I remember when we were putting our wedding together people said,
“So what were you thinking?”
I would stammer, all I was thinking was, “I just want to marry him. Isn’t that enough?”
I didn’t have an iron clad vision of just how things needed to be, because in a sense they were already perfect—he’d asked me to marry him and I had said yes. Everything that was bound to follow the proposal was what I wanted, so I didn’t let the planning of the wedding bother or overwhelm me.
My career has been similar to my wedding. I have never had a strong structure to my goals, rather I’ve dug into almost every position I have ever had to prove that there is more to me than people think. As a scenic carpenter, there wasn’t more skill than anyone thought, but I was hell bent to show that what I lacked in know-how, I could make up for in steely determination. There was no sheet of plywood or stick of lumber too heavy for me to carry. As a salesperson my initial lack of polish and confidence was offset by my ability to relate to prospective clients and demonstrate sincerity, a vastly more successful mechanism for closing deals than a well-practiced pitch. Since then I have worked with at-risk youth, eked my way through contracting with union crews, hawking product at Origins, building a blog and email marketing initiative at a chamber of commerce, and helping lift a product through marketing and social media strategy to be acquired by another company.
Twenty years into my professional life and I find myself at what some people might call a crossroads. I have two businesses, one, despite my love for it, must go. The marketing agency that I own with my husband and two partners is soaring. It has been a blessing through the years as I have been able to honor, albeit with some guilt, the ebb and flow of my desire to be in the workplace. I have taken meetings and I have been home for nap-time. I’ve also brought my daughters to work and carried on tense work conversations from the phone in my kitchen. Creating this company without a rich uncle or a fat roster of clients was not easy, but it has taught me exactly what I always set out to show others; I am more than I think.
When you close a business there are so many questions and speculation. Entrepreneurs know that there is always a risk, although truth be told I think many of us never think about the risk or the potential of failure, you just move ahead using all the tools that you have. Thinking about failure just makes you fail faster. Whether it’s in terms of a business or delivering a speech, believing in yourself is central to succeeding. There are many reasons and, just as with the wedding, the specifics of it don’t matter, there was love and that is what I keep as our retail store closes.
Now what? Am I a failed business owner? Is it time to doubt myself? What does it mean that I started something and it didn’t make it? I thought that I might be embarrassed, so much so that I spent months trying to change the ending, but now that I am here all that I can see is a beautiful thing. A business that I never intended to have became a deeply meaningful part of my life, teaching me what I can and cannot do, what I love, and the difference between trusting other people and trusting myself. The best comparison I can make is that seemingly endless stretch of time as new parent when your baby, despite all of your preparing, fusses. People weigh in, sometimes they judge, but they are rarely in the room with you. Some nights the relentlessness of the crying brings you to the edge—sleep, quiet, triumph seem menacingly out of reach. Will you ever make it? And then they sleep, they burrow into the space between your chin and collar bone, their tiny, impossibly soft hands trace your skin. It isn’t easy, it isn’t without flaws, but it is unmistakably perfect.
We were married in June and no one rented a cabin. We didn’t gather around a campfire and have stew with wonderful, crusty rolls. We did string twinkly lights in a barn and throw quilts over hay bales. The day was, as I had known it would be, perfect. I married Sean just as the sun began to lazily make its way down. I don’t remember the menu or the speeches that were given. What I remember is a hot, sunny day in June, the creak of deck planking, the soft way my grandfather played piano, the unexpected blending of people we loved from different parts of our lives beaming and the moment when we squeezed each other’s hands, lips trembling, and the minister told us that we could kiss as husband and wife.
I believe that in business, as in love, it isn’t about a blemish free fairy tale, it is about realizing who and what you love and understanding that so long as you are able to enjoy that, then you are a success.