Dana Young is an entrepreneur and jewelry designer. She is the owner of Dana Young Jewelry, a company that creates necklaces, bracelets, earrings, rings, talismans, and apparel for smart, magical women. Young is committed to sustainability and localized production.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I grew up in a suburb of Boston. It was the kind of suburb where all little houses on the block looked exactly the same. Built in the 70s, with bright coloured tile bathrooms, shiny, patterned wallpaper, and shag carpeting. My mom, a very practical scientist, left all those 70s details in because she thought they were charming. She was right.
Our backyard had a small group of trees and rocks where I played Fairy in the woods. I lived in my imagination for a lot of my childhood, not realising until much older that I had been a pretty unhappy kid.
I was always very close with my mom’s family, but my father left us when I was four months old. Although I had a relationship with him, but he had moved across the country by the time I was two, and I didn’t quite fit in with his new family.
I got into a lot of trouble in school. Partially because I was illiterate for a chunk of elementary school and partially because I was a hyper active dance machine.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
I wish I’d realised that the person I needed to listen to most was usually myself.
I made a lot of mistakes taking other people’s input instead of trusting myself.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
When it comes down to it, I don’t believe in bad recommendations, just bad filtering. Art and fashion are vast and ever changing. Recommendations are great, but more important is our ability to filter them. Don’t believe everything you hear, don’t take every single “opportunity,” but do listen closely for what’s applicable to you.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
In 2016, I moved to England to be with my partner of 7 years, who my friends now refer to as “He Who Must Not Be Named.”
HWMNBN had gotten a temporary teaching position in Canterbury, England and when I finally made it over there after multiple visa rejections and a year of long distance, I started on the darkest (literally and figuratively, have you BEEN to England in the winter??) time of my life.
HWMNBN was a professor and although we’d always spent tons of time together when we lived in Brooklyn, he suddenly had obligation after obligation with his school and colleagues. I was told that the academic community in England is not as open to partners as we were used to, and by all accounts that did seem to be true. So, I was alone in a small countryside city, in a new country all the time.
Additionally, the colleagues he had introduced me to on my visits didn’t seem to like me much once I got there. No one seemed to want me around and my business was tanking from being an ocean away from my clients.
Over the following year, HWMNBN became increasingly depressed and distant, and I was felt completely trapped. He had always been clinically depressed, but this was a dark hole of space and he didn’t seem capable of getting out. In addition, I had these strange jealous feelings that I’d never experienced before. I confronted him more than once, but since the feelings involved my jealousy about multiple women he was friends with, his general gas lighting that I was just feeling really sensitive because his depression had made him so distant was completely convincing.
When You Know Who asked me to leave England to protect himself from suicidal tendencies, I moved in with my mom and her husband in Massachusetts. I’d lost all my money to visas, therapy, and long distance business by then.
After ten years, HWMNBN texted me “we need to talk” At which point, he told me over Skype that it was his fault I hadn’t had any friends in Canterbury because he was sleeping with a few colleagues and everyone knew, so it was awkward for any of them to have to be near me. What made me hang up and never speak to him again was that on the list of five people he admitted to cheating on me with, I recognised two of the names as students.
I screamed for a week straight, lying on the floor of my friend’s apartment. Then picked myself up and started my new life in New Orleans. The trauma jolted me both forward and backward. Why had I wasted so much time caring for someone who trampled on me?
I spent the next months, slowing down, getting to know myself, leaning on real friendships, and editing my life. I’d lost almost everything, so I decided to redesign my life with a focus on myself.
New Orleans caught me when I fell like a trapeze safety net. I dove headfirst into new friendships and my art, coming out with my best work to date. And I started healing. I learned to slow down and enjoy my life. I learned to be more careful about who I let in. And I’m still learning. I’ll probably learn from that experience for the rest of my life.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
My customers and clients have been my biggest inspiration and support. I love having a niche product because my clients are all my people. I get to just be friends with them and when I create, I think about what I can make for my friends.
What is your morning routine?
My alarm goes off at 9 am on weekdays. F*** that early morning yoga s***, gimme coffee. I get up slowly, enjoying my bed and my dog snuggles before putting my giant fluffy robe (with bear ears) and putter off to the bathroom at the back of our long, skinny house, where I also let the dogs out while I brush my teeth.
We all walk together to the other end of the house where an enthusiastic food dance occurs before the dog bowls hit the floor.
If I’m up first, I make a pot of coffee and hang around near it until it’s ready. I do little things for myself just to make moments more special, like having a beautiful coffee mug and sipping my coffee on the front stoop to enjoy the weather and our little, urban neighbourhood. I’m grateful for New Orleans every day I wake up here.
For my second cup of coffee, I go to my altar and do my spiritual morning routine. I have an assortment of candles, and incense that I will burn while doing a writing exercise or ritual. Connecting to myself and my life in the morning is key for me.
I don’t go into my studio until at least 10 or 11 am.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
Definitely gotta be my altar work. Sitting in silence with a setup that reflects my goals and aspirations on a daily basis makes me feel both more clear in my direction and open to the changes that may be presented. I also call it my “charging station” and sit by it when I need to move slower and with more intention.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
- I keep a running to-do list that I roll over and sort by the deadline. It’s based on the bullet journal, but not quite as in-depth.
- I also separate my workspace into stations so that I can more quickly move from one thing to another since I work in multiple mediums. So I have a photo station, painting station, and metal working station set up at all times. I’m incredibly messy while I create, so it’s also important for me to completely clean and organise once a week. I don’t use any technology to organise. I need to see everything constantly, so I just have it all out. I’m the same way with food. If f I can’t see it, it’s not there.
- But the best strategy for me is taking breaks. It took me such a long time to learn that taking breaks and moving slower makes me MORE productive contrary to our societal beliefs. Moving as fast as possible and pushing as hard as possible puts me in a cycle of burnout, so I try to avoid working like that whenever possible. Additionally, if I DO burn myself out, I take a few days off to recover. Then I’m much more productive when I get back in the studio.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
I would say Many Lives, Many Masters by Brian Weiss had the biggest effect on me, partly because it was the first book I ever read that insinuated that we can’t know everything. Weiss introduced me to past life regression in psychology, pushed me past my fear of death, and opened my mind to the spiritual path that I’ve been on ever since.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
“The Journey is the destination” – Dan Eldon
After 10 years in corporate jewelry design, I had risen to and fallen from the top of my industry. After I left New York, it took me a long time to get out of the “hustle” mindset that our society values so highly. But the proof is in the pudding; Once I started enjoying my life, my work also improved.