Today is a very important day. After months of preparation I could not be happier to say that Exit Left Apparel and Exit Left Magazine are both ready to launch. There were definitely days where I was worried I wouldn’t reach this point, and there were even more days where major things went wrong. But today is the day. I am very excited to end this creative hiatus.

It has surprised me just how much I have learnt recently, although some of those lessons were things I had learnt before and had somehow forgotten along the way. ELA has been running for so long that aspects of it feel like second nature. There are days when I get such extreme déjà vu from working that I have to remind myself where I am and how I ended up being able to do what I wanted again.

The journey to this point hasn’t been particularly smooth, but I am so grateful for it. When I went back to the town I grew up in recently I got to see two of my closest friends. We caught up about everything, and business was one of many topics. One of them described the process of working on these projects in a way I would never have thought of. He said this was therapy for me, and that it was my way of getting back to a positive place in life. He could not have been more correct.

Working on something you are passionate about is one of the most liberating things you can do in life. Having creative control over the things you produce, and developing something from the ground up to be exactly how you envisioned is incredibly special. When people say ‘find something you love to do, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life’ they’re not wrong. It doesn’t mean that every day will be easy, or that you won’t have to find time to de-stress, but when you know you have accomplished something, the feeling you get makes any of that strain evaporate.

When I was back in my hometown I spent a lot of time in the small production and storage area we built for ELA. Seeing all of the products I have designed over the past few years put a smile on my face, but it was bizarre to think that at one point I was so much younger while running a business that sold far more products than you might expect. I don’t know why, but the past often has a tendency of seeming unbelievable.

After one night out I took a long walk down the streets which I grew up on. In some ways it was reassuring to see that not much had changed, but in other ways I felt the weight of nostalgia bearing down upon me. It is an odd feeling to realise you have experienced something that you will never experience again; it’s almost a blend of sadness and gratitude. However, I don’t think I felt very attached to the place I grew up in while I was actually growing up. In fact breaking out of the middle class cycle of expectation and responsibility was always a prominent ambition of mine. Whether that will ever truly happen I do not know.

Thinking about how I felt all those years ago made me realise that I have always been compelled to do things differently. The minor rebellion of growing my hair long and then cutting it off when everyone else had long hair seemed like it would only ever come back to haunt me in retrospective family photo albums, but the more I think about it, and similar rebellions from my childhood, the more I realise it is all part of what has got me to this position today. I never felt comfortable conforming (that included conforming to ideas of rebellion), and the same is true now. As always, I want to be successful, and achieve amazing things, but I want to do it my way. I don’t want to build somebody else’s dream when I could be building my own.

I feel so fortunate to be in this position. With the support of my friends and family I have been able to do things in my own unique way, and that shows no signs of changing. Launching Exit Left Magazine and Exit Left Apparel officially today is only the start of things to come, and there will be much more to do over the coming days, months, and years, but that’s how I want it to be. It’s time to embark upon the next step and see what happens!