We had the good fortune of connecting with Kamila Kowalke and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kamila, what’s your definition for success?
Success is such a subjective term and can mean so many things to so many people…and even different things to the same person during different phases of one’s life. While my definition of success could be summarized as “living my life on my own terms”, the interpretation of what that actually represents has certainly changed over my life.
When I was a young girl in poverty stricken Communist Poland, success was as innocent and simplistic as having a bigger house for my family. During my early grade school years I was living with my parents, brother and grandmother in a tiny 500 sq. ft. flat that we all crammed into. While most of my friends yearned for things like new toys and books, I was just craving privacy… and the quiet place where I could do my homework, read and arrange things or even be messy to my liking. For all my mom’s amazing qualities, she was extremely strict and obsessively tidy and in a way kind of like a drill sergeant with her instructions on how she wanted the place cleaned and organized each day. All I could have hoped for was a little extra elbow room so that I could make my own decisions about when or how I help clean the flat.
With the collapse of Communism and as I got older in Poland, my definition of success started evolving into a more traditional ambition. The days of me longing for my own room seemed like such a distant memory and a relic of the past. I began to realize that success was defined as having a lucrative career and making money. And that’s when out of nowhere I decided to leave Poland at 20 years old. To the shock and dismay of my family and friends I said farewell to my hometown of Gdansk and said hallo to Lady Liberty and the USA.
In the US my definition of success meant “getting somewhere in life” and “becoming somebody” … somebody influential, respected and admired with the objective of making even more money than I had originally set my sights on. And that is when I began a career in information technology which resulted in big dollars but also big disillusionment with “corporate America”. That began a new journey for me as I created my own business and moved to California… eventually leading me to a great sales career in the financial services industry.
Over the next several years while I reached my financial goals, I realized there was also a price to pay for that incredible success. The years of constantly being on the go, whether at conferences, meetings or client events began to take a toll on me. What was once a great adventure and the embodiment of high-octane energy evolved into days filled with exhaustion and isolation. That is when I had an epiphany. I did not want to travel alone on a plane, stay at a hotel alone and constantly compete in a very masculine industry. I realized success meant more than money and a career… and that I was a human being not a human doing. I also wanted to embrace being a woman and all that my unexplored femininity had to offer… However, I soon realized that it was going to be a bit of a different challenge because I was so used to my old way of doing things. And that is when my definition of success was reinvented once again.
Fast forward to today…My meaning of success is clearly different than it had ever been. Today success means being able to live my life with happiness and that means peace, calm, joy and love flowing with the natural energy of euphoria and creativity. Several things bring me to this place… not necessarily in any particular order. I am delighted with painting abstract on canvas in my art studio. I am dedicated to my exercise and staying fit. I am devoted to the new man in my life. I could have never imagined as a little girl in Poland who was eager for a little bit of extra elbow room, that life can get any better than it is now … because success is truly having a never-ending affair with life.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Art is my lifeline to the realization of meaning and contentment… love and happiness… calm and peace… understanding and exploring. In art I find a hidden value that was dormant within me for years. Whether it is abstracts or oil painting, spray or sand painting, digital or collages… art brings out my best ideas, sentiment and imagination. Art at its simplest brings warmth to my walls, adorns my shelves and decorates my bookcases. At its most complex, art is my therapy; be it emotional, occupational or spiritual. The process of creating a piece of art courses through my veins as I bring to life a canvas filled with color, pattern and texture with new designs and discoveries. As a young child of Communist Poland in the early 80’s, I had to find beauty and peace where it often did not exist. As I gaze upon my life today, the challenges of being raised in that part of the world in a difficult and different generation began my search for the beauty in all things art. Now having lived in the United States for nearly 30 years, most of those in California where I achieved success as a business woman in a high pressured career, I often find myself drifting back to a simpler life where the beauty, creativity and imagination were hidden in a society that shunned freedom and individualism. Today I am able to lose myself in my paintings and create a world as I see it. One of joy and laughter and humility and appreciation that I am a part of this amazing universe and all it has to offer. I hope to share my life on canvas with others and bring life to their homes and offices.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
One of the fascinating things to do in LA is to drive around and see the city’s murals…. And given the current state of affairs with the COVID pandemic, it would be a socially responsible adventure as you can admire them without being around a lot of people. Downtown we would stop to get a latte at Zinc Café. During one week, I would spend some time taking friends to Hollywood, Santa Monica and Beverly Hills to make sure they see the city’s famous landmarks and take some pictures on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and hike to the Hollywood sign. I would have to take them to Café Gratitude, Gracias Madre and Crossroads to taste some delicious vegetarian dishes LA style. And for sure … I would take them behind the Orange curtain on hikes at El Moro Park and Crystal Cove and to watch the sunset at Top of the World in Laguna Beach after strolling through galleries and eating at Urth Café.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My success in life was certainly a group effort… nothing that I achieved on my own. This began with my amazing mom who instilled in me strength, persistence and perseverance and even more importantly inspired me to believe that I could accomplish anything I set my sights on in life. Big shout out to Johnny and Lara, who were my coaches a few years ago and who enabled me to jump off the high speed rail and take a slow train to happiness so I can stop and smell the roses. During this journey I also met my great friend Arleen whose curiosity, kindness, consideration and talented skills as a transformational coach helped me understand the endless possibility of all that life had to offer and was part of the inspiration that compelled me to go back to painting and to sell my art online. And finally thanks to my fiancé David who has been my emotional support and my writing mentor helping me take my creative expression to another level.