Kind of mid year depth year check in

Yes, that’s up there with some of my least imaginative post titles ever! I guess it’s a sign of how busy I am with my other sites these days, that when I thought I’d pop over and check in, it took me half an hour of updates to get this one displaying properly…!

It’s the middle of July, and approaching a year since I left the day job and struck out on my own, and nearly seven months into my Depth Year, so I thought I’d have a really quick check in.

Except it’s gone midnight, and my finger joints hurt, so it might end up being quicker than planned and ironically not very in depth!

So let’s start off with that time I realised I’d never been that close to a squirrel in real life before:

Mainly I wanted to sneak in to say how much I enjoyed shooting Graduation for my old day job this year – it’s always been my favourite time of year on campus so getting to be in the thick of it every day was a joy, and reconnecting with old colleagues was fun too.

Though there were some very entertaining conversations – “you look really professional with all your gear there. What is it you do nowadays?” “Well, funny you should mention that… I’m a professional photographer!”

Bless them.

I’ve had some amazing clients this year too – SO excited to see them use their photos to grow their businesses & their dreams. More on that over on the brand blog!

I genuinely can’t believe this is my life, most days – though I never expected to have to do it without Dad here, this is for the most part the life I always dreamed of, and the work life I have plotted and schemed and worked towards for the last ten years.

I’m also the proud owner of a Sony a7iii and LOVING the shift to mirrorless – this both goes perfectly with and completely contravenes my depth year plans, as it lets me go further into my photography career, but obviously isn’t making the most of existing kit…! But in a weird way it is, as I sold all the stuff I wasn’t using and invested in a new body and a 135mm lens to complement my existing kit… and suddenly my work is shining even brighter. So I’m counting that as a major win. Shooting dual system is interesting too – I’ll probably start a little series about that over on carlawatkins.com as I’m intrigued by the similarities and differences.

Anxiety has been at an all time low for the last few months and I am crossing EVERYTHING that that stays the same. Confidence has been at an all time high for some time now and again, hoping that stays the same – there will always be ups and downs because creativity, but I’m feeling good for now.

There was Bothwell. Bothwell needs its own post as the first run in April was profoundly, permanently and unexpectedly life-altering for me.

There’s a grant application in the works and I’ve had two fantastic shoots with a wonderful friend, and several more in the works with people I love. Is there anything better than getting to work and play and create art with people you love?!

I’ve taken on a couple of mentoring clients which is exciting – for business systems, visibility, content & growth rather than specifically for photography, and I’m loving spending time on that side of the business.

Intriguingly, and very appropriately for a depth year review, I am LOVING creating new opportunities and avenues and products and things within a business, rather than constantly creating new businesses. This is another unexpected development, but one I’m very happy about.

Much to my surprise (and to no one else’s surprise at all), I am really enjoying networking and have joined a couple of groups – the ones that meet at 6am can fuck right off, but the friendly ones I’ve found which meet over lunch (very civilised) are lovely.

I’m experimenting with tattoos – temporary but longer term solutions, rather than real ones, because there still isn’t anything I want on my body for ever and always.

Morning pages have made a welcome return to my life, and the Artist’s Way continues to delight and astound me on a daily basis.

Luna and Clover just fill my days with love and purrs, and emergency snuggles when Luna runs in meowing, panicking that the cuddles have run out. I love these two little furry beings more than I ever expected I could – I genuinely don’t think I could love them more if I had given birth to them, and I am certainly keener on being their parent than I am on ever parenting a human.

Luna’s newest trick is to snooze in the doorway of my office, so that I can’t escape without giving her cuddles, biscuits or both! Clover is recovered from her ordeal last year, and is ruling the outdoors with a firm, fluffy paw – her current favourite snoozing spot is right in the middle of my flower bed.

Mumski and I are moving through our days as best we can – still grieving, still so sad under the surface that I try not to think about it because I can’t bear it. Dad makes his presence felt regularly, and this is a huge comfort to me, but I miss him so much I still don’t have the words for it. But I am very lucky to be their daughter, and I’m so grateful that Mum and I have each other. I don’t know what I’d do without her.

On that note, it’s now nearly 1am and I’m shooting in the morning, so bedtime for me. It’s nice to be back!

Thoughts on a Depth Year

At risk of being accused of bandwagon jumping, the lovely Annastasia recently sent me this article from Raptitude about a Depth Year.

As you’ll know if you’re a regular visitor, or a friend (or both!), I read a lot. Blogs, books, magazines, cereal packets – if I’m not creating, I’m always reading, and always digesting information, and yet this stood out.

Mermaid Kerenza Sapphire swimming at Haraki Beach, Rhodes | carlalouise.com
Not necessarily this kind of depth, although I do find a sense of calm & peace at about 3m underwater.

Deeper, not wider

The general concept is to go deeper, not wider. So making more of what you already have, revisiting half-finished or abandoned projects, trying not to buy more and do more and acquire more.

Just for a year. Just to see how it feels. It might become habit, or a way of life, or it might not.

At least, that’s what I took from it. And it was like a siren song to me, at this weird crossroads between my old life and (another) new life. I’m living my freelance, self employed dreams, and I have more freedom than I’ve ever had, and it is everything I dreamed of.

But it’s still early days, and while the businesses are doing ok, they’re not yet seriously established. In my book, that comes around the 5-7 year mark of the same business, and though I’ve had businesses and side hustles for nearly nine years, of course my hallmark is changing things up, even while the themes stay the same.

And under everything, still, is the utter despair of grief, and not really knowing what life looks like without Dad in it. It’ll be two years in March and I still don’t really know how to get my head around the loss of him.

Frustration with the culture of MORE

I’ve also been getting increasingly frustrated with social media, and the comparisonitis and more more MORE culture. The concept that you can only be happy if you buy certain stuff, do certain stuff and look a certain way. I know it’s changing, slowly and in corners of both the internet and real life, but it is exhausting.

Avon, of all places, body shamed cellulite in a recent advert, and frankly it felt like the last straw. I also spent a couple of weeks at Mum’s, with the cats, over Christmas, and as she has a TV and I don’t, I luxuriated in the novelty of watching TV while curled up with antibiotics, throat lozenges and a very obliging Luna & Clover.

Oh my god. The ADVERTS. They are constant, and loud (I swear the volume goes up of its own accord during ad breaks, to follow you to the loo or kitchen or whatever). For someone who has lived without a TV for more than four years, rarely goes to the cinema, doesn’t read newspapers except in dire emergencies and gave up typical women’s magazines a long time ago, the adverts are overwhelming.

What depth looks like to me

Depth. As a multipod my life is wiiiiide – I cover a lot of ground, love a lot of things and keep a lot of plates spinning. It’s how I thrive best.

Recently I’ve been feeling very contented with my quartet of businesses, plus dance and this blog. The combination finally feels right to me, and for the first time in a long time, I’m not feeling the pull to create a whole new venture. Instead I’m creating within my existing ventures and it feels bloody brilliant.

But a quick ten minutes with my journal and a cuppa (oh, who am I kidding, a Pepsi Max) yielded this list of things I could explore further this year:

Photography for clients – exploring new ways I can use my branding & web knowledge to create stunning shots for business owners & bloggers, year round, and helping women feel amazing about themselves in both their personal & their professional lives.

Photography for joy – fantasy/fine art work, landscapes & exploring, my existing personal projects, documenting the people close to me.

Posing at a Brooke Shaden workshop in 2015. I still haven’t finalised the images which came from this!

Studio lighting & flatlays (I’m in the process of launching a stock library and would love to develop this further – pop over to studio19stock.com for details). Having Studio 19 is a dream come true, but I haven’t really experimented with different lighting setups much – just used what I’m comfortable with to get amazing shots for my lovely clients. Experimentation is definitely on the cards!

Time with friends & family – whatsapp is a wonderful invention, but I found myself feeling very disconnected during December (not unusual over the madness of the festive period, plus I had whooping cough so felt generally wretched), so I want to spend more time in person or at least on Skype, with my full attention on my loved ones and vice versa.

Tarot, oracle & witchery – I’ve done some readings for myself and for friends recently which have been spot on, and having used the cards for a long time to prompt my inner thoughts & journalling, I’m getting to know them much better. I want to explore this side of my spirituality and I have about a million books connected to the subject!

Marking the seasons – sort of connected to the witchery really, I always say this is something I’d like to do, and then the seasons race past and I find it’s winter solstice again and I’ve failed to notice or mark the passing of the year.

Cooking from recipe books (and possibly freezer diving!) – I have a whole bookcase full of recipe books and a massive folder of ones I’ve found, not to mention my Pinterest board – so this year I would love to explore these in more depth and see if I can find some new favourites.

Sorting and printing photos – both physical and digital.

Journalling, my five year diary and my gratitude diary – they’re frequent habits but not daily yet. and my five year diary which started on my 25th birthday and finished the day before I turned 30 is a treasured possession, so having another one would be lovely.

Letter writing – I’m doing lots of this with Ink Drops (we have declared 2019 the Year of the Real Letter) and I’ve also found a new penpal through a Facebook group I’m part of.

wooden type at St Botolphs | carlalouise.com
Letterpress goodness in Colchester. I’m not ruling out letterpressing my own stationery!

Jewellery making – this is something I revisit every January to make my Wear Your Word bracelet, and I’d love to hone my skills & learn some new ones instead of taking up a whole new hobby.

Scrapbooking/vision boarding – apart from my yearly vision board, I cannot tell you how many half-started, unfinished scrapbooks are kicking around my office!

Roller skating – joyful movement is hugely important to me, and dusting off my skates has never yet failed to bring me happiness.

Cross stitch – I’m still battling with a very small cross stitch I bought eight years ago whe I left the library. It would feel SO GOOD to finish it, frame it and hang it up!

Ebaying, decluttering & the Queen Sweep.

Diving into my course library – I have bought (and done) so many courses over the years, I’d love to revisit some instead of buying new ones.

Unread books & rereading books – and this afternoon I paid off my library fine so I can use the library instead of buying books.

Finish decorating my house – this is of course time & money dependent, but I can certainly do bits and pieces, like putting up the art which has been propped against the fireplace for almost three years.

Burlesque & line dance – going deeper means learning and remembering and possibly performing.

Blogging – here I am!

BBQs – Dad would approve so much!

Self portraits, costumes & prop making – all of which make my heart sing, but I never seem to have time for. I will, however, be going to Bothwell School of Witchcraft as crew this year, so am hopeful this will bring together those long-suppressed bits of creativity.

For ten minutes, I thought that was quite an impressive list, and I have definitely missed some stuff. Aside from all the things I do (and it’s always been a long list), I’ve always been fond of the make do & mend concept, and will be actively looking to repair rather than replace things which break or go wrong.

Plus of course trying to buy less – I’m still allowing myself to buy what I need, but will try to keep tabs on my impulse purchases, and anything which uses too much single-use plastic. (Mermaid at heart, see!)

So I hereby declare 2019 my Depth Year.

Fancy joining me? Already done one? Leave me a comment or drop me an email, I’d love to hear your experiences & tips!

No place like home…

I’m home safely from a gorgeous two day branding shoot with Louise Rose Couture, who is also one of my very best friends in the world.

I LOVED the magic we created together and I adored having an excuse to spend time together before Christmas – we are both so busy we didn’t know if we’d manage it otherwise!

And I slept like an actual log at her house.

But after a long drive home, I opened my front door and Luna and Clover were waiting for me, tails quivering with happiness that I came home (I was literally gone for 28 hours and Mum visited, cuddled and fed them twice in that time, so it’s nice to know I’m loved!).

Aside from the specific happiness at both of them being back to normal after Clover’s stressful summer of hiding, I was filled with happiness to be home. There’s just no place like home, is there?

It’s vibrant and cluttered, gorgeous and messy, full of all the things I love and built with love by me and Mum and Dad.

It’s my sanctuary and I love it.

Not doing so well on the daily posts but this is probably the most I’ve posted in a month since about 2012.

On a separate note, Facebook informed me yesterday that in 2009, I did my very first craft fair.

Nine years of hoping and wishing, dreaming and scheming, planning and doing… and here I am, living the results of my dreams.

Apparently this time several years ago I also wrote to my 13 year old self. She definitely wouldn’t believe me if I told her, but I think she’d be proud. I know that Mum is and I’m sure that Dad is.

Happy Thanksgiving, American friends!

(Can you hashtag #streamofconsciousness?!)

Who ARE all those people?

I’ve been reading some threads from unhappy graduates on the Student Room forum this evening, and feeling all the feels. They are miserable in full time work and struggling to believe that this is what life looks like from 21 to retirement age.

It will be no surprise that I identify very strongly with this feeling, and have never been able to understand modern society’s obsession with full time work at particular hours, with absolutely zero regard for the preferences and differeng high/low energy times of different people.

I reached those threads via some idle Googling to find out who all these people are in town in the middle of a weekday morning…

Who are all those people?! | carlalouise.com

It has long irked me that while I was told that full time work was absolutely the only career option open to me, any time I left work during the day – for dentists or doctors, an early lunch for a trip to town or a late one to do some banking, town was always heaving with people.

Granted, the skillset I had developed was mainly suited to 9-5 (pffft 8.30-6) office work, and of course not everyone works those hours. But I was led to believe that a vast majority did, and so that is what I did for the first 12 years of my career.

And I remember walking through residential (rather than tourist) London and wondering what all these people were doing, and how they had the freedom & means to wander at leisure while I was trapped in a building whose windows didn’t even open for real air.

Later, at the library and at the university, town was always full. It was hard to get a parking space if you popped out at lunch time to buy a birthday gift, yet I was still being told that most people worked Monday to Friday, full time.

I remember being so immensely frustrated at my lack of freedom that I cried each time I did leave work for something and got stuck in traffic coming back.

Who the hell were all these people and why the hell was I still stuck in a job?!

Now, 17 years after my first job and nearly 13 since I entered full time work, I am one of those people.

I work for myself, I don’t currently have any income streams which require regular attendance of someplace else, and I make my own decisions about what my days look like – Monday to Sunday.

And you know what? I am still baffled as to who all those other people are. Of course some are parents of young children, some are retired, some will be having a day off, or will be shift workers.

And the working world has changed so much since I started university, when the internet was in its infancy.

But looking around me at the sheer variety and number of people who are not, in fact, locked in an office or a shop on an average weekday morning, I can’t help thinking that an entire generation were sold a pup on the career choice front.

I have always been one of the lucky ones – born to supportive parents who didn’t bat an eyelid when I changed full time jobs 17 times in the space of 9 years, desperately trying to find one that would fit. Now, working for myself, it feels like I have found the right fit at last – freedom, not financial wealth/empire building, is my highest priority.

I still don’t understand why we have created this culture of rigid work hours when we are more technologically advanced than any other time in human history, and when we should be reducing, not increasing, the hours we are expected to work so we can earn money to live.

But I am saddened to feel recognition of a societal truth in the unhappy postings of new full-timers, fresh out of uni and absolutely stunned that this is the way they are expected to live their life for ever after.

Wealth does not bring happiness. But even if wealth is what you seek, the 9-5 is unlikely to create it – so I can see why some of these graduates have already given up hope.

My own experience is that you can cram in some fulfilling life around a job you hate and a lengthy, shitty commute.

But my experience is also that those shining drops of light in an otherwise stressed & miserable existence will eventually wink out unless you can change your life to better accommodate the things which light you up.

And if you work full time for someone else, or at all for yourself, then doing the things you love will involve not doing other things if you want to stay sane and relatively physically healthy.

I have often wondered if there is some kind of cosmic scale which says we can balance certain things but not everything.

My own priorities are spending time with people I love, my kitties, working on my businesses and pursuing my various and ever changing hobbies (currently doll photography, metal stamping and roller skating).

This means that housework, life admin and extensive cooking slip down the list, or off it altogether, in order for me to stay sane and actually get some sleep each night. Similarly if my lovely Mum didn’t keep my garden under control, it’d be a wilderness garden!

I also stay single and childfree very much by choice, as this is the way I live my best life, and the way I’ve found which lets me fit in those things which are truly important to me (and which always disappear when I’m in a romantic relationship – but that’s another post entirely).

But no part of the way I live now was presented as an option when I was choosing my life and career path.

And even for my non-self-employed friends with partners, and in some cases children, I know they struggle to fit in everything life demands around full time work.

I work harder for myself than I ever have in a job, 9-5 or otherwise, but because most of my self employment is made up of the things I happily did as hobbies when I was working full time for someone else, it doesn’t feel onerous.

I know self employment is neither desirable nor possible for everyone who doesn’t fit into the old 9-5 mould. But I hope that the working world catches up to the fact that such rigid office hours are already outdated, and realises that more flexible working hours really are the way forward.

Who wouldn’t want their workforce to be happier, less frustrated, less stressed and more productive?

On that note, as it is late and this was originally going to be just a couple of lines and a link… Off to bed I go!!

Fourteen!

Today my blog turned 14 – fourteen whole years since I first tentatively wrote some words and sent them into cyberspace.

Words and pictures are how I process the world – I am a photographer and I am a writer, but creating and using them together is how I navigate life.

Multipod life is a glorious thing but does mean almost nothing lasts forever – and I am proud and pleased and happy (and weirdly not at all surprised) that I have kept one thing up for so long. My whole adult life 🙂

Today involved working and friends and hot chocolate and kittens – and my first booking for 2019!

Here’s a kitten the size of my camera…

August so far: time, grief, cats and heat

So here I am, just over a week into my new life, and as ever, my instinct is to write it all out… on the internet. Because a fourteen year habit is hard to break!

I have been bullet journalling and proper journalling, but nothing quite hits the spot like a blog post. Or a cheeseless pizza.

Pizza to celebrate the last day of work | carlalouise.com

 

Time is precious

And never more so than being able to sleep and wake on my own schedule. I realised a long time ago that, alongside loving the various challenges of being an entrepreneur, a massive part of my drive to work for myself is that I just don’t get on well with the standard times that society deems acceptable. For waking, for eating, for living, working and sleeping, I do everything later than I’m supposed to, and it drives everyone around me absolutely nuts.

And oh, it is BY FAR the most satisfying part of this new journey so far. I wake up (not even that late, but past the point at which I’ve always had to be at a day job desk) and I’m NOT TIRED – I’m raring to go. I don’t have to drag myself through a shower solely to wake up enough to pass as a functioning human, but instead can have an invigorating shower with my own essential oil mixes, I can dye or deep condition my hair, and I don’t nearly break my ankle trying to get out in a hurry so I’m not late for work.

It. Is. Bliss.

Grief can make me have misdirected meltdowns

I feel like this is probably something I should already know, or certainly should have learned in the past seventeen months. But apparently I am a stubborn one (who knew?!).

On Tuesday Mum and I went to the crematorium to finalise our choice of final resting place for Dad’s ashes. When we first visited, a helicopter flew over, and it felt absolutely like the right place. But actually choosing the niche where his ashes, and later on Mum’s, will stay for always was rather more emotionally exhausting than I’d anticipated.

So of course just before we went, I had a total panic about all things business and life, and only after I got home did I realise that all of that was simply grief, redirected somewhere which was easier to get a handle on.

I still can’t get my head around Dad not being here, it seems impossible that he’s never seen my studio, and I can’t believe that I’m doing this Massive Life Thing without him. It’s the weirdest experience. I miss him.

We had a sneaky BBQ which I think he’d rather like… I’m also eyeing up a pizza oven to go on it, which he’d definitely have liked.

Carla and Mum BBQing | carlalouise.com

Mum is of course around, and wonderfully supportive even through her own grief – I’ve no idea what we would have done without each other.

Studio 19

is my happy place. Almost exactly a year ago I went to Open Studios with Rhi, and it felt like such a good place to be. Though I could never have dreamed that just a year later I’d be established there and able to spend as much time as I want in my studio!

I hopped briefly in and out during the first whirlwind week, but today was the first time I got to actually go and work there – shooting new Ink Drops selections ready for tomorrow’s strategy/wrapping/Ink Drops pasta session with Anna. Outside Studio 19 | carlalouise.com

And it just felt so strongly like exactly where I was always meant to be, doing what I was always meant to be doing.

It’s a while since I’ve felt this contentment, and sense of rightness in what I’m doing – for much of the past few years, even while building my beloved businesses, I’ve battled anxiety, feelings of desperation & being trapped in a 9-5, and of course, latterly, grief.

So although grief is absolutely still part of me, I am also revelling in feeling like I’ve made the best possible decision. And I reckon Dad would approve of that.

Life with cats

Oh, my kitteny cats. They are never predictable, are they? Clover had a fright five or so weeks back and has been behaving very strangely ever since. The insane heat we’ve had didn’t help matters, as it was then hard to tell if she was refusing to go outside from fear, or just because it was too damn hot.

Clover snoozing in the cat tree | carlalouise.com

She had her final vet visit yesterday and was given a definite diagnosis of stress – so nothing medical underlying her behaviour, which is what I was fretting about. Poor little fluff had made it very obvious all was not well in her kitteny world, so I was worrying about what else might be happening under the surface.

Luna snoozing in a suitcase with one paw up on the side | carlalouise.com

Luna is as cheeky as ever, and I think all three of us are loving me being home more – I can pop in and out much more calmly than before, I love not having to rush out first thing in the morning every day, so I get mid-morning cuddles when I’m here, and apart from their breakfast being later, they certainly seem to be enjoying the extra attention!

Reading vs TV vs Netflix

I’ve realised (though it is more of an affirmation of something I’ve known a long time), I’m really not a film or TV person.

Giving up TV, when working full time, to have more time to work on my businesses, was easy. I haven’t had a TV licence now for I think four years, and I don’t miss it at all. I rarely even watch DVDs, and my TV set is gathering dust in my spare room.

I do go through small phases on Netflix, mainly of kids’ programmes – I worked my way through Ever After High, My Little Pony, H2O Just Add Water and Mako Mermaids, and am now most of the way through Spirit: Riding Free (which was maybe a less wise choice as while I love it, it’s about a girl and her Dad on the Wild West frontier and it makes me cry more often than an animated kids’ series probably should…).

But reading – I can’t give it up. I have temporarily switched back to reading things which are useful to one business or another, or to my self development – Women who run with the wolves, a proof copy of the new bullet journal book, and an incredible take on boudoir photography.

But I literally can’t exist without the written word – it’s part of my DNA, and without it I am sad and not quite whole. Much like I am when I don’t pick my camera up for too long, but without the attendant creative angst!

Friends are magical

And Mum, of course! I worried a little that I would lose some of my social circle, and by extension some of my social skills, by changing to a life where I am primarily on my own. I live alone, I work in my studio alone and as I’ve already established, my body clock isn’t very normal!

So far, I’ve been proved completely wrong. Which is good! I know I have worked exceptionally hard to make and maintain my friendships, but I am also exceptionally lucky to have the people I do in my life.

Teeny orangey frog | carlalouise.comthis little guy was by the studios today. he’s not representative of my friends, but he’s cute and I figured it was easier than trying to tag the many people who have been instrumental and wonderful lately <3

The studio was also definitely the right decision – with 30-odd artists also based there, there’s always someone to chat to as you refill the kettle, and it’s wonderful to get an insight into other people’s creative processes.

And I managed to sneak to see Julia and Odette before they move to Ireland – I have no idea when I will get over there, but I am SO excited for their new life too! In a nice ironic twist, I chose one of the hottest days of the year to go – we had a lovely actual day, but the train home was in rush hour (because Clovie needs her routine!), lacked air conditioning, was packed with people due to cancellations and was held for 40 minutes outside Colchester station. Which gave me a nice reminder (not that I needed one) of why I’d very much prefer never to work in London again for more than a day or two at a time!

Talking of temperatures…

The heatwave has been insane. I have been more floppy and lethargic than normal, the cats keep asking me to turn the heating down and I’ve been devising ever more creative ways to wear minimal clothing without getting arrested.

After the storm | carlalouise.comWhen we had the first downpour I ran out in it, I’ve never been so pleased to see rain in my life. To the right is my happy, soaked-to-the-skin self after around 90 seconds outdoors.

Today has been intermittently thundery with massive downpours and sun in between – only at half nine am I now starting to feel a little cold at the end of my fingers… but even that’s a novelty after the weeks we’ve had!

(to put that into perspective, it’s currently 18 degrees in my living room, as I type this at my bureau (because vintage + tech FTW!). For the last… six or seven weeks, it’s not dropped below 25 degrees downstairs at any point. Upstairs has been 29-32 constantly, even with windows open.)

And on that note, I shall go and find some photos to break up my ramblings, and then find some food and head for bed 🙂

P.S. Looking for the businesses I keep mentioning?

Photography with soul for your gorgeous creative business (plus a blog & podcast for multipods, side hustlers and solopreneurs everywhere) – carlawatkins.com

Delightful stationery, dropped through your letterbox – who doesn’t love new stationery? – inkdrops.co.uk

Be a mermaid at mermaiding.co.uk

Lifestyle & pet photography lives at carlawatkinsphotography.com

On the precipice of a(nother) new life

Five and a half years ago, I wrote about leaving London for a new kind of life. More time, more space, no commuting… apologies if the link won’t work, my redirects are misbehaving and it’s much too sunny a day to sit and fix code!

And now here I am on the precipice of another new life – the one I have sought since I was old enough to know what adult life looked like, the one I have worked towards every day of the last eight or nine years.

I handed my notice in last week and from 1st August this year, I will be fully self employed.

new life part 2 | carlalouise.com

I should probably be terrified. Instead I know with a deep certainty that this was the right time for this decision, that it is a million percent the right decision, and I am a strange mix of utterly calm and completely overexcited.

At work I have been described as “gleeful” as I’ve been imparting the news – of course there’s a sadness at leaving people behind, it’s always the people that make the job. Though hopefully I won’t lose too many of them with the change. And I am very good at what I do, and am proud of what I have achieved during my years at Essex.

But this… this freedom to pursue my own dreams, to live my own rhythm, to be answerable to nobody but myself… to fit my work around my enchantment & joy, so I am living my fullest & best life… it’s what I’ve craved since I knew how adulthood worked.

I have never understood the 9-5 life, and the way that the human race has created a rat race for themselves, wanting ever more money & power for no discernible reason. I’ve seen so many people sell their souls to their employers, and altogether too many people stretch to buy the home of their dreams, and then spend hardly any time in it, because they are stuck at work earning the money to pay for the home… which they never see. It is a conundrum I have tried and failed to get my head around.

And ultimately, this is what I have always wanted. A chance to give my all to my businesses and my life, instead of using the best of myself on a job and then only having the dregs of my energy for the things that are most important to me.

My time in “proper” jobs has taught me huge amounts about myself, who I am, how I work, what makes me happy, what makes me sad, what I will & won’t tolerate, and a million more small ways to know myself. In the last five years I’ve also discovered my love for the solo life, how to tackle my anxiety, what my natural waking & sleeping rhythm is (it’s nothing like what the general world expects which would explain a lot!), how to control most of my allergies, and I am learning how to live without Dad, though this is by far the hardest lesson.

I know it will involve some sacrifice, and I know it will involve harder work than it looks on the surface.

But as I stand on this precipice, I cannot wait for the end of July. and the leap into something I have loved from afar for so long. My quartet of businesses & my blog bring me joy on a deep level – I am already settling into giving them more of a boost, as they will no longer be side hustles, but the main part of my livelihood.

I am most looking forward to the freedom to design my days as I please, to wake & sleep as my body tells me, and not feeling so goddamn exhausted all the time. To be able to lose myself in creation and not have to put it aside before I am ready, because of a relentless five-day-a-week schedule created by someone else. And to changing other people’s lives & businesses, in small but significant ways, through my photography and my mermaid tails, and the connection of handwritten letters.

And on that note, I am off to sit in the garden with my beloved kitteny cats and enjoy the May sunshine!

2017 – the year I’m not reviewing

For the first time in the 13 year history of this blog, I’m not doing a roundup post – I can’t face it. Nice things have happened this year, but the balance is eclipsed by the loss of Dad.

I have just come home from a week with Mum (Luna & Clover came too) and it was wonderful to spend time with her but we both found the hole he has left behind him was even bigger over Christmas. He was always so damn competitive enthusiastic about the Christmas lights that I’m going to have to seriously up my game in his honour next year. My neighbours are going to love me…

On the plus side, we did find some wonderful photo memories of me & Mum & Dad during the Christmas break, which I plan to make into an album so they’re not just lurking on a hard drive somewhere.

Anyway, that’s why this isn’t a round up post this year. And technically, all the businesses are taking a break till 2nd January.

But old habits die hard and I’ve never yet spent a new year’s eve without writing on my beloved blog, so instead, have the best 18 photos from my mermaid life & business (because most of you won’t have a steady stream of mermaid goodness in your feeds!):

Mermaid Kerenza Sapphire best nine 2017 Mermaiding UK best nine 2017

Being a mermaid really wasn’t something I thought could make actually happen – yet now I get to make other people’s mermaid dreams come true as well as my own, and it fits beautifully alongside my photography, business photography and stationery ventures.

My current quartet of businesses feels meant to be, and I really think Dad would approve. Plus I can run them with Kitten Assistants Luna & Clover, who really do light up my life. On that note, I’m off to feed the kitten assistants and read a good book.

I hope 2018 is everything you want it to be and I’ll see you on the other side.

xoxo,
Carla

Into autumn

I can’t get my head around the fact that it’s October. October!

With the falling of the leaves and the crispness of the mornings, it couldn’t really be any other month – but I was still surprised to see leaves on the ground when I walked into work the other day.

So what does the start of autumn look like in my world?

Mixing up my routine

I have been craving routine (I know, who knew that was something I’d ever want?) but mainly at home. At the day job, my routine is set in stone and needed a shakeup.

So taking inspiration from my first ever online course (a Free Range Humans one), I am parking in a different place, taking a different route and making sure I have lunch with different people every day.

I’ve also been taking the laptop out and about to work in some of the cafes, bars & student areas when I can, and have organised coworking sessions with colleagues for stuff we’re collaborating on.

So far, so good.

Burlesquing in public

It has been a LONG time since I’ve danced out – probably not since Hogswatch, actually… so I was chuffed to bits to have the chance to dance out with fabulous friends Lynsey, Annastasia and Jenna in September. Photos courtesy of Lynsey’s other half Mike!

(Edit a couple of days later – I knew I was tired – I did the Fling in July this year! But though it was gorgeous, that’s probably a good example of exactly how much my brain is fuzzing things at the moment…)

Paper Dolls Burlesque new line up | carlalouise.com

Paper Dolls performing | carlalouise.com

Paper Dolls performing | carlalouise.com

It was a greyhound show, and I did come home wanting greyhounds again. But I think Luna & Clover would eat them…

Mermaiding. All the mermaiding.

September was the month I finally got my pod! Sam organised a Clacton meetup, and four of the twelve mermaids there were me and my gorgeous models/friends/burlesquers – Jenna, Lynsey & Fran were mermaiding for the first time before modelling for me, and we all loved it so much that we want to do it again, regularly 😀

Here’s a shot of all of us:

Clacton September mermaid meet | carlalouise.com

And here’s the Colchester pod: Clacton September mermaid meet - Colchester pod | carlalouise.com

And here’s a really quick edit of some of the video footage of the girls’ first swim!

Watch us & subscribe on YouTube (I know, that’s a Vimeo link, means no adverts on the site!)

And then it was time for our mermaid shoot at the start of this month. We had the Loft studio for three hours, and it was basically playtime – mermaid tails, crowns, corsets and sparkly lingerie galore.

We spent the night before at Fran’s house, decorating shells & tiaras, and it was so utterly lovely I can’t even tell you 🙂

at Fran's before mermaid shoot | carlalouise.com

mer crafting ahoy! | carlalouise.com

AND THEN THE SHOOT.

These girls. They are naturals in a tail and apparently also naturals as models too – some people totally freak out in a studio environment but they were PERFECT.

I’ve not finished the edit yet, but here is a teaser:

Fran Lynsey Jenna Mermaiding UK studio sneak peek | carlalouise.com

Other happenings

Autumn has also brought:

  • meeting my GORGEOUS new niece, Odette Carla (yes, Odette Carla <3) – if her mum & dad are ok with it, she’ll get a post all to herself!
  • a 20 year friendiversary celebration with Louise
  • going out for dessert for Maddy’s birthday
  • tarot discussions & inspiration
  • new friendships
  • old friendships
  • ridiculous kitten antics
  • and a whole load more stuff I can’t remember because I’m tired.

I still miss Dad a ridiculous amount, I’m still prone to crying at the drop of a hat, and Mum & I still have an insane amount of admin to do.

But keeping busy isn’t a bad thing, and doing things that make me feel like me is a good thing, and a random side effect that I had not anticipated is that for several weeks now, my anxiety has been much, much lower. I’ve had some dips & attacks, but it has been SO nice to feel a bit more like myself and not be living with constant irrational fear all the time.

So there’s my autumn. I’ll try and post proper roundups of each thing on the relevant blogs:

Oh, and with all this multipod goodness going on, I started a podcast about being one, especially being one in business. But I can’t share it yet, only one episode and it recorded quite quietly. It’s coming, though!

I hope your autumn brings you happiness <3

Fling 2017 – a return to my magical self

Burlesque Jems at the Fling Festival 2017 | Carla Watkins Photography for carlalouise.com

My first Fling festival was in 2011, and still stands out as one of the most magical experiences of my life.

My first performance there was with my troupe Paper Dolls Burlesque in 2013, running a tent, performing and getting people to dress up and do burlesque themed crafting.

It’s moved to Hylands now (same site as V festival), grown hugely and developed into a proper festival you can camp at, not just a one day extravaganza.

This year I performed with the Burlesque Jems, and was also their photographer for the day, capturing their performances and a few sneaky portraits too.

I made a last-minute mermaid bra so I could mermaid-burlesque (merlesque?!) and it was just a wonderful day – the most myself I’ve felt since before Dad went into hospital. It was amazing to merge two of my alter egos (Lotta Fiero and Kerenza Sapphire), brilliant to be back on stage, scary but eventually great to be out and about with my camera, and wonderfully indulgent to leave my worries and sadness behind and throw myself into festival life for a few hours.

Also, what better example of a multipod in action than photographing and performing all on the same day?

I had forgotten how much of a workout dancing and photography are though – my Sunday has been exceptionally gentle!

Here are a few of the photos – the rest will pop up over at Carla Watkins Photography and Burlesque Jems in the coming weeks.

June check in

Just checking in – I really miss blogging like I used to, as more of a journal of my life. Over the 12 and a half years I’ve been writing about my life on the internet, I’ve seen blogging change and evolve and shapeshift so many times.

I haven’t quite worked out where it is, as a medium, today – some people say it’s dead, some people say it’s stripped back to its bare bones, some sit in the middle.

But for me, and I’m sure I’ve talked about this here before, my blog is my online living room. It’s decorated how I like it, it’s filled with the things and conversations I want to have, and people can visit and leave as they like. No scheduling, no shoulds, no worrying.

It’s probably not a strategy to build an enormous following, but that was never the goal for this particular blog. And I have plenty of business spaces to do the strategic-yet-authentic thing (though if I’m honest, even my businesses don’t have much of a schedule for blogging & social. I prefer to be present and write when I have something to say).

So, things that have been going on in my (still grief-fuddled) world recently:

This amazing box to brighten up my day job desk

hogwarts broomstick repair kit box | carlalouise.com

Friendiversary dinners & plans – from a year to 20 years, eeek!

Choosing a yellow rose to plant in Dad’s memory

A series of commercial shoots coming up for the Burlesque Jems (and I’m going to be on TV dancing with them – eee!)

Packing for holiday and wondering how the hell I’m going to get my biggest fin, two weeks’ worth of clothes plus my camera, lenses & laptop into hand luggage only

Mermaid filming, and some secret squirrel plans for Mermaiding UK’s blog

Celebrating my Gran’s 88th birthday (we missed Dad being a BBQ maestro but it was really lovely to spend a whole day just chilling out with family)

Gran's 88th birthday | carlalouise.com

Gran's 88th birthday | carlalouise.com

Happy lunching with friends at work

I was on BBC radio talking about being a mermaid!

mermaid on the radio | carlalouise.com

Ink Drops packing, podcasts and plans

Moving Crafty Coffee to a Wednesday, to fit in with my new part time hours

Planning for a creative day with friends

Julia and Willoughby came to stay for the long weekend and I had my first foray into toddler soft play – was hilarious! At sixteen months he is gorgeous and much more interactive than newborn babies… but I had forgotten how much energy kids have!!

Going back to burlesque classes – I had missed it SO MUCH

Jenny & Matt’s wedding (and unicorn shoes, and sneaking in brunch with Lou & Paul!) It was also… illuminating… to meet up with people I’d not seen for nearly a decade. I’m very entertained by how some of them still think of me, and also by the passage of time in the case of the boys – the teenage boys I was friends with and loved so much – they are all now hurtling for middle age, yet haven’t changed personality-wise at all.

me with the blushing (erm...) bride Jenny | carlalouise.com

the gorgeous bride Jenny and groom Matt | carlalouise.com

And I’m sure all sorts of other stuff which has escaped my brain for now.

I can’t quite believe it’s June, but I’m trying to keep up my Happy Jar and gratitude journal practices, and making an effort to cook & eat well, as grief is quite exhausting enough without also trying to survive on junk food.

I’m still sadder than I knew was possible, but I am getting through each day, and spending as much time as I can with Mum and my family and my kittens and my friends – these things do make you realise the important things in life.

And finally, I’m hoping to spend a bit more quality time with my camera over the next couple of months, around all the admin we have to do, and also of course around work. I read somewhere that immersing yourself in things you love helps with anxiety, as you’re too absorbed in your creativity to worry unnecessarily about things. I think maybe this is a good experiment to try…

 

Finding home

For the longest time, I thought “home” was a place. Where you live, the house or flat or other dwelling that you return to.

During the days before my beloved Dad passed away, in a tiny hospital room in the acute cardiac unit, I realised that I was wrong.

Home is not just a place, it’s the people you love.

So that little room was home in the truest sense, Dad and Mum and I all together, helping each other through that most final of partings. I’ve never been anywhere more filled with love.

And home is, of course, not just your parents, children or partner.

It’s where you feel you belong. Whether that’s with a group of friends, or in a particular place, or a mixture of the two…

I’m amazingly lucky to have lots of people who feel like home, and several places too (not least my actual house).

Last weekend, I was with my best friends from uni, in a cottage on a lake in the Cotswolds. We went boating on the lake, and I was home, both with them and on the water.

Finding Home - kayaking in the Cotswolds | carlalouise.com

And I’m now much more aware of people, rather than just places, being home.

I also spotted lots of things Dad would love, which I’ve added to my Instagram hashtag… #thingsthatwouldmakedadsmile

Where is home for you? Who are the people who make you feel at home?