My Dream of Freedom

Life’s too short. You don’t have enough time to be both unhappy and mediocre. It’s not just pointless, it’s painful. Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from. – Seth Godin, Tribes

I’m going to bare myself here (no, not literally so get that image out of your head!).

I want you to know why I’m doing all this. And by this, I mean why do I actually take the time to write articles that are not lame, depressing, and full of whines and complaints about my dull existence. I don’t believe I have a dull existence, in fact, I am ecstatic about my life and so many opportunities that I have had in the past, am currently having, and will surely have in the future. I cannot contain the excitement that I have for the future I am setting up for myself! It’s intoxicating and I’m drunk with my dreams.

What are my dreams?

My dream is to break free of the corporate 9-to-5, which I feel is extremely stifling to my creative self, in order to pursue the work that I love while making a positive difference in others’ lives one small step at a time.

I just want to be free.

Free to pursue writing, create art, and have more time to explore the passionate activities which fill me with so much joy. Activities include martial arts, traveling (who seriously doesn’t love traveling or want to travel more? and no, not for business purposes because that really does suck the fun out of it.), reading (that I do already, so that’s cool), working out of cafes and small studio places and totally just being an independent artist.


Why give up my stable (this is a lie), secure (not!), steady paycheck (yes, every 2 weeks I get a deposit, like food in the trough given to the pigs on a daily basis) corporate job that has benefits and a 401(k) plan?

Because I’ve realized over the recent years that having such a regimented career, despite its “benefits,” does not make me intrinsically happy.

Haven’t I realized this when I quit my job at a Fortune 50 company back in November 2008, during the beginning of one of the worst recessions our country has experienced since the Depression? People thought I was insane, that I must’ve made a really bad decision, that I gave up all that money, prestige, and nice cushy office (an office, with a door! at age 22! I must be doing well for myself. Not.) in order to what, finish graduate school and work at Starbucks? But that is what I did.

I didn’t pursue my dreams during my year off because honestly, I didn’t know what they were. I was still in an employee state of mind and I didn’t think as an artist or a business owner. I knew I wasn’t happy where I was at but I didn’t know any other option. So I went back to being in a corporate job, where I’m at now, but this time, things are different.

This time, I actually know what my dreams are and am taking steps to realize them.

This time, next year, I will be free. At the very least, I will be well on my way to being free.

There, now I’ve said it! Wow. I am uncertain how this will all work out, but one thing I know for sure:

I must live my own life according to what makes me happy and not by others’/society’s standards, which may suit some people, but not me. I am the only one who knows what I am feeling and what I want and dream about. I need to trust myself.

Let me share with you what my dreams were when I was younger. Perhaps this will help explain why I’m so fervently passionate about pursuing the artistic fields now rather than the business fields, which I’ve been doing since college and beyond.


When I learned how to type on a old fashioned typewriter at age 6, I typed non-stop. I typed a story (sometimes more) every single day for over 8 years. I loved to write and I loved to read. English was always one of my best subjects in school and it was never something I did not look forward to. I would borrow a huge stack of books from the library and have it all finished within a week. I was a beast, a reading beast, and I could not be stopped. I believe reading goes hand-in-hand with writing. By reading, it gave me many ideas and images that I can then transpose into my own short stories or creative non-fiction. I loved every minute of this, and still do.


I come from a family of artists and entrepreneurs. From the time I was able to hold a crayon or marker, that was when I would draw, doodle, paint, sketch, and just have fun creating pictures. In junior high and all throughout high school, I took every single art class that was offered. From the fine arts of drawing, painting, sculpture, to classic black and white photography, graphic design, and calligraphy, it was like I couldn’t get enough of it.

When it was time to apply for college, I wanted so badly to go to art school. But through being “realistic” and “practical,” I was swayed into going into a field more reputable and that would provide dividends for my investment of education (business, law, medicine, etc.). A grown up’s job. Something professional. My parents and relatives did not want me to be a starving artist like my uncle was. But at least he was happy. Nevertheless, I went into business and 6 years later, came away with 3 business degrees. But my artistic pursuits were the price I paid. Until now.

So here I am.

What am I going to do now? I will not do this:

  • I will not stay in a situation where I am unhappy because of my own fears of uncertainty and ambiguity. That means no excuses.
  • I will not let others who mean well but do not understand what makes me truly happy to be the deciding navigator of my own life.
  • I will not listen to those who just want me to stay where I’m at because they themselves are miserable and would get jealous if others succeed.
  • I will not stay in a situation just because it’s comfortable. Comfort does not equal happiness.

What I’ve committed to do:

  • As Gary Vaynerchuk of puts it, “Work your face off!” That’s exactly what I’m going to do. Late at night, after work, during lunch, on weekends, and holidays, I will work on having a minimalist business until I’m ready to leave the 9-to-5 for good. There will be times when I can’t put as much in, but at least I’m doing something.
  • I’m going to take incremental steps to get to where I need to be. For example, I’m in the process of having a new website built for Castles in the Air by my good friend Ivan Lo. By the way, check out his website, his work is absolutely amazing! Ivan’s a humanitarian, travel and street photographer. I’ll let you all know of my new home base as soon as it’s up and running. :)
  • I will follow my heart. It has never lied to me.
  • I will know when to quit those endeavors that are not helping me achieve my dreams. As Seth Godin succinctly put it in his wonderful little book called The Dip, know when to quit and when to stick. Knowing the difference makes all the difference. But I will not quit and give up on myself.
  • I will do my best at my current job. After all, it was a choice I made to go back into corporate America. No one put a gun to my  head and forced me to do it. I did it myself. So while I’m here, I need to be the best I can be. Just because I want out so badly does not give me reason to be a poor and lazy employee. Burning bridges is not how I want to leave. Blazing a path to freedom is.

So how will I sustain myself? Am I going to starve?

I hope to sustain myself by having a online. Living a minimalist life drastically decreases my overhead and I can up and go anytime I need to since I barely own anything. This is just one of the reasons why I’ve chosen a life of minimalism.

I want to write helpful and inspiring ebooks that others can benefit from. My first free ebook is called The Ultimate Minimalist Style Guide. It’s not perfect, but perfect is the enemy of done. I just have to do it and get it out there.

But it’s challenging! It’s scary!

And that is exactly what I need to get myself over: the scariness and fears associated with leaving a comfortable, albeit soul-sucking situation. Some people are better suited for a corporate job, in fact, they revel in it and they love their jobs! Kudos to them. Not every office job is horrifying.

But what is good for me? What fits my personality? What are my passionate pursuits? What causes me to want to dance and sing and jump and do ninja moves in my pj’s? What I know: not what I’m doing now. It’s what I’m doing outside of work, like drawing, writing, reading, and karate that fuels me and causes me to lose myself in it. “If only I could do that, too, but I can’t” is never something I want to utter, ever. I can do it, and I will. Passion and conviction combined = unstoppable.

Dido did it. She left her career as a literary agent to pursue her love of making music. She did exactly what she wanted to do when she realized how much she missed it. Was it scary? I’m sure it was. But look how wildly successful she is, making all those albums, singing, traveling, and being true to herself.

Leo Babauta did it. AND he has 6 kids and a wife to support. You think that was scary as hell? You bet! But he left his day job to pursue his dreams.

Everett Bogue did it. He left one year ago at his job photo editing New York Magazine’s blogs. He left. Just like that. Was that scary? I’m sure it was. But he knew that was not making him happy and he had to figure out what did. Now, he is living a sustainable life and a happy one at that!

Staying in an unhappy, stressful, or mundane work situation does not make it any easier to figure things out. Sometimes, we just don’t have time for incremental changes. Sometimes, it just needs to be a complete overhaul. Whichever the case, things have got to happen. I’m making things happen, slowly but surely.

So, are you ready to watch me kick life’s ass? Let’s do this!!

I won’t be held down, I won’t be held back. – Lyric from Jewel’s song, Barcelona


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  • Nichole Swafford

    Nina, you are so awesome. Do your thang, girl, and keep us updated!

  • Simple Spaces

    You are very ambitious. Life is a never ending journey, trying to find yourself.

    I’m still trying to find my path. Best of luck to you, Nina.

  • Castles in the Air

    Nikki, YOU are awesome! For your support, energy, and positivity, love you girl! Definitely will keep everyone posted … this is going to be FUN!

  • Castles in the Air

    Thanks, Kiran! Accomplishment, after all, begins with the decision to try. I’m going to give it my best shot since I want a better life for myself. Above all, I want to be happy.

    Thanks for following me as I try to blaze my own path. Will keep you posted! :)

  • tokyin

    “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined. The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” – Thoreau

    The road toward a dream can be filled with challenges. It is easy to get discouraged along the way. Just remember that overcoming challenges will only add to the satisfaction of achieving a dream.
    I believe in you and your ability to succeed!

  • Castles in the Air

    THANK YOU!!!

  • Bo

    You are my new favorite person in the whole world.

    A few weeks ago I gave my corporate job my 6-month notice. I’ve never heard of a 6-month notice before, but I pitched it & somehow they agreed. So…6 months from now, I’ll be free!

    I’m scared to death but I know that it’s absolutely the right thing for me at this point in life. And I know that because of people like you doing the very same thing. Can’t wait to hear more!

  • Castles in the Air

    WOW, that is awesome Bo!!! A 6-month notice, that is pretty sweet, can’t believe they agreed! I’m also excited to hear about others who are doing the same thing. Basically, leaving what doesn’t make them happy by pursuing work that actually matters to them. How wonderfully inspiring, and I can’t wait to hear how it pans out for you as well! :)

  • Castles in the Air

    Thanks, Kiran! Accomplishment, after all, begins with the decision to try. I'm going to give it my best shot since I want a better life for myself. Above all, I want to be happy.

    Thanks for following me as I try to blaze my own path. Will keep you posted! :)

  • Ash


  • Valentina

    Thank you for this post Nina! It came just when I needed it ;)
    So… back on full energy to my side projects.

  • Nina | Castles in the Air

    So great to hear, Valentina! Keep it up!

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