The Distancing Diaries: Birthday Edition (The Story Behind The Established)

by Essence Williams on May 25, 2020

My path to purpose has been far from linear and it's taken my type A perfectionist ass nearly a decade to be okay with that. It's actually taken me most of my twenties to stop feeling so much shame around the fact that I never really landed a traditional career and had nothing to show for myself in its place. I did all the right things. I graduated from a great college in New York City, I worked at two record major labels and was certain that post college I was perfectly on track to fulfill my biggest dream of becoming a renowned music and entertainment executive by my early thirties--a dream I had had since high school. Well that didn't happen. The music industry changed. Those fun jobs you can only dream of just didn't exist anymore. I had no money and no promising opportunities so I moved back home to Philly with my parents feeling like a huge let down.

This is the thing. I've always felt an immense sense of purpose since a very early age. So it was hugely difficult for me to confront the fact that success for me may not happen the way I saw it. I actually couldn't see anything for myself that didn't include the music industry. Uniquely, I was actually landing many interviews. I got on the Megabus several times a week at the crack of down to make it to the city in time for those morning interviews. I even forged my bus tickets since I couldn't afford the constant back and forth travel. I lied on my resume and used my old NYC address so that jobs wouldn't realize I was coming from Philly and would know that I was ready to work (I once travelled all the way to Tribeca for an interview with a huge PR executive only for her to cancel at the last minute. It was cold and it rained that day). I was desperate. Several interviews weekly and I heard no after no (I still have each rejection email I've ever received saved). It felt demoralizing. I was dismayed and discouraged. I became deeply depressed.

A couple of years go by and you're not a recent grad anymore. You become less desirable for a lot of those roles. I had to adapt and quickly.

I wrote freelance for very little pay
I temped
I did focus groups under different aliases so that I could still participate
I cocktail waitressed
I bartended
I peddled special occasion dresses at Nordstrom

All before settling on a Real Estate career when I could finally halfway afford to move back to New York City. I stayed on a futon in a living room converted, bed bug ridden apartment with a psycho name Sylvia on the Upper East Side, trying to convince myself that my passion for my real estate career would lead to something bigger. But two years in and it just didn't feel like my calling. It just didn't resonate. Looking back, divine timing is really funny. My apartment got a bed bug infestation BAD. And even if I wanted to move somewhere better, the truth was, I couldn't even afford to. All those high end broker's open houses and this wannabe champagne lifestyle I was living, but still no real control of my circumstances? I was a hamster on a wheel and started to feel trapped. What was I doing?

I walked away from real estate completely. I shacked up with my boyfriend who was living in Connecticut at the time for work, intent on finding my calling. I didn't work or earn money, but I submitted to the process completely. I meditated everyday. I read books. I asked God to show me my purpose. A friend of mine reached out and asked if I could help out with her skincare line she'd been working on. It started out as a passion project, plus she knew I didn't have anything better to do πŸ˜…. I loved it. We eventually joined as partners and our passion project snowballed into a real life business and a whole new skincare line. The initial sales were fun and exciting, but eventually things between us got rocky. In short, we had different goals and motivations for the brand and different ideas on what it would take to get there.

We broke up. But I knew I wasn't stopping. At the time, I couldn't fully see it, but I felt that I had something with this skincare thing. I founded The Established in 2017. Initially I wasn't confident that I had the wherewithal to succeed in a solo venture. I would buy ingredients I could barely afford and test them only for my formulas to destabilize. One time my Pyrex got too hot with oils and actually exploded which left hundreds of dollars worth of ingredients on my kitchen floor that I could hardly afford to repurchase. Some of my existing customers were initially disappointed that the products weren't the same as they knew them with my last brand. It was pretty tough trying to scale with no funding and no real community. There was even a period where I barely even touched The Established and it wasn't growing at all.

Eventually it really hit me like a ton of bricks that this business was my calling and I was truly doing myself a disservice by not walking in that purpose. Looking back, I'd had all the tools I needed to succeed at this for a while. I'm dedicated, I'm adaptable, I roll my sleeves up when I need to, and I'm fearless. I play like I have nothing to lose. I show up for myself everyday even when it feels impossible. I go until I win and it's empowering. And hello, I hu$tle!

Your life path may present itself to you in ways you never even imagined. I couldn't be happier to round off my second decade in any other position.

On that note, I turned 30 today so I'll be logging off for a while. But before I do that, let me ask you this one question: When was the last time you stepped outside of your realm of comfort?