In less than a year and without warning I gave up my marriage, my career, (almost my leg), two homes, and most of the things I once thought were important. All of my security, all of my stability, gone, and by choice. I threw it all up in the air and decided to follow my dreams, to risk everything. Maybe I fail, but it’s okay. Hopefully the fireworks will be beautiful as it all comes down, and I’ll always hold this belief that it was all worth it.
I’ve spent my whole life as the Responsible one. At barely eighteen I ran away from an incredibly dysfunctional home and moved into an apartment alone, three thousand miles away to start college and support myself, working three jobs at all times. I rarely played. I wanted to be an artist, an actress, to study film—but these were risky non-careers and no one in my family ever went to college, nor would anyone be there to pick me up if I fell. As an alternative to what I believed would be impending definite homelessness, I pursued “real” academics and put myself through grad school. I found great work for the government in Australia and then moved back to the US after four years away. After the pangs of unemployment in a struggling 2008 economy kicked in, I took a job temping, making coffee and emptying the dishwasher at a startup. I would have happily mopped the floors with my master’s.
My temp job turned into an enviable career and before I knew it, my wedding photography business was real too, turning down work after reaching twenty-one weddings in a year. I was back to working seven days a week, trying to fit art in whenever I could. Then one day at the end of last year, everything changed. Within twenty-four hours of thinking I had the best life in the world, I suddenly knew I had to start the upheaval. I ended a nine-year relationship after finally acknowledging that while it was perfect, it was mostly wrong for me. Before I could process the blow of the break, of what I had just done, I got into a Vespa accident and broke my leg, plummeted into a deep, dark depression, and then found myself at the bottom of a self-inflicted well. There was so much light, and I knew it—but it was far. I had to reevaluate. I started writing a lot, listening more carefully, making art about it.
I had never felt more alone in the universe, and so I realized that I needed to seize the opportunity of having nothing left to lose. There wasn’t anyone to disappoint or think of other than myself, and I needed to fully embrace the control I had over my existence, the ability to make choices, to fail if I wanted to. So I quit my job, the career I had built over four and a half years, my only source of security, of family, of warmth. A career most people would die for. I decided I finally needed to open the shop I had been daydreaming about for years. I took out a loan, a personal investment that cost as much as my overseas master’s—one I’ll happily spend my life mopping floors to repay if I have to. Because I get to be a new kind of Responsible.
I get to set up Electric Blanket. There will be interesting local art and beautifully curated vintage clothing, and we’ll sit around a huge barn table to have family dinners and poetry and essay readings, make installations, and watch local films. If we’re lucky, children will come and make things with us and teach us about the things we’re too grown up to see on our own. There will be a sanctuary for emotional expression, a place to nurture the thing that lives in so many of us that we rarely tap into. Yes, I know art galleries and/or vintage stores aren’t moneymakers. I don’t care. Maybe it can sustain past the first year and maybe it can’t. But either way I get to execute on a vision, my vision. At worst, I spend a year making things in a pretty space while reading books and playing with my shop cat. Maybe some friends come by to visit and sit on a colorful couch surrounded by wood and vintage colored glass and beautiful art. Terrified? Sure. But sometimes listening to the heart, to the universe, to that electricity running through us, well, sometimes that has to win.
So to start: there’s a zine and a purpose, a concept and a plan. There’s passion and soon, hopefully, a space in the deep insides of the Mission in San Francisco. Come see what’s brewing as it brews. It starts at Electric Blanket and ends with a shop. (Or more. Who knows!)
Photos and art courtesy of Jillian West
Jillian is an artist and photographer (Little Bat Photography) who has spent the last four and a half years managing brand and trademarks at Twitter. She has a BA in Law & Society and an MA in International Relations, but really just wants to make beautiful things while surrounding herself with wonderful people. To that end, she’s soon to be the owner and curator of Electric Blanket gallery, space, and vintage shop.