Making the Jump

Photo by  Danielle Elliott

That’s me, Alexandra, in my home office that I now use for my own full-time business. I’m the Founder and Creative Director of Alexandra Studios, which has only been my title now for just three short weeks.

Let me start from the beginning (not all the way, don’t worry). Almost to the day, three years ago, I packed up my little Toyota Yaris hatchback on the street of my apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY. My father (bless him), decided to help me pack and move my determined little self across the country to Seattle, WA. “Why Seattle?” he asked me. Seattle was the place for a couple reasons … First, it was a city I had always liked to sit and daydream about; I’m a sucker for dreary and rainy days. It’s where I find myself the most creative, content, and inspired. Second, it was a destination for my now husband, Andrew, and I to finally live and be together, as we had been playing the long-distance relationship game for two years. Lastly, it was a fresh start for myself as a creative and for my career.

Three days before starting the cross-country drive, I received a call from Zillow’s HR dept. extending me a job offer as a Visual Designer. Imagine my sigh of relief, as my original plan was to just move to a big new city, knowing just one person (and not super well), and trying to find a magical amount of freelance work. Three cheers for stability, a good salary (much more than what I was making in NYC which was shocking at the time), and comfort of going into a fancy office downtown every single day. Don’t get me wrong, I want to preface that I believe in Zillow’s mission, the CEO, and the hard-working and talented individuals that make that product come to life. My personal experience ended in disappointment and sadness.

The job and my role was magical. Until it wasn’t. After all the juice was sipped at my new company, I realized the list of cons and things that weren’t benefiting me, my health, my growth, and my overall career and goals. This past year and a half was a mix of emotions; ups and downs, figuring out who I am, what I want, and ultimately deciding what I am capable of and accepting what I wasn’t.

Woof. Talk about heavy stuff.

I was diagnosed with debilitating anxiety and depression. I first took this as a personal hit to myself for many, many months. What was I doing wrong? What could I do better? Is it me? … My confidence in both myself, my work, and who I was as a person was fading faster than the water falling off the rocks at Niagara Falls.

After multiple panic attacks, breakdowns with my then fiancé, and outbursts that had me wondering who the person I was looking at in the mirror was … I realized that I had to take control of my life if I was going to live the life I wanted and knew that I was capable of. That brings me to the big jump and why I’m sitting here writing this post today at my favorite coffee shop in my neighborhood, listening to the chatter of strangers, and watching the sun beams rolling in on a weekday afternoon. This is my kind of bliss and if you asked me a year ago if I would be here right now, I would have done the stereotypical laugh and, “Ha! No way could I do that, I’ve got bills to pay …” and making up every single excuse in the book.

Once I realized that the issues I was coming across at work were not because of me or my output or my talents or the fact that I had applied to dozens of jobs in and around the city and did not get, was not because of me, doors began to open. I realized I had the ability to make my situation whatever type of situation I wanted it to be. I could actually do something about all of these things that were getting me down and literally breaking my heart. I could take control and design my own life. I had already started by working on freelance work as a side hustle for almost a year — why not?

So that’s what I decided to do. On a random date with Andrew at a small, family owned restaurant in the Ravenna neighborhood of Seattle, I yelled out at date, “November 15th!! I’m doing it!” Andrew’s reaction was much different than I expected it to be. “Alright, do it. But wait … why the 15th?” It was a date I thought I needed to wait for. “Because more of Zillow’s stock vests that day.” … Because there were still bills I needed to pay. There are still responsibilities I have. From that day on I went to work, knowing that there was light at the end of the tunnel. Knowing that I soon would be able to pour all of my heart and soul into my own business, my own dream, and be able to control the kind of work I took on, my emotions, and all the things that made be feel helpless at my day job.

After Andrew and I got married and went on our honeymoon, I returned to work and immediately felt a wave of disappointment. Nothing at work was changing and one morning I found myself sobbing on the floor of a bathroom, calling Andrew and telling him that it really is not worth spending more of my mental health and energy. So that afternoon, I put in my notice.

I do not have it all figured out. I do not have an answer to all the questions I had before I left my corporate 9-5 or ones that I still have looming in my brain. And yes, I do still have credit card debt and bills that need to be paid. There is one thing I know that I used to always preach but didn’t truly know until now. None of us are absolutely stuck in a just one situation. We are able to find new opportunities, new roles, new locations, new homes, new experiences that fulfill us. But we have to allow for the uncomfortable and for the unknown. To find the confidence, determination, and ambition inside of us to be able to live a life we dream of. We have the ability to take control of our destiny.

With the help of my husband, my family and friends near and far, I’m here and I am determined. I hope you continue to follow me along this journey and my passion for creating my own story and helping small businesses and families tell their stories through the beauty of design.

— A

Alexandra Collins