On Looking for Inspiration

On Looking for Inspiration | Freckled Italian

I found myself in the Southern California desert earlier this week—driving a last-minute rental car I booked one way from Palm Springs to Oakland.

For roughly half a decade, I’ve attended the same conference every winter—I started going in 2014, right after I quit my 9-5 and was living in Minnesota; blogging and planning our wedding. I didn’t fully know what I was doing but I was writing every day and I was happy. I freelanced and temped as a receptionist and dreamed of my blog paying all the bills. I went to Salt Lake City that January and learned so much that I came home exhausted and overwhelmed in the best way imaginable—with a journal full of notes and a wallet full of business cards and a plan.

That conference really, truly changed my life.

Fast forward to last weekend and I was packing my bag for a week at the same conference, just in a new location. I felt the same in many ways but also so incredibly different. Goodness, how my life has changed in five years—one wedding, three huge moves, one dog, four cookbooks, one baby. Every morning I wake up feeling simultaneously blessed beyond measure and burnt out—excited to spend another day with my daughter but wondering when that spark might light itself again in the back of my mind where essays and recipes and #contentcreation used to overflow; when I might not only dream again about writing, but actually do it.

I started talking to anyone who would listen about how badly I needed this week away to refocus, get re-energized, and find inspiration. “I just want to get inspired” came out of my mouth so much that I started to annoy even myself. But it was true—I felt desperate for inspiration. I still kind of do.

On Sunday morning I landed in Palm Springs and immediately felt a shift. I slid my sunglasses onto my face and felt the sun beaming down on me, so happy that I had braved the cold damp sidewalks of SFO in sandals earlier that morning. My heart jumped as my sweet friend Kristan came around the corner in her car to scoop me and my bag and we were off, driving the short distance to our hotel where, within a half hour, we were sitting by the pool, drinks in hand, waiting for the conference to begin—waiting for inspiration to strike.

The conference was not what I expected this year, and I found myself feeling overwhelmingly disappointed and lost. So, after about 36 hours, I decided to do something I never thought I would do: leave.

I wanted to make the most of my time but through every overcrowded session and late shuttle I couldn’t stop thinking about my word for 2019–purpose.

Does it help me reach a goal? Does it make me happy? Does it serve my family or someone I care about? Do I come out on the other side burned out or resentful? Will it make me a better mom, wife, friend, writer, person? I want to live a life full of choices and work that makes me happier, healthier, more kind, more skilled, more thoughtful.

Would I regret staying and leaving disappointed, feeling like I had wasted even more time? Or should I cut my losses and get back to my family at home, where my husband was missing time at the office and we were paying our nanny to be there four days instead of two? Luckily Kristan felt the same and we cancelled the rest of our hotel stay, I rented a car, and we planned for her to drop me off at the airport the following day. Immediately I felt lighter.

It’s a privilege to be able to say no to things that you originally said yes to, but it’s one I didn’t want to waste. We went to a sponsored yoga class the morning of our departure and as I stood there barefoot in the grass behind the Parker Palm Springs, listening to the instructor tell us how blessed we were, I felt it. Tears in my eyes, hands on my heart, the Universe truly reached out and told me it was time to go home.

And that’s how I came to spend 8 hours alone on the road on a Tuesday afternoon. And as I drove over those majestic desert mountains for the first time, windows down, music blasting, the arid heat whipping through my hair, I realized that maybe there is no magic “press for inspiration” button—maybe sometimes you just have to find it yourself.