Welcome to the newly launched Tiny Acts Studio website! Creating and building Tiny Acts has been nothing short of a journey that has taken me far beyond my comfort zone, yet also feels like a homecoming to my true self. In this first blog post, I want to share with you the very personal journey of how Tiny Acts came to be.
It was 2012 and I had been running Ha Design Studio, a branding and web design business for over six years. I felt at that point that I had established a pretty good foundation for my career: a long list of clients, a steady stream of projects, and a decent reputation that kept new clients calling on a regular basis. Running a business of my own was the most natural thing (if not the only option) for me. I knew very early on, in my 20’s that I wasn’t cut out for the 9-to-5 routine. I felt like a misfit in the corporate world and craved an atmosphere of freedom and the flexibility to work on my own schedule and “design” my days. Being a business owner was everything I wanted. I was able to use my creative skills on client work and watched as their businesses took flight and grew over the years. This gave me a sense of satisfaction knowing that I was using my creativity to help others. But I slowly started to feel something tug at me. It was very subtle at first like a soft whisper, almost imperceptible, but the message was loud and clear: “there’s something more.” I pushed it aside, thinking how amazing my life already was and wanting anything more would be downright greedy. So I went back to business as usual. But the tugging didn’t stop. I found myself with creative urges and inspiration for personal projects that tried to compete for space in my already busy schedule. I started painting here and there and even printed some greeting cards only to tuck them away in the closet when they arrived. I was making things just for the sake of making them. I didn’t think much about why I was creating. All I knew was that whenever I was making something, I was happy. There’s something about watching an idea, an elusive spark of inspiration slowly morph into a blurry vision, into rough concepts on paper, into a solid piece of art, and finally into a tangible, physical object. It was and still is a process that fascinates me.
My daughter, Maddy was a toddler at the time and as I watched her slowly turn into a curious little girl, something else stirred within me. I saw how magical her view of life was. Every fallen leaf, every drop of rain, every squirrel that scampered across our fence captivated her. Watching her made me remember the little girl in me that once believed in magic, and in a way, still does. I began to dream of a world for her where life would always be this magical and everyone was kind and compassionate to one another. The eternal optimist in me believed that this dream world wasn’t out of reach. This led me to the idea of creating a Tiny Acts of Kindness calendar for the year 2013. The idea behind this calendar was that if we were all intentional in doing the tiniest of kind things, even one kind act a month, it would create a ripple effect that would lead to huge changes. But even more than just the act of kindness itself, I believed that the intention of being kind, the awareness in one’s actions would create a shift in how we perceive and treat one another. I made and sent out the calendars as donations to organizations that held the same beliefs and were doing work to better the world. The rest of the calendars were sent as holiday gifts to clients, family, and friends. They were well received and the feedback ranged from “wow, these are so cute and charming” to “you should sell these”. It felt as if something just clicked and I knew that I wanted to venture down this path.
I started brainstorming and experimented with ideas for what this new venture would be. I had vague ideas and fragmented visions floating around in my head but every time I sat down to create, I wasn’t able to put anything on paper. I was creatively blocked and didn’t know why. It was as if the pressure I put on this “new thing” to fulfill my longing for purpose somehow killed my creativity. There was so much fear and doubt that came rushing in. I feared rejection. I feared failure. I feared that I wasn’t talented enough, skilled enough, prepared enough, creative enough, fill-in-the-blank enough. I was in a full-on battle with my fears and self doubt and they always had the last word. With nothing to show for, I conveniently shelved the idea when I became pregnant with my second child.
After the arrival of my son Ty, I thought I’d be able to go back to business as usual. Tiny Acts was a thing of the past and I turned my focus to raising my family and running Ha Design. But my body had different plans. I started to feel tired and drained and blamed it on the sleepless nights and new baby. During the day, I mustered up just enough energy to do my work, play with my daughter and care for my son while counting the hours to bedtime. I also suffered from bouts of indigestion that kept me from eating much which only exacerbated the fatigue. The worst part was that I started feeling down, a sense of despair that would come out of nowhere and wasn’t justified by my circumstances. I had two kids, a girl and a new healthy baby boy. I should’ve been over the moon. Instead, I felt a sense of emptiness and I intuitively knew what it was. It was that same tugging, that quiet voice saying “there’s more” that I had heard years earlier. Since I never attended to it, it started speaking to me through my body. I had lost myself in the busy-ness of life and in my habitual care-taking season as a mom, I took care of everyone but myself. In order to heal, I knew I had to find a way back to myself. I started a self-care regimen that included acupuncture, meditation, and daily journaling. I remembered how much I enjoyed art as a kid so I gave myself time (and permission) to make art, even if I only had 15 minutes for a quick sketch. I started to live for myself. I took tiny steps and just did the next thing that felt right for my soul. It wasn’t long before I realized I was doing tiny acts of kindness for myself.
Then one day, Maddy picked up the Tiny Acts of Kindness calendar and asked me to flip through it with her. Seeing the calendar again and remembering the sentiment that went into making it, something reignited within me. I decided it was time to make another calendar and set out to do just that. The process of creating the next year’s calendar reminded me of how much I loved to just make. I savored each step of the process: illustrating the artwork, laying out the pages, and seeing it in print for the first time. I donated most of the calendars to Maddy’s school and the rest were sent out as holiday gifts or sold on Etsy. I had even more positive feedback this time around and the encouragement was all I needed to get back to creating. But it felt different this time. After having connected with myself more, the work became less about attaining something outside of myself and more about feeling good. Even the concept of “tiny acts” became more meaningful because I realized and witnessed firsthand, the power of doing one small thing at a time. Sure, I still had doubts and fears but I’ve come to accept that they will always be there. I know now that constantly choosing to go beyond my comfort zone is the only way that I’ll ever be able to live a life of meaning and purpose.
My biggest realization was that the fear was so crippling this time around (starting a business wasn’t new to me after all) was because this work is especially meaningful to me. It means a lot because expressing myself creatively and sharing with others feeds my soul. Because I’ve always stood for optimism and hope and this work is my way of cheering for the side of love and light. Because I believe in my heart that tiny, seemingly insignificant things are not insignificant at all. And as I continue to trek along on this journey, I will continue to show up day after day to do this work. And if one of the things that I make goes on to touch a heart, inspire an act of kindness, or uplift a spirit, it would be the icing on the already beautiful cake.
If you’ve read this far, I am truly grateful and humbled for your presence. Please stick around, as there’s much more I have to share in the coming months. I promise shorter blog posts in the future : )
With love – Thuy