I am back.. Everything has changed

Taps mic... "um is this thing on?"

It has been months since I have been active on my blog. I could pour out a whole speech about how I don't know how this happened, but the truth is- I DO. My life has completely shifted since March and I have been in this weird state of trying to keep up my new normal while trying to heal, trying to reflect and most of all- trying to process.

2019 hasn't been the easiest year for me. Yes, I did open a business (more on that in a minute) in less than 40 days. Yes, I did navigate major life obstacles that would have crumbled some people. But beyond all that, I have survived the year without any plan as to what is next. If you know me personally, you know I pride myself on always having a plan, always knowing whats next. 2019 shattered EVERYTHING I thought I knew about me, the direction I am going and how the hell I plan to get there.

Through this transition of sorts, I have been battling crumbling anxiety, bouts of depression and most of all- a looming feeling of a lack of motivation. With today being Mental Health Awareness day, I think its only fitting to be transparent about what I was struggling with. During my transition period, It felt like everything, I mean EVERYTHING burned me out. I constantly found myself struggling with maintain my energy, optimism and most of all focus on even the smallest of tasks. Whereas I used to pour into my readers on social media with positive words, messages and love- the idea of social interaction or scrolling IG made me annoyed. I wanted to just hide.

Lets back up a minute back to where everything shifted though so you can get some context behind my funk

In March 2019, my husband was forced to go back to New York for over a month. During that time, I left my job (not happily), suffered through some major health issues and struggled going from a 2 person household to acting as a single parent since my husband could not physically be in Atlanta. Every week, I was flying back to New York to spend time with him, trying to stay positive and strong while inside- I was crumbling. During our marriage, Rich and I have never been apart for more than maybe 3 days at a time so having him gone for a month truly triggered issues in our relationship that did not exist before. I missed him everyday, I missed the way things were. I tried to not let him know how much his absence was affecting me. When we would see each other, I would just try to pretend that everything was normal, visiting our favorite restaurants in New York, seeing our favorite places- I really tried to be strong for the both of us.

By April my husband was back in Atlanta, but by that time everything had changed.

Now about the job thing-

Leaving my old job was traumatic to say the least. While I may have not been happy there, my job provided me stability. I knew I was good at my role and I knew I was valuable to the organization I was working in. Feeling valued and important in my job gave me a feeling of self esteem. Even though I always knew I was probably selling myself short with that organization, I felt that having my title was better than stepping out on my own.

Dealing with the transition from reality TV really affected my confidence in transitioning back into my professional work. Working in a corporate environment felt good since people didn't know me as the character, "Nikki D." Throughout the 2 years I worked at my job I thought about leaving so many times, yet comfortability will keep you complacent and I was scared. Working in an environment that was passive-aggressive and hostile left me questioning who I was and what was really important to me. I lost my voice and most of all the little confidence I had while working in my old job. Even when I knew that the hostile environment was not healthy, I felt I had no voice to speak up with.

I was forced to quit my job even though I did not want to. Exactly two days after my husband left to New York, I was jobless without a plan. All within the same week my life completely shifted and I had no clue how to rebound from it.

Since I was little, I have always been a really strong person. When bad things happen around me, I tend to go into "fix it" mode. My emotions become so black and white, there is no in between with me. Either I am completely dry and unattached or I am over-emotional and obsessive, there has never been a balance with how I handle high stress situations. During March, I went into full on detach mode. I constantly told myself I was fine. I didn't give myself a chance to process the changes that were going on all around me. I constantly acted strong for my husband and my kids, suppressing any feelings I had deep inside. I mean, I started interviewing for new jobs 3 days after I left my old one. I distanced myself from anyone I knew and made up excuses as to why I couldnt talk/ meet or connect with others. I turned off my phone, social media and I became a recluse. I didnt want to feel anything.

During the time my husband was away, I became obsessive over trying to build a solid foundation for my him through opening a business. Everybody knows that tattooing is Richard's passion and career and for years him and I have discussed opening his own tattoo shop, but never made a move on it. I remember when we first started dating he told me he didn't feel like it was possible for him and that he felt like he would have to work for someone else forever. When all that shit happened on Black Ink last year, I saw a major shift in him and I knew his perspective on being a shop owner had started to change. 2 years ago Richard stopped working for Black Ink over and solely did tattoos in his private studio in our house to prep for opening his own shop. Despite his environment, his Atlanta clientele grew substantially and he was consistently booked up weeks in advance. I knew then that he was ready for his own space (and honestly I just wanted people out of my house).

My husband came back during the second week of April. By the 3rd week of April, we began looking at commercial spaces to put a tattoo shop in. It was as if he came home and there was already a "this is what we are going to do" plan established and on the table for him. I think my husband was thankful I had taken the lead to make his dream a reality and I truly don't believe he really realized what the hell I was doing until we were signing a lease on his space. Opening the tattoo shop became my sole focus and a real distraction from everything negative I was feeling. By the beginning of May, we had signed a lease on a great location near Atlanta. Three days after getting the keys (and forking over a lot of cash), we were painting and doing renovations. I never gave Rich time to ask questions. He trusted me and I really led the way. I needed him to have something that was his.

During that time- I still didn't process any of the changes I had went through. I still didn't give myself any time to feel.

Fast forward to July 1st, the shop was completely done. We funded opening the entire shop in cash while still maintaining savings. We sacrificed planned vacations and a bunch of other things we were accustomed to just so we could get it done. We fought a lot with each other during the renovation process, mostly because of my anxiety and need for "plans." I became so focused on the shop being perfect that I would stay up until 3 am googling, researching and planning. From the permit process to the interior design, I had my hand tied in every part of the opening journey because I felt like it gave me purpose. As we officially opened the doors after everything was said and done, I realized I was back where I started in March. Without the shop to focus on, without the distraction- I was faced with, "what's next for me?"

My husband's tattoo shop is beautiful. Seeing Rich transition into not just a boss, but a leader has been inspiring on so many levels. Through this process, I have seen him possess a confidence that I haven't seen in awhile. The team of artists at the shop are all so talented and supportive- It really feels amazing to see my plans actualized into a real place.

As for me, I have now sat with the what's next feeling for about a month. I wish I could tell you I came up with some great answer, but I haven't. In retrospect, I think that the not knowing may really be the point of this chapter of my life. Yes, I have had some good offers to interview some of my dream jobs, I have landed a few freelance ghost writing gigs, signed 2 large agencies for nonprofit consulting and I am doing social media management for a few clients- but still, nothing has really given me that "inspired" feeling that I am looking for.

I am not writing this for you all to tell me I should do.. or even feel bad. I just think its important to be transparent about where I am in life right now. I don't know about you, but social media has a tendency to make me feel like if I am not waking up at 5am everyday, managing a side business, cooking a healthy meal all while having a beat face- I am failing. The truth is, I struggle to put on concealer everyday. I usually don't wake up until 9:30 (or later) and I am trust trying every single day to pull it together for ME. I hope this post sheds a bit of light on my WTF moments of the year and makes you feel a bit more understood about yours.

Amid some other (big) news, I know that I want to spend more time building my consulting business. Nonprofit work and community development have always been "my thing" and I know that I have a lot of VALUE to offer community organizations looking to serve people in need. I have also really enjoyed ghost writing for a new client. Being a business owner is also cool and I would love to open another business in the future. As you can see- I am still all over the place. While I may still have no idea, I do know that me taking the 20 minutes to type this blog post after 4 long months is a start to getting back to my purpose and I am comfortable with this start for now.

And last but not least, I am PREGNANT!! Richard and I are thrilled to welcome another baby to our family and I am just hoping to continue my pregnancy in a calm, stress free mental space. Given my pregnancy, my blog content may transition a bit. Currently, I am obsessed with cotton, luxe pajamas and healthy recipes. I am hoping to include more of "me" on here as we finish out 2019 strong.

Thank you all for sticking with me through this LONG waiting period. I am happy to be back!

"I am tired of people telling women to push through. I may not always be able to push through, but I can WALK through anyway. I can get up, I can get ready, I can do that one thing I have been procrastinating and that choice to walk through anyway is enough for me."

Tracy Ellis Ross

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