This was my year.
I earned it. I manifested it. I worked hard for it. So why do I feel so empty?
While the pandemic raged in 2020, I was holed up in the basement of my parents’ Colorado home, safely tucked away from the outside world. Though I was devoid of human contact, it didn’t matter; I was busier than ever, in the throes of productivity and fighting for what I believed would be a better future.
During the day, I was head’s down, launching the beauty brand I co-founded, good light, while at night, I researched ancient textbooks, writing 300+ pages in a tight six month deadline. But that wasn’t all – 2020 saw me stretching myself paper thin, launching a fictitious beauty brand called Biden Beauty, donating my time to the Biden/Harris campaign, while simultaneously editing and leading meetings for this site, Very Good Light.
@goodlight.worldwhat a LEWK. 💙🍦😎👍 ##bidenbeauty ##bidenbeautychallenge♬ You Got It – Vedo
I worked until my nose bled and my under eyes turned blue. But I had no other choice but to move forward, I thought, my life’s reputation depended on achieving these goals. So did my small team who relied on me to bring my best ideas forward.
In my mind I believed that doing the work in 2020 meant that 2021 would be a much easier year. I was setting the stage for a better year – it’d be my year. After all, my debut, Pretty Boys, would launch, and so would good light, and everything would be smooth sailing from there.
How naive I was.
2021 came and was exhilarating as I saw good light finally being born and it felt like the past five years of launching Very Good Light culminated to that moment. At our first press event in March, there were hundred editors supporting me on a livestream and I recall breaking down in tears, a wave of emotions overcoming me: Humility, gratitude, and relief.
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In June, I was live on national television for a morning show called Good Morning America. My publicist had given me the news over email and when I received it I was elated. You mean, they would want me???? I asked.
After filming that segment, there was a rush of dopamine that hit my brain like a drug. This was it, this was why I’d worked so hard, for moments like these. The summer felt like a blur. I wasn’t able to process it as there were the many podcasts, the editorials, the interviews, then the book signings, the book club appearances, the dinners, right after with dopamine spiking, the saccharine rush feeding my ego.
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I packed my bags and flew to Los Angeles for meetings and to meet my team in New York City, the first time the good light team met outside of a computer screen.
There, I tried to play the part of the CEO I’d read about in magazines, planning the rest of 2021, how we’d activate into this retailer or that, what our marketing campaign would look like, the deliverables to our next product release. It was exhausting and I felt as if my acting was terrible, feeling as if I was inadequate and didn’t have the answers but masked it with confidence.
It all came crashing down this fall, which felt like whiplash as I was thrown back into reality. The book was over, the brand’s launch was complete, and I was forced to reckon with the uncomfortable truth that there was nothing left for me to look forward to.
Had the two years of intense work lead to this moment – one where I was back home, alone, and without the immense success I’d dreamed about?
In those weeks during high stress with pressure mounting on my back, I realized that working so diligently and doing the absolute most didn’t guarantee I’d one day wake up and everything would fall into place. If anything, it was clear what I was: another victim of capitalism. My humanity had been entangled in this false narrative that if I worked until I bled, I’d somehow be rewarded for it.
By the winter I woke up realizing there were no rewards left. There, on a November morning just before a meeting, I succumbed to an uninspired state of burn out so intense I felt as if my entire soul had been singed. For someone who accomplished so much in the past two years, why did I feel so dead inside? My mind was intact and was my body, but why did I feel as if my spirit was too busy to mourn my death?
The pandemic exacerbated this idea that we needed to be even more productive. In fact, a recent study here suggests that Americans worked longer hours during the pandemic. Working from home meant there were no excuses not to attend seventeen Zoom meetings a day. You push harder thinking that by doing so, you’re proving to others how vital you are to the business.
While setting goals and working hard to achieve them is healthy… at what cost? Was I happier? Was I more successful? Did I reach some point of enlightenment? And who was I trying to impress?
That same November as I stared at the ceiling, uninspired to get out of bed and late for my 8 a.m. meeting it came to me. While I was so busy searching to be validated, it was I who I was searching for. I had all the answers but I was too distracted by capitalism and its false rewards that I neglected who I was and the joy of life.
True happiness and joy begins and ends only when you realize that you are enough. You never needed to publish a book, or start a brand, or be recognized to be important. Because you are worthy, you are loved, you are necessary just as you are. I have since understood that life is not about chasing the next goal, rather, sometimes being still, understanding your own limits, listening to yourself and that your own truth is all that matters.
I am more than what I accomplish, and so are you.