The Art of Following Your Dreams

Success is a slippery goal. It can be just out of reach one moment and a world away the next. You rarely see it clearly until it’s in your grasp. Often, close inspection brings disillusion and you realize you want something else entirely. Then what? Do you hold on to the product of your hard work, even if it brings you no joy? Or do you let it go to pursue a new – and usually equally elusive – dream?

Three years ago, Peachtree City resident Jessica Healy found herself faced with this very dilemma. She had what many would consider an enviable life. She and her husband Mike both held prominent, well-paid positions at their southern California church. They had a wide circle of friends and a nice house. Still, they weren’t particularly happy. Their careers were no longer fulfilling and they missed their son and daughter, both of whom had recently moved to Georgia. Above all, their son was about to become a father and they hated the idea of living so far away from their first grandchild.

So after lots of thought, prayer, and consultation with their families, they pulled up stakes and relocated. The move brought them within miles of their kids and their new grandson, Haydon, but Jessica struggled on the work front. She’d spent most of her career teaching classes or developing curriculum for churches and spiritual centers, but her heart said it was time for a change. A highly artistic free spirit, she longed to make her living doing something that brought her joy – and allowed her to bring joy to others – while still leaving her plenty of time to spend with Haydon. She even knew what she wanted to do: write a book and start a textile design company.

But following those dreams would come with a price. A cross-country relocation is expensive and Mike had taken a major pay cut in the move. Writing is an uncertain profession and starting a business is never easy. Yet it just felt right. So Jessica found part-time work to get her through, buckled down to learn the craft of writing, and started building a collection of designs and samples for her business.  She researched textile printers, tried out filling and backer options, developed her logo, and started looking at distribution platforms.

Within a few months, she launched Once Upon Words and began selling to friends and through websites like Etsy. Her special niche is pillows, but she also creates wall hangings, hanging headboards, and more. Her designs are whimsical, magical, and inspirational, like the seeds of a dandelion floating in the wind, or a tree with book pages instead of leaves. Her zebra design is popular with kids. Blue skies and red umbrellas appear often.

The style and feel is unique, but what makes Jessica’s pieces truly special is that each design has a message worked into the pattern. This nifty little addition is at the heart of the way she lives her life and the reason she began designing in the first place.

“All of us hear so many negative words each and every day. People say we’re not good enough not pretty enough, not smart enough. They complain about the world. And it takes a lot of positive words to counteract all that negativity. Once Upon Words is about reminding yourself that you are awesome and celebrating bliss in everyday life,” she explains.

Even the product types are intentional. After all, people spend time sleeping every day. Why not put positive messages right on the pillows? Her words are certainly uplifting enough to brighten the shortest of snoozes.

“Your dreams pull you into the unknown you were created for,” reads one pillow. “You feel it every day. Fly above defeat, reach high and believe that all things are possible.”

“Turn the pages of your life each day and follow the adventure in front of you,” instructs another.

It’s been a long road with a long way yet to go, but the business is starting to pick up. A recent Kickstarter project helped fund an expansion and Jessica hopes to continue to build. She’s planning to grow her presence on Etsy and hopes to soon begin selling to designers and boutiques. She also finished her first book and is currently looking for an agent. Best of all, working for herself allows her to watch Haydon a few times a week.

Yet she’s the first one to admit that it hasn’t been easy. Finances are tight. Date nights are few and far between. And not everyone is supportive of her dreams. But she and Mike feel strongly that this is their path. Faith and family help get them through. Her advice for others standing at career crossroads?

“Consider the cost,” she advises. “Believing in yourself is a tough thing, especially when things don’t go the way you planned. There’s a lot of uncertainty. You don’t know what people are going to like or whether they’ll buy what you make or whether the business will work or what it’s even going to look like when you’re through. And there will be things you have to give up.

“You have to look inside your heart and ask yourself if your dream is big enough to get you through the scary times and the hard decisions. My dream is huge. And I’m going to make it happen.”


Maggie Coughlin

Maggie is an author, speaker, trainer, strategist, freelance writer, blogger and life coach. She's also a reader, life learner, hair flower obsessionist, dog schmuck, DIY enthusiast, Mensan, and dreamer. Maggie lives in Newnan with her sweet rescue pup, Jazzy.

July 19, 2012
July 20, 2012