May 13, 2016

How Bankruptcy Turned me into a Business Owner.

Heidi Easley article photo
Have you ever been paralyzed in fear or failure?

Are you at rock bottom? Not just rock bottom, but quicksand bottom—that feeling of desperation, powerlessness, emotionally empty, spiritually broke, financially dark, alone.

Well, I was all of these—back in 2007, my family lost everything. In my late 20s we had to file bankruptcy.

Recently having a baby and living in a house by the beach, I thought everything was going to be great! My husband and I had built on a room, and we turned it into a fairy-tale Tinker Bell nursery. My daughter’s name is Pixie, and the room fit her perfectly. Then a few months later we lost it all.

I was paralyzed in fear and failure for about two months—then I used art to heal.

I started painting these cute little surfboards that I cut out of wood to help distract my mind from the storm that we were going through. Painting has always calmed my spirit and given me a sence of excitement and imagination. When a paintbrush is in my hand, I feel like anything can happen and my soul is calm.

What makes your soul calm? I know right now it’s hard to think about fighting through your quicksand bottom, but close your eyes and think back to a time when you were just “happy”—or just “relaxed.”

What were you doing? Where were you? Who were you with?

I took the surfboards to my teaching job to paint them at lunch, and the elementary kids saw them. They went crazy, yelling out: “Can you make me one!? Please Mrs. Easley—put my name on it!”

After about the 100th kid totally went nuts over these things, a light bulb went off in my head. Maybe I could sell these?

After some negotiations with the offices at a local shopping area, we were approved to sell our boards to the masses! My family got involved, and we tirelessly sawed wooden surfboards in my mother-in-laws backyard every weekend and on nights after work until summer came.

The word “determined” is a huge understatement for what I was feeling. When your at the bottom, it’s a huge eye opener. It showed me how far off course my life had become. It also showed me how the not sustainable life I choose to live would absolutely end with a disaster.

So, here we are—it’s time to sell. My stomach hurts. I can barely breath. In just a few short months I’ve gone from losing everything to now starting a business. My mind is overflowing with thoughts of failure. It takes over my body, and I almost throw up. I can barely breath. The thought racing in my head is, “I can’t fail again!”

As I sit at my booth waiting for orders, I realize that there are none. Again, the fear creeps in. Again, I have this sense of how this will affect my family, my future, even my grocery bill next week. My husband comes up to see how I’m doing, and I feel disappointed. My mother-in-law and a friend of hers take me to Buffalo Wild Wings across the street to take a break.

I start drowning my sorrows. A few shots into it, all I can say is: “Really? This is failing too? How much can a person fail before they are 30!?”

A few more shots later, I talk about what I think I may do next? What will our lives be like? I’m already in crisis mode and thinking of “Plan B.” So much is going through my mind, as I throw a pity party for myself, and then a few moments later everything changes.

My phone rings—it’s my husband: “Hey Babe, you need to get over here fast! We have orders!”  My heart stops, and I say: “You’re lying—there’s no way.”

He persists, so I stumble out of my chair, and  I head over to the booth across the street. By then it’s about six in the evening. Apparently everyone is on the beach during the day and shopping at night! I should have known this living there, but it didn’t even cross my mind.

So I sit there painting surfboards, slightly tipsy, and knowing that things are changing. God has a plan—he always does.

Over the next two months, I paint over 1,000 decorative surfboards. I learn to paint fast and to customer’s orders! I paint sometimes 60 surfboards in one night, staying up until two in the morning, and then delivering the next day. I paint in the back of my jeep during rain storms with a good friend. If someone wanted a surfboard, I would find a way to paint it and sell it, because I know every cent I earned was going towards my families future.

I realize that I can always change my family’s situation. Bankruptcy wasn’t an end, but actually a beginning. A new start that taught me how to be smart with my money. It taught me not to borrow over my capacity—andnd it taught me how to fight for what I want.

That defining Buffalo Wild Wings moment will always be one of my most favorite, yet terrifying memories. It was that moment of feeling like I was left on the bottom and then radically catapulted to the top! The confidence I gained that summer has driven every decision since. Knowing that out of such a slew of bad decisions I can always turn to art and my faith to keep me going.

Hitting quicksand bottom (as I like to call it) changed me. It changed me forever—and to my surprise, in a good way.

It made me question my entire life’s worth of value systems. It’s still teaching and guiding my every decision today.

Now, I throw art parties! It all started because I wanted a little extra money, and now it’s led to so much more! I see the power that art has to heal people. Every party I throw, I hear a story of how someone has used art to heal—healing from depression, anxiety, loneliness or self doubt. I’ve talked to women who have lost their husbands, and painting has given them purpose again. I’ve learned that someone with PTSD can use art to help themselves feel whole and good enough again. I’ve painted with a lady who recently found out she had cancer, and i have seen the joy in her face as she excitedly paints her canvas and for a moment forgets her reality. I’ve also learned that the power of a simple painting class can turn into so much more, and the ripples of healing through art are so endless.

In this quest of finding my purpose—my passion, the way I’m supposed to help others—I realize it’s my obligation to teach others to not only learn to heal through art, but to help them change their family’s situation as well.

Hitting quicksand bottom doesn’t mean the end, but sometimes the beginning of the best years of your life. The lessons that come from such tragedy can catapult you forward to things you didn’t even dream possible.

These things can teach you, drive you, motivate you and change you. Don’t let your bottom be an end, but let it be the beginning to a new chapter—a better chapter!


Author: Heidi Easley

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

Photo: Author’s own.

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