Tag Archives: dream

Taking the long way


Hey guys!

Today I wanted to reflect on taking detours in life. As you may know, I started dabbling in creative stuff a little over 5 years ago in my early 30s. I opened my first Etsy shop selling crocheted wares in 2010, but I treated it as a hobby for the first few years.

Meanwhile, I was working full-time at a non-profit social service organization as a program manager. Work was rewarding and also challenging. I had been there for almost 10 years, and although I was able to keep things fresh by moving to different positions and taking on different responsibilities, I started wondering about my future and what other career options I might have. I had worked for the same organization for all of my career and just wanted to try something different. Something less stressful and with more money would’ve been nice, I thought.

I knew what I needed was to gain practical skills that built on what I was already good at. I did some brainstorming and thought becoming a Japanese/English Interpreter/Translator might be a good fit. I have the language skill and had done informal interpretation and translation for our clients before, so why not? There was a certificate course offered at a local college near I used to work, and I had a friend who was going through the program at the time, so I talked to her about it and decided to enroll.

If you took this certificate course full-time, you would finish the required courses in a year. But Since I had a full-time job, I took one or two classes at a time. So it took me a little longer to finish. I enjoyed being back in school. There is something about having a schedule and place to be and be in the “learning” mode on a regular basis. I enjoy reading articles or taking webinars, but I find in-person hands-on learning to be the most effective format for acquiring new skills.

Anyway, the program was great, and I was learning a ton about professional practice of language interpretation and translation. I made new friends, and that was a lot of fun, too.

About midway through the program, or maybe it was more towards the end, I started having a feeling that it might not be what I wanted to do for a living. It just didn’t seem like a “fit” for me. I was doing well in class but wasn’t excited about it. I would dread and put off doing the homework until the last minute. It was painful to have to go back and edit my translation work over and over again. And the thought of becoming an interpreter and the responsibility and spontaneity of the interpretation work made me anxious. Like anything else, I’m sure things would become easier with more experience, but I’m a think-before-doing kind of person, so being in a position to think and act on your feet all the time seemed super stressful. I completed all the required courses but opted out from the second year program after that.

While I was having doubts about my future as a language interpreter/translator, I started looking into other career opportunities. Around that time, I was becoming more serious about pursuing my creative interests. I was getting a little tired of crocheting products then and was rediscovering my childhood love of drawing. Drawing and illustration seemed to have more potential for business growth, or at least it seemed more straight forward to me than having a handmade product-based business.

But how could I become a full-time artist? I didn’t have a degree or formal training in art. I thought being a successful artist was reserved for only the most talented and the privileged.

After having another brainstorm session (yes, I like to brainstorm :)), I thought, I could be a Graphic Designer! Graphic design seemed like a good, employable skill to have, and you also use your creativity in design process. What a perfect combination! Excited, I enrolled myself in the Graphic Design Certificate course at the same college I was working on the Interpretation/Translation Certificate. I overlapped being in two programs until I finished the first year courses for the language program.

Again, I totally enjoyed being in classes and learning new skills. All of the instructors were working professionals, and I loved hearing their real life stories.

And then, the little voice in my head started talking to me again. “This might help you get out of your current situation, but is this going to make you happy?”

I was creating a bunch of new illustration work for my design assignments, and that was the fun part. When we present our work to the class, I knew mine looked different than most other students’. When it came to doing the actual design work (i.e. “making something look good and functional” in a nut shell.), my heart wasn’t really in it. I just wanted to be drawing more.

I still finished the program after a few years, and on my very last portfolio review class, my instructor recognized my passion for illustration and suggested I pursue what I truly loved rather than graphic design. I felt so free. Finally, I knew, like I really knew, that I didn’t want to compromise any more and decided to give my 100% to pursuing art.

When I share this story with people, some people are surprised and tell me “It took you that long to figure it out??” I understand where they’re coming from, I guess. Yes I invested a lot of time and money into getting the education and training in the fields I chose not to pursue. It might seem wasteful to others. What if I’d started pursuing art more seriously 5 years ago? Maybe I would be further ahead in the game by now. I get it. But I don’t think it was a waste at all! In fact, I gained SO MUCH from it!

First of all, it fulfilled my needs to learn new things and grow. Much of what I learned is totally relevant to what I do today.

For instance, the interpretation/translation program challenged me to think differently about communication. A lot of people think, if you speak multiple languages, you have the natural ability to interpret or translate effortlessly, but it’s SO false! Taking in sometimes very complex information in one language and putting it out accurately and in a culturally relevant way in another language is no easy feat. It goes way beyond just knowing the languages literally and takes deep understanding and appreciation for cultures and history. Do you ever use online translation tools, like Google translate? Maybe it kinda works sometimes for some languages, but it usually returns very confusing and often hilarious results. As a relationship-driven person, I appreciate knowing how artful and thoughtful language communication really is.

Many things I learned through the Graphic Design program are obviously super relevant to my art career today. Knowing the design principles is very helpful in putting together effective and aesthetically pleasing visual materials. And of course, knowing how to use a software, like Photoshop and Illustrator, is critical in my day-to-day work.

I also want to mention that I made a conscious decision to choose options that wouldn’t require me to get a loan and go in to debt. So when it was all said and done, I was not in the red. And my busy schedule forced me to be more efficient, and I learned to juggle school work and full-time job for a few years. In my “detours,” I made new friends and developed relationships with mentors. You really can’t put a price on relationships that add so much to life!

I have absolutely no regrets about taking the long way to figure out what I wanted to do. I’m actually happy that I took some detours. Making the choice to pursue my passion after having some life experience and trying out different options helped to confirm that I’m on the right path. Choosing your passion and switching a career later in life takes a lot of courage.  Maybe 10 years from now, I might have a totally different path again! You never know 🙂

If you took many detours in life, or if you don’t know what your path is yet, don’t worry – nothing in life is wasted. What you do today still counts 🙂

xoxo Yuko




A pair of purple gloves that changed everything

dream_loresHello, hello! Happy New Year to you! Did you have good holidays??

I always feel so renewed on New Year’s Day. It’s probably because I grew up in Japan, where New Year’s Day is the biggest holiday of the year (kinda like how Christmas is here), and everything slows way down for a few days to celebrate and set intentions for the new year.

I remember the cold crisp air walking down on a frosted road to the local shrine with my family to pray for health and prosperity on New Year’s Day. I took it for granted back then, but what a wonderful ritual to start off the new year sending well wishes for others! Anyway, I don’t go to the shrine on New Year’s any more, but I always feel sacred around the New Year’s.

2016 is the Year of the Monkey!
2016 is the Year of the Monkey!

To start off the new year, I wanted to share a story about how my creative endeavor all started about 5 years ago. It all started with my purple fingerless gloves, and it was completely unexpected.

the purple gloves
yup, these are the ones…

I crocheted these about 5 years ago. I wear them all the time. They are so soft (I think it’s lambswool?) and warm. They’re fingerless, so I can type, text, and play Jenga with them on if I ever wanted to.

You’ve probably noticed the right thumb has a different yarn. That’s because I mended it last year when it finally started to come apart. I actually made a new pair then but somehow couldn’t bear to part with this one. I didn’t want to let them go because I made them, and they’re perfectly functional with a little repair.

I made these to replace my purple ones but ended up giving them away as a gift :)
I made these to replace my purple ones but ended up giving them away as a gift 🙂

But that’s not the only reason, and I never really thought about it until recently.

A little over a month ago, I was walking around my neighborhood and ran into a friend. We chatted a little bit, and she complimented me on my purple gloves. I said thank you and told her I made them a long time ago.

And then it occurred to me that these gloves are what got me started on my creative endeavor 5 years ago.

I had been crocheting for a few years at that time and posted a picture of these on Facebook. A friend commented and said I should sell them on Etsy. At that time, I didn’t know much about Etsy and was skeptical if anyone would want to buy what I made. I spoke to a couple of friends who had Etsy shop, and they told me it was no big deal, and I should just try. I was still unsure about the whole thing but got curious and decided to open my first Etsy store anyway. After all, I didn’t have much to lose!

So, I crocheted a few other pairs, took pictures and listed them on my brand new Etsy store on December 18, 2010! I went to bed that night feeling a little scared. What’s going to happen? Would people like them or think it’s stupid?? Would anyone buy them?

Next morning, I got up and anxiously opened my browser to check and found I had just made my first sales! A very nice woman from Memphis bought my gloves and later ordered another pair for her daughter. In our correspondence, she was so kind and sweet and even invited me to visit her in Memphis if I was ever in the area (which I haven’t done to this date yet). That very first experience got me totally hooked (pun not intended!) on the joy of making stuff for other people and being appreciated for it. It was kind of gratification I’d never felt before.


My creative focus has gradually shifted since then to art and printmaking (crochet is strictly a hobby now). And my little purple gloves remind me of how my casual attempt to try something new 5 years ago has set me on a course for my creative journey now.

I had never dreamed of becoming a full-time artist back then. It was not something I even thought of as an option. So much has changed in the last 5 years, and who knows what’ll happen in the next 5 years?? You might be planting seeds for your big dream right now and might not even know it.

Life can be so unpredictable. I use to feel uncomfortable with the change and uncertainty and am still not 100% comfortable with not knowing what’s going to happen next.

But I’ve learned to keep doing what makes me happy anyway.

When you push yourself to go outside of your comfort zone, and if you do it often enough, it becomes less scary. And then you realize that big scary thing you were afraid of isn’t actually that scary. What’s more important: when you do something that scares you, life brings you more opportunities. Go on and take chances! You would’ve never gotten this advice from me 5 years ago 🙂

May the new year bring us lots of opportunities and the courage to go after them!!

xoxo Yuko

p.s. I’m starting a free 4-week challenge starting tomorrow January 4! If you’re creative but can’t seem to find the time to practice or have too many ideas and don’t know where to start, sign up here. I’d love to help you!