As someone who has a B.A. in both Political Science and Geography, along with a minor in Peace & Conflict studies, it is sometimes hard to justify to others as well as myself, that making jewelry full-time is the correct profession for me, as well as an admirable one.
In college, I had dreams of being a lawyer, or to work for a non-profit with the aims of educating woman in sub-Saharan Africa or even working as a staffer on the 'Hill.'
I loved to create and craft throughout college, but never thought of it as a career until I was faced with a difficult decision after college in one of my first 'adult' jobs. Without going into too much detail (for the sake of being discreet), I worked for a business which helped shape a company's/individual's public image.
I was given the task to help shape an extremely prominent organization's anti-gay marriage public message. I was going to have to basically help this organization create and develop talking points and phrases on why gay marriage is wrong and shouldn't be allowed.
At the time, my soon-to-be husband was a fundraiser for the nation's leading gay rights advocacy group. Both him and I are very strong supporters of the gay rights movement and loved this organization (and they loved him).
About one week before we got married, we faced this decision. Do I continue with my job, supporting and building a message of intolerance? Or, do I quit three days before we are to be wed without any prospect of a new job lined up?
I worked the last three days at my job and then married the love of my life that weekend. We took our week long honeymoon in Savannah and had a fantastic time.
The following Monday came and I dove head first into my etsy business. I had been dabbling with it for a few months, making a little extra income here and there for us, but not a full- time income. My husband supported me 100% and with the momentum of the holiday shopping season, within two months I was making a full-time income through selling online.
This February marks the fourth year I have had my etsy store, Nomsa. This September will be the fourth year anniversary of my etsy store, My Sweet Nomsa.
I would be lying if I said that throughout these last four years that I didn't wonder at times on what my life would be like with a different career choice. What if I had gone back to school to get a higher degree? What if I didn't pursue etsy so vigorously and instead found another political DC job? Could I have done something that would have made a bigger impact to others? Could I have helped people more?
I sometimes still ask myself these questions. I absolutely love what I do. I really do. But I think that it is only human to wonder, to question.
A few days ago ago, a lady placed an order for a necklace and left me this message during check-out....
"Hello Ashlee. My six year old daughter bought me this necklace for Christmas. She found it while shopping with my husband at the Classic Center in December. Recently our house was broken into and the person stole several electronics. The only piece of jewelry that was missing was this necklace. It broke my heart because I loved it so much and my daughter chose it knowing that I would love it. It makes me so happy that I saved your card and found this here. I love your pieces! Thank you."
I remember this interaction with this sweet 6 year old and her father so vividly. I remember his patience as she carefully examined each necklace I had on display. I remember how proud she was of finding the perfect necklace which she was sure that her mother would love.
And now I will always remember that in fact, it did mean the world to her mother to receive this necklace. That what I created with my two hands was one of this woman's most prized possessions.
Moments like this make me remember why I do what I do. That I do make an impact. That I do touch lives.