Life in Circles: Building a future.

May 14, 2016
Erica Karmeisool

Erica Karmeisool

Life In Circles by Stephanie Wagner.

Sponsored by Pro-Master Carpet Cleaning, 231-757-9061, promastercarpetcleaning.com.

When I asked to interview Erica Karmeisool, I expected a lively conversation about what it means to be female in a traditionally male setting.  Erica is the founder of Ludington’s new Makers Market, 227 W. Ludington Ave., Ludington, and was recently named as one of the “Future Five” by the Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce. Not surprisingly, her wisdom runs much more deeply than just what it means to be a woman wearing a tool belt.

With safety glasses perched on top of her head, Erica easily navigates the industrial space. She pauses frequently in our conversation – to welcome a retired couple that pops in to see what the space is all about, then to instruct a craftsman on how to use a particular type of sandpaper. When a jeans clad woman stops in to inquire about a membership for her crafting that has “taken over the house”, they laugh over the excitement of “junk days” in the Ludington area.

There are hugs, smiles, education, and exchanges of business cards.

She is the epitome of strength, and yet the tears come to her eyes as she talks about the past two years.

Six years ago, Erica and her then fiancée purchased the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows (IOOF) building in downtown Ludington with the dream of restoring it to its former beauty.

“I have always been a planner,” she begins.  “When I moved here in 2010, I had this vision for what my life would be like. I vacationed here as a child, and I always enjoyed the area. I thought my husband and I would live in our renovated building, raise a family there, and travel for our art careers.  I had a checklist for what my life would look like.”

Erica married shortly after her move to Ludington, and they dove into the restoration.

It wasn’t until the restoration was almost finished, that Erica began to notice an uneasy feeling in her heart.

“We were so busy working on the building, that I didn’t have time to really tune into how I was feeling. I had made a plan, and I was sticking to it. I felt like this place, this building, was going to be the center from which everything else I envisioned would grow.  It was a source of pride on a larger level, but it really was about my dreams for a partnership, a family, a home.”

“When it was finally done, I suddenly realized that I felt lonely in my marriage. There is such a difference between being alone, and being truly lonely.”

In that pause, Erica had the opportunity to listen to what her heart had been telling her underneath the frenzied activity.

“I could feel myself changing, and not in healthy ways. I kept hoping and wanting things to be different, but I finally realized that – through no one’s fault – the relationship just wasn’t working.”

For Erica, leaving the marriage was a monumental leap of faith, and a box she never anticipated checking. It challenged her identity, as well as her way of looking at the world.

“I had to find my ‘place’ again. I realized when the relationship ended, I could be anything and go anywhere. And then I remembered what it felt like when I moved here, with my carload of tools, excited with possibility, anticipating where I would fit into this new community.”  

Erica realized that her place was exactly where she was.  

“I started being really honest, with myself and with my friends. When someone would ask how I was, instead of the fake ‘fine’ I would normally give, I let them know that I was struggling.  I was grieving not just my marriage, but all those plans of what I thought my life here would be.  And when I shared what was really happening, people gave me back the support I needed to be strong.”

That is the Erica I find myself sitting with. Uncompromising strength juxtaposed with genuine emotion; the paradox of being female – gentle and kind and tough as nails.

“I realized through the divorce – viscerally – that my future is not all within my control. I have always ‘known’ that, in my head, but I could literally feel it through this. I don’t have to know what comes next this time. I can just take the next step.

“The scariest thing for so many people – me included – is the unknown. That is where I am living right now. It’s hard for me to picture even six months from now.

“I had a friend tell me once that a choice doesn’t have to be between A and B. It can also be A, or not A. I don’t have to have all of the answers right away.”

It is hard not to draw a parallel between the journey Erica’s been on for the past two years, and the incredible space she has created. Makers Market is the culmination of a bit of dreaming, a touch of synchronicity, and a lot of hard work. It is a space where all people can come together – crafters, artists, builders, inventors, novices and experts – to create and share in community.

“I want people to feel empowered, especially women. As little girls, we don’t have power tools put in our hands. It teaches us dependency on someone else – usually a male – to fix things.

“I’ve watched women who have never picked up a tool try the saw for the first time. With each cut, they get stronger. It builds their confidence and makes them feel like they have some control over their surroundings.

“Power tools can be intimidating. I hope this space can break down some of the false social constructs about who can do what. You don’t have to wait for anyone.  If you want something, it is within you to make it happen.”

Which is exactly what Erica has done. In just a few months, Makers Market has gone from an idea to reality – and in the process of building a business, Erica has also rebuilt herself.

“I’m learning. I’ve had to let go of a lot of things. I’m more honest now. I’ve had to learn to become my own best cheerleader, and to lean on others to cheer me on too.  I never realized just how important that was. It’s important for me to be that for others too.

“We are all more alike than we are different. When we get real and collectively share who we are, we become more connected. We are all in this together.”

Being still enough to listen – check. Being brave enough to be honest – check. Being strong enough to build – check.

Maybe checkboxes aren’t so bad after all.

 

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