03 June 2016

clearing space (a.k.a., you don't need a fancy title to be valuable)


Transitions are often challenging, especially when they involve dramatic identity shifts. After a break-up, it can feel naked to suddenly be single again. After delivering a baby, one theory says many women experience post-partum depression because they feel this literal emptiness in their womb where a little moving being had once been. Similarly, I had been feeling stripped and aimless after I sold my business. I had post-start-up depression.

My husband said I was seeking a rebound when I said I wanted a job title, and he was totally right. So, instead of just climbing aboard the first train to go by or rushing to start some new training program, I decided to just clear the space for the right career path to unfold.

I realized that part of why I didn't get any closure was because when I sold my business to my partner, he did not host a going away dinner or anything for me. Our tradition was to host goodbye dinners for people who had been with us for two years or more, for example. We wanted to honor and thank them for giving so much and being a part of our mission and success. But for me, since I was the one who usually organized these affairs, there was no send-off. I wasn't even included in any further team meetings. I had to tell everyone I was leaving in an email.

It felt like the message was that it didn't matter that I started this business. That I put in my family's life savings into what I believed was possible. That I worked tirelessly and didn't even get the famous one-dollar salary. I worked for free for four years and gave my baristas bonuses whenever there was a bit of money leftover (and often when there wasn't). My partner said he was busy (he always is). And his girlfriend made jade necklaces for everyone on the team-- except me.

So, one way to read this was that my contributions didn't matter, and I didn't matter. The other way to read it was that everything I created felt so ingrained in everyone that I was invisible. That everyone bought into the idea of profit-sharing and contributing to the community and felt it was their idea. To me, that is success. I was able to find people who are better than I am at everything: coffee, baking, business, managing, etc. And amazingly, for someone who knew nothing about business when I started, my little business lives on without me. And it has the same integrity and solid values I held as all-important.

So, it took a while, but I'm much more at peace now.

I just heard about a friend of a friend who is running around like the proverbial chicken-with-head-cut-off, trying to figure out whether she should start a food truck business. Everyone is telling her it will be a ball and chain, she will not get to spend time with her children and husband, and it will be VERY difficult to make much money, especially compared to her former corporate salary. When we spoke, she was very determined and not open to suggestions, and honestly, I think it's ego and fear.

I recognized it because it was exactly what I went through when I sold my business. If I'm no longer a business owner, then what am I? Who am I?

It's like we need a job title to feel important and successful. Well, I'm here to tell you that isn't true.

You don't need a fancy title to be valuable.

We all contribute to the world in different ways, and if we make our corner of the world a bit better in some way, that you are making a positive difference. Whether you are a stay-at-home mom not making a well-deserved penny from it or on the opposite end of the spectrum in a high-profile position, you can be creative and improve life on earth (or not). Let's focus on what we can do and are doing.

If you're not sure which direction to move in, instead of running around frantically (like I did when I was younger), just wait. Wait until something becomes clear. I don't mean sit around and twiddle your thumbs, hoping lightning will strike the answer onto the ground in front of you. I mean, just keep doing whatever makes your heart sing. (I enjoy blogging for fun, so here I am.) If you have the luxury, do what makes you happy.

When I first met my husband, I wasn't looking for romance at all. After not finding great friends in L.A. and then finding tons of party friends in San Francisco, I just wanted to connect deeply and meaningfully with real, solid friends again. So, we became friends first, and by the time we started dating, I had no emotional baggage or hangups from previous relationships, no lingering drama or webs to untangle.

The space had been cleared for a healthy love relationship to grow, and I'm so grateful I did that.

So, now, instead of in the romance department, I've cleared the space to discover (yet again but hopefully for the last time) my calling and trust the universe that the right profession will show itself when the time is right. In the meantime, I'll just be here, peacefully waiting in the open space, so when the right opportunity comes along, I'll be rejuvenated and ready to dive in wholeheartedly.