I had a conversation with a friend recently about going back to work. We are both in a similar situation in that our kids are going to be off to school full time in the fall, and that will leave us both with a mostly free day, and leaves us both wondering if it's time.
It's not the actual work itself that gives me pause (although teaching has certainly changed since I was in a classroom seven years ago and I might need to learn some stuff), but the idea of giving up the ability to be there for our kids when we want to that is niggling at both of us. I like to know that I can pick my kids up if they're sick, and I can take them to appointments when they need to go. I like being able to have the time to take them to activities after school and not have to coordinate a carpool or other care. I like the flexibility of my daily routine and not being forced into a rigid schedule.
On the other hand, it would be nice to pay down the mortgage so maybe we could go on a nice vacation together, or eat out more often, or visit places with admission fees we don't want to pay. Even just a smaller extra salary could put a dent in those payments. It would be nice to find a job that would allow me to work from say, 9-2 each day while the kids are in school. But...then there is the inevitable summer vacation where they would be home, and they aren't yet old enough to stay home by themselves, so some kind of care would have to be arranged. Ideally I would find a job in the kids' school, but again, it's commitment to something I'm not sure I'm ready for. In seven years I have gone from someone who has always worked to someone who has no idea what I'm going to be when I grow up.
But, at least I know it's not just me and that others are struggling in the same situation that I am. That gives me a little bit of comfort that I am not just being lazy when it comes to hesitating returning to work, but really thinking about if it's time to upend the routine and balance we've got going on right now. Luckily for us it's not a dire situation and I will have time to decide what's right for us, and hopefully a clear path will appear at the right time.
I don't know if anyone even remembers this because it (seems like it) was eons ago, but in the middle of June last year, two friends and I took on a lease for a small office space that we were planned to use as a studio, with occasional market nights and perhaps a small retail space. And for a variety of reasons - some I understand and some are just unbeknownst to me, it just didn't end up working the way we envisioned. The three of us met this past April and decided that it wasn't in anyone's interest to keep the space open, so we decide to close up shop and we were lucky to tag sale off all of our fixtures almost as easily as we acquired them. One day we were in this space and the next day we weren't. Funny how things can happen.
So what did (or didn't) happen? Here's some things I know for sure:
1. The space we took was not a traditional retail space - we were in an office area down a short hallway - so that made it harder for people to find us by randomly walking by. We had no "curb appeal" so to speak, even with a sign out by our main door. This taught us that if we really want to do retail in the future, a more obvious space would be better. It seems obvious, but you think that if you let people know where you are, they will find you, but it doesn't work that way.
2. For me, for it to really work, I would have had to move my entire operation to that space, or had a completely duplicate setup. I found that I had to plan what I was going to bring and work on each time I went - I couldn't just willy-nilly work on whatever I felt like. I had to make sure I had all the fabric, tools, and right color thread (learned that one the hard way) that I needed for the day's projects. And I didn't want to leave anything there in case I needed it at home (learned that one the hard way, too). It was so much work to get things done.
3. Even with a somewhat steady base of local followers, people did not know what to make of us. When we explained what we were doing, the first thing most people asked were what our hours were. Steady hours were one thing we did not have because it was a working studio and three busy moms do not always have time for crafty work. We'd get, "Oh, so it's a shop?" or "Oh, I can't wait to see?" There wasn't quite an understanding of what the space was.
What I don't understand, and continually do not understand, is what makes one place work and another not. Two things that are so similar and one takes off and one plods along hoping for a break. What is that magic element? Why do some people always seem to be in the right place at the right time, and others don't? Why does one struggle while the other one makes gainful strides? This is probably the most frustrating thing for me since there seemed to be some of that in play. I feel perpetually in the wrong place at the wrong time, even though I know that with a little bit of that magic I could totally rock it.
A few things I think I've come to understand: first is that a lot of people get a shop when they have outgrown their space at home and need a place bigger than what they've got. I didn't have that need, but was hoping that having the space would drive more business to my business and make it bigger. Maybe that's a backwards way to think about it and I should be working on strategies to make my current business in its current state in my current space work better. Second is that a business really needs to fill a need in a niche area where it is lacking. Does what I do fill a hole? Is it important and worthwhile? A little big of research is in order on that one.
All in all it was a good ride and it really gave me some insight into what I'm doing and what I need, and is really making me think about direction, all of which are good things. It's an experience that I'm so glad I had because otherwise I would still have that notion in my head that an external space was the answer and that it would be awesome for business, and it really was a learning experience, as cliche as that sounds. But if anyone out there has a clue on that magic, let me know because I would really like to put some of it to good use.
This past weekend I decided to take myself offline. For the past several weeks I've been feeling worn out, frustrated, and bogged down with all things social media. It's hard to put yourself out there continually and see little in the way of results, so I decided to take a short break. I also realized that I was getting really angsty whenever I'd see someone I know having some awesome success with their business. Not jealous or angry, because I know that I am not putting in the effort I need for those successes, but each triumphant post gave me a little nervous twitter in my chest that I should be doing those things, and if I did those things, I too could have the awesome successes. The weight of both were starting to build on me. So other than a couple quick searches, one scroll through Instagram, and one quick check of my emails which yielded nothing but junk mail, I spent the whole weekend with the computer closed and the iPad in another room, which hasn't happened in a very, very long time.
While I can't say that I was super-productive while not being attached to my devices - as I figured I would be, I did realize a few things about my habits: I found that I use the Internet as a placeholder throughout the day when I'm not sure what I want to do next, as a diversion from getting other things done. When I'd finish something like laundry, I'd go wander over to the kitchen where the computer usually sits and where I'd stand and check my feeds. Not having it sitting there made me realize just how much I do that, and how much I could be going from one productive activity to another instead. Just in writing this post I've had a hard time not clicking over to another tab and focusing on finishing this.
I've previously thought about keeping the computer in my office so that it's not sitting in the main space all the time, and this experiment has totally cemented my feelings that that might be a good idea. I also think that, at least for the summer months, I'm going to set myself a schedule for when I can look at certain platforms, so that I am not constant checking feeds. If I've learned anything this weekend, it's that my immediate response is not necessary or possibly even appreciated, so I'm not going to make myself so completely available. I'm going to respond to things in my own time, and I'm going to put some of my own work first. I need to realign what I do and how I do it and this might be the best first step.
image via Good Reads
I have long been fascinated with New York City. If I were told I had to pick a city to live in, it would most definitely be New York. There is a unique kind of energy there unlike any other place I've been. You've Got Mail is a favorite movie and Sex and the City is a favorite show just for the scenery alone. I have gotten lost on the Humans of New York Facebook page, and even picked up a book on NYC food trucks from the library (which mostly just made me really hungry).
Primates of Park Avenue by Wednesday Martin is the story of her move to the Upper East Side of Manhattan, home of the elite-est of the elite, and the incredible situations she found herself in because of it. Part memoir, part field guide to the ins and outs of the daily routine of the city's wealthiest residents, and part anthropological study, Primates is a fun read while giving you a glimpse into what it's really like to live on the Upper East Side, particularly the interactions between the women and the hoops they must go through to move up society's ranks. It's highly recommended to anyone who loves the culture of the City and wonders what it's like to actually live there and raise kids there. While the hierarchy of the Upper East Side is an extreme example of city culture, it's like getting a glimpse into the real-life Gossip Girl.
I realized the other day that we've been in our house almost six and a half years now, which is completely crazy to me. We started hunting when we knew that we needed to be in a particular location for a job, and after a couple months of searching, we settled on our house. We picked it because it had a good floor plan, even though it was a wallpaper- and popcorn-ceiling nightmare. We knew that we could make something of it even though it wasn't perfect and even though it was on a semi-busy street, which wasn't ideal, but everything else that wasn't a dump was out of our price range.
And so for three years we chipped away at the wallpaper and the odd features of the house (there were so many useless doors in here!) and made it our own. We crafted a cozy space for our family and have transformed so many aspects of the structure itself on our meager budget and pretty much only the two of us working on it. There is literally no surface that we have not altered in some way.
And yet, almost four years after we finished the major renovations, I still don't know if this feels like home, as crazy as that sounds. You always hear people talking about their "forever home" - the perfect one that they loved instantly and that they were going to spend the rest of their life in. I don't have that overwhelming feeling about this place, though I couldn't tell you exactly why. It's a lovely house and we are so so lucky to live here that I feel like an ass even thinking it, but I do sometimes wonder if this is where we'll stay or if there is one of those forever home for us. Is it in this house? In this town? Some other place or other state? How do you know if it's "the one"?
Sometimes I think it may just be a restless feeling of needing a new project and the excitement of starting something new. I love starting something new and running through all the fresh possibilities - finding the place with the perfect space to entertain, the perfect space to work, the perfect space to relax. I enjoyed going through and freshening up the house room by room - maybe I just want to renovate another one. I could have my own show on TLC - "RenoMom"! In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy where I'm at, though I would love to get off the busy road.
I'm two posts back in and I realize that they have both been existential "what does it mean?" posts, which can make for heavy reading, but it's just the place where my mind has been lately. I'm not quite done with those because there has been a lot weighing on me but the other day I was sitting and trying to think of things that make me happy. And not just things that sometimes make me happy, but never fail, consistent joy-bringers. Here are my current top five:
1. Cooking and eating fresh food. Turning raw ingredients into something tasty and healthy is so fulfilling.
2. Walking on Sunshine. Listen to it and try not to dance. I dare you.
3. Looking at my kids' baby pictures. They make me smile with the silly, remarkable, aggravating, adorable things they did, and I love remembering that moment that it happened and marvel at where we are now.
4. Fresh sheets. Seriously, is there anything better? They're crisp and cool and smell really good, even if you don't use scented detergent.
5. 75 degrees and sunny. Because there is nothing quite like being outside and being warm but not too hot, with the sun on your face, and you want to just sit and be.
What would make your list of things that always make you happy?
I saw the term wantrepreneur used in a blog post a few weeks ago and I bookmarked it by throwing it into a draft blog post so I could come back and look more into it. What I found is that most websites define wantrepreneur as a person who is always in the planning stage of starting a business but who never actually gets it off the ground. In the business world, a wantrepreneur is pretty much a joke - they design a logo before they have an idea for a product. In my own mind, though, I think of a wantrepreneur who is trying to get a business of the ground but has no idea what they're doing or where to go next. Clearly business skills come easily to some people and not to others, and for those of us who aren't quite sure which way to go, it can turn into a frustrating mess.
As I talked about yesterday, I have been in a bit of a slump - a funk, if you will. I have not had the drive to do anything with Milo and Molly and the idea of sitting down and trying to create something, even things I've made hundreds of times over, is overwhelming. There is all kinds of advice out there for what to do when you're stuck - learn a new skill, take a breather, do some brainstorming; the list goes on and on. But what happens when none of that works and you're just in an icky place?
Right now, and for the past several month, when there has been time that should be spent working on my business, I go clean out a closet. I bake muffins. I organize clutter. I read Buzzfeed articles. I eat a snack. What I should be doing, as someone who owns a business, is reading up on how to take better photos with my DSLR camera. I should be listing items in my sleepy little Etsy shop. I should be looking for information on how to better my business. I should be testing out new products. Something, anything to keep the business moving.
I should be using my time more effectively to help my business.
In my head, I know that a person whose business is successful is the person who puts their all into it. They are the person who never stops thinking about it, never stops working at it, puts other things aside to build it up, the one who sacrifices in order to achieve their goal. And then they set a new goal and start all over again. And I know in my head that I am not currently that person - I am the wantrepreneur who needs to figure out what to do next. Or maybe I'm not, and I just haven't quite realized it yet.
So what do you do when you have no motivation and no drive? How do you regain the passion for what you've worked on, or how do you know when it's time to let it go? I know that once September rolls around I will have a consistent period of uninterrupted hours every day that I will be able to devote to work. In the interim, it would be really helpful for me to figure out what it is I want to do, what I want Milo and Molly to become, how I want to be perceived, and what I need to do to achieve that. I'm tired of being the wantrepreneur. I'm tired of saying, "I should..." and I want to say, "I did."
A few weeks ago, I put out a survey asking people ten really quick questions about me and my business, and if you're reading this and can spare a minute, I would love a few more responses.