“This year, I resolve to never make a resolution again.” I was probably about 10 years old when I heard my grandmother say those words. And to me, it was the best idea in the world! I hated those papers we had to write in grade school, about what our resolution would be for the coming year. I always felt like I was lying. ‘This year, I resolve to give up chocolate,’ I would write, as if that would be hard, I almost never ate chocolate as a child. When I first learned the word candy, my parents told me that raw cauliflower was candy. Not only did I believe them…I liked it. Cauliflower candy. Anyway, the point is, I almost always claimed I would give up something I was never into anyway, so my grandmothers theory always made sense to me. And so, in 7th grade (once I could pretty much stop writing those damn papers) I too resolved to shun resolutions.
This year, however, I think it’s time for me to re-institute the resolution. I’ve been thinking, lately, about how funny life is, and how it morphs and changes, and you morph and change with it. How there are so many different paths to take, and how every moment, every experience can add to or completely change everything you expected life to be.
Starting college in 2001, right after high school, I knew I wanted to be an interior designer. I went to the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), but came home shortly after (September 13th to be exact) for personal reasons. When I returned to MICA the following year, the Interior Design Department had undergone some changes, and I would be in the beginning year of the Environmental Design Department instead. Environmental Design, at MICA, meant the design of anything in your environment. We were offered a variety of classes which focused on an array of fields from interior design, to architecture, urban planning, archeological studies, woodworking classes…the list goes on. There was an emphasis on the conceptual aspects of design over the technical. I personally took classes all over the board, but concentrated mostly on furniture and classes that allowed me to use my hands (woodworking, ancient joinery, fibers, glassblowing, etc). During the summer of my junior year, I spent 8 weeks in Copenhagen, Denmark studying Scandinavian Furniture Design. Non-studio classes I took at MICA included Islamic Art History, African Art History, History of Material Culture, Environmental Science, Environmental Theory, Urban Studies, and Cultural Anthropology.
Damany and I met in Baltimore. I guess I could never have known that day in the 7 Eleven on Calvert Street that almost seven years later, he would still be here (through thick and thin), a major part of my life and who I’ve become (though I might have seen a hint of it in his smile).
OFFICIAL, LLC. is a wood and metal fabrication shop, currently located in East Williamsburg Industrial Park. When I started at OFFICIAL, there was barely an office. There were piles of drawings and papers, shoe boxes full of receipts, a computer, and a desk. There were NO filing cabinets, NO telephone, NO fax machine, NO internet connection. I spent three years at OFFICIAL as the office manager/CAD tech. I dealt with Quickbooks, accounting, payroll, pricing jobs, putting together proposals, invoicing, and basic CAD drawings. We worked on furniture, storefronts, staircases and handrails, sculpture, etc. There were all kinds of projects, in a diverse selection of mediums, it was kind of a perfect fit for me at first, given my multi-faceted interests.
Towards the end of my first year in Brooklyn, my landlords began talking about selling their house. I personally loved the house, and with the help of my friend Erica, the wheels in my head began turning towards home ownership. While the home I was in made no sense as an investment, Erica and I began to look in the neighborhood, and closed on our 4 family home July 31, 2007. I was now a landlord.
Erica and I had met in Denmark, in the furniture design course. Both of us having studied design, and my employment in the shop, helped in our many construction and renovation projects around the house. And through many of these projects, especially the ones that went wrong, we learned more than we ever could have in school. With the help of our tenant, Megan Paska (Brooklyn Homesteader), we have made “Jewel Street Paradise” into something of a community. We’ve got a garden (with compost bin) out back where Megan and I keep chickens together. Meg’s also got 3 beehives on our roof now. It’s truly an enriching environment. My time thus far as a landlord has taught me responsibility levels I never could have imagined reaching pre-college.
In September of 2007, Damany and I took our first trip together. Spain, Morocco, and Gibraltar. It was an amazing experience, everything went wrong, and we loved every minute of it. It was on this trip that we bought the first of our collection of worldly goods, including our first carpet.
At some point in my years at the shop, I began to lose interest. I was getting frustrated with the sameness that every day brought. I started feeling like there was nothing more for me to learn, I was bored and over it.
While our trip to Morocco might have kick started things to come…our first trip to Turkey (in September 2008) gave the future a shot of adrenaline. While in Istanbul, we began to think, we can sell carpets. Mustafa, of Elegance Carpet, could see this desire in us. He shut down shop for six hours just to teach us about rugs. I could now visualize myself in this new and exciting field. There was so much to know, both historically and materially, about this art. Something I could never cease learning about. I now knew I wanted to be a rug dealer.
Shortly after arriving back at home, I contacted my teacher of Islamic Art History from MICA, Carol Bier, to see how I should start if I wanted to get into the rug business. She advised me to go to the MET to study their collections. When I arrived I found that the Islamic Arts section was closed for construction until 2011. I ended up at ABC Carpet and Home, just looking at their rugs. I was speaking to a woman who worked there, kind of picking her brain, when I said, “To be honest, this is what I want to do for a living”. To which her response was, “I’m looking for an intern, starting next week”.
In May of 2009, after interning with Vivian in the antique rug department at ABC for five months, I ended up in a sales position at Rahmanan Antique & Decorative Rugs. Less than 9 months after I said “this is what I want to do”, I was there. Somehow, during the worst economic collapse I’ve lived through, while others were losing their jobs left and right, I ended up in a position I loved.
What I love most about antique rugs, is that all of the many things I’ve studied can come together in this one field. Sure, I’m not the interior designer, but I work with them. Rugs are a part of interiors. They are an art form on their own. There is a history to them. There are different histories for rugs from different cultures. There are different construction and production methods. There are pieces that are one of a kind, like great paintings, and there are pieces who’s designs can be traced throughout history. So much to learn, such a melding of different topics, how could one ever get bored?
Damany and I have now started our own company, Rare Beautiful Things, which is in the first real stages of it’s growth. It’s been a slow process, but sometimes great things are slow blooming. RBT is born of the collections of items from our journeys, and in a way is completely integrated with our travels.
In the past few years, I’ve felt the pull of travel more and more. It’s what made me decide to start this blog. To travel, to interact, to learn, to collect…these are my goals now. It’s all I really want to do anymore.
2010 has been an eye-opener for sure. It’s been a rough year, and while there’s always things to be grateful for, it’s been one of those years that marks major changes. Through this year, I’ve struggled with some personal issues and minor depression. Because of these internal issues, my normal responsibility levels dropped. I felt as though I couldn’t handle it all, and let some of my go-getter attitude slip through the cracks. Throughout all of these feelings, I’ve still retained a sense that all of this is a learning process, and that even those bitter moments serve a purpose. It’s made me realize how much more I want out of this coming year.
This is where the resolution comes in. It’s clear to me that I really have everything I could ask for. I’m a successful landlord in a building full of amazing people, I’m doing well at my 9-5, in process of growing my own company, and working on the travel writing part. I’ve got a lot on my plate, and if any of it is going to move forward like I want it to, without me going insane, I’ve got to really really really organize myself.
The Resolution 2011: Schedule my life to bring about the best results for my productivity, happiness, and growth towards the future.
Before I can really schedule myself though…I’ll need to set goals…both long and short term, starting with the long. Setting the scale, I visualize where I want to be three years from now (visualization is always the key factor for me):
<<insert foggy daydream haze>>
I’m sitting in a hammock, in a beach bungalow somewhere on a Southeast Asian island adding images of some new collections to Rare Beautiful Things website. The last items sold so quickly, I’m astonished at how much the company has grown over the past 2 years. Damany and I are currently on a six month tour of Asia and Australia, thinking of extending our time away. The income I’m getting on various travel writing gigs is partially supporting our budget travel style now, and we can still collect goods as we go, sending them home to our main office to support continuous business. My own travel blog has helped to gain traffic for Rare Beautiful Things, and the two aspects of my life now feed off of each other as I had dreamed. We’ve been subletting our apartment in Brooklyn, and putting that money away into savings, as we are no longer dependent on that as our source for travel.
<<exit foggy daydream haze>>
Sounds great, right? Now how to get there? Over the next few posts I’ll be going in depth on the following short term goals, or challenges, which will bring me closer to the 3 year prize:
The Rare Beautiful Things Growth Challenge
The Self Challenge
Once I’ve fully defined these challenges, I will create the schedule to make it all work. I know that these five aspects of my life will need to be woven comfortably and efficiently together for my dreams to materialize into a real future.
So, I’m ready 2011…Bring it!
*Authors note: no need to point out the possible lack of internet connection on a beach in Southeast Asia…it’s a daydream people.