I was a speaker this year. I told my story. My story of 17 years of lost passion, failure, relationships, raising my daughter, ending my marriage, finding new love and a new love for life. I had never spoken on this scale before. I had every intention of rehearsing this thing to death so I knew exactly how long and what I was going to say when and where.
Yeah… That didn’t happen. The usual excuses. Busy with work, busy with life. I was adding new slides and editing my talk the night before all while freaking out that no one would care what I have to say. I was doing notes of bulleted lists just in case I lost my way during the talk I could find it again. Inside, I wanted to run out of the Springer Opera House and go hide. I was about to walk out in front of over 500 people and give a talk I had never even rehearsed in it’s entirety. I was about to walk out in front of over 500 people and let people 100% inside.
What did happen I could have never expected in my wildest dreams. When I walked out the love that radiated onto the stage nearly knocked me over. It took all that nervous energy away and replaced it with excitement. Looking around I saw family cheering me on, holding up banners and signs. Reaching up for high fives and fist bumps. Never in my life have I had more fun then running down the front of the stage making an instant physical connection with so much love.
Oh crap… I have to actually speak now.
So I did. I laid out my story. Sure I glazed over some parts and some parts could have used more details. I went far off script at times too. But that is where the magic happened. In the moment. Remembering feelings, scents, visuals. It all came back and then some. I just sat back and told my story as it was up until that moment and that day. I ran long. Way long. I have the utmost respect for Mike Jones and Creative South and the speakers and emcees and I meant no disrespect at all. I was humbled and honored to be on that stage but I had a story to tell and I may only get one chance (I hope not!) to do it and it needed to be told in it’s entirety. It would not have been my story if I skipped a few pages.
When I ended, when the last slide came up, this crowd, my family, some of these people I have never met all stood up and sent me on my way with so much love and emotion that I keep replaying the scene in my head as if I made the winning touchdown in the big game. It is a moment I will never forget and there are no words to say how you made me feel. And then you started coming up to me, sharing your stories, similar situations, some coming up to me in tears because we made a connection. What I had to say, my story, touched you in some way and I am grateful for that. I have gotten so many emails, Facebook messages, direct messages, contacts of every kind thanking me for inspiring them and finally deciding to move forward after they have been stuck in their own lives and dealing with their own dark times.
Thank you. Thank you for sharing a part of you with me. Thank you for connecting with me and reaching out. Thank you for letting me know that I am not the only one who made mistakes, failed more times than succeeded. You have inspired me to think bigger. I learned that we are a unique people and how we think and approach life, love and our profession is very different from most. And I think we sometimes keep that bad stuff bottled up and try to let it come out in our work or just keep mashing it down until there is no room left and we have nothing inside that feels good anymore. We have to stop doing that. We have to help each other, pull each other along and be there not just for the success but for the failures. Be the shoulder to cry on and the ear to bend.
I am responding to everyone. You will hear back from me. We will connect, communicate and share our stories. I cannot wait to learn from you. I am looking at creating something that addresses the ways I fell and how I got back up and how you can do the same in your lives. A safe place to talk and not feel judged. A place that gives you a launching pad into who you want to be. So many came to my rescue and how can I not take all that and give it back?
You all know my love for Creative South. I am one of it’s biggest evangelists. It set me on a path that changed my life in so many ways there are no numbers to count that high. But this year, 2015, I felt a seismic shift that have started the ripples that will grow larger and larger into something I wasn’t sure I ever thought about doing in my life. Many times we leave Creative South ready to shine our light but we do not know quite where to start or on what project, skill or path to begin our new journey. This year however I have such clarity and such focus that I know exactly what I want to do and how to get started and when you couple that with the boundless energy bursting out of me it is time to move now. Some of them may prove difficult to tackle. They may even put me temporarily in tough places. However, I have my eye on a big prize and I feel confident the right choices lay ahead. And for that, I thank you.
Shoutouts & Highlights
So many people who made a difference. I won’t remember everyone right off the bat but I will come back to update this as the fog clears and memories remain.
Kristen. My calm. My center. My love. Your support is everything to me. I would truly be lost without you. I am so excited to be your husband. Let’s go take on the world!
Creative South isn’t a design conference. It’s a family reunion. Even if it is your first time it is a family reunion. If you are willing to put yourself out there you will never be alone at Creative South. My first year was 2013. I went with Ashley Bennett, a fellow designer at New Media Campaigns. I say fellow designer because at that point that is what we were. Fellow designers. But after 8 hours in the car, not stepping outside ourselves there at all (we were chained at the hip almost 24/7) and then a LONG 10+ hours home due to weather we came home friends. So while we may not have given our all to Creative South 2013 I have no regrets. For out of that first experience, I have gained a true friend and someone I care incredibly deeply for. Love you Ashley!
Mike & Karen. You are truly family. What you have created is a revolution in so many people’s lives. I could do paragraphs and volumes on what amazing people you are. Thank you for allowing me into your lives. I love you guys!
That opening party? WHAT?! InkWars, Drinks, Food, Sno-cones, FIREWORKS. Mic dropped. Best conference kick-off ever.
My AIGA Family. You took time away from jobs, family, life to come down and not just support me but enrich yourselves and bring it back home so we can continue the good fight. Lydia, Amy, Tracy, Niki, Courtney, Caryn, Tim, Jake, Emily and Matt. Your support and friendship is such a driving force for me and we are in the trenches shaping our community!
The entire Creative South staff always go above and beyond to make sure things run as smooth as possible. The amount of fires they put out you never see is staggering just to make sure we all have a flawless experience. Matt, Richard, Holly, Alison, Sandy you are the ground troops!
Michael Porter. Best decision ever bringing you into Old South Supply Co. You manned the table the entire weekend with a smile and have kickstarted our dream so far, so much faster than we could have done ourselves. So excited to see where this takes us. Much love brother!
LIVE Typefight… I got beat this year. Fair and square. Although I did give Mike some textures, and let him take my photo… hmmm…
Dustin Lee. Your workshop will change lives. Your friendship has changed mine. Let’s do some cool stuff together!
UCF! You guys inspire, light the fire and just spread joy. I am excited to collaborate and share more with you all. Hebah, you will own this stage next year! Stephanie, I loved hanging out with you at the bridge party! Your energy is infectious. You are all doing it right!
Vonster… Thank you for the words of encouragement. They mean a lot to me. I admire and respect you so much and I am looking forward to doing some great things because of that encouragement. Ready to collaborate when you are!
My fellow speakers… I was humbled to be in your presence. So many of you are giants in your field and true inspirations to me. Everyone of you a wonderful human being. If I can ever do anything for you. Just ask. It’s done. No funny ideas Justin and Rogie...
Justin and Rogie... You kept things moving along with laughs and love. We ate, we drank we shared life stories. We discussed at length and in great detail Justin’s seal-like sweaty chest. Where do you go after that? You go to a Mexican restaurant where Rogie is regaled with Happy Birthday’s and a Sombrero
One more for Rogie... You my friend are a special human being. Your acceptance of others with such heart and soul and love is something I will be trying to do more of in my own life. I am looking forward to our bromance flourishing in ways we never imagined.
Dinners and lunches and snacks with so many great people. Even the abysmal, horrible shameful service we got at the Cannon Brewpub. Rude and highly incompetent management and slow service. Never will eat there again. But it was still fun hanging with my peeps!
On the other side of that… 11th and Bay. Some of the best food and service I have experienced. You will get lots of monies from me next year!
Rob and Peter… You both are like brothers to me. I have shared things with you guys and Mike that very few people know. No judgement, just acceptance. I can always count on you for honest feedback and the right direction to take next. I am so excited to share the next huge step in my life with you both.
Brittany... I never had a sister. I feel like I do now. Your enthusiasm is infectious and I love hanging out with you. You are always welcome in our home. Our final dinner with Ian ended our CS adventure with a smile.
Ian Barnard… my new friend from across the pond. had a great time getting to know you at that dinner. Can’t wait to see you again!
Adam Lehman... You always seemed to be there with a smile on your face. You've stared down some struggles too. Keep up the good fight! I'm here if you need me!
Mat Helme! Thank you for letting me print Ink Wars stuff! I had a blast. Let’s do more. You were pivotal in my journey starting with CS13 and have pushed me so far along the way.
Bob and Drew… Inch X Inch is a smashing idea and what heart behind it. Thank you for bringing me into it and allowing me to do some work for you. More importantly thank you for your friendship. And your wives rock!
William Davis... My WMC Fest buddy. So glad we could bring you down and get to know you even better. See you in a few months at WMC Fest!
The Saturdays... Mackie and Trisha. Calm, collected souls that are so quietly confident they instantly put you at ease when you are them. Trisha, thank you for all your help with Karen's dad. The light you bring when you walk into a room... Mackie... The million dollar smile!
Everyone who contacted me during or after Creative South and shared part of their life with me. I won’t name you by name as you shared very private moments but I thank you for letting me know we connected and I am excited to continue our conversations and helping each other grow.
I will never forget this experience. Let's go do some cool things together, shall we?