We had the good fortune of connecting with Hillary Ramos and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Hillary, why did you pursue a creative career?
I’m honestly going to have to be that girl for a second and say that it chose me. I have loved writing and drawing since I was a child. One of my favorite gifts as a kid was a “Make Your Own Story Book” Kit. With the kit, I could write stories and illustrate them, and then my mom would send them off to get bound in a little book. Art and writing have truthfully always been passions of mine and a huge part of my life. However, life took me down quite a different road career wise, for quite a while. I was a very high achiever in school, and I found myself rooting my self worth in my academic achievement and the opinions of others. I was so dependent on external validation and with that came a lot of insecurities. I had this constant anxiety and a need to fill my cup with validation surrounding my achievements.
Anxiety is a bear, and it truthfully grew into this monster within my spirit – I was constantly battling negative self talk and the exhausting cycle of emotions that come with anxiety and poor self worth. Unfortunately, rather than address it, I chose to bury it for a long, long time. After high school, I received a dual bachelors degree in Athletic Training and Exercise Science in 2014 and then went on to receive a doctorate degree in Physical Therapy in 2017. I worked as a pediatric physical therapist for three years, and during my pursuit of this career I really put my artistic and creative side on the back burner. I would occasionally dive back in for some stress relief, but not enough to fill my cup.
Despite great academic accomplishments, there was a heavy weight that I felt as I started my work as a therapist. I absolutely loved working with my patients. The kids and their parents became like my family, but I was struggling so much mentally and emotionally because I felt drained. My struggle with anxiety became particularly difficult after I had my son. As a new mom working heavy hours with a mountain of student loans, my anxiety hit an intense peak in early 2019, and I realized that I needed to start paying better attention to my own health and wellness.
I spent quite a bit of time in 2019 and early 2020 working toward taking care of my emotional, mental, and spiritual health, but the pandemic was honestly the major turning point in this whole story for me. Pre-COVID I was a wife and mom experiencing total burnout. My husband was traveling constantly, I was working five days a week, my kid was in daycare more than he was at home, and I was absolutely exhausted. While I loved being at work with my patients and serving them well, I struggled greatly with shutting it all off when I came home. Finding balance was difficult. When everything in the world came to this abrupt halt and all three of us were home, we suddenly realized how much simplification we needed to do. We quickly realized that we needed to start thinking about what WE wanted life to look like for our family long term.
God had already been dropping bread crumbs for me to make a transition in my life and career. About two years ago, my mom started begging me to write and illustrate a children’s book – something she has begged me to do for decades. My immediate response was, “WHEN?! I have absolutely no time and I know nothing about being a professional author or illustrator.” I ended up praying about it and just asking God to make a way if that was something He did, indeed, desire for me to pursue. Within 5 minutes I got a call from a friend of mine connecting me to a pastor who needed an illustrator for a children’s book he was writing. I was floored, and I spent the next several months working on illustrations for that book. However, much like everything else in COVID world, publication came to a halt and progress with the children’s book took a long pause.
While we were in quarantine I found myself exploring social media a lot more, especially TikTok and Instagram. I started diving more into content creation, and I fell in love with telling my story and connecting with people. I had already developed this “Joyful and Rising” brand about 6 months before quarantine, but I had no idea how I wanted to use it as a platform. The phrase itself is based on that journey toward wellness, rising above my past and my circumstances, and rooting my joy in Christ and Christ alone. As I began diving deeper into my faith and rediscovering my relationship with Jesus, I was inspired to write about my story. My heart became set on creating some type of devotional journal. I sat on it, prayed about it, and thought about it for months before I finally called up a friend and talked to her about it. Her own story and business were so inspiring to me, and she immediately said, “girl. go for it!”
Despite an overwhelming feeling of “imposter syndrome” I started writing and designing this book, because I felt called to share what I was learning about myself in this journey toward finding joy. I was throwing out all of the lies that I had believed about myself for decades and I was replacing them with scriptural truths, what God said about me and who He designed me to be. Knowing that I was not alone in my struggle with anxiety and with poor self worth, I knew that I had to share these truths with other women despite any doubts or insecurities I had about going down a career path I felt knew nothing about. This career and passion I’ve found with art, writing, and creative expression truthfully is not something I chose on my own. I feel with every ounce of my spirit that I was called to this.
For so long I hoped that I would find a way to use my creativity in some fashion that would honor God, serve others, and serve a great purpose. I hoped for so long that our family would find a way to be together more or that I could be home with my son, because I felt like I was missing so much. Although my pursuit toward a career in medicine was a wonderful and beautiful thing, it was rooted in this unhealthy need to be validated and respected by other people, and it was completely draining my spirit. No matter how much I loved serving my patients and their families, I could not keep pouring from an empty cup. What is absolutely fascinating to me about my story toward this creative career is that as I sit here writing this in March 2021, exactly one year after the drastic turn of events in the world with COVID, I am in the start of my transition to being a full time stay at home mom, I’m preparing for the launch of my devotional at the end of the month, and we just received notice this week from our publisher that the children’s book is finally headed to production. God is absolutely marvelous, and the way in which He has worked to reveal this path and purpose to me is something that will never cease to amaze me. I didn’t choose to pursue this artistic and creative path. Without question this is a path that was chosen for me with great intention and purpose. I am so blessed, grateful, and privileged to be able to serve others in this way, and I am excited to see what lies ahead on the journey.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
The world of professional art and being a creator is very new to me. Honestly, it’s been so difficult to view myself in the light of a “professional artist or creator” because I was in another professional field for so long! This has given me that sense of “Imposter Syndrome” at times as I mentioned before. But then I remember that my story is what makes me unique! My brand “Joyful and Rising” was inspired by a time in which I found myself at a crossroads that I think many mothers experience in some form or another. I was a young mother struggling severely with the stresses of work, student loan repayments, medical bills, untreated anxiety, and poor physical health. I reached a point where I knew I had to choose to face these struggles head on, rise above, and fight for my joy. Choosing not to do so would mean continuing the downward spiral, and I knew that’s not the path the Lord had designed for me. I CHOSE joy because I had to in order to rise above and become the best version of myself for myself, my husband, and my son. In this journey toward finding my joy, I decided to start sharing that joy and light with others through writing, content creation, digital design, and illustration.
This entire experience has been full of learning experiences. For years, I learned in a typical academic environment, and with this work I’ve learned to be brave and go discover things for myself. When I agreed to illustrate the children’s book, I knew absolutely nothing about illustration work. I didn’t have an iPad, and I designed every single illustration either by hand or with the touchpad on my computer. Thankfully, I’m working with an iPad now and it has made my work so much more efficient! However, I still knew very little when I committed to writing the devotional journal. I’ll never forget the moment I realized I would have to redesign over 100 artworks/pages because I had no clue what resolution and DPI meant in terms of printing and production. These moments taught me several important lessons, though:
1. Don’t be afraid to start something just because you’ve never done it before.
2. Don’t be afraid to work with what you’ve got.
3. Everybody has a starting point.
4. Give yourself grace.
5. Embrace the creative process.
Ultimately, in all of my creative work, my goal is to bring people joy. The devotional I’ve created (Joyful + Rising: A Biblical Affirmation and Devotional Journal) was created because I wanted to share what I was learning about myself in my journey toward finding joy – I was throwing out all of the lies that I had believed about myself for so long and replacing them with scriptural truths that God said about me and who He designed me to be. I know that I’m not alone in that struggle as a woman, so I wanted to share these truths with other women who might be able to relate. The devotional has 90 days of content and serves as a devotional, planner, and journal all in one. Each day has a scripturally based affirmation, a traceable study verse, three additional study verses, as well as a prayer style devotional passage related to the affirmation. The idea is that this would equip women with sound positive, Biblical affirmations that would allow them to combat negative self talk. This devotional is so special to me because I wrote it as I have been in my own study and journey. It is my greatest hope that this devotional journal would serve as a source of light for someone and a reminder of how loved and valuable they truly are. Although I’m new to this journey of art and creative work, my primary goal is to be a source of light and joy in this world. There’s so much darkness, so much hatred, so much grief, but there’s also so much beauty! Watching other people find their joy, discover their purpose, and pass the light on to others brings me more fulfillment than I ever could have imagined. Whether it’s through writing, illustration, social media and digital design, or any other creative outlet – joy is always the goal.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Here in the Ramos household, a good time is made up of three things: 1. Good people 2. Good food 3. Good scenery
Josh and I grew up in Forsyth County Georgia – a place that has grown tremendously over the years. The North Georgia area is diverse and we have a lot of favorite places to visit, but if you wanted to come visit us for a weekend, it might look something like this:
Friday Night: A night out at the Avalon in Alpharetta for some great eats and maybe a little bit of shopping if you’re interested. Our favorite spots to eat are Cafe Intermezzo, Anticos Pizza, Superica, and Kona Bar and Grill. Honestly, though, you can’t really go wrong with any restaurant there! We love to grab a bite to eat and maybe some dessert while we stroll around the complex. Brace yourself, though, our three year old doesn’t dare let us go out “shopping” without him, so he’ll likely be in the stroller saying hi to everyone we pass.
Saturday Morning: I’m not going to lie…Josh (my husband) and I rock some french toast. So if you’re game, we’ll start the morning off with some French toast with brioche bread with a side of fruit. Mimosas anyone?
Saturday Mid-Day: We LOVE to get outdoors. So we might venture up to the mountains for a while out in North Georgia wine country – Kaya, Cavendar Creek, and Wolf Mountain are our favorites. Or we might head out for a walk on the Big Creek Greenway with the dog and the toddler. With 8 miles of multi-use trail, we’re bound to get some good exercise in! If it’s spring or fall, we could choose to explore Gibbs Gardens, a breathtaking 220 acre estate with 16 uniquely styled gardens. If you’re looking for something tucked back, Poole’s Mill park is one of our favorite getaways. Tucked back on Settendown Creek, it features a path down to the creek bed with perfectly shaded picnic spaces, wading pools, and waterfalls. No matter what we choose, you’ll be ready for something good to eat by the time we’re done exploring!
Saturday Night: One of our big quarantine projects was building a fire pit in the backyard, so tell us your favorite type of pizza and beverage, and we’ll sit around a cozy fire talking until our bellies are full and our eyelids are heavy.
Sunday: Sundays are normally rest days around here, but we might head out to church service or watch it online while we sip on some coffee (a MUST in this house). We might stop by Publix to pick up our grocery order and 2 packs of Wild Berry LifeSaver Fruit Gummy snacks. One thing is for certain, though, no weekend is complete without some time with extended family, so we will have to take a trip over to my parents’ house and let you try some of my dad’s famous smoked brisket and ribs. I’ve tried to convince him to do his own catering or open a restaurant for years! He’s not really interested in that, though. He just loves hosting and serving, true to southern hospitality. Don’t worry, he’ll be sure to send you home with leftovers.
I suppose we could have talked about the flashy side of Atlanta or things of that sort, but our favorite type of weekend to spend with friends is one that feels authentic to us. This is our home, and we want you to feel at home, too.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Josh Ramos – My wonderful husband, biggest supporter, and partner in life always. His tenacity and open mind have allowed him to pursue an amazing career in technology. Without his hard work and daily sacrifices, we would not have been able to transition me home full time to be with our son. I’m so grateful for our teamwork and the life we’ve built together. Matt and Tiffany Murphy – My amazing parents. My mother’s equally kind and persistent nature played a large role in my journey toward illustrating the children’s book, and these words from my dad were what ultimately allowed me to let go of the unnecessary weight of perceived expectations – “No matter what you do, I’ll still be proud of you. You just have to ultimately do what makes you happy.” It has been an absolute joy being raised by such loving and supportive parents. Sydney Weber – Her signature Doing Well Daily Journal was a huge inspiration for my devotional book design, and she mentored me and supported me through the entire process. I greatly cherish her friendship, and words cannot express how grateful I am for her words of wisdom and encouragement.
Other: TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@joyfulandrising?lang=en