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A Carefully Curated Life

Updated: Nov 28, 2022

Carefully curated. I’ve been obsessed with the term for most of the past year.

The words are so boujee that I find it humorous that I’ve become so attached to it. It sounds so fancy, so well put together that it’s hard to imagine that it would apply to my life at all. If anything, it reminds me of my friend Jamie’s shop, Rendered Unique, where each piece is so carefully chosen, so thoughtfully put together.

We all have our strengths, and “thoughtfully put together” is not a term that most people would use to describe me.

Nevertheless, in April I found myself packing for a four day trip to Scottsdale, AZ. It had been winter in Iowa for a LONG time. Summer clothes were scarce. Moreover, it was the second winter of a pandemic, summer clothes that actually fit were even scarcer. Amidst a flurry of texts from my girlfriends talking about how they were going to fit everything in one bag without checking any luggage, I found myself staring at my favorite canvas weekender duffle bag, barely half full. Flip flops, jeans, a pair of cut off shorts, a dress, two tank tops, underwear.

I’ve always been a minimalist, but this was extreme even for me.

I scanned my closet, my drawers, underneath the bed, but couldn’t find one single item from my previous summer wardrobe that I wanted to add. I even ended up giving away a pair of shorts purchased en route to AZ once we got to our house. They were an impulse buy, not quite the right fit for me but perfect on my friend Steph.

Apparently, I really had packed everything I needed before leaving.

At the end of July 2021, I walked away from an all consuming position as operations manager for a state government department after just over a year. I had spent the decade prior to that building a brick and mortar massage therapy practice and retail store, managing and growing our teams and the business. Absolutely nothing in front of me looked the same as it had in the past. It was terrifying.

And also freeing.

I was staring at the opportunity to curate my career just as carefully as I had curated my vacation bag several months before.

The more conversations I have with small business owners and entrepreneurs, the more I connect with others in similar situations. The past two years have so thoroughly disrupted our lives and businesses that they are nearly unrecognizable. I’ve come to realize how impactful this chapter of our story will be.

We’re facing both the privilege and overwhelm of rebuilding, of curating our lives free from past obligations.

In the months after leaving my job, I didn’t make any major decisions. I returned to practicing massage therapy part time, and gave myself plenty of space to decide exactly what I did want to add back into this canvas bag called life. I rode my bike, spent time with my family, walked the dogs, read books, and connected with friends. I started to remember who I am apart from a job title or career path.

And ultimately, I launched Kelly Bay, Inc and relaunched Rural Kind Co with my business partner just weeks apart. The time away from the grind reminded me just how much I love connecting, and coaching, collaborating, and rural communities, and all things small business. It also reminded me that as much as I love working with a team, managing and scheduling are definitely not my strong suits. They won’t be packed for this next trip.

I’m deliberately leaving at least half of that awesome duffel bag empty of professional pursuits; after years of devoting so much time to business, I want to be more intentional with my personal relationships. I’ve looked through all of the metaphorical closets, and even under the bed of my previous career path.

I can't find one single more thing that I need to add.

Kelly Bay is a strategic planning and mindset coach for entrepreneurs. She lives in northwest Iowa with her husband and three kids. Kelly is a serial entrepreneur, speaker, and writer, and is the author of Beer and Junk, Adventures in Parenting. In her spare time, Kelly enjoys not cleaning her house and showing unwilling participants photos of her two dogs.

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