18 May 2007

On Where To Start

The other night as I was driving in my car, I had a minor epiphany. It was about 8:15 in the evening, and I was heading home from a personal shopping trip (for those of you who know how I usually feel about shopping, you can then imagine how glad I was to be heading home). I need some Spring clothes and I have very limited time to spend looking for them. That night, I decided to take a deep breath and plunge in. I picked up a couple of tops, a couple of pairs of pants, and one pair of inexpensive shoes. (For the record, when I tried the pants on for my mom the following day, she told me, “Those are not cute. There is nothing cute about them. From the waistband to the hem. Not cute.” [sigh] And back they’ll go.)

So back to the minor epiphany. I was driving and enjoying the fact that it was still light out, enjoying the fact that I was alive and driving my car freely and going anywhere I wanted to in this town…my town. And that’s when it hit me. My town. Where I live. Where I do business. Where (most of) the people I love are. This is my life. I am an…adult(!)…and I live in this town and I’m more or less directly responsible for helping to make this town great. I contribute to the way people experience this town because I am a business owner. I interact with the public. I am no greater or lesser contributor than any other person in this town, but I am one contributor. I make my own contribution. And it’s the contribution only I can make. And you know what? In that moment, I experienced fully a small, quiet moment of complete fulfillment.

Why were these thoughts significant to me? Probably because a mere year and a half ago, I never dreamed I’d return here to live, ever. Much less open a business here, ever. These turns of events occurred to me as good ideas just weeks before I actually went and made them happen. Before my big life change, I had a cute apartment in one of those trendy “lifestyle communities” that tend to attract young professionals who aren’t quite ready to be home owners. I was a teacher with enough years under my belt to mean job security when the levies didn’t pass. I had interesting students and great teaching partners. I had friends and a dating life. I had a supportive family to talk to on the phone. I had a relationship with God. I had a treadmill in my living room, a coffee shop to frequent on Saturday mornings, and a front porch with a bistro table where I once served a boy I liked homemade Pad Thai by candlelight. I had a whole life!

But it wasn’t ultimately fulfilling. I didn’t know why. I talked about it at length with my girlfriends, over dinners and glasses of wine and Caramel Macchiatos. And I quickly discovered I wasn’t alone. Most of us felt at least mildly unfulfilled and creatively untapped, even those of us who worked in the more creative fields. Even those of us who were married with children. The sort of unfulfillment we were talking about had nothing to do with the relationships we had or didn't have. It was something having to do with just us, and with our unique gifts and talents.

I knew my unfulfillment wasn’t a permanent condition. After some months, I even sensed the time was nigh for a shift. There was hope for me. I felt as if I were in the birth canal, waiting to be reborn as something new. I just didn’t know what.

I bet that many of you out there have found yourselves in a similar position—unfulfilled by your workaday existence (even if that workaday existence is admirable, honorable, enviable, lucrative, and/or on many levels, rewarding!), primed for a change, desirous of a new life (or at least parts of a new life). But maybe you didn’t know what needed to change. Or if you did, you didn’t know how you needed it to change. Or maybe you have felt as if you need everything to change. I know that I have felt that way at times.

So fifteen months ago when I first decided that the change I needed in my life was to leave teaching and start a business, I experienced a tremendous sense of ownership over my own life. Not that I ever felt like a puppet before. Teaching, after all, is akin to running a small business in many ways. (In some teaching models, students are to be considered as the customers of schools.) In leading a classroom, you define a brand identity (How does this classroom run? What are the expectations? What are the rewards of a job well done?), set up procedures and policies, manage paperwork, lead meetings, devise creative solutions, constantly troubleshoot, etc., etc., etc. But given all the freedom and liberty I experienced as a creator and a “proprietor” in my own classroom, I still felt as if that wasn’t enough for me. It wasn’t enough for me to work within the system of a school. I wanted to create the system.

For any of you out there experiencing a similar malaise, I am speaking directly to you. Further, I am speaking to those of you who strongly suspect that the unfulfilled desire in your life is to start your own business. I am not by any means suggesting that most malaises can be solved by starting your own business—heavens, no! If anything, taking such a leap can open the door to malaises you might not want any part of—if you don’t have the spirit, the mindset, and the attitude of an entrepreneur. But if you know that you do or even that you want to…I’m talking to you.

Just the other morning I attended a business growth seminar that was, quite frankly, life changing. I have a totally different view of my business after listening to and engaging with the ideas that were offered to me there. Here’s one thing I know for sure: by my own assessment, I may not yet deserve to wear the term entrepreneur. With mine being such a new business, I think ‘self-employed’ is a more fitting term for me—and I wear that term proudly with a smile. But I know that I have the spirit of an entrepreneur, and that is a role I am claiming for myself and for my future.

So back to that epiphany, the nature of which was this: this life I’m leading, I created it through conscious, deliberate choices, the stimulus for which was unfulfillment and the impetus for which was a desire to live the life I will want to look back on when I’m ninety-five. So here’s the question: when you're ninety-five, what passion of yours could you die happy knowing you fulfilled? Dealing in antiques? Designing clothing? Providing childcare? Creating greeting cards? Instructing Pilates? Catering parties? Helping others achieve their fitness goals? Whatever that “undying passion” is for you—I urge you to allow any current unfulfillment you might feel over not pursuing it become a tidal wave of momentum to go for it! Start with unfulfillment—go ahead, it’s okay. But don’t stay there. Keep dreaming, wishing, hoping, and planning. Those are your keys to unlocking a more fulfilling future.


Cathy Louise said...

You are a great writer you know.... You always get me in and I can't stop reading... I must say I am lucky to be living my dream too... My light bulb moment, sadly was when I lost both my parents and I felt like I needed to step up and I think I have done that... Two beautiful kids, a busy, creative home based business and the gift of every day feeling like there is a new adventure to have... Thank you for sharing...

Doreen said...

You have a wonderful site here. Love it. You are also a fantastic writer. :) take care, thanks


The Blissful Home said...

Cathy & Doreen--

Thank you for your kind comments. Writing has always been my biggest passion & it's fun to be able to use it to connect with other women who have similar interests. I will be checking in on both of your blogs often!


McMaster & Storm said...

Cute shop and best wishes to you on your retail journey. Never a dull moment in this industry!

The Blissful Home said...

Hi, McMaster & Storm girls--

I can't believe you posted on my blog today! (See the comment I put on the most recent post on *your* blog.) Thanks for reading and for saying hello. Best wishes for a terrific end of the month.


Lana said...

Such an interesting and thought provoking post. Thank you for sharing ~ Lana

bec4 said...

I just found your blog today, and all blogs about a month or so ago. You speak to me! I am a teacher (now just teaching preschool 2 mornings a week)who so desperately wants my own shop. I repurpose junk and paint on furniture and sell that at my local farmer's market in the summer. That has given me a taste of having a shop or regular customers. I want to do it--just don't know how to make that next step. Money is tight-my husband teaches too. I don't know how to go to that next place and would so love to talk or be part of a different blog that you were talking about!

The Blissful Home said...

Hi, Bec4--

Thanks for introducing yourself. Welcome to my blog and welcome to the blogosphere! It (the blogosphere) is a thoughtful and wonderful place to be, isn't it?

Thank you for sharing your dream with me of owning your own shop. You sound like one of those crafty, hands-on ladies I really admire (my mom is that person in our business). AND you teach little kids--wow! I taught high school and could never imagine myself teaching little ones--though often teachers of little ones tell me they couldn't imagine teaching teenagers.

In any case, I will be launching a new blog in the near future that addresses the dreams, ideas, and questions of women like us who want to make their own life's work through a creative business. I hope you'll check back soon, as there will be a link from my My Complete Profile page to the new blog. (I will also post a blog on Lettres from The Blissful Home giving the link to the new blog). Yay! I am really looking forward to continuing this dialogue with other female entrepreneurs and wannabe entrepreneurs. The blog will discuss issues from the practical and pragmatic to the emotional and spiritual and everything in between with regards to becoming a small business owner.

Thanks for reading, Bec4!


Maggie said...

Oh Abby thank you for that heart felt post. I am a older flight attendant who never thought I could do this and love it as much as I do(well maybe I could) I like to belive we can do anything as women. Tell me I can't and I will do it. I recently started a booth in an antique mall and I LOVE it and am getting ideas from all of these wonderful blogs. Found you from raisedincotton figured if they liked you I would. I so love that you are giving back and passing it on we as women need to do that. Have had some really sad months lately with so many coworkers loosing their job so you are a treat. Love your no whining. I am usually so positive so thank you for reminding me. Also love the age 95 referral. I am trying to put my thoughts together and am thinking an English major yikes!! Thx for sharing