I can’t recall the first time I did my first “design” piece. It might have been a cheesy school flyer in college. I’ve been a designer of sorts for almost 20 years, either as a hobby or as a pro.

I do remember the first time I got a computer and went to town with those clip art programs. As a sociology major who dabbled in science classes as well, this was very likely the spark of my creative career. It started off as something fun. I was inquisitive and inspired by the possibilities of what can be created. I remember spending a summer on campus and deciding that I wanted to start my own magazine.

My Dell desktop computer gave me the confidence to believe that anything was possible. It was the eve of my super senior year so the thought of changing majors to something more aligned with my new-found interest was simply not an option.

As I look back on my life, the decision to be a web designer was born out of opportunity and not passion. While I was intrigued by ideas and creation, I saw web design as a chance to leverage a skill for services and/or profit. I bartered my skills as a designer in exchange for video production, publicity, strategic alliances and networking opportunities.

I was that atypical entrepreneur who oozed hustle at the expense of my own sanity. Over the years I got better and better, which made it that much more difficult to leave. I became known as the web person who knew design, SEO and digital marketing. The problem was these were reflective of my passions. I learned these skills because they were the means to an end.

As I moved towards shedding this skin, I quickly learned many things about myself and the concept of change. I am not only letting go of my designer persona, I am also letting go of people in my circle.

It was never just about quitting design work. For me it’s about quitting this version of who I used to be. That’s the thing about change. People are comfortable with who they perceive you to be because it helps fit their own narrative. Therefore, when you change, it warps their own comfort zone because you’ve put a kink in their reality. If they’re self-serving then they will resist your change. If they’re the ride-or-die type of peeps they’ll embrace this new version of you.

As I transition from web designer to my authentic self, I have unapologetic clarity for what needs to change with the status quo. Aside from the usual purging, I’ve taken stock of the patterns that I can’t seem to let go and learn from. In life there’s no coincidences and we continue to play the part that we feel the most comfortable with because it’s familiar, even when it’s toxic and destructive.

Now I embark on a new journey, as a brand consultant + editorial content strategist. Fancy title for a fancy vision. New ideas get me excited which is the energy I am looking to harness. As a web designer I lost touch with what I was originally passionate about, which was creating new things.

I’ve learned a lot in the 20 years of being this shell of who I could be. For now I’m adjusting to this new normal, a status quo I didn’t think was possible. Gone are the day where my vocabulary was full of words like “fake it til you make it” or “workaholic” or “sleep is for punks.”

Yes my tacky-preneur self used these mantras as a marker for success.

Now I honor a simpler and more soul-centric lifestyle, one that lives by authenticity and values sleeps.

It might not seem like much to some people but for someone who’s been living in the dark side, these small changes make the difference between life & death.