I have a vision of my life.
A vision of how I want to run my business, what I want my business to look like and what effect I want my presence to have on the world. It’s a wonderful story. I would work with indigenous people from the furthest regions of the world, participating in fair-trade and sourcing only the finest ingredients. My line of wonders would be in the greatest happening locations, for the hipsters to relish over. My business would be involved in important social issues. I would create a collective for women crafters and makers of all sorts of things. My blog would just blow the hell up! I mean, who wouldn’t want to follow someone road-mapping the trail from employee to entrepreneur step-by step, from start to finish? I would reveal all the secrets, make all the mistakes, be the trial run for those coming after me. It would push me to produce while being a benefit to others. There’s only one problem. It’s all in my head….
I had a mini melt-down last night. I was feeling as though I’m still spinning my wheels. Not the free wheels that would spin on tires, looking flashy at the stoplight. But wheels similar to the ones rats run fast on but don’t go anywhere. Yesterday I noticed that although I’m always busy, I’m not getting anything done. Last week, a colleague of my husbands introduced him to someone involved with micro loan programs. I thought that this might be something that I was ready for. This could be the funding that my business needs to take off. Well, I learned (very quickly) upon talking to the lender, that I was out of my league. Not only did my business not meet the qualifications to get a loan, I wasn’t even in the neighborhood of calling what I was doing a business. Well damn….
When we got into bed last night my husband had a serious talk with me. One of the most profound things that he said was “Take your business out of theory stage, and put it on a tactical level”. He told me to think about what would happen if I had actually gotten the funding that I sought after. If $100,000 was deposited into Twigs & Berry’s bank account (which doesn’t exist) on Friday, what would I do come Monday morning? That was a heavy question that I could not answer. Yes, it all makes sense in theory… I would get my products manufactured, try to land some great placement contracts, upgrade my labels and sort out distribution. Reality: What manufacturing company? Where are my suppliers? What are my negotiations with them? How much am I paying for that? Exactly how much packaging am I going to need? What is my new label design? What does my credit look like? Should I take a business course, workshop or seminar? Should I get a mentor? Tactics..
Theodore Roosevelt said, ” In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing”. I can sit a daydream all day long. I can do things that are scattered here and there, never really making any of the dots connect. This is exactly what I’ve been doing and fuels my frustration. I can also make a conscious decision to start at the beginning, take the appropriate steps to avoid as many mistakes as possible as to not waste time and product on repetitive actions. I need to stop looking at my business as a side hustle. That’s what it’s always been, but that’s not what it is now. It’s not even my 9 to 5. Its my 24/7. It’s a change in the way I identify with this entity that has a life, but waiting to be born.
I’ve been out of the hospital for 7 weeks now and much if that time has been spent worrying about money by trying to pick up a next “hustle” to fund this vision. I applied to a massage academy, thinking that It would bring in some small change to facilitate my business needs, but was told today that I didn’t get in. This was a major brand spa. One of the biggest and most known in California. My first reaction when I was told by one of the people who conducted my first interview, was a big ass, full throated laugh. No really. It felt like a joke. But he was actually asking me to come back again to repeat the second interview. He believed that the second interviewer overlooked me (It was a group practicum), didn’t get to see my true shine and counted me out. This was funny to me, because the decision seemed to be right in line with where my head is right now. It was a roadblock (in my case a toddle gate) to keep me from unnecessary detours. Call it Divine Intervention. My grandmother used to tell us that God takes care of old folks and fools, then she would say, “… and you know you ain’t old”. I told him that I would think on it and get back to him… and apologized for laughing. So yes, the universe is totally aligned to my greatest benefit. I just need to keep paying attention and stop wasting my time chasing money. Chase my passion instead.
With that being said, I started the registration process of my business, signed up for a business start-up workshop next week, requested a business mentor, and joined a business resource network specifically for women.
Tactical level 1
I’ve spent the last few days thinking about my business model. I’ve been thinking about what I want my business to represent. The idea of it. My products are natural, clean, healthy and handmade. I make a point to convey that with the ingredients that I use, my method of manufacturing and the packaging that I select. But that isn’t enough for me. I was restless with the fact that although I want my business to have this level of integrity, something was missing. What do I want my business to say about me? About how I think and what I believe? Most importantly, I know what my products in all their natural glory does for a person’s skin, but what do I want it to do for them? Their lives? How they perceive themselves and the world around them?
The one word that sticks in my mind is revolution. By definition: A revolution (from the Latin revolutio, “a turn around”) is a fundamental change in political power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time when the population rises up in revolt against the current authorities. (Thanks Google)
So lets talk about a revolution. Lets talk about this “turn around”. There has been many quiet but profound revolutions that have taken place in the last few years. For example the market crash of 2008, leaving many out of house and home and many more out of work. Being the resilient people we are, what did we do? Many people started building their own business and reinventing the boundaries of what they were capable of doing with their talents and skills. For instance, I meet so many Uber drivers who share stories about how they lost their jobs or were simply just tired of working for someone else and decided to drive. Marcus Garvey once said “If you can’t find work, create your own”. That has proved profitable for many and created a convience for those who now need to, or just rather go out on their own.
Another revolution that we’ve seen is in education. One thing that I was worried about when my children started going off to college 3 years ago, was the lack of opportunities coupled with the extreme debt that would be waiting for them when they were ready to join the working world. The cost of education is now a very realistic conversation, not only among the troves of students who are need financial aid, but especially among those who are considered “not in need”. So whats happening? Professors from schools like Harvard and Stanford are leaving their university positions and hosting online lectures at minimal to no cost for anyone who can digest the content. This opens doors for many who can’t afford a university education and gives them access to the same quality and content.
So what of our revolution? In looking at the examples above, I realized that the revolution had to start with the person who had the idea. We are rising up against the perceptions that we had of ourselves. We are rising up against ways that we are currently living that are not in line with who, where and what we want to be in our own lives. We are tired of giving up our power of choice. That same power that many of us didn’t even know we possessed. I am not rewriting the book on my own life. I actually embrace everything that I’ve been through and experienced, even if I don’t quite understand their individual purposes yet. My past has brought me here…. knowing what I know, feeling what I feel. I am merely adding a new chapter. One that will actually be written by me… on purpose.
We’ve been living in many roles and boxes, with rules that we didn’t choose for ourselves:
- Girl = Cry when you don’t get your way. Be skinny. Let him win.. every time. Learn to cook. Be nice.. always. Cross your legs. Be smart. Wear make-up. Straighten your hair. If you are competitive, you’re acting like a man. If you have muscles, you look like a man. Have pretty handwriting. Don’t offer your opinion, wait to be asked about what you think. Don’t have too many guy friends…it doesn’t look good. Love shoes.
- Boy = Don’t cry.. that’s what girls do. Be strong. Be competitive. Win. Be tough. Be the bread-winner. Don’t show your feelings. Play a sport. Be cut-throat. Be clean-cut… it’s more professional. Wear the pants. Don’t wear pink. Don’t spend too much time grooming yourself… It’s suspect. Love cars, bikes or a lot of girls.
- There are rules and expectations based on your race, nationality, religious identity, sexual identity, level of education, demographics… the list goes on and on. In short, there’s a box for everyone and inside each box is a theatrical event, complete with a written script.
I want my business to represent breaking chains, cracking the mold, blossoming and becoming something new. Shaking off every preconceived notion of who we are supposed to be. Even turning away from flawed misconceptions of who we think we are, realizing that we are greater and more powerful than we think. The revolution starts with us. It starts in us and will filter out into all that we come into contact with in a positive way. It’s time we stop just accepting our lives and start loving our lives. Crafting and shaping our lives. Sounds easy right? Well, no it doesn’t, but I think it will get easier as we put it into practice. This is an everyday battle. We’re waking up.
LET’S START A REVOLUTION
I have come to realize that everyone has a story. Often times we don’t think that we ourselves have a story to tell, because it’s our lives and we live it everyday. To us, its subject to monotony and repetition, filled with the “same old-same old”. Many times I find myself thinking ” why do things like this always happen to me?” and “just my luck”. It seems like great things always happen to other people. In college my cousin’s parents proclaimed that if she went to school and made good grades, they would purchase a car for her. She wouldn’t have to work or worry about money, her only job would be to study. There I was, applying by myself, going to orientation alone, figuring out my schedule for class and work as a freshman, navigating that mess of a financial aid process and making good grades…. all while riding the bus. Why couldn’t have a car in return for good grades? Or at the very least one parent who cared if I even went to college? But hey, that’s just my life. Being put in jail? My name’s on that list. Getting laid off after being on the job for 9 years? Yep, been there too. Sometimes, it seems like things just “happen” to me.
Bob Marley has a line in one of his songs that says, “Every man thinks that his burden is the heaviest…. but who feels it, knows it”. So yes, everyone has a story. That story can be internalized and perceived as a stumbling block or a stepping stone. The former will affect everything in our lives in a negative way: as the reason why we couldn’t do this or didn’t get that or never had or will ever have the opportunity to do something. The latter will affect our lives in tremendous ways: causing us to be stronger, wiser, independent and more compassionate people. Using our trials and pains to boot strap ourselves not only helps us, but it also helps the people around us. Yes, people who come into contact with us are also beneficiaries of our personal struggles. There is power in our pain and success in our suffering if we learn the lessons that pain and suffering teaches us. Believe me, I would much rather learn that lesson by observation ….(observing someone else..lol). But the truth is, we are more effective learners from pain rather than pleasure. It also gives us voice to be a light in the forest for someone else. Sometimes that may be the only reason why we went through certain things, to let someone else know that it’s possible to overcome it. And the universe knows that you were the one strong enough to bear it.. although you may not have known it at the time. This is why we follow certain blogs, read biographies and quotes, listen to music and motivational speakers and find mentors. We are all human. On this same journey. Going through similar things. Trying to find a path through the forest. Trying to find a way to bloom.
I still don’t know the lesson in my going to jail for 33 days. I have yet to know the lesson in being laid off from my high paying job. I don’t know if turning my back on the hospital to become an entrepreneur will prove fruitful. But I do know that the secret of embracing my own story, is in the telling of it.
Okay, so now it’s time to start getting things into gear for the new year. In terms of my business, I need to start thinking of which direction to go. I have an array of products and I need to determine which ones I want to be “flagship” items. Although my interests all point in the same direction (herbal, natural, medicinal and exotic, handmade) they are all products that can stand alone. Do I want to be a one woman show? Do I want to collaborate? Where do I put my first focus? Body Butters and soaps? Herbal teas? My men’s line? The candles? Being unemployed, I don’t have the dispensable income that I once had to spread my coins in all directions, so how do I streamline and scale up when its time?
Thinking on these things, of course I started thinking about my poor husband who is carrying the bulk of all of our expenses. He is doing what he calls the “heavy lifting”. Although he is quite fine in this role I can’t help but feel guilty sometimes, especially with my business needs being an addition to the needs of our home and family. I’ve always been a financially independent woman and took pride in being such. Being in this circumstance, I often feel like I’m somehow falling short. “Maybe I shouldn’t be thinking about trying to get my business off the ground right now”. “Where is the money going to come from for the ingredients, the packaging and the labels with no income save my unemployment check?” Trust me, it is a far cry from what I brought in as a Therapist. Most people would recommend… or rather insist, that I go out and look for another hospital job paying at least what I was making before being laid off. But what would that mean for my business? What would that mean for following my vision and my passions? If not now, then when? The secret of tomorrow is that it never comes.
These are normal feelings that anyone in my position would feel. There’s nothing wrong with thinking these things, but I try not to let these thoughts consume me. One thing I know is that time is truly a luxury. I mean, who really has TIME? Our time is usually spent commuting, working, eating, sleeping, cooking, on the phone, social media, cleaning, standing in lines, complaining about something or stressing over everything or absolutely nothing. But when do we ever have time to just be? To think about where are lives are and where we want it to go…. intentionally? Most times we are stumbling through life with our eyes closed, only responding to whats happening TO us. How often do we get to plan exactly where our lives are going? When have we had the opportunity of make life respond to us? Well, the safety net of my cushy income has fallen beneath me and there’s no such thing as “extra” money. But I have the time, the time to navigate my course, which is something I’ve never had before. Is it scary? Yes. Is it uncomfortable? Hell yes. But there is only a window of timefor me to feel this and to experience this journey. I don’t n ow how long it will last but net or no net… I’m all in. I think it will be the men’s line.
There I was, 2:00 in the morning on Tuesday, wide awake thinking about one question…. What’s next? My last day at the hospital was Sunday. I was filled with nervous excitement and hopeful that everything would fall into place. It should right? I would wake up Monday afternoon ready to start my “new ” life. This is what I always wanted to do, what I always dreamed about: carving out my own life. Having the time and space to do what I wanted to do. But what was it that I wanted to do? What was my new life supposed to look like?
In those early morning hours I was faced with the reality of being unemployed. Something that I hadn’t been since I began my Respiratory Therapist career 13 years ago. A career that took me from one of the most prestigious hospitals in the South Bay of Los Angeles, training in the neonatal ICU and Labor and Delivery, to Jamaica- being the only Respiratory Practitioner on the island, consulting with doctors and training nurses, to my last job, primarily managing patients dependent on life support machines and working in the ER every night. I was important in my career. I had build many relationships with beautiful people, cared for many lives. Staring up at the ceiling did I feel as though I’d lost something?
Going beyond the physical, I started to think on the emotional and the spiritual elements of my situation. Honestly, even though I had a career that many on the outside looking in said .. “You have a big job. You make good money. You went to school and made the right moves. You have a good life and you should be happy”. Well, although I took pride in what I did and took my job very seriously, happiness eluded me. I often felt a gaping hole that I knew needed to be filled with something else. Many times I’ve asked myself “Why am I doing this?”.
I fell into this field because I looked at it as a route to medical school. At some point I realized that I didn’t like the medical field at all. But there I was, in a career that paid well and feed the children. That was my answer. That was why I was doing it. After many years, I began to feel trapped, like I was suffocating, losing myself. It was a never-ending loop: I wanted to start my own business doing something that was passionate to me so that I could leave my job. But my job swallowed up such a big part of my life, I didn’t have time to follow my passion. I dabbled here and there trying to get my business going. I made products, sold them at different events, had a unique logo and website and had repeat customers… I started and stopped, started again and stopped again. All of my energy went into the hospital and raising my children. I was good at what I did, but I was no Superwoman and could not do all three.
So what I realized (and try to keep in the forefront of my mind) is that I was blessed with that career at that time because it was a means to an end. I was able to take good care of my family. Three of my children left for college and the younger two are thriving beautifully. It was necessary for what I need to accomplish and it’s time has ended. Now its time to begin again. God always knew what it was that I wanted and now all my obstacles have just rolled away. I can hear him saying “This is what you wanted right? Time? Okay, so what are you going to do with it?”. It’s that question that I today surrender to the universe.
One of the first things that I noticed about myself: the need to feel “busy”. Being a working mother of five, trying to get a business off the ground, there was always something that needed doing. Side bar: “getting a business off the ground” really means, striving on a more serious level than dabbling, into my craft. This included doing my own research and development, sourcing ingredients and packaging, actually making products in small quantities of a dozen or less, creating labels and business cards, managing multiple online stores and finding events where I can display and sell these items (events that I could afford). Always with the aim to upscale.
Of course, all of this needed more time than I had and more attention than I had the energy to give. Everything (besides the sourcing of high quality, organic, fair traded ingredients and production) was half-ass, surface stuff. I was working full-time in the hospital and raising my children.. Sub-Side Bar: I’m that breed of parent that has to cover every aspect of my children’s lives (the roof over their heads couldn’t be located just anywhere, they had to eat good food [which meant cooking everyday] and they had to have the best educational opportunities I could find. I had been homeschooling 2 of them for the past 4 years.). Most importantly, I wanted them to know that I loved them and that they were precious and deserved everything, especially my time. We would have family movie nights and family game nights. We would frequent beaches, go on hikes and on camping trips. We would visit museums and bookstores. We would travel. We would just talk to each other about any and everything. I knew each of their personalities, talents, sense of humors and fears, and they knew mine.
Then comes the keeping of the house, cleaning and paying bills, doctor and dental appointments. Honestly looking back at it, I feel like I had 4 jobs, and I gave them everything I had. So much so, that there was nothing left for me. Where did I go? What had happened to who I was? Somehow in the midst of all the shuffle, I had lost my own identity. I was just too busy to nurture myself.
Okay, back to the original agenda… The first two weeks after leaving my job, I had so much to do. The first week was filled with wedding planning. I was getting married in 11 days! By the second week, everything was pretty much planned. I was just waiting for things to arrive in the mail or picking up things and visiting the salon. Our big day came and was filled with so much joy and the next 3 days was spent in marital bliss. Then Tuesday came and my husband was back at work. For some reason, that week was also a busy week for me. I was running around taking care of “things” the whole entire week. I remember my husband saying “I thought you would slow down now that you aren’t working, but you seem to be just as busy as you were before”. By the end of the week I was frustrated and grumpy and had no idea why.
After staying put for a couple of days I began to realize that I was still living like I had 4 jobs. My mind and body had grown so accustomed to constantly running, that I did it instinctively. Busy was my norm. I just wasn’t used to being still. And here I was, causing myself to have these overloaded days and all of the frustration that comes along with them. It took me a week to realize that I didn’t have to do that anymore. Three of my children had left home for college, and one was no longer homeschooling but had started high school. I didn’t have to fit my life in between my work schedule and hey… I had a husband! I had to readjust how I spent my time. I actually had time. Time to rest, time to think, time to just be. I’m still learning to just be me with my time. This slower pace is bringing so much clarity and I’m discovering myself again.
This time is allowing me to really think about my business. Where do I want to put my focus? Which direction do I want to take it? What are my personal goals to end this very special year, so I can be ready blaze my way into 2017? It’s a lot to think about and it takes a reconditioning of the mind. I’d had over 20 years of this programming and it’s going to take time and effort to unplug. I was trained to be a worker and no one had instilled into me that I can do whatever I wanted to do. No one taught me how to create the life that I envision for myself and my family. I also know that the energy that took up this space has to be replaced with something else, something tangible. Something more meaningful personally. At 44, whatever I embark on now, will be my life’s work. With being still, the pieces are coming together. Things are starting to take form.
I took a few days away from the computer because one of the most wonderful of things happened last week. I married one of the most beautiful souls that could ever be encountered. I know that sounds quite dramatic. But nothing could be further from the truth. Being 44 years old and knowing a thing or two about relationships, I suspect every blushing bride, still basking in the glow of a new marriage must think this about her husband…. but this is so real. Not a fairy-tale love but a love so tangible it has a life of it’s own. I say this because of many reasons including:
- He knows how to communicate with me. I can be open with him, because he is open with me. We speak with words that makes the other person want to listen. We love talking to each other. Once our marathon orations carried us 10 hours! To this day we have no idea what we talked about all that time. We speak with our eyes. We can look at each other from across a room and can mutually agree (in an instant) that it time to leave. We share body language. I never knew a touch could say so much. Sometimes we just snuggle together, like male and female lions, purring with our eyes closed and we find strength in that. Our ability to communicate with each other on a level above the surface, was the first thing that caught our attention… it’s just something that has always been there.
- We listen to each other. Now this is a big one! When we talk, he gives me his undivided attention and fully engages himself. He doesn’t just hear me, he gets into the core of what I’m saying. Which not only encourages me to talk but allows me to dig deeper into what I’m thinking and explore the reaches of those thoughts and see what they expand into. It used to surprise me how he would sometimes know exactly what I was feeling or thinking before I could fully articulate it. Being fully present with each other gives our connectivity so much depth and power.
- He is supportive. To put it in layman’s terms: He has my back and that’s really what it all comes down to. Not like the many that have good and kind words (and I give thanks for those too, because they are there for our encouragement), but one of the few that actually roll up their sleeves and get into the weeds with you. Yeah, he’s that guy. On this journey of evolution, he is a vital character,because he supports and give room for that organism to breathe and flourish.
I was going to write about how and why I’ve picked the word “CONCENTRATION” to be my go-to word that themes this stage in my development right now. But instead when I sat in front of the computer I started typing about something totally different. What that turned out to be was the recognition of a critical factor in what makes this platform accessible to me at this point on the journey. A crucial moment.. the launching of the rest of my life. If I know anything at all, I know the importance of having a partner that connects with you and believes in your dream even when you haven’t figured it all out completely.
In regards to today’s writing, because I didn’t really know what that was going to be, I didn’t create the title first. I just started writing to see what would flow. Reading the preview before flinging it out to the world, I realized that there was still no title. Focusing in on the content, I realized that what I had written was the answer to the question of my last post “Where is The Start?”. Now remember, I was not only asking this question of myself, but I’m also asking the universe. I’m asking because I know that if you are reading this blog at all, your’e asking the same questions. For me it’s support that helps plant my feet firmly on the ground. There is an extreme depressurization happening in my head, knowing that I have the space to begin my journey without the fears that most have after losing their job without knowing whats next. That does not mean that there are no concerns and things are flowing like honey, but there would be totally different heights of stress if I had to go at it alone. I give much thanks for that because it allows the start. Time to get moving!
2016 has been a crazy and wonderful year. There has been so much shifting and emotional uncertainty, as unpredictable as early mourning San Francisco weather. Sometimes dark with the thick rolling fog of uncertainty, other times bright with the kind of subtle breeze at makes you close your eyes and turn your face up to the sun in gratitude.
Although it is still 2016, and so far it has brought incredible life changes, January-October has not been the year that is the title of this blog post. But everything before today, has brought me to this moment. This moment of surrender.
By profession I have been a Respiratory Therapist full time for the past 14 years. By nature I am a maker, a crafter, an artesian. I am also a single parent of 5 children (3 of which have gone off to college, 2 I have homeschooled for the past 4 years). I have a 3 year old Siberian Husky… the other kid. My #1 duty has always been not just raise my youth, but to parent and understand them. My #2 duty as been to provide for them. Duty #3, educate them. Duty #4, try not to lose my sense of self and my own passions and goals. And duty #5: all the other stuff that I never get around to doing, or forget to do altogether.
I’ve always had the desire to leave work behind and put all my focus on my “business”. I’ve put my requests out in the universe time and time again, always thinking “One day”. Well the universe has a way of calling your bluff! Sometimes God will deliver exactly what you asked for, make it stare you right in the eye and say “Ok, so now what are you going to do?” My bluff was called in the form of a lay off notice from the hospital, and 12 days before I would be out of a job. Damn…
Immediately there was a grip if anxiety. WHAT ABOUT MONEY? HOW WILL I PAY THE BILLS? WHAT ABOUT THE COLLEGE TUTIONS? FOOD? My fiancé and I had just picked up our marriage license earlier that same day. WILL I BE ABLE TO BY A DRESS? HOW WOULD HE FEEL ABLOUT MARRYING AN UNEMPLOYED WOMAN? The most important question of all: I could just do my business….. BUT WHAT IF I FAIL?
I am not a writer, I’m a reader. I am not eloquent, I’m direct in speech. But for the next 12 months, I’m going to attempt to record the leap. The Year of Surrender. Tomorrow is my last day at work. I know it will be bittersweet, full of sad goodbyes and food… lots of food. However the day after, will be about moving forward. It will be about making the jump from a full time 9-5 job and surrendering to my purpose. Surrendering to faith and offering up my love and gratitude to the universe.
See you on the other side.