A creative Outlet, The story of Debbye Byrum


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The story

Instead of coming inside a boutique, it felt as if I had entered a museum of untold short stories, stories waiting to be guessed, to be discovered, stories that are meant to be felt rather than to be heard. People’s eyes are embedded in contemplation or traveling where the nose and hands feel tempted to explore. Whether it is a life story or a strong ephemeral impulse, you know that corners, objects and walls are trying to speak in a language that can only be understood by the soul.

Debbye always had a passion for esthetics and putting things together but she said she never thought of herself  as a painter or a sculptor or a writer or a creator. What kind of college or university would advertise, "get a degree on putting things together in only two years!". Are we taught how to realize what we are instead of becoming something that already exists? We frequently ask kids "what do you want to be when you grow up?" and we expect to hear a profession, a title, a specific thing. Our heart has a way of teaching us. It does not provide a school curriculum or a manual of instructions. For Debbye, the first lesson was about confidence.

I went the fashion route but I was still too afraid and I have a degree in fashion design but I went into merchandising instead, and fortunately the job that I got was back in the 80s when department stores started to do their own designs. I loved doing it, the creative part.

She stayed safe in an area where she felt comfortable and happy while learning to trust herself.  Thanks to her decision, we can extract the first practice of wisdom from this story:

I fell into an area that people didn't really care about so they did not put a lot of money in it although it was a big money maker for them. They did not pay attention to it so I got to do it!

The area was children clothing. Had she not paid attention to this, she wouldn't have had the opportunity to be autonomous and explore with her designing skills even though her job was mainly merchandising. She got to do whatever she wanted! and the outcome was a ton of experience as a designer, as a manager, and knowledge in fashion for children. This eventually led her to work for Ralph Lauren and Old Navy, creating some of their first design concepts. She was working long days, nights, and sometimes 7 days a week. As much as she loved it, the body can only take so much, and her heart had bigger plans for her.

I was quickly burning out and said "you know what! let me put on the brakes" and so I thought I was going to take a short brake, I did not take a short break. I went two years into the break, I got very involved with my son's school, fundraising and things that I found very rewarding because I was working with volunteers and the community but I always had in the back of my mind that I wanted to do something

Her internal voice was talking even though she was fulfilled at what she was doing. Maybe she still had to learn a lesson, maybe the lesson was to sculpt herself as different type of leader. And from this lesson, we extract our second practice of wisdom:

It was after I had done a huge amount of volunteer work...I learned how to manage people not in a corporate way but in a volunteer way...See the potential in people and encourage them and also be brave enough to let them fail, that is a big key. It may not be the way you want it to be, and it may not work but you have to trust and even if it does not work, you are all going to make it work and figure out and learn from the mistake and move on.

Great practice if you are a parent, a teacher or have the role of a leader. Now, let's continue. Taking a few steps back into the story, what was that thing she always had in the back of her mind? Well, sometimes the heart has a way of yelling the loudest, and this is in acts of love and vulnerability.

I also became a caregiver. My husband's family and some members of my family became very ill and I started doing that, which I found fulfilling... I spent a lot of time in hospitals, seeing people dying, just thinking and thought "what is the one thing I always wanted to do but I never did, and I thought I wanted to create something that was just mine because I always pretty much worked for the corporate world which was probably good because I never had the self confidence to do that" so I wanted to have a store.


Here we go! Inspired in this answer, it is time to extract our third practice:

What is the one thing you always wanted to do but you never did? You may be stopped by "but it is not the right time" or "I don't have the resources". That is okay, nobody said to go ahead and do it, start by answering this question. Wait, not even! start by asking yourself this question.
Debbye went ahead and did what her heart was telling her. While doing it, she experienced a few bumps in the road but she kept on going.

During the years I wasn't working I did a lot of research but it was just too scary to do it in NY city I needed to be here where is slower pace, I needed to be connected to a community. Two weeks after I opened, my husband announced that he was leaving me. The store was never created to financially support me. It was to support me creatively, emotionally and connect me to the community but I never thought I was going to loose everything else in the middle of it.

Seems as if the heart gives us the strength continue if we follow two conditions: First, we must truly listen to it.

The first year, after my first holiday season I was just crushed and devastated but I woke up and thought: This is the right thing for me because this was the easiest job I ever had in my life and it was just created from what I loved.

And second, we must see beyond ourselves.

And by creating this thing it drew people into me and I met people, hundreds and hundreds of people and I helped women in the film industry, and I just said yes to everything. And I got very involved in the community, I am president of the Chattam Area Arts and Business Association and we do breakfasts to connect people in the community. We do several the festivals in town, this whole place is my new family. It wasn't necessarily I am the greatest designer in the world but I could work with people to get things done.

So did her heart want her to become a designer, a manager, or the owner of a store? These words may be only that, words and labels that kids are expected to say as the answer to the question: what do you want to be when you grow up? Are we still telling ourselves that we must become something? are we limiting ourselves to stay firm in what we have become even though it may not be benefiting us anymore, neither is benefiting others?  We don´t have to answer right away but just like it was said in our practice #3, start by asking yourself these questions.

Alexandra Gomez