It’s been a few months since I last shared a life update, and it was a pretty crazy one full of lots of big changes. 2019 has been one wild ride so far! I wanted to check back in a few months later with a less dramatic post as we slowly settle into a new season!
Back in my last update in June, Aaron was early on in his recovery from an emergency appendectomy and we had just decided to close Botany. Closing down our company was a huge decision and has led to a completely different lifestyle for us. We were used to going, going, going and never having a chance to relax or really take care of ourselves. Aaron was working 80 - 100 hours a week at the café and I was splitting my time between roughly 70 hours on my business, 15 - 20 hours working at Botany, and trying to keep on top of chores and taking care of our pets, too. We were in survival mode and were just barely scraping by. The appendicitis honestly came as a relief in some ways because it effectively closed down Botany and released us from our hectic and unhealthy lifestyle.
So now, let’s move forward to life these days! Aaron started a Full Stack Development program at Lambda School three weeks ago and has been loving it! As a quick summary, Lambda takes a typical four-year computer programming degree and condenses it down into a nine-month program. Aaron is in class from 10am - 7pm Monday through Friday and spends a few hours each day reviewing and studying, as well. The program is notoriously intense and difficult, but is also renowned for the large amount of knowledge it crams into such a short period of time. The hire rate of students is very high, as well. The program has been an excellent fit for Aaron’s interests and learning style, and it’s been wonderful to see him working hard towards the future and even more wonderful seeing how much he has enjoyed his studies so far.
It was definitely a bit of an adjustment to transition from spending most of our time apart - Aaron at Botany and me at home alone with our rabbit - to spending 24/7 together again, just like it was an adjustment when Botany opened! We both especially struggled before Aaron’s program started because there was so little structure in our day. I am usually very self-motivated, but having my best friend around all the time definitely made it harder for me to focus on getting work done. Now that we have the routine of school to build our schedule around, we’ve both been much more productive again and we’re feeling pretty content with where we’re at. It’s been so amazing to have weekends to do things like get brunch, have coffee together, attend church regularly, and go on fun outings like the Minnesota State Fair and the Art Institute. We’ve been attending a new Anglican church and have already felt so welcomed and loved!
While Aaron is in school, I’m still plugging away at designing! After working so many hours over the past two years, I have experienced true burnout for the first time and have been trying to take things more slowly in order to recover and heal from that. I was burnt out on everything - work, chores, and life in general. I haven’t been able to muster the energy to cook or meal plan like I used to, and Aaron has taken on over 50% of the chores. But instead of allowing guilt to settle in I’m working on just accepting where I’m at and giving myself grace and time to recover. I was also really burnt out on client work, having taken on far more clients over the last few years than is healthy for my own personal threshold. I’ve been working on my 2020 Botanical Calendar over the summer and have been feeling so revitalized by having creative autonomy on these paintings. It’s been such a relief and a joy to start finding pleasure in my work again! I’m hopeful that I’ll continue to bounce back and also that my ability to take care of our little home and family will mend and return over the next few months, as well!
I believe that I thought that I was immune to feelings of burnout because I loved everything I was doing so much. Art is my passion and has been ever since I could hold a pencil; how could I possibly tire of creating daily for my job? I adore Aaron above all things, so how could taking care of him and our home ever possibly become a burden? I spent four years as a barista before working at Botany, so being behind bar again was really exciting, especially since we were running the shop ourselves. But despite the love I held for all of these things, I have learned my lesson that burnout is inevitable for anyone who does anything too much for too long.
One major thing that has helped me begin healing over these summer months is reading! As a child, I would take regular trips to the library and check out with more books than my mother or the librarians thought was wise. Every time, I finished them all and brought them back on time! Reading has always been a form of respite and escape for me. But I wasn’t able to pick up one single book for the entire time Botany was open, and I had completely forgotten the joy of getting lost deep in a set of pages, of staying up way too late because it’s impossible to put a book down, of being content to do nothing but devour a story all weekend long. I was inspired to read again by my dear friend who started a book Instagram account, and I am so glad that I did! I’ve dashed through six books in six weeks so far and am still feeling so, so eager to pick up each new tome when I finish the one I’m on! I also can’t quite believe that I’ve actually had time to read. I sometimes almost have to pinch myself because it feels too good to be true!
Blogging + outfit planning has been another avenue that’s really helped with my mental health. I’ve loved having something to spend time on and pursue that isn’t work! It’s just for fun and there is no pressure, no strings attached, no expectation. Mostly, I really enjoy putting together outfits from what I have and doing lots of research and thoughtful planning before making my purchases. Having an Instagram account where I regularly post my outfits has forced me into being much more creative with the pieces that I own. I used to wear the same few pieces on repeat week in and week out because the only person who saw me regularly was Aaron! Posting my outfits has helped me come up with lots of different ways to combine and wear my pieces so that I don’t feel redundant. I’ve also really loved blogging because it’s helped me flex my writing muscles again. I can’t stress enough how nice it’s been to have a focus that is completely unrelated from my work, which has helped me diversify, place less stock on the success of my business, and has reminded me that there is more to who I am than my work and the being artist behind Esther Clark Co.
Finally, I’ve been taking daily two-mile walks in order to truly soak up this short summer season and get my body moving after a day of designing. We live about a five-minute drive away from one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in St. Paul, so I usually head over there and walk for as long as I can. The gorgeous old homes, beautifully landscaped yards, plentiful flowers, peace and quiet, and sunshine all combine to make my evening walks the highlight of my day! I’ve so appreciated the time to unwind and just spend some time with my thoughts.
This summer has been really rough in some ways as we’ve been reeling from everything that happened over the past few months, but it’s been glorious in other ways, as well. I’m so sad to see the warm weather leaving us and to watch the long days slowly wane and fade into winter darkness, but I’m also really looking forward to crisp, misty fall mornings, golden sunshine filtering through ochre leaves, and picking apples and the last of the late summer fruits. The change of the seasons is a truly beautiful thing, both in nature and in life. Until next time!