$126 and a computer. That's all that is required in the State of New Jersey to become the owner of a Sole Proprietorship. No prerequisite of a collegiate degree or a resume full of corporate experience. Seems a bit too easy to become a 'CEO' these days, doesn't it? That's probably why we see the glorification of 'becoming a CEO' on social media. A title that so many of us chase relentlessly because we've been brainwashed to believe it is the only way to find happiness.
Flashback to the first few years of post-grad life (PGL). I conformed to the "norm" of immersing oneself in a corporate 9-5 and turning the city that never sleeps into a personal playground. The never ending robotic cycle that defines immediate PGL; work, party, repeat, seemed to make everyone else happy but me. I forced myself to believe that happiness was 'one size fits all', so that I could feel a sense of belonging. The damaging result was a deep dissatisfaction in just being, well, me. I became the person who was never happy in the moment. It was always "I'll be happy when I secure the next job"..."I'll be happy when I muster up the guts to start my own fashion brand". What I failed to realize is that there would never be happiness "when" if I couldn't find the happiness in just waking up to see another day as Cara Benevenia.
I would be lying if I said there wasn't a large part of me that became increasingly consumed and somewhat depressed by the lack of validation from my "friends", various boyfriends, and industry colleagues. I wanted so badly to be respected and validated by everyone else; to be dubbed "worthy". I believed the key was working eighty hour weeks at renowned fashion houses and bleeding myself dry in my relationships. When that didn't churn results, I sought after something else. The title of 'CEO'. I failed to look within myself and realize that becoming whole was about truly loving myself and pursuing my own version of happiness, not chasing empty validation from individuals and meaningless job titles.
Flash forward to the rather warm 18th of December, 2018, the day Cara Benevenia, LLC was born, and a day I remember like it was just yesterday. I was battling the common combination of anxiety and depression while grieving a failed relationship that inspired the rather impulsive and dramatic exit from one of the most respected American Fashion Houses. I was incredibly naive at the time, as most 23 year-olds are, and frankly, not ready to embark upon the journey of building a fashion brand. I didn't know the first thing about running a fashion business let alone what it meant to create boundaries and eat three meals every day. But what I did know was that I was hungry for a new chapter; I not only felt it in my heart that it was time to pursue my art as a fashion brand, I was obsessed with wanting to be seen as "worthy". I genuinely believed that if I became a 'CEO', I'd be treated with respect. That my ex-boyfriend would come back. That my "friends" would stop taking and start giving. I thought that if the world could see my work as 'good enough', I'd finally be 'good enough' to those whose approval I so desperately craved. I was absolutely delusional. I thought that seeing the words Cara Benevenia, LLC on paper would be the answer to solving my deep-rooted unhappiness and need for validation.
Three grueling years of hard-work and introspection following that day on December 18, 2018 and we come to my proudest achievement in the history of Cara Benevenia; the realization that I was the one and only key to my happiness. I was the answer. Despite what I brainwashed myself to believe at 23, becoming a 'CEO' didn't cause my ex-boyfriend to come back, and it sure as hell didn't cause my friends to treat me better or my industry colleagues to stick their neck out for me. What becoming 'CEO' did do, was introduce me to the character I needed to build in order to make my dream, finding true happiness and success as a person, a fashion designer, and a businesswoman, a reality.
Your journey in life is going to be anything but perfect. You are going to make mistakes, experience heartbreak, and sometimes even question your entire existence. You must follow the intuition in your heart and chase what truly makes you whole. Whether that means founding a company or working a 9-5. My ingenuous, ill-intentioned start wouldn't have been the beginning of my successful journey of self-awareness and growth if I truly, down to the core, didn't want to be a fashion designer. It would have been just another step in my continued downward spiral of self-loathing and desperate need for attention. And frankly, wouldn't have seen past the six month mark. Three years later, and I've only now begun to embrace my start and hold it dear, instead of being deeply ashamed of it. So if it's validation and attention that you are chasing, save yourself the $126. Happiness comes from chasing the highest, kindest version of yourself, in whatever life you decide to live and whatever path you decide to take. Take it from someone who learned the hard way.