Reschooling Tool #23: Vision Collage

As much as I’ve intended to blog regularly, life has gotten in the way since last November. One of the main obstacles is that I’ve been doing writing and other communications for a living, and I don’t have a lot of energy left for my own writing. Plus, when too much time passes between posts there seems to be too much to say, so I don’t say anything at all. C’est la vie. Here I am now.

The months since December have been so wild for me that I can best explain them in terms of my vision collage. This is an exercise that I like to do around New Year’s, to visualize what I want for my life in the coming 12 months, and to set my intentions accordingly. And guess what? It seems to work.

Here’s what I put in my collage, and how it’s showed up in my life since January.

1. Play. The photo in the upper left corner shows children puddle jumping, with the words “Youth is in your genes. Reactivate it.”

I’m lucky that Darren and I work from home and can be goofy with each other throughout the day. He loves five-year-old potty humor almost as much as I do, which helps.

2. Music. The pink guitar represents my desire for more music in my life: my own, and others’.

Through practice, I’ve learned the fine art of listening to music while I work, although I used to need complete silence. This is how I’ve discovered bands like Iron and Wine on Pandora. I’ve taken the time to play a bit of guitar and piano now and then, especially when I need a 10-minute break from work. This is another upside of working from home, because in an office, I doubt that my cubicle neighbors would appreciate my vocal stylings.

3. Books. Though I read a lot of articles online, I hadn’t sat down and read a book for a great long while except for on the plane.

I’ve been getting in the habit of reserving the last half hour of my day for curling up in bed with a book, and I’ve finished a few, including The Help, Switch, and What the Dog Saw (I’m a sucker for books about business and sociological trends). I’m halfway through Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed, and though of course it can’t match Eat, Pray, Love, I still adore her.

4. Money. Last year, I had enough but could have felt more comfortable. Darren and I lived very simply while we were both getting our freelance work going, and we didn’t have many luxuries. I wanted to become more financially stable so we could travel more (particularly to see our loved ones) and indulge in the things that made us happy. Of course I’d like to do more practical, boring things as well, like pay off our private school student loans and save up to buy a house.

A couple of things happened to put us in a better spot financially. His design and my writing picked up through word of mouth, enough for us to employ a few freelancers as contractors. We ended up incorporating as Fresh Press Creative, a brand that we’re growing slowly. The picture on the collage of a couple canoodling, sipping coffee, and working on laptops at the same time pretty much captures a day in the home office for us.

The second thing was a windfall: We were chosen to be in a “customer testimonial” commercial for our phone carrier, Cellular South. A friend of ours, Tom Beck, is married to the Marketing Director, who recommended us to the fancy New York ad agency creating the series. We were invited to become part of a pool of 30-or-so applicants (three stories would be selected). Based on our personalities, our “look,” and our Cell South story, we were chosen to fly to LA and do a one-day shoot. It was an amazing experience that I’d still like to document in writing. I can say that I miss having a personal hair and makeup artist, and it was nice being referred to as “The Talent.”

That’s all to say that we got paid for the commercial and get royalties as long as it airs; Cell South is finally phasing it out after five months of airtime. Did I mention that it premiered during the Super Bowl in the Southern states that Cell South serves? AND that the Saints won? Watch the commercial here.

We’re not rolling in cash money by any stretch of the imagination, but we don’t have to live freelance check to freelance check anymore. We’re still working on our own avoidance issues around money, but we realize that we need to learn to have some relationship with our money if we want it to stick around.

5. Love. Well, I already had that, but I put a picture of a bride and groom on my New Year’s vision collage because I really wanted to get engaged.

As luck would have it, I did. Darren proposed on our second anniversary, February 3rd, at Amerigo, our favorite local Italian restaurant. The wedding will be at the end of next February here in Jackson, Mississippi, and we’ll do a California reception later in the spring. I cannot tell you how happy I feel when I look at my sparkly engagement ring, a family heirloom.

6. Home. Darren’s former bachelor pad was getting too small for the both of us, especially because he had his desk set up in the bedroom and couldn’t separate work time from down time.

In January, Darren found a post on Craigslist for a townhouse five blocks south of our apartment. We toured it, fell in love with the hardwood floors and amenities (a dishwasher! a washer and dryer!) and signed on it the next day. We now have a home office downstairs and a bedroom upstairs, so there’s a clear delineation between work space and living space.

7. Food. We’d gotten into a bit of a cooking rut, so I’d hoped to get more creative with our meals.

Darren and I bought a couple of Real Simple magazines and a Cooking Light weeknight meals book that contain quick, healthy recipes with few ingredients. They have helped immensely, because sometimes we just need new ideas.

8. Organization. Both of us are typical “messy creatives” who seem to attract piles of clutter in our work and personal spaces.

This is a work in progress, as I’m still finding homes for everything. We may pay an organizational consultant for a couple of hours just to tell us what storage solutions we need. In the meantime, I’m making the bed every day and picking up after myself frequently.

9. Travel to Beautiful Places. ‘Nuff said.

I absolutely, positively don’t know how this happened, but I was able to visit China, Israel, and Puerto Rico for different work trips within the span of two months. I hadn’t been out of North America since 2007, so it blew my mind to pack such major travels into such a short time. The China trip was for the tour operator Pacific Delight Tours, where I contribute to the company blog (I’m documenting the trip in a series of posts), and Darren accompanied me at a companion rate. IDEA took me to Israel and Puerto Rico for education work, and I loved seeing such completely different cultures.

10. Gratitude, Self-Care, and Joy. I am constantly reminding myself to enjoy life instead of taking it so seriuosly. I chose words like “Live Your Best Life…It’s your life…so enjoy it,” and “Make a conscious decision to appreciate yourself every day.” (Thank you, Oprah Magazine.)

I’d say that while I still have my periods of melancholy, they don’t last as long as they once did. When I’m able to get enough sleep, I feel much more capable of dealing with life’s curveballs and the times where I bite off more than I can chew (a habit I have yet to break). Yoga helps. Laughing with Darren helps. A walk in the morning around the block, before the Mississippi sun gets unbearable, helps as well.

Sure, there are a few things on my vision collage that haven’t quite come to fruition. I haven’t gotten a dog yet, but I did dog-sit for a weekend and realized that Darren and I are not ready for that kind of responsibility. I haven’t gotten any more fashionable — is it possible that I’ve gotten less so? — but I’m finding it a blessing to be able to spend my work day in a t-shirt, ponytail, and no makeup. I haven’t yet figured out the answer to the question “Who Are You Meant to Be?”, but having it in front of me, hanging above my computer, reminds me to keep asking it.

Here’s how to do your own vision collage.

1. Invite your partner and friends to make an evening out of collaging. Even if they aren’t super into personal development, they will most likely enjoy it (Darren really appreciated the time to be artistically creative and think about his goals). Of course it’s OK to do this on your own, but I find it inspiring to share this activity with people you trust.

2. Prepare thin pieces of posterboard (I buy big sheets and cut them in half), glue sticks, scissors, and magazines. Provide enough for each person and ask your friends to bring magazines, too.

3. When your group gathers, explain that the purpose of the vision collage is to visualize what you want your life to look like, so you can set your intention toward making it so. It’s hard to meet your goals when you don’t know what they are. You can combine pictures, words, hand-drawn elements, whatever.

4. Put on soft music if you like, and give everyone at least an hour to search, be distracted by celebrity gossip, cut, and paste.

5. When you’re all finished, take turns explaining to the group why you chose the elements you did. Share as much or as little as you like.

6. Encourage folks to post their collages in a place where they will see them every day: over their work desk, on their bedroom wall, etc. Visible is memorable.

Your Two Cents: Leave a Comment!

If you were to make a vision collage today, what kinds of pictures and words would you put on it?

Comments (7)

  1. Sara

    Melia, I loved reading this and learning more about you and your goals. I feel more kindred to you each time I read something that you write!

    My vision board is constantly changing–a large bulletin board above my desk with ladybug push pins, quotes, photos, drawings by my daughter, mementos, and so on. My main focus lately has been “recovering” the person I was before I had a child–not to completely resuscitate her, of course, because that’s impossible, but to bring some of her back.

  2. Melia

    Thank you, Sara! I feel the same way when I read what you write. 🙂

    I aspire to have a vision board like yours, because as you said, it gives the flexibility to change where you focus your energy. I used to have one but found that I wasn’t changing up the images much. Maybe I’ll put up a bulletin board close to my desk so I can have the commitment of the collage and the fluidity of the board.

  3. Gilliebean

    What a fantastic year it has been so far! I had a good feeling about 2010, and I’m so happy it has been a year of big, positive changes for you. I love the idea of making a vision collage, but I’ve never actually sat down to do it. I feel like I’m always jumping from one major life change to another and don’t give myself the time to reflect on what my goals are. This is great inspiration to make this a project when Brian gets home.

  4. Melia

    I know, I had a good feeling about 2010 as well! I am relieved that after such an angsty journey with Reschool Yourself that I seem to be on the path I want to be.

    You’ve definitely had some big changes in your life, one after the other! Can’t wait to see what you put on your vision collage. The act of doing it really helps you reflect on what’s important to you right now, and then looking at it afterward reminds you.

  5. Ashley Quintana

    I LOVE the idea of vision collage. I am so determined to do it with my friends when I get back to college. Even better, being deputy of scholarship for my sorority it woudl be a great activity to do as a sisterhood event. It will be fun and also very helpful for all of us.

  6. Ashley Quintana

    also… in addition to what I wrote previosuly, a vision collage will be a very beneficial activity for me especially I have recently finished my first year of college and although I have a rough idea on what I want to do and be in the future, it would be great to visually compose it on paper.

  7. Melia

    Ashley, it’s awesome to start doing vision collages at your age. Like you said, it will help you figure out the kind of path you want to take in college and beyond. It would be a good bonding activity for a sisterhood event because it gives you the space to share your values and vision with each other in a personal way.


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