L O V E C A T S …Hello!
It’s been a hundred years, well a few weeks anyway, and the longest accidental break I’ve taken from this space since I began blogging over ten years ago now. It’s crazy that I’ve been here in this space for so long, before social media really even existed, before “blogging” or being an “influencer” was even a real thing. But I knew when I started it that it would be something real, something special and something REALLY great… and it has been a huge part of my life and huge part of my identity, as I am now understanding in a way I never have before, in a time where I almost feel like I have to say goodbye to an old version and update my iOS -so to speak.
Along with so many others at the time, through trial and error, we learned and we grew and we paved the way for a legitimate career to emerge, formed by knowing our skills and talents and finally having a space to showcase them all at once. We wrote our stories, shared our great adventures and our difficult journeys, and hopefully offered some kind of value through inspiration or storytelling that made blogging feel so unique and so special. And if nothing else, it made ME feel like I belonged to something greater, helped some feel less alone on their journeys and suddenly had a large group of girlfriends (even if we didn’t know each other in real life).
And then it turned into something a little bigger than maybe we all even imagined. Maybe it was our collective visualization of how this could be and what we could do that turned it into jobs for others and interns and hiring teams of people to work together to turn one woman’s idea of what a dream life could look like into a small business and then to big business, as so many bloggers have. Some have built empires, some will leave legacies, but most of us created a life we loved, making a living we could support our families on and/or build a future on.
Ever the DIYer, I did it all myself (with the help of my now ex-husband and my mom who became my photographers at times when I needed to be in front of the camera instead of behind it) and as overworked as I became at various points throughout the years, I never chose to hire anyone. I was afraid it would change “my work” and not in a good way, I wasn’t sure I trusted anyone enough to share the intimate details of my life with on that level, and maybe I just simply couldn’t see the bigger picture of what it all could have been. Maybe it comes down to worthiness and feeling like what I was doing wasn’t enough to hire out, or that I should have been able be able to do it all myself. And so I did.
What I didn’t realize is how much more I could have done and expanded had I hired help.
In the beginning it was just so much fun and it was literally the only thing I wanted to spend my time doing. In the beginning my passion for wanting to create this thing that I had really no idea how to bring to life, ignited me in a way nothing else had with a knowing that it would be SOMETHING. Behind it all I wanted it to be the thing that would allow me to be a stay at home and work at home mom, sharing creativity and wonderment with my children at the same time offering value to you on some level. That was the motivation that kept me up all night working and up early in the morning excited to do the same. My “why” behind starting my blog had to do with my future children and giving them and myself a lovely creative and fun life while also being able to be a full time and completely hands-on mom.
After nearly ten years living through a painful infertility journey my “why” disappeared when I finally accepted the fact that I probably wasn’t going to be a mom. Don’t get me wrong, even now, at 42, I still have this strong but quiet little voice inside my head saying It could still happen, but it’s not strong enough to give me the inspiration and motivation I once had to create in this space, at least not in the same capacity, that is.
Once that acceptance came, and it was near the end and most probably a huge cause of my divorce, I suddenly felt bored with my work and wanted more. I was tired of working solely at home and wanted to be around people again. If I wasn’t going to get to be a mom and raise a family, I wanted MORE… I wanted new life experiences, new challenges, I wasn’t exactly sure what, but I knew that if I didn’t make a change then, my days, months, years would look the same for the rest of my life with this man, and he would be content and I would be miserable. I remember having conversations with him about starting a small business up here in Lake Arrowhead together, opening a coffee shop, bar, a beauty supply store -ANYTHING, just to expand my workspace and headspace and move forward creating a new kind of life.
He wasn’t into it. At that time I also finally realized he wasn’t really into working at all or into risking anything, let alone risking everything to create something new. But I was itching for it.
It then dawned on me that of all the promises he made to me, the only one he had followed through with was the actual engagement on my 30th birthday and the marriage, and there wasn’t even a real wedding as proof. Did it even happen? The only witness was an Elvis impersonator and a photographer that came with the “wedding package” he ordered earlier that day via the Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel in Vegas.
We spent years mutually saving for “our house” and in the end, I bought it. The 67K downpayment was wired from my personal bank account directly into the escrow account and every single mortgage payment after we moved in was also paid by me from my personal bank account along with any other home improvement costs, bills, etc. I made it happen while he made it seem (to others) like he was doing it all and I wasn’t doing enough.
It was in those moments when I realized that I made my dream life happen and the only thing I was still hoping for in our marriage was to have a baby and make a family, and he couldn’t give it to me. Not only that, he made me feel really shitty for holding onto the pain of infertility for so long, for the few times over the years where I thought I may have gotten pregnant and lost it, he made me feel like I was crazy. I didn’t even want to talk to him about my true feelings with it after a while because he made me feel badly for even having those feelings in the first place. I am still recovering from that mind-fuckery. STILL.
I had been supporting us almost entirely from December 2012 until April 2016 when he left. Sure it doesn’t seem like that much time in comparison to the years prior when we both worked, but watching him sit around and do nothing after years of my working so hard to get to the place “where he could quit his job so that he could just write” while I’m busting my ass making it all happen, started getting to me. As much as I felt a comforting confidence for creating a career that could afford us this lifestyle, it didn’t seem fair that I was overworked (and any time I asked for his help it would turn into a fight) and he was doing very close to nothing. Even when he did write, I edited his scripts, reading and re-reading them until my eyes blurred.
I knew at that point that for my own sanity, for my own happiness, I had to move on, to leave this life that wasn’t serving me, that rarely if ever served me, to find some sort of hope for future happiness for a dream of a life that was different. I had to get out. And when he walked out the door after I caught him reading my journal, I fell to my knees and suddenly felt lighter: I didn’t have to pretend anymore.
I also felt pretty secure financially, considering I had supported both of us for nearly 4 years, and had yet again been able to create a nice savings cushion for myself. I felt I would be able to survive on my own.
But then something strange happened… just a month after he left, everything with my work started to change. My blogging network (MODE Media) suddenly fell off the radar and went bankrupt, leaving all of us who were part of it unpaid for our previous work and without possibility for any future work. The following month my agency (SWAY) acquired and/or merged with Sits Girls and stopped doing large sponsored campaigns (or maybe that’s just what they told me?), turning almost solely to the “mommy blogging” atmosphere (which of course, I am not part of), offering me campaigns that didn’t fit for a fraction of what I had been getting paid to do the same amount of work just a month prior.
I thought Well, okay… I’d been wanting something new, this may be the Universe telling me the seasons are changing with my career and now is the time to actually start something new. When just a month later I found myself collaborating with two business partners brainstorming about opening a possible bar/restaurant, I took it as yet another sign that I was moving in the right direction. A month later we filed a business partnership and were signing a lease on a building that would soon become Dogwood Tavern.
There were so many reasons to start this new business and for me it was a no-brainer… but I had still hoped to continue my blogging business as well. Another blogging hit came at the beginning of the following year (2017) when my biggest sponsor who I had worked with for the prior three years, signing annual contracts with, only offered a few months of work, which in the end didn’t fit… and that is when I started actually freaking out about how I was going to earn a living moving forward.
I had been the initial investor into Dogwood but luckily I kept enough in my savings account to cover my living expenses and overhead for just over six months – JUST IN CASE. And thankfully I was smart about my finances because as of February of 2017, the money from blogging completely stopped flowing in and I needed to use my safety net to survive.
I went from making over $100,000.00 a year (for over 4 years) to making just under $20,000.00 in one year’s time. I managed to get a few sponsorships on my own without an agent in 2017 that gave me just enough to get through to when Dogwood opened, April 2018. It was a full year of slight financial terror after feeling so confident with my finances for years and years prior to that. I’ve never been a crazy spender, I like to save and invest and make smart financial decisions and luckily because of that, I was able to survive when my business crashed. When Dogwood opened, I had just $1477.00 left in my savings account. It remains the balance today. I’m currently covering my overhead and expenses but not able to save again just yet (which honestly, is a position I do not like being in).
When you hear those stories of people risking nearly everything to open a business, it’s the truth for me now as well. I almost lost everything. As much as I know it was the right thing to do, the right direction to go in, I’m still not sure if it was the massive change that comes with divorce, the passion I then lost and lacked for my blog, the search for something new, or just simply the timing that caused the challenging chain of events that fell upon me in the last two years.
As many small businesses as I’ve tried my hand at, and even though I think and feel like I’ve had a very successful blogging career, and as much as I love business and the idea of being an entrepreneur, opening a bar/restaurant is an entirely new ball game. Obviously this is my first time, and my business partner’s first time as well… we all risked a lot to do it. We’ve been open just about 4 months now and WOW what a ride it has been. I can safely say we are slowly creating a successful business, day by day, month by month, figuring it all out as we go, and trying not to kill each other in the process. It’s fun. And it’s hard. And there are very few moments where I feel it was all worth it, but the smile that emerges in those moments reminds me that it all still is and that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.
It has given me all the things I was looking for, but it has also added a lot of stress to my life on a few levels. Trying to run and manage the business while working AT the business leaves very little time for strategic thoughts about innovating, marketing, planning events, and all the other things you need to do on a daily basis to create a successful business that lasts. Dealing with employee situations, customers, business partners, is all new to me… and the cause of sleepless nights, tears, rage and endless screaming text matches with my partners. But that is to be expected.
It’s so fun and so much work and so stressful and so much of everything all at once, and maybe I was a little naive in my expectations for it. But we spent a little over a year renovating the broken down space (almost entirely by ourselves) with the goal to JUST GET OPEN – – and then we opened, and didn’t have a moment to really celebrate our accomplishments, and like blogging, each day you do the work, and each day you have little wins and little bits of excitement but really you just have to continue preparing and planning for the next day. There is little, if no time, to sit back and revel in the greatness or the accomplishment of it all, and that, for me (probably for anyone), is draining after a while – even though I obviously thrive on that type of business model.
I was originally working there 6 days a week, every day we were open, as were my partners, but that soon became far too much for all of us. Suddenly feeling like a slave to the business we just opened doesn’t really offer the desire to be back the next day or leave any time for the rest of the business details, so after a few months, we have been able to take days off in between, which is helping us all live a better quality of life. It feels like things are finally falling into place and we’re starting to get into the rhythm of it all. We’re finally all starting to know where our strengths and weaknesses lie as a team, what positions we each can fill based on our skills, and how to manage and make the business thrive and grow as best we can. Knowing when to step back or step up is half of the battle with a partnership, but when we remember that the business is our goal, we can take our egos out of the equation and grow together. It’s a daily work in progress.
With most of my focus on Dogwood almost 100% of the time (whether I’m there or not), it’s hard to have any creativity left over for blogging at all, and I hate it. I don’t want to give this up. I’ve worked too hard and love it too much for it to not be a part of my life anymore… I feel a sense of loss when I don’t show up here, because it’s part of who I am now.
On the other hand, sometimes I feel like I’ve outgrown this space, like I don’t have anything to offer anymore and that it may just be time to move onto something new and say goodbye once and for all. But that also sounds like a defeatist attitude, coming from a place of negativity and fear, and that’s not who I am. Just because I don’t want to share in the same way I have in the past because my life is so utterly different now, doesn’t mean I can’t create something new and add value or offer inspiration in different ways, right?
My life has changed so drastically in the last 4 months, I’m not even the same person as I was before… but maybe that just means I can offer new things? Maybe my blog can evolve with me and maybe you will get as much or even more from it now and in the future than before? I don’t know just yet how to really move forward with it all, combining both my real life with my blogging life here once again as I did years before, in the beginning, seems so difficult right now, and I’m not sure why. I don’t want the pressure of doing it if it doesn’t feel right, but I’d also like to see where it may go if I do create something new with it.
I’ve cut back my hours at Dogwood to just two days now (Thursday and Sunday nights, in case you’re in the area :), and I am finally able to hear the little creative voices in my head again throwing new ideas at me at a speed I’m comfortable with = FAST. And I love it. I want to be able to work ON the business more than I work AT the business, because for me, that is time well spent and where I can really (hopefully) propel the business forward in creative new ways. There is still so much to learn and to do and that’s exciting for me.
I’m not exactly sure what this all means, I know though, that I’ve been thinking about it and writing this for a few weeks now and not hitting “publish” so it’s been a block that I’ve had to hurdle over to get to the next phase. Again, I’m not sure what that is, maybe it won’t be that much different at all, but in any case I hope that it’s valuable for you and for me.
You can’t force something into existence when it’s not ready or when it doesn’t have the capacity to become something else, something new, or even “something” at all. But when the timing is right, everything just falls into place easily. Oddly enough, I still hold this same truth for the pregnancy, baby, and the family I’ve always wanted.
And as little patience as I have sometimes, this is one lesson I have experienced time and time again… Patience is always the answer. And then work your butt off when the time is right.
T I T L E : The Beatles – Hello, Goodbye