A number of years ago, as he was delivering some packages to me, a UPS man came into my office, sat down at my chair and put his feet up on my desk. He sat and relaxed and looked totally at home while I stood there, a little dumbfounded at his movements. What happened next floored me, and spurred me into action. He leaned back in my chair, a rickety used rolling chair that I had gotten from the St. Vincent De Paul’s thrift store. I was worried he might break it: he was a pretty big man. He put his hands behind his head and let out a long sigh and said, “Man, this is the life, owning your own business. You get to just sit back and relax while everyone else does the work. I can’t wait to open my own business someday so I can do this.”
I had been rooted to the spot in uncertainty, a little in shock about some dude coming in and just sitting down at my desk to relax without even asking. But his words broke that spell and I said incredulously, “Are you kidding me?! Do you have any idea how hard this is? I never get to just sit around while other people do the work. I’m in charge of everything; I work harder than my employees! If I don’t work, no money comes in! I never get to just sit back and watch the world go by. I’m doing this every day. You’re lucky, all you have to do is deliver packages and collect a paycheck. When your shift is done, you get to go home and never think about your job or feel worried or unsure where your next paycheck is coming from. You’re the one who has it easy dude! Now please get out of my chair so I can get back to work.”
He looked at me like I was crazy, sauntered out of my office and drove off. I’ll never forget that encounter. It bubbles up now because I am working harder than I have in a long time, and while I’m nervous and worried about where the money will come from to pay taxes, pay some part time help, and God forbid, pay myself a little bit, I also know I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Being self-employed is one of the toughest jobs you’ll ever have, but it is also one of the most rewarding. I’m reminded of the story An Acre of Diamonds, an inspirational speech from the turn of the century about a farmer who sold his farm and traveled the world seeking riches and diamonds. He was tired of the hard work of farming and wanted an easier life. The farmer who bought the farm was so grateful to own that piece of land, he lavished love and hard work on his crops and ate the fruits of his labor and was grateful for all he had. One day, during a particularly tough day tilling the fields, he discovered a diamond mine buried under his crops, and became rich beyond his wildest dreams.
I think about that story on this damp foggy morning as I get ready once again to go out into the cold garage and finish up the inventory and accounting necessary to keep my business going. I love that my schedule is my own. I love that I can stop when I need to and take my two beautiful dogs for a walk around my neighborhood, enjoying the grand old oak trees and redwoods that tower above the little mid-century modern houses that fill the old part of Elk Grove where I live.
I am so grateful that I don’t have to come up with extra money to eat out each day, but can go to my refrigerator and heat up some left overs from the night before. I love that when I need some inspiration or comfort, my shelves of records are just in the next room and I can go dig out whatever music I want to listen to and get my batteries recharged. I am so grateful I have a boyfriend who loves what I do and wants to help in any way he can. A supportive partner is hard to find, especially when the time needed to run a successful business cuts into plans to do something fun on his day off.
Working for someone else has many benefits: A steady paycheck, paid holidays, a regular predictable schedule, health insurance and paid vacation time. When you’re self-employed, there is none of that. You have to create it for yourself as well as creating the finances, time and products to keep growing your business. But honestly, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I am totally free to pursue projects that capture my interest. I love the flexibility, I love that whatever I decide I want to pursue I can. I love connecting with a community of people who are enthusiastic about what I’m creating. And I love making stuff that makes people happy.
When I put these things in the balance sheet, they more than make up for the security of working for someone else. I am grateful every day, even during the rough times, that I have this opportunity to follow my heart.
These last few months I have lived as if in a dream. The single minded determination to accomplish my goal of getting my magazine out and getting my business back on track has absorbed and confined my mind and my heart as no other task has done.
Once I decided to really go for it at the beginning of 2015, my world became tunnel-visioned with the single purpose of creating goals, and meeting them. First getting the clothing line going again, then the record label and finally the magazine. Each little goal glittered high up in the branches of my business and I climbed and reached.
Celebrating and marking each achievement and answered goal with a small acknowledgment, I did it! Joy of accomplishment ringing through my heart and my soul yet never fully savored. I didn’t have time to linger; I had more goals to accomplish. But finally I had my anniversary party and the planning and organizing that went into communicating that I had met this unendurable goal filled my heart and I got to share it and celebrate it, and I did. It was delicious, watching partygoers enjoying themselves, enjoying each other and what I had created. I tasted and savored each moment of the evening.
Then I had to move onto the next goal, putting together the Kickstarter campaign to raise money. That in and of itself was another huge project that single-mindedly absorbed my attention and when I too reached and passed that goal, I didn’t stop to savor and celebrate, but moved right into my biggest goal, my deepest challenge, the one that would put a nail in the coffin of my past, the magazine.
And I did that too. I reached that goal and then exhaustion set in. I couldn’t do anything but lay still and breath it in and savor it. I felt deep pride and deep contentment. But I also felt a deep pulsing grief in my heart. This final action once and for all time closed a door on my past and shined a light on my future. Why am I feeling such grief when I’ve managed to meet a goal I never thought I had any desire to reach and then found myself so deeply in need of accomplishing?
Simply, I never thought I could do this. My relationship with my former partner was one of assigned roles—he was the writer, I was the one who made it happen. And to become both parts of this process has deeply triggered a grief in the center of my being that I cannot fully express. This business is now about a solitary self; envisioning, creating, achieving. It is very much like giving birth. You conceive in partnership but you ultimately experience it alone. This thing that lives inside you then moves out into the world. To be looked at and shared with others.
One needs to grieve endings but there is also grief in beginnings. It means navigating a whole new path now, finding the new pitfalls, the stepping stones, the support and the cavernous bottoms that will pepper this new part of my life.
The sheer exhaustion I am feeling after accomplishing so much forces me to turn inward to heal. And so today as the rain lashes the trees out the window beyond my computer, I allow the tears to roll down my face, tenderly touching this deep sadness with shaking fingertips and grieving what was and what will never be again. These tears are shed for myself, for my old life, for my future, and for the fear of the unknown as I create new challenges for myself on this journey of self-discovery through entrepreneurship.
Today, I let my inner heart weep and the vehicle of my body shed tears of weariness. The winter is a time for going within, a time of endings and a time to dream about new beginnings. The excruciating raw emotion of months of labor finally lifting has thawed a frozen part of my very being, which now gently shines as the tears roll down my cheeks. I did it. Farewell my old life. Hello, new me.
Stories about cars, pop culture, music, art, and other related topics written by GEARHEAD owner Rev. Michelle Haunold. Guest writers are also encouraged to get in touch to share content that might be of interest to GEARHEAD customers.