I knock on the door, and Loveleen Saxena appears with a warm smile. “Come on in!” she says. A handful of women gathers around a wooden table in the sunlight of Loveleen’s home. It is the first meeting for a new creative group, yet the energy feels more like the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants than a cold networking event. Big hugs and loud laughter fill the space. As a woman in a city far from home, I know how rare is it to be welcomed into a trusting circle like this. But there I was, and soon I would find out how we all got here. In this warm room with these open, happy souls.
It all started with Loveleen and her rumble–the job that crushed her and the doodles that saved her.
Once Upon a Doodle
On a humid Houston day, Loveleen sits on a bed of thick grass beneath a tree. She moves her pen across a sketch pad in rhythm with her thoughts. As her eyes catch the time, she packs up with haste. Scurrying back to the construction office, the thick tension of deadlines and fierce expectations surround her again. As a project manager, she works hard and delivers. But this is not the life she wants. So she continues stealing quiet time to ponder her path. Until something clicks.
She picks up her pen. Quits her job. And doodle by doodle, she pieces together her vision for a life lead by creativity. Today, Loveleen is capturing her journey through art and building a creative community to help others get unstuck and bring their passions to the world.
“The dream is that we all want to sustain ourselves doing what we love doing,” Loveleen says.
Chasing the Dreams You “Should” Be Chasing
For Loveleen, finding her path was not a linear process. As a child, she loved sketching and set her heart on studying architecture. Yet growing up in India, this wasn’t exactly a conventional career path.
“Going into architecture, I was a rebel. My parents would say, ‘No, you should go into medicine or something that is more sustainable.’”
By her late twenties, Loveleen was living in the US and took a safe, financially stable job in the construction industry. A place she struggled to belong.
“I spent years working in construction and it was not me. I always felt like an outsider,” Loveleen says. “At the time, I was going through a lot of breakups. I had this pressure that I had to get married and I had a lot of self-doubts. I would do things like go dancing, but I think it was more because I was so afraid of being by myself and being alone that I just wanted to keep myself busy beyond work.”
She continued working a job she didn’t love while searching for someone to love.
Letting Go of Expectations
As the years went on and Loveleen entered her thirties, the marriage pressure that once consumed her slowly began to dissipate. The fears and insecurities no longer had the power they used to.
“In my thirties, I realized that was going nowhere. I needed to live my life rather than focusing on a relationship that would make me happy.”
Instead of looking outward for happiness, Loveleen turned inward and found refuge in quiet moments. She doodled on lunch breaks, took walks and ventured to the library.
“I started reading a lot of books, like The Power of Now by Echkart Tolle. The more I read, the more I realized. There is a reason why everything is happening, I just have to live here and enjoy it.”
Her doodling became the outlet for all of her emotions, fears, hopes, and dreams.
“When I started doodling, it was more about responding to whatever was showing up. I told myself I am going to be open, I am not going to think too much or resist it too much.”
In her sketch pad, she practiced the art of letting go, and soon it carried over into her life.
“I said, whatever happens, I will enjoy it. I surrendered that everything is okay as is,” Loveleen says. “And shortly after that, I met Surendar.” Her future husband.
Doing the Unexpected and Choosing a New Path
Six months after Surendar and Loveleen got married, they did not start making babies (to their parents’ disappointment). Instead, they decided to drop everything and spend seven months traveling. They knew there was something more to life, and they were ready to seek it.
“We were both coming from different places. He was going through a divorce and I was genuinely enjoying life outside of work for the first time,” Loveleen says. “But I was getting very frustrated with my job. It was great pay and very secure. But it was monotonous. Like every day I was just killing myself going there.”
They decided it was time for a backpacking trip. Loveleen quit her job, her husband took a sabbatical, and they moved around, staying in AirBnB’s and hostels, hiking mountains, visiting villages, and experiencing new corners of the globe. They met kind people every place they stayed and discovered their love for hiking and sustainability.
“I think it was the best decision of our lives. We did not think, we just went for it. It was amazing. Being out there on hikes was like, wow. What do we want to do with our lives?”
Hike by hike, they started piecing together their new dream.
“Our dream is to own a piece of land in the mountains or somewhere out in the middle of nowhere and have a little house we build with all natural materials. I love permaculture and sustainability… I would love to teach workshops about that. We could have a community area with education seminars and workshops, and even a tea and coffee shop. We could collaborate with other artists and have a store to sell their work,” Loveleen says.
Building the Dream, One Step at a Time
When Loveleen and Surendar returned to the US, their eyes were open and set on making their passions a sustainable reality. Piece by piece, they began working towards different parts of their dream. They put a room in their house on AirBnB and opened their home to strangers, creating an opportunity for both connection and income.
In their kitchen, Loveleen hung little signs with instructions for guests on how to recycle, compost and reduce their household waste.
Surendar went back to his job, and soon Loveleen felt pressure to push that little dream to the side again and return back to the construction industry.
“It was a practical decision again. Whatever I gained in those 7 months, it just went away!” Loveleen laughs.
It didn’t take long for reality to set in.
“On my way home during my hour and a half commute, I would start crying. Like why the hell am I doing this again? One day during a meeting, the director of our office completely trashed my project. That was the tipping point for me,” Loveleen says.
She put in her two weeks and walked out with a happy heart–ready to find a way to turn her creative passions into a sustainable career. But her husband as happy.
“Surendar was freaking out. He was working in the oil industry and thought he would be getting laid off soon,” Loveleen says.
But a passionate woman is a force to be reckoned with. She was serious and confident with her decision.
Pursuing Art and Facing the Creator’s Dilemma
After leaving the construction industry for good, Loveleen had more time to dedicate towards making a living as an artist. Soon, her doodles, paintings, and art pieces were hanging on gallery walls and propped up on booths at local markets.
But the more she focused on producing art, the less joy she felt.
“It made me realize the pressure of creating. When you have to sell it, it is completely different. I stopped having fun and started trying new things because it might sell. I could see that what I was putting out on paper was coming from a different place.”
While grappling with this dilemma, Loveleen found company in the creativity community. It was at the markets that she discovered another piece to her puzzle: connection.
“At the markets, people would say, ‘I’m not creative, I’m not an artist’, and I would tell them, ‘No, you should try it. If I can do it, you can do it too because I am a self-taught artist and just decided one day I was going to do it. Anyone can do this,” Loveleen says.
While selling at the Heights Epicurean Market, Loveleen started chatting with the woman in the booth next to her. Katie Chaput was a nurse gone beauty product maker, and the more they talked, the more their own creative visions fused.
“Katie and I realized that making the product itself is not the end goal here. What we enjoy the most is sharing and inspiring people,” Loveleen says.
Together, Katie and Loveleen started Relax Share Inspire, a group that encourages people to explore their creativity, and share their truths and dreams over tea, treats, and laughs.
“This group is for people out there who are wanting to start something, and they need a nudge or push to get started.”
A Creative Community in Houston
Every third Saturday of the month, Loveleen and Katie welcome strangers and friends to their meeting. Doria bakes delicious tarts and breakfast treats. Bridget gives warm welcoming hugs. And a group as diverse as the tea tray fills the seats. Everyone shares their stories and viewpoints on topics like the art of cultivating creativity in every profession. Though we all come from different places, have lived different lives and worked different careers, there is a common thread that unites us all: we are here to channel our creativity. To connect. To get inspired and figure out how we can bring our passions to the world.
“It’s not like the corporate world where it’s about competition or getting ahead, this is about collaboration and sharing with each other, teaching and working together.”
Since making a commitment to seek her passions and live a creative life, Loveleen feels less temptation to give in to fears about financial stability and fall back into the safety net of a corporate job.
“Now I am more confident, my health and wellness are more important to me than the fear or insecurities.”
In addition to making art and running this group, Loveleen has started hosting workshops and coaching others who feel like they are stuck. Though the group is in its infancy, the energy is undeniable. There’s something incredibly moving about connecting with others in meaningful ways.
Channeling Courage in Quiet Moments
As I sit with these women who have now become friends, I find reassurance about the worries that stress me most. Taking the creative path less traveled isn’t so scary when you realize there are many others who are walking down parallel paths on other sides of the forest. None of us know exactly how to get to our dream destinations, but we gather small road maps of inspiration from each other. Through Loveleen’s story, we have learned not let fear or insecurity keep us in jobs or situations that aren’t authentic to us. To tune in, we must take quiet time to ourselves to think. To doodle, walk, write, meditate. Whatever we need to do to tune in. The more we listen, the more confident we will be in our strengths and what moves us.
At the top of Loveleen’s website, a fitting quote sits above her picture.
“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love….it will not lead you astray” ~ Rumi
Thanks Loveleen, for sharing your story with us and building a group to help others channel their creativity.
To learn more about Loveleen and her creative group, check out her website or join us for the next meeting in Houston on April 14th.