Workaholic Part 1
“Find out what you like doing best, and get someone to pay you for doing it.”
I have had a colorful life as many of you have discovered through my memoir Songs from an Imperfect Life. And I have worked in many often-connected and overlapping professions.
My first paying job happened in high school – cutting grass for neighbors and friends. It was at my dad’s insistence and something that I loathe. So much so that I have always lived in apartments or condominiums where lawn care has been included in the monthly payment. Following high school, I became a part-time music director at a small mission church while in college. This, along with teaching piano and part-time sales help for Strobel’s Music Shop, allowed me to move into my first apartment. The church work definitely led to some interesting situations.
Once I graduated from college I enrolled at O’More College of Design and immediately began working with clients. In fact, my first clients were friends from church. I not only selected their wall color but physically painted their living room and dining room as well. Eventually I needed a steady income and joined my father’s insurance agency – a painful and stifling experience for my creative juices.
In 1979, my mother and I opened the Mistletoe Shop, a year-round Christmas store. Since the store shared the same building as my dad’s insurance agency, I was able to work both jobs until the shop could become my full-time career. I also continued to work with design clients as well as, opened a florist. This meant that some days I could be found running the shop, delivering flowers and decorating a client’s home at the same time. And if that wasn’t enough, I opened a second Christmas shop an hour south of Nashville in Bell Buckle, Tennessee.
Eventually I closed the Bell Buckle location and purchased the “old sock factory” building there with my dear friend, the poet laureate of Tennessee, Maggi Vaughn. Together we opened Local Color, an antique and art mall. A year later we had an offer to purchase our building and business, minus the name, and we agreed to sell. I then rented a storefront in Nashville across the street from the Mistletoe Shop and opened an art gallery using the unwanted Bell Buckle business name. For the next 15 years I operated Local Color Gallery. Within the gallery’s first year, I closed the Nashville location of the Mistletoe Shop, added a framing business and continued taking on design clients throughout the Southeast.
It was during those years that I veered offtrack after taking a photography course. My photography skills led me to work with nude models, publish a collection of my photos, Nudes & Nonsense, and have my photos internationally published in several issues of Playgirl magazine. I then crossed the line when I began creating and selling adult videos for some of my models – still running the gallery and still working in the field of interior design. Oh, and did I mention that I also began painting and selling my own artworks?
My mother had been gone for 15 years when in 2000, my father died suddenly. I felt untethered and lost. I closed my design business and sold Local Color. I did continue to paint but abandoned photography. Eventually I got my groove back and opened York & Friends Fine Art Gallery in 2011. I also returned to music and have composed and recorded nearly 100 songs.
And then, I opened the box – the one my parents left me to find filled with letters and newspaper articles telling of a crime from the 1950s that I had been blind to my entire life. I wanted to share their story, but how? So, I began writing.
Now, in 2018, I’ve written two memoirs, my parents and mine, and I’m working on a couple of other book ideas, writing a weekly blog and have just started writing design articles for Nashville House and Home magazine – now that I’m also designing renovations for a client’s “flip” houses. I have just completed my seventh album, started on the eighth and have a musical idea in the works. Plus, I’m still painting and owner of York & Friends Fine Art in Nashville and Memphis. To promote my book, I am doing interviews, podcasts and public speaking as I share my story of childhood abuse.
Although I never imagined this path for my life, I feel grateful and blessed to be doing what I love.
J. Ronald M. York, author of Kept in the Dark, is also an accomplished musician and founder of York & Friends Fine Art Gallery.
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