some sleep so my son could go to school in the morning. Since she had been at the hospital only a few days ago, they sped her through the process. After hours of crying and confusion and repeating what little information I knew about her health to the different doctors she had assigned to her, I found out about 12 hours later that my mom had diabetes. One of the doctors told me she was close to a going into a diabetic coma with a dangerously high blood sugar level.
This whole experience caused a whirlwind of emotions. I was literally on auto-pilot for a week straight as I stayed with her in the hospital for almost 48 hours straight. Once she was moved to a room from the emergency department, I was comfortable leaving and going home to shower and get some sleep. I came back to be with her the next day, bright and early since I had to stop by her apartment to get her some clothes. The scene at her apartment was eerie as I gathered clothes for her... I couldn’t get the images to stop playing over and over of the state I found her in...
I experienced anxiety attacks, feelings that were more intense than I ever experienced.
After about a month, the anxiety calmed and I was about to breathe again as my mom was able to get back to work and I got back into the swing of things at home and work.
I’m not sure, but this moment in my life may be the moment that made me realize that life waits for no one. It was the worst day of my life thus far, but now on the other side of it, I can see more clearly. She got better health-wise, I healed and started to catch-up with life around me. Unfortunately, in a span of two months, there were other events involved as this took place that really threw me out of loop and forced me to rid of old baggage that I could no longer carry in order to reach the next level in life, but that is where my journal came in handy. I sought help from a social worker when I had my annual checkup at the doctor. I wasn’t sure if I needed therapy or not. I was open to trying though and I’m glad I did. I think just being able to bounce off my thoughts and feelings to someone who isn’t biased was the most helpful.
Honestly, April, May and June, all passed in a blur. July and August would have, too if I had no plans other than to go to work.
I let go of deadweight in April. It was literally a big part of what may have held me back all this time. I felt free already though I was also numb. It was finally off my chest and out of the deep parts of my mind. From there, I rang in my husband’s birthday then my birthday in May followed by our 6-year anniversary of being in a relationship (we weren't married yet at this point of the year).
We moved to a new place right at the beginning of June which was also a very busy time for me because I took on so many projects the last week of May into the first weeks of June. I was beyond exhausted, but that was one of my highest paying months with Havenly so, I felt accomplished.
With so much that happened so quickly, I just knew that nagging feeling I kept feeling had to be for a reason. I dreamed of it, thought about it obsessively. That's when I went for it... I took the leap.
On June 19th, also known as Juneteenth, my business, Sheyna James Interiors was born!
I was so afraid and so nervous, but my excitement and sense of fulfillment trumped those feelings. You may wonder why I was afraid and the answer is I was and still kind of am afraid of failing, making big mistakes. I know it's a necessary thing in life, but it doesn't make it easier to endure. I'm becoming more accepting of it, but I want so badly for my business to be successful that I'm determined to not stop until it is and THAT is scary.
The rest of June and beginning of July was spent getting settled into our new home and at the end of July, I was off to Atlanta for three days for the Black Interior Designer's Conference (I did a blog post about my experience there which you can read here). I'd never been to ATL so that was an experience in itself. Finally, I was surrounded by likeminded people who were starting out just like me or who have been in business for some time. I'm so glad I attended.
Right after ATL, my husband and I took a trip down to Washington DC for a much needed weekend getaway. While there, we walked for 5 hours straight while touring the monuments, dined at Kith & Kin (definitely recommend it!) and enjoyed time together at the Wharf.
Later on in the month, I was invited by one of my eDesign clients to visit her home where she pretty much brought everything I sourced for four rooms in her home. It was so great to not only meet my client in person along with her family, but I was able to see my designs in person. At that moment, I knew even more that this is what I wanted to do for a career.
(you can see the rest of the project here)
As of October, I was starting to really feel the strain of working full-time and having a side-hustle that was almost full-time as well since I was taking on about 8+ clients a month. I enjoyed working with my clients, but I knew I couldn't give them the best experience when I wasn't at my best. I decided to stay until at least the new year since the holidays were right around the corner.
On October 25th, I married my best friend. We wanted to have a bigger, more extravagant wedding, but we decided the only thing stopping us from being married was really money. So, we got married at City Hall instead with our immediate family in attendance. Honestly, it really was amazing... I wouldn't have wanted it any other way because we all got to enjoy each other's company. Had we had a bigger wedding, there wouldn't be enough time to really talk and laugh with our guests.
Speaking of guests, we hosted out very first Thanksgiving this year in our new home! Good food, good drinks and even better laughs.
Also, at the end of November, I decided it was time to send my resignation letter to Havenly. I had already finished up my clients before the holiday but I wanted to make sure I was available for them if they had questions. My last day working as an eDesigner for Havenly was December 13.
To close the year up, I was pretty social in December. I'm proud of myself. I met with other women interior designers in NYC via MWiiD who are on a similar path as I am, just starting out in the interior design industry. Many of them have changed career paths and others went to school and had experience working with another company.
Then, I attended the "Breaking The Mold" panel at NYSID hosted by the Black Interior Designers Conference featuring five talented Black interior designers from the NYC area who discussed their journey into interior design and how they feel is the best way to "break the mold" of the norms of the interior design industry as Black designers. At this event, I was able to learn and be inspired by the panel and connect with designers I've talked to and follow on social media.
Overall, this year has been a huge test of endurance and how-much-do-you-want-it. I look back at my vision board for 2018 and I can say now, on the last day of the year, I was able to accomplish a lot, but I have so much more to do and figure out.
My word for 2018 was "opportunities" and I had plenty!
For 2019, my word and focus will be "consistency".
Now that I have been able to dip my toe into the waters of the interior design industry, I need to laser focused and organized for the new opportunities that will come my way. I feel pretty good about 2019 because I have made it through a few dark times.
Thank you so much for reading and I wish you a safe and prosperous new year!
See you next year!