This was one of my first articles I wrote as a non-paid freelancer. I was watching Ugly Betty last night (thanks to my DVR), and the whole theme was about how it is a risk to make changes to something that feels secure, like a safety net. In the end though, when you truly follow your dreams and your passions, it pays off. Maybe not monetarily, always, but your life is more balanced because your are spending time doing something you love. Love what you do. Do what you love.

I remember when I first graduated from college, I was working at an ad agency, and I wasn’t loving it. One morning I was watching the Today Show while getting ready, and a pair of figure skaters were being interviewed. I kept thinking, it must be so nice to have a job you love, and are so passionate about, even if it’s figure skating. The more I thought this, the more I thought, why don’t I? It truly can’t be that impossible. For me, it kind of was. I was in the midst of buying a house with the responsibility of a mortgage and other bills. I still needed that sense of security, that safety net. It took me ten more years of jobs that I had a love/hate relationship with, just so I could pay the bills. I think people discover this at different times in their lives. I envy those who have the confidence right away to say, I’m not doing anything else until I am successful at “this”. I never really had a career in mind when I graduated in college. I toyed around with being a history professor, or 6th grade history teacher, but I didn’t take the right classes to earn my credential while in college, why??? I guess deep down inside I wanted something different for myself. I also thought about being an archaeologist, but I didn’t jive with the archaeologists I worked with during an internship at my university. I went into marketing because I love planning, strategy, details, creativity, and being forced to think outside the box. But if I wrote down my ten year plan, my vision is me being a writer. I finally feel like I can take that risk and say, “this is what I want to work at until I’m successful.” Any maybe it’s because I married to a safety net~ but are we ever really truly safe? I mean, the only way fairy tales come true is when you can finally look at the story and say, “Yup. This is exactly where I want to be.” We have to write our own fairy tale.

This company I currently work for is basically a retail company. I never thought in a million years I would work for a retail company. What I love about the company is that they really do invest in their people. They teach you life skills, not just how to manage a store. This is the most valuable education you can have, in my opinion. When I am ready to leave this company, not only will I walk away with management, budget analysis, product and inventory, and branding experience, I will walk away with the tools needed to continue to pursue my goals. The confidence to know that I can, and the ability to recognize when I’m not “playing the game”. The amazing thing is that my goals outside of this company are not in retail, and my manager’s job is to recognize when I’ve hit my ceiling with them, and time for me to move on to finally pursue those goals. It’s a crazy concept, I know, but it really is happening for this company and the people who are fortunate enough to work there.

So here is a very beginning sample of me following my passions before I was truly ready to follow them. I wrote an article for an on-line website called, where you choose a given topic, write about it, submit it, then your peers vote on its placement. For example, I was voted 3/6 of those writers who also submitted an article on this same topic. Happy reading!

Understanding the Etiquette of the RSVP
by Stefanie Van Aken

Modern etiquette is not intimidating if you handle social situations in the same way in which you would like to be respected for social events you host, aka: the Golden Rule, “do unto others…”.
Upon receiving an invitation for an event, no matter how large or how small, it is simply impolite to not RSVP, even if you are not planning on attending. The first rule, assuming the host or hostess has given ample time, at least two weeks, is to check your personal social and work calendar to see if you are able to attend at all. Less than two weeks is a little rushed on their part, but there could be a good reason behind it, so take heed, and still maintain your social graces. Once it has been decided, you should contact the invitee as soon as possible so A) You don’t forget to RSVP and B) In order to give the host plenty of notice in which to include you for food, drinks, seating, etc.

Couple of rules to follow with an RSVP:

1. However the host prefers for you to RSVP, phone or email (which is becoming quite common these days), follow suit. There is a reason they have requested this of you, perhaps for time or organization. If they ask to email and you call, it may slip their mind if they are not prepared to take phone RSVPs. If you are asked to leave a message, then clearly leave your full name, last name spelled, repeated twice, along with the date, time and a phone number in which you can be reached. If you cannot attend, it is suffice to say you have a prior engagement, you were flattered by the invitation, and you hope you are considered again for another event.
2. In regards to the first rule, generally speaking, if an invitation requests a response, but leaves no information in how to respond, the most formal and accepted means, according to Emily Post, is to send a hand written note in which expresses your acceptance of the invitation or your regrets.
3. When trying to decipher who from your household, or if a date, is invited on the invitation, take note of who the invitation is addressed to. The Smith Family usually means the entire family, John Smith and Guest is John and whomever he chooses to bring as his guest (though take care in whom you choose to bring if it affects emotions or your host, it is their party after all, and they were kind enough to invite you in the first p
lace, do not ruin it for them). John and Sara Smith is plainly that, John and Sara Smith. Not John, Sara and the two kids. Most times than not, a request like that is nothing personal towards your adorable children, there may be accommodation issues, or cost issues. One should be sympathetic towards this, not offended.
4. Finally, do not RSVP and not show up. Accidents, emergencies and sudden illness happens, and most gracious hosts are empathetic to those situations. Even in those situations, there may be a minute or two to call and leave the message that you will not be able to attend, and will call later to explain. If you cannot make it for some reason beyond that, ensure you give your host as much notice as possible so they can make arrangements for you not being there. Remember these things cost someone time and money. If you cannot attend after having said you would, a nice note or phone call is a proper way to apologize and hope that you would be invited to another event. If you had to flake on your grandmother, or someone important to you and you feel pretty guilty, you may want to consider sending flowers or cookies, dropping off a nice bottle of wine or their favorite liquor.

Again, etiquette is not a difficult thing if you think of it in the terms of how you would want to be treated if or when the roles are reversed.