Real Life Stories: Conner The Hustle Queen

Wednesday, April 15, 2015



I choose joy simply because I know a life without it.


The back story:

I met Conner last year. The year of the grief fog. Because of that, I can't remember when we first met. I know that she came to my house for dinner with her boyfriend who is a friend of my husband's. We also went camping together with them. I honestly don't remember which happened first. I just remember thinking, "Man, I need that girl to teach me how to do liquid liner." We did the traditional add to Facebook, and that was that. But, I started seeing her awesome Etsy posts, and then her awesome blog posts, and started to feel really inspired by her work ethic, and her creativity. Also, her downright bluntness. I appreciate honesty, it earns my respect quickly. I was really excited when she decided to share her Real Life Story with you all, I just knew it would be a learning moment for me, and I hope that it helps some of you! Let's head to the interview now.

TJB: Conner, I'm so excited to interview you. I just always feel like you have something profound to talk about. So, let's jump right in, shall we? What does having joy mean to you? 

Conner: Joy, for me, is a more obtainable form of happiness; as I get older I realize there’s a huge difference between being joyful and being happy. I was always afraid I was defective for never feeling constantly happy, the lingering state of being “happy” that my friends, my family, people you hear and read about experience. Joy is my kind of happiness; I think it’s a feeling that is so underrated and goes far too unmentioned a lot of the time. For me, it’s in small moments: a piece of work I’m proud of, a goal I’ve reached, commuting to work and suddenly my favorite song is playing on the radio, being outside and feeling the sun on my skin. For me, it’s a fleeting moment, but it is a moment that reminds me it is so, so good to be here, to be alive.

TJB: So, then what other things bring you joy? 

Conner: My constant and never-ending endeavors. For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to do things. When I was a kid, I wanted to start my own fashion magazine, so I took to my grandparent’s Windows 98, opened the WordPad application, and within a night I had written, printed, and bound together multiple pages of fake advertisements for clothing companies I wanted to create from my ongoing sewing hobby, articles and blurbs about the happenings in my class at school, a small space available for submissions by my classmates for jokes, stories, a shoutout to their friends. 

When I was 11, I wrote a book, filling 3 entire college-lined notebooks, about a strange girl attending private school who had a secret: telepathy. I ended up revising it and typing it in full on a typewriter; I still have all of the drafts. When I was 16, my mom had asked for a specific jewelry item for Christmas and, distraught I couldn’t find it anywhere, I decided to take matters into my own hands and hand-make her the jewelry piece exactly as she wanted. This particular endeavor-turned-small business is one that has stuck with me since, and is one of my main sources of joy.

I do not dream in grand scale. All of the dreams I’ve had for myself and for my life, the things I fell asleep thinking about and woke up ready to take on, were all within the realms of possibility. So, I did them. I still do them. They are the biggest, brightest, and most positive facets in my life and without them I don’t think I’d know the joy I feel today, every day, in some way, shape, or form.

TJB: Describe in detail a time or event in your life where you dealt with a mountain that seemed impossible to climb. 

Conner: All of my adult life I have suffered, tooth and nail, from depression. 10 years of my life were a constant struggle, a hopeless black pit, and I became an entity I didn’t know myself to be but ultimately, well, was. Despite popular belief, you don’t just “deal” with depression; many people suffer it their whole lives, in many cases their short lives. Some, like me, are lucky enough to see a light at the end of the tunnel, after years of support, falling, climbing, trying, believing, shattering, and then doing it all over again and again. Sometimes all you need is a sliver of light, something to hold on to to really see that maybe you can do it, that you can live, that maybe even you could one day possibly thrive. With help and experience, I saw it and I held on.

TJB: You're so right, depression isn't an easy-fix for a lot of people. How have you made it through? 

Conner: A potent mix of stubbornness and guidance. Stubbornness was me refusing to believe that this grey, clouded, sad mind I was living in, had lived with and still had never really gotten used to, would be the rest of my life. Guidance was the stepping stone I needed to know I could help myself, realize that I even should. With these, I was able to get in touch with a spark of my old self, the person who dreamed possible things. 

Eventually, I had ideas again, I resumed making things I loved, and I never, for one second, looked back. I made new goals, attainable goals, and reached them. Somewhere at the end of these accomplishments I took a step back and realized that everything had changed. I was so busy running full steam ahead that I somehow hadn’t noticed I left a dark presence and a former skin of myself behind me. This realization, still, is enough to help me make it through anything life continues to throw my way.

TJB: Did and do you choose happiness as a way through it? If so, what things bring joy into your challenges? 

Conner: I didn’t choose joy, I chose the thought of joy. The possibility and pursuit of joy. I realized that I brought nothing to the challenges that I faced, but more that every single one had brought something to me.

When I look back on the challenges I faced a year ago, 5 years ago, I think of them like a video game; every small challenge I faced (a small stressor, a bad day at work, something I hoped for not working out) gave me the chance to earn a key. Another, and then another, and finally I earned so many keys that I was able to have the resources and experience to reach the boss of the particular level I’d been trying to navigate (a mental breakdown, the loss of a friend). Yes, it’s hard, and yes, I may fall flat on my face and have to do it all over again. But, eventually, it will become so easy to defeat this boss, to move on to the next level with ease, only to find more challenges, more opportunity for moving ahead and becoming stronger.

I am, clearly, not a huge gamer or a master of analogies, but I feel like the concept translates fairly well: I am nothing without my challenges. My challenges have allowed me to finally see and experience joy, to continue in my pursuit for more of that joy, to stay alive so that I may possibly experience more, and maybe even share some of it with others.

TJB: As a Nintendo kid growing up, I can totally relate to that analogy. What did you learn or are you learning from your experiences? 

Conner: My experiences have taught me so many things in so many facets that I will continue to grow on and expand for the rest of my life: patience, dedication, the importance of follow-through, the necessity of accepting things as they are, thinking before speaking and acting, empathy, the downfalls of becoming stagnant, and, above all, never, ever, taking anything for granted.

TJB: How do you choose joy now? (If you do.) 

Conner: I choose joy every day by doing things I love, plain and simple. When you’ve lived the majority of your life dreading almost everything all of the time, receiving the ability to appreciate anything is a very lucky thing. There is no reason in the world to not do the things you love, things that bring you joy, whether in glimpses or lifetimes. I choose joy simply because I know a life without it, and I think a lot of us identify with that in some way or another. I choose joy by working, endlessly, for the life I want and the person I know I can be. I continue to write, though no longer about young girls with super hero gifts, and I create things other people take real joy from, though they’re not advertised in any kind of magazine. I choose joy by telling myself, every single day, “I can, so I will.”

TJB: Wow. You have true wisdom and experience. Life is always going to throw things at us, and each challenge can be thought of as a level to get us to the main boss to beat. When we beat the boss, we level up, and are stronger so we can face the next levels and bosses that come. Life sure isn't going to be easy, but if we take it a level at a time, it's totally beatable. Thanks so much, Conner, for sharing your story. I think so many people can relate to it, depression seems to be quite rampant in our society these days. 

For more information on depression, go here.

To catch up with Conner, you can find her at any of the following places:

Her Blog: The Hustle Queen
Her two (can I say AMAZING?!) shops:
Passing Through Shop on Etsy (for great jewelry and other cool finds)
Hustle Apparel (for tee-shirts that explain everything anyone ever needed to know about you.)

++ If you have any comments or questions for me or Conner, please share them below. 


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6 comments

  1. "Leveling up in life". I really like that. :) Thanks for giving me an opportunity to share my story on this incredible and uplifting outlet. <3

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    1. Thank YOU! It's people like you that are willing to share that make this even happen at all.

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  2. I love a blog about happiness and joy we need some of this in our lives today !!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by. I love having new readers. :)

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  3. So beautiful. This is SUCH an important kind of story to have on a blog, I feel like I've gained so much in just the ten minutes it took me to read. Thank you!

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