Real talk, big changes over here.

Grab a ☕, I have a lot to unpack. And if I really want to help end the stigma regarding mental health issues for men, I need to share my story as well.

Anyone close to me knows that my daily job working as a field tech for a national cable company has become an ever-increasing burden on my mind. When the pandemic began, as a front-line worker we continued to go into homes as everything unfolded, and one night I tearfully admitted to my wife that every morning I was scared I would lace up my boots sick and unintentionally kill an elderly customer weeks later because I was their vector, and when I got home to take off my boots and worry that through my actions I would bring covid home and that it would kill me, or worse, her. I carried this burden for months. I began to function better only after accepting that I had to suck it up if I wanted to keep the job, but that was not a healthy way to live and I knew something was going to have to change.

At the same time, I continued with my art when I could bring myself to try, and shared it with all of you on social media. I found respite in creation, a little light in my otherwise dark world. And it was made all the sweeter when my finished works brought joy to someone else. However, I was too worried about responsibilities to consider stepping away from a stable job to chase my leatherwork. Roughly a year ago I interviewed for a new job, and only failed to get it because the company restructured before any paperwork could be signed. I was still stuck a while longer, though my inner circles started asking if it would be feasible to pay bills with my craft. I still found it doubtful, though I didn't have any better plan at that time.

Then Kayla's grandfather passed away. And something clicked. He wrote a story of his life and in it he shared two anecdotes about his grandson-in-law: the day I spent learning to ski as an adult on the bunny hill with them, and my leatherwork. His pride for me in his waning days was in something I was too afraid to chase, and he would now never see it in person if I ever chose to. I missed the boat.

This was doubly impactful for me, as both of my grandparents who ran craft stores for decades are still alive, and I realized if I wanted to create my own business they would still have a chance to see it begin. This was spring of 2021, and when I declared that I was going to go full-time with Parsell Artisan Works instead of find another employer. My grandmother was ecstatic to hear the news even though the launch date was still "someday".

A lot has been accomplished in the last ten months. We bootstrapped a studio workshop in our home. I've purchased supplies and machinery. The brand is incubating, skills are improving, designs are refining, alliances forming. Outsiders may call it tenacity, and it may be somewhat. I certainly demonstrated a sheer force of will. But for me, it was self-preservation manifested. Work continued to get more stressful, and instead of complaining I began to cope by shutting down and stopped expressing my feelings of discontent. I was exasperated, increasingly frustrated, and disconnected. The worse I felt, the harder I imposed my will to create beauty and a better situation.

Then in late 2021 I began to have my doubts. Our discussions in the home were increasingly about the financial risk, and I wasn't sure PAW would even succeed, though I felt it would. The only way to know would be to try, but that meant a terrifying leap for myself and our home by giving up the security of a respected, well-paying job that I dreamt of all through my younger years. My irrational fear said I was going to throw our lives away.

But the burden and stress of everything I felt was catching up to me. On my way home in my vehicle, I was lost in my thoughts when a car neared the center line. I adjusted, then for a split second thought to myself "Why swerve? If they hit me and I lost a leg or something I wouldn't have to do *this* job anymore." As someone who has never struggled with thoughts of harming myself, this was a terrifying wake-up call, and I had no interest in allowing myself to go any further with it.

I then made the decision that I would leave my job. No more excuses, no more waiting for another paycheck, damn the fallout. For my own sake I had to go. I waited for some important tax information, then put in my notice. Yet I didn't clue Kayla into all of my reasonings to go now instead of another time and she, of course, reacted poorly without all of the information. The shame of my own mental health and the notion that men should persevere to provide for their family kept me from telling my own wife how much pain I was in until it all bubbled over and I unloaded everything in a fit of shouts and tears over the table in my shop. I finally allowed myself to let go of the burden and be honest and vulnerable. It was cathartic, and it was necessary. I wish I had done it sooner before it became an outburst, for her and for me. But at least we're on the same page now, and she's completely behind my decision to go.

On January 19th, I will officially (or if you're reading this in the future, have officially) ended my job and have become self-employed at Parsell Artisan Works. While I would have preferred the jump to be more heroic, I've jumped all the same. I've taken my well-being and fate into my own hands, and I'm proud of finally making that choice. 

The struggles have provided a silver lining at least. As I'm rebounding mentally, I'm appreciating beauty and life's simple joys more. The perspective has given direction. If I am to actually make a business of this, I can either follow the status quo into mediocrity and enthusiasm and eventual failure, or I can go all-in and try to make as much beauty, joy, and connection as possible. The latter. Might fail too, but I choose bountiful connection for as long as the work will support us, anything less would be a disservice. I'll be happier this way as well.

With that, here we are! We've made the leap and I'm full-time in the studio! There's so much yet to do, and I'm both excited and terrified. But I have an amazing circle of supportive people around me (us), and I'm ready to see where this journey leads. Either way, I'm not turning back now. And for everyone that's in a tough spot, especially the guys, know that we can't heal our mental health alone. Talk about where you're at with those who care about you, they'll be more supportive than you think. And if they aren't, find others that are. We're worth it.

Much love to you all.
Written by Timothy Parsell

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