Life for me seemed to have started at (my childhood home) the “Groveland House.” Groveland was the suburban neighborhood across the street from the orange grove field that later inspired me to create our company. I was a driven little girl but always lacked confidence. You could ask any little kid at my elementary school, and 9 out of 10 would vote that I was quiet and shy. I was constantly doing something creative to express myself in some way. I was constantly battling with myself to be better than the life I was living back at home. I found inspiration where ever my imaginary mind led me. I was good at expressing myself without a voice. I was good at being invisible.
When I was nine years old, during our time in the Groveland House, my father had a stroke and soon passed away—leaving my mother on a more extensive path of battling with her addiction and depression. My older sisters did whatever they could to help raise me. My uncle enrolled me in art school in Colombia for a summer during the time my family and I were preparing for my father’s funeral, and it seemed like painting at that school helped me deal with our new normalcy. Suddenly, painting meant more than just the stroke of the brush. I found myself just gazing at all the details in that industrial building. The building itself made me feel welcomed. I was in awe of the exposed bricks, white chipped walls, paint splatter stains on old wooden tables, and art easels placed in every corner of the building. I wasn’t obligated to talk. No one knew me; nonetheless, no one knew I was raised in America, and suddenly over the weeks, my oil paintings spoke for themselves. One month enrolled in the school. I discovered I was the only 10-year-old girl painting in a room full of adults. I suddenly wasn’t invisible like back home. I felt acknowledged. The encouragement from my peers helped me gain the confidence to conquer the new life waiting for me back home. That little art school in Medellín, Colombia, soon became my home away from home that summer. And like most things in my life leading up to that point, all good things were temporary. Before I knew it, the summer was over. We left my father’s ashes at the Columbarium and flew back to Florida. Back to Groveland. Back to my reality, I desperately wanted to avoid.
Eager for a fresh start, I turned to organizing and redecorating my bedroom. I had this idea that maybe reinventing my space would give me peace. Then, all of a sudden, my mother became persistent in moving. Needless to say, as a child, I couldn’t understand her timing. I couldn’t grasp that her version of change was forced upon me. And before I knew it, the house had sold. The home that raised me was then out of my reach. It was time to say goodbye.
I watched furniture being sold, My father’s clothes being donated, and strangers driving away his donated work vehicle. Saying goodbye to Groveland was a forced reality that my sisters are now young adults creating lives of their own, and we would never ever live under the same roof with each other again. My bedroom that I had so much ambition to reinvent was now going to be lived in by another. Groveland was abusive and loved all at the same time. There was never an in-between. The aura of the home changed with the seasons. But, despite all the tragedies, I felt God had plans for me far more prominent than that house. With his guidance, I gained the courage to accept change and move on with my life.
As I live a peaceful life now, I understand that the feeling of home will change with how you love. Home is what you make it. The normalcy I live in now brings me gratitude looking back at the evolution of my life.
I will never forget that little Colombian art school. My experience not only helped me gain confidence to conquer change, but it was the beginning of achieving the little victories that would later help pave the way for me. For example, I never realized that my appreciation for the exposed brick and white chipped walls would be the first moment I ever caught an eye for interior design.
As I sit here now realizing, Design has always been the only consistent thing in my life.
And, for that, I am forever grateful.