good life with amy tan
Part of cultivating a good life is being grateful for all that you have… and all that you don’t.
Growing up as an only child to immigrant parents, I developed a certain idea about what I thought success looked like. My parents were both born and raised in India and talked about how they grew up poor and came to the States with $70 and a dream of becoming US citizens. They both got jobs, worked hard, saved their money, and waited 8 years until they were stable enough to have a baby. They moved my mom’s entire family (two younger brothers and parents) from India to Chicago. I had a great childhood surrounded by family, as my grandparents lived just a few blocks away and took care of me while both my parents worked full-time.
On weekends, my mom and I would do craft projects together, ranging from tie-dyeing, to sewing, to painting, etc. My dad was creative himself with a keen interest in photography and building furniture. Both of them dreamed of owning their own businesses but never made the leap. They didn’t have any other children because they wanted to make sure I would have the best life possible given their financial situation. They instilled a strong work ethic that made me very goal-oriented and driven.
Success looked a certain way when I was younger. I thought I would be living the dream if I got rich, had a mansion, fancy cars, and the ability to travel wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted. That was also when I was 14 years old and working my first job at McDonalds making minimum wage, which was $4.25 an hour. (I’ll let you do the math, but trust me, it was a long time ago!) I’ve had a ton of jobs since then – even one where I was the “happy massager” at Bath & Body Works over the holidays and the top seller of swimsuits in the spring at Gadzooks. I also was a cashier at a grocery store called Publix, a data entry clerk, and an ice cream scooper.
During college I designed and sewed custom dresses for friends and answered phones at a modeling agency. That job led me to my first career as a freelance fashion stylist. Since then I have pretty much had my own company. I’ve learned that with a combination of hard work, being kind to people, and doing the best you can, you can have success. My idea of success may look different than yours, and thank goodness for that. We should all be on our own creative path and journey and embrace it for all that it is. Even if it seems chaotic or not as ideal as we pictured in our heads.
My parents divorced when I was in high school, and though it was rough, I know now that it was for the best. They taught me to choose my own path and encouraged me to do things that made me happy. Happiness has always been a key factor in making decisions whether they be for personal or business matters. I’ve learned that happiness can bring you success, but success doesn’t always bring happiness. I’ve learned to reframe my mind around what it means to live a good life.
I found myself having what I call a “third life crisis” when I was about to turn 30 years old. I broke up with my boyfriend of 4 years, felt burnt out with work, and didn’t feel like I was pursuing life with a purpose. It was moving quickly, and I wasn’t taking enough time to pause, be in the moment, and have fun. I moved my mom and grandmother into the house I was renting so I could travel and not have to worry about my dogs. My work load was lightened and I decided to live off of my savings for a few months.
I made a bold statement about living life to the fullest and saying yes to anything I was remotely interested in doing if I was asked. I spent time with college friends and decided to be single for an entire year. And of course almost to the exact one year anniversary mark, I went on my first blind date, on April Fool’s Day, with JC. I moved into a tiny apartment in Venice, just 5 blocks from the beach. JC moved in 5 months later. Since then, we have bought a house, had a baby, and gotten engaged. We do things in random order, but it works for us.
I don’t have a mansion or fancy cars (or even a single fancy car), but I am so grateful for all that I do have. A healthy, happy family, a house full of love, and multiple jobs that I love. As I am learning to navigate my purpose in this world, I am realizing that as long as I can be creative, share good times with others, and inspire people to choose their best life, then I am doing alright.
Someone recently told me that I am one of the happiest people she knows, and it was one of the best compliments I have ever received. I’m sure this sentiment is shared among scrapbookers and modern day memory keepers, but it’s so awesome that we get to pause to take photos and then reflect and re-live those moments when we scrapbook them. Our lives and memories are worth documenting in a way that brings gratitude and creative fulfillment.
a note from becky
We love Amy! I’ve personally known this creative soul for years. In fact, it dates back to the days of Creating Keepsakes magazine when I was a creative editor and she contributed projects to our publications. Many years later, each of us is running our own respective businesses and we still get to cross paths from time to time. We have co-branded several times over as we’ve brought her fantastic design inspiration into the Project Life® format. I’m so grateful that her bright, happy, positive influence is in our industry and in my life.
Photo Credit – Two Lee Photography