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Nicole Hensley

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December 29, 2021

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A New Chapter

Over the summer, I began closing a significant chapter in my life. The mixed emotions that have come along with this decision have been a challenge to work through. But after much deliberation, I’m ready to move on and begin the next one. 

The past week has been particularly emotional. Not only did I celebrate Storybook Weddings & Event’s seventh anniversary, but I also finally accepted the difficult decision to close its doors and end my journey as a business owner in the wedding industry. 

I’ll be completing three final weddings during the summer of 2022 and I already anticipate many bittersweet moments as we lead up to those final dates. To end my journey with quite possibly, the most sincere and loving families I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with, leaves me feeling incredibly grateful.

I’m sure you’re curious as to why I made this decision. It sounds counterintuitive to let go of an established business.

a longing for balance

Well, throughout my life I’ve followed my instinct. Instinct for me has always been present. I’m also, like many of you, routinely seeking purpose and a meaning in life. Most of the time, my instinct and purpose walk hand in hand. 

But this idea to close my business has no doubt left me feeling like it’s the opposite of what I should be doing. The natural next steps were obvious – continue to grow my team, expand the business into our new territories and continue booking new business, but to be honest I no longer resonate with those ideas.

This decision to close Storybook didn’t happen over night. I’ve been keeping a lengthy list of all the things I hoped to improve to get it into a more ideal position for several years now.

Then 2020 happened. 

The event industry was hit hard and many of us are still struggling to get back on track. There’s been a lot of lost income, resignation of employees, difficulty finding assistance, a continued responsibility to take care of our teams alongside protecting ourselves from the virus. We experienced cancelled weddings and have dealt with significantly stronger emotions, as expected, with our couples. But like every challenge, I charged into it with full steam.

Leaving 2020 and entering 2021 felt exciting although it was met with its own set of challenges. Our team leaned into working remote encouraging us to take up new homesteads in other parts of the country. However, it was through a lot of these positive yet major shifts that things changed the most significantly. 

Upon moving to Texas, I began heavily reflecting (like always) on what I was doing. I was exhausted. It was a hectic summer. Not only did my husband and I sell our first home, move across the county with two children and him start a new job, but I was finishing out a few weddings that had been postponed over a year. I was in desperate need of a break and working through frustrations of feeling under recognized all while receiving continuous and higher demands on my time. I was defeated. 

Photo Credit: Ashley Bosnik

Once again, the most important problem I’ve been trying to solve resurfaced. For years I’ve been seeking a middle ground between having a successful and thriving company all while providing myself a balanced life.

But after exhausting my options and truly giving it my all, I’ve allowed myself to acknowledge that this role is and will remain more demanding on my time than I’m wanting to give it.

There is a lot that I will miss from my career as a wedding planner. I cannot overlook all of the positive moments this role has offered me. Over the past seven years, I’ve enjoyed many incredible experiences that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I made some wonderful life long friends, achieved adventurous goals with my team, made more money than I ever had in any corporate job in the past, gained confidence and created one of the best experiences a planning company can offer.

However, I’m leaving the closing of my company with a sense of relief, excitement for the future, grieving a loss of what could have been, alongside a bit of disappointment. But despite it all, I’m appreciative to be moving forward towards a new calling.

sharing gratitude

With a fresh recognition of all I’ve pushed aside while hustling the past decade away, I want to express apologies to family and friends to whom I didn’t make enough time for. I am truly sorry. I see how much of me was taken over the past seven years. I’m aware that I’ve had no balance. I’ve missed out on so many family events, birthdays (even of my own children and husband which is embarrassing to say out loud) anniversaries, holidays, etc. Thanks to you all for sticking with me while I’ve been kept busy.

I also have immense gratitude to share with so many. First and foremost, I want to thank my husband for supporting me and being my biggest champion when I first had this crazy idea to open Storybook. Looking back, I am shocked by how much you were open to when the unknowns were simply that. Your support has always been recognized despite my lack of attention to so much. I love you and I’m so excited for all the positive change coming our way.

To my children, I love you. It’s because of how much you mean to me, alongside your dad, that I have come to this point. And believe me, I am so happy to be here. I wouldn’t change this decision for anything. Thank you for allowing me to see more beauty in the every day and that the computer screen or sales goals do not bring me as much joy as the time I spend with you. 

Photo Credit: Natalie Probst Photography

To my parents and family who’ve watched me work at the dinner table during holidays, get togethers, etc, thank you for being patient with me. I’m so happy you’ve stuck it out with me and thank you for showing me how proud you were.

To my team, I couldn’t have done all this without you. To Lisa who was with me from the beginning, thank you. We made so much happen and it taught me so much. We had a lot of fun and achieving goals together was exciting. To Joni, thanks for being my girl. Bringing you onto the team was a natural fit. To see the joy you have brought to each of our couples is exactly what I had always envisioned our team would do. To Michela, Erin, Sydney, Lindsay and our Late Gianna, thank you all for teaching me so much and for being incredible individuals. Your work and efforts will always be recognized and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with each of you. 

what’s next

Although I’m still navigating through so many feelings surrounding this closure, I’m finally feeling ready and optimistic to slowly transition into a completely different venture, which is simply entering into life without a solidified list of expectations over what’s next.

And this is where my instinct and my purpose join hands once again. The re-dedication of my time to more intentional projects will have a positive impact no matter how small it may feel in comparison to anything I’ve done in the past. 

Now although I don’t have a deadline for my goals or a firm schedule for my plans, I have outlined a few of my intentions for my time:

  • Most importantly, I’m choosing to leave hustle culture behind and lean into the beauty of living slowly, softly and intentionally. Have you ever made time to acknowledge how truly incredible and fortunate we are to be alive? I encourage you to spend your time wisely.
  • I’m choosing to make drastic lifestyle changes and stop chasing a visual interpretation of success through hyper consumerism and instead go back to the basics and shop intentionally and minimally. 
  • I’m choosing to fully acknowledge the peril our planet is in. I’ve always understood climate change and it’s demand for change, but felt insignificant as a single person taking action. Instead, I’m choosing to see the value in the changes I’m making, acknowledging that even small change can be impactful. I’ll be dedicating much of my time to activism in this sector.
  • I’m making space for all the future moments I’ve always envisioned enjoying with my family. Realigning my priorities and letting go of certain made up responsibilities is providing space to finally be present in my idea of a fulfilling life.
  • I’m choosing to dedicate my time and efforts towards creating a community of others who recognize the great positive impact they can have on this world. I’m not looking for everyone to stop their lives and dedicate it towards activism, but rather recognize that small changes to daily habits can make a world of difference. 
  • Lastly, I am finally going to try out the long list of creative hobbies and ideas that I have been wanting to explore for so long. 

As for so called “work”, I am in the process of changing its definition for myself. I don’t know yet what this category of life will look like for me or what could evolve over time, but I’m really excited to see what life has to offer and I’m open to all the opportunities that may slowly come my way.

It’s an odd feeling, completely upending the strict way in which I’ve outlined my expectations for life to all of a sudden, just let go and live.

My goals are to share my experience and what I’ve learned along the way and encourage others who are in a similar place in life to slow down, reevaluate their priorities and reset their focus.

Life is strange, its ever evolving. It’s now my turn to take another scary leap into the unknown, but if I do know one thing, it’s always been worth it. 

With love, 

Nicole

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