Your One Wild and Precious Life

Posted by Kelley Bren Burke on

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" In this blog, I attempt to answer the poet Mary Oliver's famous question.


When I have lots of jewelry orders, it’s clear that I have three categories for my jewelry: pieces I like to make, pieces I don’t mind making, and pieces I dislike making. I hop to the “like to make” orders and whip them up. I make the “don’t mind” orders without fuss. I drag my feet on the “dislike’ orders. 

My favorite part of being an entrepreneur is the freedom. As an entrepreneur, my epiphanies about my liberation have come along slowly. Most recently, it’s this: I don’t have to keep listing and selling the pieces that I don’t like to make anymore. 

Even a casual observer of Gems by Kelley Instagram and Facebook pages could guess what I like making best. 

Gems by Kelley Instagram page gemstone natural stone jewelry

I resisted this for a while, but it’s . . .  beading. I feel like some of the other jewelry that I make requires more impressive skills.  But something about making beaded bracelets or Malas makes me feel unrushed and happy. And it frees up my brain to listen to podcasts and learn.

I am a podcast evangelist. You can get a legit education from listening to podcasts. I love business and self improvement podcasts. Some of my favorites are The Lively Show, Freakonomics Radio, and Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income

What don’t I like to do? Mostly it’s jewelry that makes me feel like I have OCD. Take wire wrapped and post earrings. I make a pair of earrings, and then I hang them on a little earring holder.  I want them to be exactly the same length. If not, I’ll make a new one. Then I’ll have three earrings. Hopefully with one pair that matches. If not, guess what? I’m whipping up earring #4. During this whole process, I'm silently arguing with myself that no one except me would notice if one earring is one millimeter longer than the other. Friends, the wire wrapped earrings’ days are limited.

What I’m doing now is staggering. It’s thrilling and intimidating. I’m creating my ideal job and my ideal life. I get to do that! Right now I’m a student of Kelley Bren Burke-ology. I’m getting my Masters, yo. No, better yet, make that my PhD. I have a blank day before me every day. I get to design that day. Each and every day.

I’m restructuring my life and business in a way that serves me. I’m setting some boundaries. I no longer receive a notification on my iPhone and iPad when I get an Etsy conversation. It’s not necessary. I’m on the Etsy site for hours a day. That little guitar strum Etsy convo noise ruled my life. I used to interrupt dinner and dates and TV with my husband to look at those convos. That’s bananas. And rude. It’s downright Rude Bananas. The convos can wait. My new rule is that I answer them within 24 hours.  

When I get frustrated about a customer’s requests, I’m choosing to get mad about a customer’s requests. No one is making me run around in circles to please a customer but me. I don’t have a crazy demanding boss lady. Except for myself. Who, granted, can be a crazy AND demanding boss lady. But I’m working on it. And why should I get mad? All I need to do is figure out how I want to handle the situation, and do it. A customer wants something in the mail in two hours? All I need to do is politely say no. As a hustler, this can be hard to do.

I’m slowly realizing that I have the final say. I don’t have to follow anyone else’s rules or values. Which means I have to be clear on my own rules and values. If I'm not clear, each situation presents new options and opportunities to vacillate endlessly before making a decision. 

For 20 years, I had to follow other people’s rules. I worked in corporate retail for 20 years of my life. Yes, that’s 20 years of my life. I’m an introvert! I worked in sales! Following all of these rules that didn’t make sense to me. Managing people. Telling people that they had to sell memberships or else.

You guys, I wasted time. The poet Mary Oliver famously asks this questions: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Well, the answer for me shouldn’t have been working in corporate retail.

I worked at Barnes and Noble bookstores. I loved the books. I got to see ALL the books. I loved working with whip smart, funny people, many of whom are still my friends. I know some of them are reading this, and I’m deeply grateful for that.

But at the end of the work day, I was drained. As an introvert, I need lots of time alone. I love people, but I don't have endless amounts of energy to spend on other people. I squandered the precious, limited energy that I have for people to deal with customers. And bosses. I should not have been working in retail for 20 years. It blows my mind that I didn’t realize this until after I left. I was so busy and exhausted that I couldn’t even process my thoughts. 

The first few months of being a full time entrepreneur, I had to unpack and process all these thoughts that were stuffed in my head. Now they’re unpacked. Now’s the fun part. I’m listening to podcasts, reading, and mindfully filling my brain with ideas. I'm writing blogs. And I'm mindfully recreating my one wild and precious life. 

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? 

Share this post

← Older Post Newer Post →

Leave a comment