I’ve read many times in the past that moving, getting married and raising children are the most stressful things a couple can go through in life. I would say that starting a business and losing an immediate family member at the same time immensely tops that. For me, it runs circles around moving and marriage.
Less than 6 months after my husband and I got married, we moved 700 miles away from my hometown. It was exciting, and scary, and wonderful. Knowing no one and relying only on each other bonded our marriage more than anything else could have. It was stressful, and scary, but mostly, we were young, anxious, and ready for adventure. The bills were tight, I cried a lot, and at that stage in our life, my husband was a full-time touring drummer, so there were weeks where I was alone a lot. But we grew immensely and we learned to trust and encourage each other, and we got through it. It was stressful, but it was incredible as well.
This spring, I left my career in management, left more than a decade of corporate marketing behind, and took a leap of faith, to open a marketing and design business with my husband. We have years of experience in this field, and really, I don’t know why we didn’t try this sooner. It’s so easy to stay with what is working in life, even if it doesn’t fit. Don’t rock the boat. We could pay our bills, we could afford to travel pretty much wherever we wanted, we had money to pursue all of the hobbies we were interested in, and we had the freedom so he could still perform drums at night and I could make pottery or go to yoga or do whatever I please. Life was really pretty good and easy.
So, let’s change it, right?
I’d had that gut feeling that I was going down the wrong path for a few years. Life was good, but it wasn’t what I wanted. I didn’t want to be behind a desk. I dreamt of something more adventurous, more daring, more challenging. I started trying to surround myself more and more with the type of people I want in my life…and I realized, for the most part, those people weren’t in my life, on a day to day, hour by hour basis. I wanted a new scene. I wanted to be around adventurers, questioners, travelers, experiencers. I wanted to become the person I’d always dreamed of. I had more and more of those little awakenings, month after month, day after day, until I decided to pull the plug.
I make it sound like quitting my career was an easy transition. I drove my husband absolutely nuts for over a year about that decision. Daily, he would say, Jen, go for it. We’ll figure it out. We’ll be fine. But I wasn’t ready yet. I was too afraid to give up all the financial security, I was too afraid to hurt my ego, I was too afraid to fail, and too afraid to succeed at the same time. Ultimately, I knew at the bottom of my heart, I can do this, I’m capable, but I held myself back for so long.
Many of us have been here; I read about these transformation stories often. And I love them; I can’t get enough. I’ve read over and over how to sit with discomfort, to meditate, to practice yoga, to get down to your core and see who is there. To ask the hard questions. To sit in silence, day after day, and eventually, the answers will appear.
That works, kind of. You can’t just wait for it, though. You can’t just sit and meditate and the answer will just appear to you. I don’t think it works that way. You have to get out there, to really put yourself out there, to try and then to fail, and then to get back up and go at it again. To pay attention to the patterns that are presenting themselves to you in life, and to move on them. Most importantly, to trust yourself.
We’re in the first phase of that: the trying, the working our butts off, the not getting sleep, the stressing. And I have to say, this is worth it. This fear of the unknown, it’s totally worth it.
When I thought of adventure in the past, I often thought I’d be hiking mountains and canoeing down rivers, camping through our National Parks and backpacking through South America…that’s always what I dream about doing when I close my eyes. Real life adventure. Turns out, the adventure is in the day to day – the fears of bill paying and client proposing and design negotiating, and the truth in really communicating with your new business partner, in my case, my husband.
It’s stressful, this adventure. It truly is. Since I quit my job, we’ve been in the emergency room, we’ve both had pretty large health problems, we’ve had a ton of piddly day to day issues that I won’t begin to bore you with, but the hardest of all, we’ve lost my father-in-law, a man that we both love deeply. That pain doesn’t go away. That brings on a whole new level of stress I don’t know how to write about yet. Getting married and moving was hard, I’m sure raising a kid is hard, but for us, this is staggering.
This isn’t what I think of when I think of adventure.
The stress is also relative, really, as I’ve said before, owning our own company allowed us to put the company aside and focus on our family for the past 6 weeks, during the hardest time of our life. It allowed us to really feel, to really sit with pain, to fully be present.
During all of this, I get some relief in that my father-in-law helped name our company. Had we not started it when we did, he wouldn’t have had that chance. For that, my husband and I will forever be grateful. And in my heart of hearts, knowing that he supported it and encouraged us and helped create our brand, I know that we’ll succeed. Because that’s what he did – he built businesses from the ground up. He was fueled by stress, by challenge, by adventure. My husband has so much of that in him, and our business will succeed. I know that deep down in my soul.
Life is an adventure. We don’t get to plan how it goes. But we need to be along, and present, and positive for the ride.