This past Monday I returned from a week-long trip out west. I took a large chunk of that day to write and reflect since it was August 1st. It might sound like just a regular day to you, but for me August 1st marks a huge turning point in my life.
Two years ago on that day, I my lost my apartment and just about everything I owned to a terrible building fire. It was by far the most difficult period of my life. But somehow one of my sketches came as a sign when I needed it most.
Inside my melted scanner was this piece, "Optimist", completely undamaged! Finding that sketch transported me out of that moment of despair and back to the time I had spent doing what I love. I won't go into the full details of that day, but if you're curious, you can read the full writeup here.
What I've learned since that day
Three main things:
1. I learned to focus on collecting experiences and emotions over material things.
2. I learned the importance of enjoying the current moment, especially with family and close friends. (Tomorrow isn't promised.)
3. And lastly, I learned to always aim for gratitude instead of cynicism and self-pity.
To be honest, I still think about the fire every day and how lucky I am to have made it out alive, barely injured, to have my close friends and family who helped lift me back up. My brother and a friend of mine even made an online fundraiser that made a huge difference when it came to my cat Pocket's medical bills and replacing basic things.
I often think about others who go through traumatic experiences all the time, but who might not have a loving, caring support group around them. This is exactly what drove me to share my story launch the Optimist project along with my online store.
The first product I sold was the Optimist letterpress print. (I made tons of mistakes since it was my first time selling products.) All in all we ended up raising $732 that was donated across multiple online fundraising campaigns for disaster survivors. If you were one of those people who backed the project over the last year, I just want to say, THANK YOU! It meant so much to me and the families who were helped. Feels good to make a difference, right?
Optimist patches are now available!
To keep the project going, I just got a new stock of embroidered patches in that are perfect for your jacket or backpack. You can grab one for yourself them right here, and as always, all of the net profits will be donated right back to the cause.
The impact of sharing your story
Along with those products, I also released a video last year to share this message of gratitude and perseverance. Shortly after I began receiving messages and emails from strangers who had somehow found it. They shared tragic stories of failure and loss, betrayal and addiction and illness – really heavy stuff – pains that I may never be able to comprehend.
Some of these people had been beaten down over and over for years, and it made me feel like an imposter. Who was I to be sharing my struggles when I was able to bounce back in just a few months? This feeling is part of what keeps me from going full steam into building out Optimist it's own brand.
At first I didn't know what to do with all of these messages. Then it began to make sense... My story had somehow given people hope in their own situation and given them a safe space to connect. It even inspired a few people to break out of their shell and get back into making art!
I am sharing all of this with you this because I believe everyone has a story tell, but most are to afraid to be vulnerable or they just don't see the point.
Dig deep and share your story
I want to encourage you to dig deep and find your own "Optimist" story, no matter how dramatic or small. Not just for your own benefit, but because there are other people out there like you that need to hear it.
Enter the Optimist Giveaway
That being said, I still wanted to do something special since it is the anniversary week of the project. So I will be giving away the above 10.5" x 7.5" engraved brass plate to one person who is willing to write down their story and share it with me. You can email me by Friday, August 6th at Midnight (EST) and you will be entered to win (firstname.lastname@example.org). I'll pick a winner at random and announce the winner on Instagram this Saturday.
One last thing, and this one comes straight from my heart...
I want you to know that it's alright if you are still working through personal battles or struggles – I am too. Every time I put myself out there, every time I publish a new article or share a new lettering piece, I am uncomfortable. But you know what, it's all worth it because when you are present and you show up for the right reasons, you learn so much more about the life you want to live and who you want to become.
We are far from perfect but we can still use what we have to inspire others along the way.
Thanks again for all of the support. I look forward to evolving this project and taking you along for the ride. Feel free to hit me up with any ideas, questions or feedback.