• Katie | Cotton Lily

My Real Journey

Updated: Feb 18

You’ve all probably heard my journey of how Cotton Lily came to be (you can read about it here) but today I want to share with you my real journey. The one that took place over the past year that has brought me to this point, this location and to become this version of myself.

As I’m writing this, it’s exactly a year, since we in the UK, were sent into our first lockdown. Three weeks prior to that, I had left IKEA as a Visual Merchandiser and went to work part-time at a local garden centre to help pay the bills while I focused on building my business in the hope that maybe one day it could become my full-time job.

Coming home from my first day at the garden centre, I had enjoyed it. It was easy going, no stress, something I could do that wouldn’t keep me up at night thinking about it but at the end of the day all I wanted was to be at home, working on my own business, to be with my dog and to have the freedom to visit my family 200 miles away as and when I wanted. My partner told me to set a countdown for a years time and to aim for that in going full-time but for now, to get my head down and crack on.

On the evening of 23rd March 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced we were going into lockdown. I automatically went into a panic. When would I see my parents again? Was my place of work still open? Was I going to qualify for furlough having only been there for 3 weeks? Was my partner going to be furloughed? How would we pay the mortgage and the bills? Like many, that night, I cried a lot.

I texted my boss and was told the garden centre was to close until further notice but not to worry as I would be furloughed. My partner’s place of work had also closed but he was fortunately redeployed to another part of the business that was essential retail and he could continue to work. This was a massive relief to us both until I researched further into furlough to find I hadn’t actually qualified as I had joined the business 2 days after the date needed to qualify. I informed my boss to be told unfortunately they had to let me go until they could reopen again. Panic set in but I gave myself a pep talk and told myself “Right missy, this is it! This is the time to really go for it! You have no safety net now so just do it!” and I did. I got into a routine of working out in my she-shed on new products and showing up consistently on my social media platforms. Orders soon started to come in, I was gardening and growing my own vegetables. My slow living dream set in my little cottage in Bedfordshire was starting to happen. The income wasn’t quite there but I was happy.

During this period, a friend of mine was starting her own podcast, “The Invent Her” podcast (you can listen to my episode here) and she was looking for female entrepreneurs to interview. I jumped at the opportunity. It was completely out of my comfort zone but I was feeling brave. The episode went live on 17th May 2020. I don’t even need to look at my phone's calendar to know the date as this was the date that my life, as I knew it, fell apart. This was the day where I’d spent most part of it skipping and singing around the house because I was so proud of myself for doing what I was doing, for appearing on a podcast and for living a life I believed in. That was until my partner came home from work and didn't seem quite his normal self. If I’m honest, he hadn't been for a couple of weeks so I asked him if he was ok? “Our relationship is dead!” were the words that broke my heart in two after 5 years together and lead to me dropping my business and forgetting who I really was.

For weeks the pain didn’t seem to simmer and just when it did, something would crawl out the woodworks and reignite it again. Everything I was being told was making me doubt myself as a person, made me question my values and knocked my confidence sideways. I had become a shell of myself. I couldn’t see it then but looking back now, our relationship was destined to fail. The slow living, considered, close to nature lifestyle I wanted was not the rat race, tech-based, lost inside a gaming console lifestyle he wanted.

Months went by. I had started to pick up the pieces with Cotton Lily again, I had returned to work and I missed my family dearly but I was tied to my house, my dream victorian cottage, all-be-it not in my dream location but it was mine and I had put so much love into it. I was determined to somehow take the house on by myself.

During a visit to my parents, my mum was having some work done on her house. She had, for some time, been telling me about the gorgeous young man that was doing the job. This particular weekend he was due to visit. He and my mum had become good friends over the months and I went out to the front to introduce myself. When we finally got a moment alone he turned and said to me “you must be the crafty one?”. My mum had obviously been talking about me and my business. I drove home that weekend with a curious spark inside me which is a bit woo as my word for 2020 was “Curious”.

Another month went by. One day when my last tie to the area was cut and I learnt to let go of my house, I suddenly woke up. “What the fuck are you waiting for you silly cow?!” (apologies for the language but that’s how it was). I had no ties anymore, I couldn’t realistically afford the house on my own and all I’d ever dreamt of was moving to the West Country to be near my family, having been so far away from them for 13 years. What I thought was living my best life back in March, could not have been further from the truth now that this path was sitting in front of me.

I drove to Somerset that weekend and announced the news to my family. My mum was jumping around like skippy she was that happy that I was coming home. I also took the chance to get to know “The crafty workman” a little better. We simply got each other. Crafty, nature-loving, hands-on, live in the moment kind of people. “The crafty workman” soon became “My Somerset Beau”. Being an ex builder, he helped me finish the renovations on my little cottage ready to go on the market. It looked beautiful. I was so sad to be leaving the house and if I could have picked it up and taken it with me I would have done, but I was not sad at all to be leaving the area that had left many hurtful memories. It was time to start a fresh new journey.

My house sale completed two weeks ago and I’m now all settled in my parent’s old house, living with my Somerset beau, five minutes down the road from my parents and sister, my dog by my side at all times, taking the opportunity to do Cotton Lily full time, with a studio overlooking the nature reserve and out over the Quantock hills. I have never felt so inspired, confident and free. I do now, a year on, truly believe I am at the beginning of living my best life, as the best me with a partner who believes in and supports my values and my business. This, again, is ironic because my word for 2021 is “Believe”.

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