Create Your Own Rhythm

Rachel Scott Everett
11 min readApr 26, 2024

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A creative director’s journey on getting off the hamster wheel and getting in sync with herself in pursuit of a life in harmony.

[Editor’s note: This essay is a transcript from the CreativeMornings talk given by Rachel Scott Everett at the VCU Brandcenter on November 17, 2023 in her hometown of Richmond, Virginia.]

Good morning! It’s great to be here and very serendipitous too — as mentioned, I’m an alum of the VCU Brandcenter.

This school had a big impact on my life, both professionally and personally, so it’s an honor to be here today and talk with you all about rhythm.

When I think about rhythm, I think about my love of salsa dancing. Anytime I hear salsa music, I can’t help but move, as evidenced by this video:

The author salsa dancing on the streets of New York. Video: Brian Gibson

That’s me dancing in the streets of New York with a total stranger. He was playing salsa music from his car and I couldn’t help but join in.

The reason I love salsa so much is that the rhythm makes me feel alive.

But rhythm, and that feeling, isn’t exclusive to dance. Rhythm is literally everywhere—it’s in music and art and nature.

One thing we hear a lot about is the importance of “finding your rhythm.” Basically, figuring out how to live a life that’s true to ourselves.

And where we live and how we life and who we live with — that all influences our personal rhythm which seems to work best when everything in our life is in sync.

Victor Haskins & Skein perform at Fan Arts Stroll in Richmond, Virginia. Photo: EVERGIB

Think about musicians playing in a band. Only when the rhythm of their instruments sync up, do they create music, instead of noise.

Same goes for dancers. When the rhythm of their movements come together, they look cohesive, instead of chaotic.

In art and design, elements like colors and shapes create rhythmic patterns that give us amazing visuals.

And when people sync up and rally around the same cause, our collective rhythm can even create social change.

Black Lives Matter supporters protest on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia. Photo: EVERGIB

A life in sync is a life in harmony. One that’s aligned with our values, feels purposeful and gives us a deep sense of fulfillment.

But since graduating from the Brandcenter, I’ve learned that a life in harmony is less about finding your rhythm, and more about creating it.

In other words, it’s not about passively sitting back and hoping to stumble on the life you want. It’s about actively pursuing it.

In school, one of my professors introduced our class to the author Joseph Campbell who once said:

When I graduated from the Brandcenter, I felt alive.

I had a master’s degree in advertising art direction and an awesome boyfriend, Brian — I felt like the whole world was waiting.

But little did I know, to create my rhythm, I’d have to embark on a 15-year journey of new jobs, different cities, lots of travel and lots of self-reflection. And just as I was getting started, 9/11 happened and the economy tanked.

My new chapter seemed to end, before it had a chance to begin. Ad agencies weren’t hiring and worse, most of them were laying people off.
There were zero job prospects.

Needless to say, it was not how I envisioned the start of my advertising career.

California was my dream. I’d been an east coast girl my whole life. And I was ready for a change — a new place with a new rhythm.

Excerpt from “La La Land.” Source: giphy.com

Fast forward a few months… Brian and I ran into friends at a wedding whose parents had a guesthouse in Sonoma, less than an hour outside San Francisco, where some of the best agencies were.

On a whim, I asked if they might consider letting us stay there while we looked for jobs. To my surprise, they agreed. That one simple ask was all it took to change the course of our life and start a new rhythm.

We packed up our car and headed west with no jobs lined up. I was excited and scared. But mostly…

I felt alive.

Three months after arriving in California, I got a call from an ad agency in LA about a Junior Art Director position. I interviewed and I got the job.

Finally, I was officially an advertising creative (and for those who don’t what that means, I was basically Peggy in “Mad Men.”)

Excerpt from “Mad Men.” Source: giphy.com

While working in LA, I created ads for national brands, went on my first TV shoots and helped win new business.

But after four years, despite the amazing opportunities, perfect weather, and celeb sightings, my life felt frenetic and out of rhythm.

I was working all the time. And I justified the long hours because I was starting out in my career.

At the Brandcenter, I learned that “creativity is a process.” And that it’s important to “love the process.”

But in the agency world, this is how the process felt like to me:

Hamster wheel. Source: giphy.com

One day, while out researching for a project, I came across the book: “Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel” by Rolf Potts.

His approach to travel was simple:

Anyone with an independent spirit and an open mind can achieve their dreams of extended travel.

I was totally inspired.

Brian and I began saving up money and eventually, we quit our jobs, sold everything we owned and bought a one-way ticket to Europe.

And I felt alive.

From Portugal, we travelled for seven months in Western and Eastern Europe — as far south as the Greek Isles, as far east as Turkey and as far north as Ireland.

The author in Portugal, one of 25 countries visited on her European sabbatical. Photo: Brian Gibson

In our new rhythm, we developed a frugal traveling style that we affectionately called “cheap & charming.”

We ate simply and rented rooms from locals who would look for backpackers at the train station (this was before the days of AirBnB.)

Traveling this way let us not only travel for as long as possible, but also have more authentic experiences.

In the words of Rolf Potts:

Vagabonding is about gaining the courage to loosen your grip on the so-called certainties of this world. It’s about refusing to exile travel to some other, seemingly more appropriate time of your life. It’s about taking control of your circumstances, instead of passively waiting for them to decide your fate. And as much as anything, vagabonding is about time, our only real commodity, and how we choose to use it.

After the trip, I felt rejuvenated and ready to get back to work.

After all the journaling I’d done during our wanders, I also decided to change my focus from art direction to copywriting.

And soon, I got a job at an ad agency in New York City.

The author on a shoot in Capetown, South Africa during her time at McCann NY. Photo: Rainbow Partridge

While working in New York, I continued creating ads for national brands and traveling for TV shoots.

I loved the energy and excitement of the city, from the subway and 2am pizza slices to Central Park and our place in the Village (which just so happened to be the world’s tiniest apartment.)

But it’s true: the city never sleeps. And I didn’t either because I was working all the time. After three years, once again, my life felt frenetic and out of rhythm.

I also felt unfulfilled and didn’t know why. I was moving up in my career, but the “process” was beating me down. And it still felt like I was on the hamster wheel.

So I found another book: “The Rough Guide to First-Time Around The World.” Are you seeing a pattern?

Brian and I quit our jobs again, sold everything we owned again and bought a one-way ticket to South America.

And I felt alive.

This time, we travelled for over a year making our way through South America, North Africa, India, Nepal, Asia, Southeast Asia and beyond.

I quickly fell back into my nomadic rhythm — a rhythm that allowed me to feel present in daily life again.

The author in Vietnam, one of 25 destinations visited on her around-the-world sabbatical. Photo: Brian Gibson

We maintained our “cheap & charming” traveling style — eating street food and renting rooms from locals or staying in hostels.

Many people think long-term travel is one, long permanent vacation where you sip cocktails on a beach all day long. But the reality is that much of our day-to-day life was devoted to basic survival.

On a regular basis, we had to figure out public transportation, adapt to local customs, try to speak and understand different languages, stay safe, stay healthy and of course, stick to our budget.

But all the inconveniences were worth it for the freedom I felt.

Each day provided the opportunity to see something amazing, to try something new and to learn about an entirely different culture.

The places we went and the people we met added up to some incredible experiences that not only gave me memories, but a whole new perspective on life.

Traveling opened my mind, and heart, to other ways of living and allowed me to see the extraordinary in the ordinary.

A tribal dance festival in Lake Turkana, Kenya the author attended while in Africa. Photo: Rachel Scott Everett

After the trip, once again, I felt rejuvenated and ready to get back to work.

For the first time, Brian and I were hired on as a creative team at the same ad agency which was in, of all places… Las Vegas.

Once again, we packed up our car and headed west. Once again, I was excited and scared. But mostly…

I felt alive.

That is, until we actually got to Las Vegas, and it felt like this:

Excerpt from “The Martian.” Source: giphy.com

Of all the places we’d been in the world, living in Las Vegas felt the most foreign to me: the landscape, the casinos and the constant “ding” of slot machines everywhere, even in the grocery store.

I ignored feeling out of place, and out of rhythm, and instead focused on our work.

While working in Las Vegas, Brian and I headed up multiple travel and hospitality accounts including the global launch of a $3.5B luxury resort opening up in The Bahamas.

In advertising, to have the opportunity to develop a brand from scratch is a dream come true. For the next two years, we worked around the clock developing ads, messaging, imagery and more.

The highlight was developing a short film built on the premise that every journey must come to a beginning.

The film tells the story of a couple living life on their own terms as they travel to their next great destination. The purpose was to establish a feel for the brand, get people excited and drive bookings before the official opening. To say it was a ton of work is an understatement.

“The Voyage” short film conceived for Baha Mar Resort by the author and team at SK+G in Las Vegas, Nevada.

When the brand finally launched, the years of hard work seemed to all be worth it. That is, until three days before the grand opening, the resort went bankrupt.

Not only was it one of the biggest PR disasters in the travel and hospitality industry, our work would never be seen again.

That’s when I realized: it was time to get off the hamster wheel.

Brian and I gave our notice and left Las Vegas. For the third time, we had quit our jobs and sold everything we owned. But this time, we didn’t have a plan.

Instead, we took six weeks to drive 6,000 miles around the country to do some serious soul searching. I knew that we couldn’t keep doing what we were doing: starting new jobs, getting burned out and quitting.

After 12 years of putting up with “the process,” we needed to figure out a sustainable way to live and work. Ideally, a way that could let me feel like I did when we were traveling: to have both the freedom and the fulfillment.

And to feel alive every day.

A scene in South Dakota from the author’s cross-country drive. Photo: Rachel Scott Everett

On that cross-country drive, among the raw beauty of nature, I returned to the words of Rolf Potts:

Vagabonding is about taking control of your circumstances, instead of passively waiting for them to decide your fate.

It’s then that I realized:

Life isn’t about finding your rhythm, it’s about creating it.

There was only one place for us to go. The place where it all began and the place that felt like home: Richmond, Virginia.

It’s in Richmond that I started to take charge of my life and work towards a life in harmony.

Through the power of connection and the support of community, I began to create my own unique rhythm.

Rachel Scott Everett and Brian Gibson make up EVERGIB, a nomadic creative studio. Photo: Cade Martin

In 2015, Brian and I launched our own business. And in 2023, just like CreativeMornings Richmond, we celebrated eight years.

Our nomadic creative studio combines our love of travel with our love of creativity. It lets us work from our home base here in Richmond, or wherever we happen to be.

Earlier this year, we spent a few months working remotely in Bali, Indonesia.

In addition to more freedom, I’m also more fulfilled.

As an entrepreneur, I’m able to choose work that aligns with my interests, and more importantly, my values. More than any work for big brands, I’m most proud of the work we’ve done for local and nonprofit organizations.

Whether it’s opening our minds through stories, uplifting our spirits through the arts or connecting us to what matters, we’ve had the pleasure of working with brands who are doing good in the Richmond community and making a difference in our lives.

I’m also trying to take an active role in helping to shape this community by speaking out where I can, and working towards a more inclusive, just and equitable Virginia.

The author at Women’s March 2022 in Washington, DC. Photo: Kisha Bari

In closing, I’ll leave you with this:

Success means different things to different people. For me, it’s meant working to get closer to a life of freedom and fulfillment.

It took me a long time to realize that how I was working was getting in the way of how I wanted to live.

So listen to your gut, follow your heart and create your own rhythm. And in doing so, may you truly feel alive.

To view the original CreativeMornings talk, click here:

“Create Your Own Rhythm” talk by Rachel Scott Everett in Richmond, Virginia. Video: Double Take

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Rachel Scott Everett

Rachel Scott Everett is co-founder and creative director at EVERGIB, a nomadic creative studio specializing in strategically led advertising and branding.