a letter from the founder // goodbye cultureisland

it was two years ago that i stared out at a magnificent sky in iceland and realized i wanted more for myself. at age 25, i was at a crossroads, caught between the desire to live a fulfilling life, yet unsure how to actually live one. at that time, i thought that having my own apartment and securing a well-paying job at a distinguished company meant i had it all. and yet i felt like i had nothing. at that time, my lack of confidence was all-encompassing. i didn’t know what i stood for or who i was a person. so, i broke down.

for too long i struggled to understand my own creativity and where i fit into the world. on one hand, i was totally inspired by the work of others, but i finally wanted to create things myself. for whatever reason, i never found my chosen medium even though i made art my whole life and went to art school.

still i decided it was time to forge my own path. all i had to do was start somewhere. i was scared shitless and totally excited. finally, i was ready to become the person i wanted to be my entire life: someone who didn’t just dream up life plans, but instead, someone who made things happen for herself, everyday, and outside of her day job. it hasn’t been easy to dedicate myself to that kind of life but i haven’t looked back ever since.

in the beginning, getting started on a new path was tough. i had no idea where to begin and i had to make sacrifices. i cut back on my social life, on time with friends, and on dating. i also had to manage my finances better, and cut my spending on eating, drinking and clothing. managing the project with a full time job was a major challenge: i had to squeeze in my creative practice into a 40-hour work week. i spent every waking moment thinking about this project, and every early morning, lunch hour, weeknight, and weekend building this thing. i was crazy busy, but i was the happiest i had ever been.

the project itself was all over the place, but that was a good thing. i finally had the freedom to pursue my curiosities and whatever randomly interested me, with no restraints. i loved having the power to figure out where i wanted it to go. first, i started by interviewing inspiring people and captured our conversations on my website. i called these dialogues “small talks,” challenging myself to re-define that kind of informal, unimportant chatter we tend to avoid.

those conversations started as emails, then grew into phone calls, and later turned into studio visits, coffee meetings and more. i treasured time spent connecting with others, hearing about their journeys, plus sharing my own experiences. the more i spoke about my own creativity, the more confident i grew.

each dialogue was profound in its own way: an israeli designer shared how she translated the strife in her home country into the design of her handbags and accessories. moreover, two artists who had been divorced shared their vulnerability and art, which they used to re-define themselves and overcome something others deem a broken life. this even brought me clarity about my own parents’ divorce and helped me see that it was a positive thing.

my passion project became my very own school of life: every person i interviewed taught me invaluable lessons about being vulnerable and open with the world, as well as how to use art to overcome dark times and rebuild oneself. each had a dedication to their craft that fascinated and inspired me to push forward on my own journey. many of those people became my friends and some, even became my collaborators. supporting their work, gave me a new network of people who supported and believed in mine.

then, through orchestrating events, i brought to life unique concepts by working with artists across disciplines and people from all industries. i realized that being a curator and a collaborator allowed me to touch diverse mediums without having to be skilled at them myself. furthermore, i raised money and awareness for various causes i believed in, and finally felt like i was doing some good for the world. in a way i felt like the conductor of a symphony, stringing together so many different parts and giving others a platform to share their work and causes.

curating and producing events tested my strengths: i learned how to pool my resources, that every person was a potential collaborative partner, and overcame my fear of reaching out to people i didn’t know to ask for what i wanted. overtime, hearing “no” became a good thing, and i began to see it as inspiration to keep going and find the yes’s and right people to work with. i became totally fearless in my creative pursuits and was shocked to find that people latched onto that. old friends and new people from all walks of life came to my events, and in turn, became friends themselves (some even dated!). somehow, i found and forged a community in a city i once felt overwhelmed and alone in. i was finally thriving and living the life i wanted.

through it all, i documented thoughts, feelings and inspirations. i shared my learnings often, announcing that both the project and myself were a “work in progress." i started writing, pushed myself to do it every day, and worked tirelessly to get my work eventually published. overtime, i became better and skilled at it because i didn't stop writing, and i started believing in what i had to say.

even the way i viewed my own body and beauty changed. i stopped getting my hair dyed, let my un-even eyebrows grow out, and embraced my quirky sense of style. i started to respect myself with men too, and stopped wasting time on those who didn't treat me well. i learned to stick up for myself. i was delighted to find other people appreciated my openness and connected with my journey. it inspired me to keep putting my vulnerability out there.

finally, i quit a job i didn’t feel myself in. quitting was an empowering experience because i was candid and honest with my former employer that my heart just wasn’t in it the job, and that both of us deserved more. ultimately, i landed a job writing every day, surrounded by positive, passionate people who are supportive of my creative pursuits.

through the process of this two-year project, i came to know who i am, and i started to love that person. through learning to ask others questions, i learned how to engage anyone, and i began to ask myself questions too. this helped me figure out what i want out of life, and gave me the courage to turn things down that didn’t feel right. i felt more in check with reality and better connected to the world at large. and while my life had finally become more than my job, i brought my new identity outside of work to my professional life, and it too flourished.

finally, i felt intellectually challenged because i challenged myself to learn and grow every day. overtime, my relationships with family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, etc. improved drastically because i learned how to better connect with myself and them on a deeper level. i finally found my voice, and ultimately learned how to use it.

not only that, i realized that i am more than enough—today, i am proud to be a single, broke female who is still unsure of herself, yet embraces every step of the journey. finally, i feel immense self-acceptance, respect, and allowance. i now know how to be more patient with myself and how to take a step back and give myself love, care and attention.

the thing is, a few months ago i started to burn out and my interests began to shift. for awhile now, there have been ways i wanted to build this project further, but have had trouble making them happen on my own. this summer i was exhausted emotionally, mentally and physically from so much outputting. i was drowning. so, after 2 years, over 30 interviews and 20 events, i decided i deserved a break. quickly, i realized there were other ways to be “productive,” and that taking in experiences was also a beneficial way to spend my time. i loved not having any events coming up, or being chained to posts i needed to share on my blog. i was free to just live my life for the first time in two years!

for many reasons, the last few months have been a period of profound growth in all areas of my life. but it took me taking a step back from this project to realize something major: i no longer need this project to be me and lead the creatively fulfilling life i now love. the ways this project pushed me, are now innate to my being.

with that said, i will be putting this project on hold for the time being, with the hope that some day i can pick it back up with more resources. now that i know how to put myself out there, i am excited to take more time for myself, and be more thoughtful in the creative work i do. since making that decision, i have been turning down opportunities left and right, and finally saying “no” to things. and it feels f*cking fantastic.

i am eternally grateful to those who read my interviews, came to my events, and supported me in this endeavor. you were my collaborators too and equally played a role in this project. i couldn’t have come as far as i did without the artists who opened up to me and gave me a chance to work together. thank you all for being part of my journey!

i hope anyone who reads this can see themselves in my experience, and finally do that something they've always talked about but never had the courage to make happen. know that the hardest part is starting somewhere, and it gets easier as you go. know that you can do it, and you will if you put your mind to it.

moving forward, i will be taking these lifelong learnings, and re-focusing my efforts on my writing and other projects. i now wake up everyday, and lead an artful, meaningful life i am proud to call my own. it was with the help of this project that i finally became the fearless me i always wanted to be, the person i always was deep down inside. along the way, i discovered so many self-truths. you listened. you showed up. and i'll never forget that.

thank you for reading, supporting, and believing in me,

p.s. did i mention that i am just getting started?