The Best Advice I Received at Alt Summit
by Lynn Byrne
A room full of caring women at Alt Summit advised me to rewrite my “About” section to tell the true story of me. I didn’t lie in my old “About” section. Let’s just say it is incomplete.
How did I get this advice? Why am I listening?
Speaker after speaker at the conference expressed that the key to success in blogging is to let your unique self shine through. Content strategist at Pinterest, Tiffani Jones Brown, discussed the importance of telling true stories. Ted speaker and wonderful phototgrapher Karen Walrond explained how to find your unique voice. Generally brilliant man, and famed graphic designer, Stefan Sagmeister proclaimed that following his gut has always worked for him.
By the last day of Alt, I began to consider that I wasn’t letting enough of myself appear in my blog.
I decided that a panel called “Things I’m Afraid to Tell You,” moderated by Jess Lively and Ez Pudewa, might help. I knew I had things that I was afraid to tell you. A few months ago, both Jess and Ez shared posts with this title and sparked a movement for authentic blogging (here and here). In other words, they advocated showing some of the warts in life on your blog.
The panel was a cathartic session. A group of 25 women shared their dreams and aspirations, and how they could be more true to themselves in life and when they blog. It was when it was my turn to share, that the group unanimously advised that I needed to revise my “About” section to better reflect who I really am.
So, here goes. Let me introduce myself. (If you don’t really care, click away. If you change your mind, after this weekend, what follows will live on my “About” page.)
I have always been a dreamer. I was the little kid whose mother begged her to put down her book on a beautiful summer day and go outside and play. I would take my book and climb a tree in the backyard to continue reading. As a child, I was shy and quiet. That might surprise people who meet me in real life today, because over the years, I have learned to be outgoing.
Neither of my parents, nor any of my aunts and uncles, went to college. It was all about the kids. Getting a good education was paramount. Without exception, my siblings and cousins are professionals: lawyers, doctors, nurses, teachers, accountants, successful businessmen. You get the picture.
In my family, college wasn’t something you automatically did after high school. You went to college with a plan: to learn what you needed to get a good job afterwards. Period. So what was my plan? After I read To Kill a Mockinbird as a young teenager, I decided I wanted to be an attorney.
That meant when I walked on my college campus on the very first day, I knew I was going to be a political science major and go to law school. Undecided? Forget about it. Plus, I needed to keep getting straight A’s so I could get a scholarship to help pay for my education. Yes, there was pressure.
I learned that I loved looking at art in high school. I had a wonderful French teacher who introduced me to the Impressionists and other artistic movements. But that was an aside. In my parents’ opinion, interest in art did not lead to a job.
Once in college, I took an art history elective and fell in love. I wanted to change my poli sci major but my parents quickly squashed that idea. How would I ever get a job majoring in art history, they asked, reminding me that I needed to pay back my mounting student loans. Art can be a hobby they advised. Read books. Go to museums.
And so I did.
Going to museums was what I did for fun, even in my late teens and early 20’s. I always bought the audio tour and got lost in whatever exhibiton I attended. When I could afford it, I bought the accompanying catalogs. I dreamed that, hey, maybe after law school I could become General Counsel of the Met. (Turns out I came fairly close to that dream).
I graduated from law school and started my legal career as corporate attorney at a Wall Street firm. When it came time to furnish my first apartment, my older brother taught me that buying country antiques can be cheaper than Ikea (at least back then). I wouldn’t have “throw away” furniture, but things that could increase in value. I added decorative arts to my list of interests, reading up on all types of furniture, so I could recognize a “good” deal when I saw one.
Three years in at my Wall Street firm, a colleague recruited me for my dream job. I took a huge pay cut to work as a corporate attorney at the art auction house, Sotheby’s, and it was so worth it. Sotheby’s wasn’t the Met, but it was damn close.
I loved working at Sotheby’s. The legal matters were fascinating. Even better I was surrounded by beautiful art and antiques everyday. I had a front row seat in the top echelon of the international art and antiques scene and it was fabulous. We were encouraged to look and learn at Sotheby’s; it was part of the corporate DNA.
Fast forward a few years, and while I retained my passion for art and antiques, I picked up a few new passions–like a husband and three young boys (2 are twins). I tried life as a working mother. I was employed part time at Sotheby’s for a few years and worked there until the twins were one.
Sotheby’s eventually wanted more time and I couldn’t give it to them. With 3 kids under the age of 3, it was too much for me. I decided to stay home full time. I embraced everything about making a loving home: cooking for my family, creating special celebrations and designing a comfortable abode. More new passions.
How to wrap this up? Many of you already know our house burned down and that rebuilding it led to my second career in interior design. What you may not know is that I began studying interior design at Parsons just for fun, years before I ever dreamed of being a designer. It was simply my break from the kids and I loved my classes in architecture and decorative arts most of all.
Today, I continue to pursue all of my passions and I enjoy sharing them here with you. If you read this blog, you know how much I love going to museums, how I am a design book addict, and how you can’t drag me away from a good antique show. Now you know how I came to love those things.
Through blogging, I have even discovered a new passion: turns out I love the act of writing itself. I hope you also can tell that I find life, with all its twists and turns, beautiful.
Thanks for reading.