A few years before I had my first daughter, when I was just a baby-faced 23 year old, I moved to Portland determined to make it as a freelance writer. (And yes, I know most girls who dream of being a writer move to New York. But I'm a West Coast girl through and through so I needed to see if I could make it work here first.)
The idea of becoming a freelance writer scared me shitless -- it was unknown and lacked the stability and routine schedule I'd always had in my life. But the idea was also exciting because it offered me the creative freedom and independence I craved as a young woman who was ready to create a bold future for herself.
I arrived in Portland with my mattress, a suitcase filled with clothes, a box of kitchen supplies and a magazine journalism degree. I had a little experience doing grunt work as an editorial intern. But I lacked the clips that other writers could offer editors as evidence that they knew what they were doing.
Knowing that, I got right to work. I found a little studio apartment and started chasing leads. I emailed editors at local magazines and took my thin portfolio to their offices for meetings. I invited successful freelance writers to coffee to ask for their advice. I poured over books on freelance writing and gathered stacks of my dream publications so I could study them cover to cover. And, I worked as a barista and a nanny and a sales girl during the day so I could spend my evenings and every moment in between writing without worrying about paying my bills.
It took a few months of that grind to start getting some momentum and landing assignments. A few months more, and I was making enough to let my other jobs go, one by one. Then a few editors offered me regular columns. I got published in Sunset, Runner's World and, my ultimate goal, O, The Oprah Magazine. I worked as a food editor at two lifestyle publications. Then I wrote a cookbook and then co-authored another, which was nominated for the Grammy's of the food writing world.
Now I'm not telling you this story to brag. (If you know me at all, you know I get uncomfortable talking about my accomplishments.) I'm telling you this story because I know you have a story like this too, a story that that will remind you that you were once a novice. A story that will help you see yourself as someone who rises to meet challenges head on. A story that will take you back to that time when you learned new skills and found success because you were willing to work hard on your personal development.
I want you to go write that story down. Today. Because when you decide to make bold changes in your life -- personally or professionally -- you're going to come up against self-doubt. And I don't want you to get stuck there.
Instead I want you to dig deep, write down your story and use it as evidence whenever you catch yourself saying "I can't." I want you to use your story to help you see yourself in a different light and remember that you have been in this place before, this place where starting something new and asking more of yourself seems scary at best and impossible to achieve at worst.
And I want you to use that story to recognize that the person you were then still exists today. Because you are a strong, resourceful woman -- and you can do hard things to create the kind of life you want.
Ashley Gartland is a life coach and mentor for moms who want to live balanced lives that allow them to be present moms, find fulfillment outside of motherhood and practice great self care.