Never too late to follow your dreams!!!

Posted on June 3, 2016

By Shannon Harju, owner of Shannon's Painted Pieces

I struggled for a long time, always doing what I thought I had to do, and sacrificing what I really wanted to do. I became a mom in my early 20’s, and put all of my energy into raising my daughter, taking care of the house, working full time, and trying to keep it all together. I lived in an emotionally abusive relationship, but I couldn’t see it. Over the years this took on me, and I began to lose myself. Depression took a hold of me, and wouldn’t let go, but still I tried, I kept going. I ran myself to exhaustion and back, but I just couldn’t give up on my family, even if it meant giving up on all of my dreams.

The years passed by, and I was all but a shadow of my former self. I acted more like a robot than anything. Wake up, do the same things, go to sleep, start again the next day. My life was nothing more than a routine, I was completely empty and hollow inside. Then one day, I just couldn’t take it anymore… I looked in the mirror, and saw nothing but a monster looking back. I hated what I had become. I decided right then and there that I was going to fight for my dreams. I was going to fight to be me. I had no idea at the time, but this would bring about the end of my relationship with my daughter’s father, and the beginning of one of the greatest journeys of my life.

Slowly I started rebuilding my life. I started to believe in myself again, and pushed forward. I got an apartment and I was able to secure stability in my daughter’s life. I was also taking better care of myself, exercise became a big part, it was great for the stress, and I managed to lose 80 lbs. I finally felt like me again!

My new beginning had become my new life. With things starting to calm down, I decided to start putting more effort into going after my dreams. I wanted to be a writer, I have been journaling for well over 20 years. It was time to write a book. I had started and stopped so many times before, but I was determined to follow through this time. Nothing and no one was going to stop me, not anymore.

About a year into it, I was feeling lost. Not sure what to do, I again began reaching out for help. This time I was led to PARO, an amazing organization that helps women start their own businesses. Everyone I met with was so helpful, and supportive. I loved the energies right from the moment I walked in there. They introduced me to people, I made some connections to write my book and I started attending their glow and grow workshops on Wednesdays. I found them so inspiring, and motivating. I always had a million ideas running through my head when I left. It was such a positive, supportive and encouraging environment, it was hard not to get caught up in it all.

As the months went by, I began to see a possible business opportunity. I could potentially turn my hobby into a small business, while working on my book. I had begun painting. At first I painted most of the furniture in my home, then started going to yard sales just looking for things to paint. I really loved taking something old, and maybe discarded, and giving it a new life again. After spending a couple of months wrestling with the idea, I decided to go for it.


I received a tremendous amount of support and encouragement. So I started painting pieces, and selling them in Paro Presents as well as volunteering there. It’s been just over a year now. I still remember the excitement I felt when I sold my first jewelry box, that first week. I don’t think I will ever forget it. It was different, not like any paycheck I had ever received before. Someone loved what I did so much they bought it.

Volunteering at Paro Presents has been such an enriching experience. I help with customers, merchandise and display products, as well as work on my pieces. I love meeting and interacting with the customers, fellow artisans, and the wonderful woman that work at PARO. They use their knowledge and experience to help guide you through each and every process of starting your own business. They literally help in every way they can, every step of the way.

Last summer Paro Presents began with workshops. I was able to do a couple of painting ones, and “a connect with your soul” workshop. It was such a fun and incredible opportunity, and gave me some really good practice for speaking in front of others.

                                          Shannon-soul.jpg    Shannon.jpg

Then in the fall PARO put on the Enterprising Women’s Event. The energies there were amazing. A room full of incredible women who were inspiring in every way. They had workshops, speakers and trade show tables. I had a spot to display my pieces, and made business cards especially for the event. It all became more real that day, I had somehow started a small business, and it really just kind of happened. In the most natural and organic way, just by being around PARO. Going to the workshops, volunteering in the store, and being around all of those amazing women. It just kind of brought it into my life, and I couldn’t be more grateful.


PARO is giving me the opportunity not only to go after my dreams, but realize and discover new ones as well. Ones that I didn’t even know I had in me. I have never felt so free before in my life. Now that I have tasted what it’s like to do what I love, I know I’ll never give up again. I’m no longer empty and hollow, my soul is full, and I feel like I am connecting with my purpose.

Don’t make the same mistakes I made, don’t sacrifice your dreams, not for anything, or anyone. We all have amazing talents and gifts to give the world. A special piece of us, that wants to be shared. The time is never going to be right, you really just have to go for it. Believe in yourself, you can’t know what you are capable of until you actually push yourself as far as you can go. And you don’t have to do it all alone. We are incredibly fortunate to have such a wonderful organization like PARO to help and support us.

Best wishes on your journey.