Thursday, March 24, 2011

Growing Pains

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature,
nor do the children of men as a whole experience it.
Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.
Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits
in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
- Helen Keller

I am about the business of building a business.  And I am going to be honest here.  I am elated...and I am struggling.  Not so surprising, is it?

For those of you I haven't communicated with recently, here it is.  I took the big leap, once again, out into the world I simply call 'on your own'.  Anyone familiar with that world?  Believe me, I am.  I have been there a few times before. 

The particular 'on your own' I am referring to is the one where you decide to muster all of your courage, pull together your best ideas, put one foot in front of the other, and bank on the notion that you can be...(insert dramatic music here)...self-employed.

If you know me at all, you will know this isn't a totally foreign concept.  It's always there, just under the surface, wanting to come out.  It's in my blood.  No, really.  This is not just another cliche.  It's part of my DNA composition, I have come to realize, and fighting it is pointless.  Eventually that's where I end up, every time. 

I come from a strong, courageous line of entrepreneurs, even though they may not have looked at it that way while they were in the process of working their own businesses.  They were guided by their desires to care for themselves and their families, but also by something stronger.

Somewhere at the core of their being they believed they could make a go of it.

My maternal great-grandfather, Austin S. Gregg, and his brother, Arthur, started, owned and ran The Public Market in North Platte, NE in the 1930's.  My grandfather, Austin K. Gregg, better known as Bud, took ownership around 1960.  It was a small grocery store that really was ahead of it's time in so many ways.  That's because my grandfather was ahead of his time in so many ways.  I wish I had the space to tell you why that is true, but this blog post would turn into a novel.  Let's just say that Grandpa was a visionary and a dreamer in my eyes and many others and he was backed with the intelligence and innate knowledge to make things happen.

The stories about the Market my mom and family have shared with me are ones I could hear over and over again.  They represent a period in my family's somewhat fractured and difficult history that give a sense of pride and belonging to us all because of what was accomplished.  You hear it in their voices when they talk about it.  Was it easy?  No.  Did they love the business and my grandfather's way of running things?  Uh, no.  They all did what they had to do to make it work.  Nonetheless,  my grandmother, my mom and her brothers and sisters were all a part of that business and those memories and experiences are a part of who they are today, and a part of me. 

My paternal grandfather, Elmer (Bud) Thompson, and his good friend, Erwin Moore, became partners in starting Economy Glass in North Platte, NE in 1954.  They grew and expanded the business, took on other partners, and at one time had 4 stores in Nebraska and 1 in Wyoming.  The business, and my grandfather's hard work, live on today through my dad, Tom, and my brothers, Dee and Greg, in what has become Thompson Glass here in Scottsbluff, NE.  Dad learned the glass business from grandpa and others, starting at age 16, by mowing the grass, sweeping the floors, and fixing screens (well, you have to start somewhere, right?).  On September 7, 1971, my dad officially became a part of the Economy Glass team.  He eventually became a manager and owner, persevering through many ups and downs over the years. 

Some of my strongest memories of my childhood are being at Economy Glass , sitting at my dad's desk, 'working' the adding machine, making my fingers go as fast as I could, or writing 'memos' and notes on scratch pads that had the Economy Glass logo printed across the top.  I wanted to work there, with my dad.  I wanted my own desk.  I wanted my own pens and pencils and adding machine and files.  It didn't matter that I hadn't a clue about how to run a glass business, I just wanted to run a business.  I wanted to do what he was doing. 

To this day it gives me such a feeling of pride to walk into my dad's office and see him sitting on the tall stool at his drafting table working up job bids from rolls and rolls of complicated blueprints.  When I seem him I think of his work ethic, the strength and conviction it took to show up every day for the last 40 years, knowing he is responsible for making it all happen.
And, of course, my mother has the entrepreneurial spirit flowing through her veins as well.  No matter the topic, her energy gets fired up and the conversation becomes so engaging when we 'talk shop'.  She and her partner owned a successful landscape business in Ft. Collins, CO for many years.  Her ability to handle a hundred things coming at her all at once just amazed me.  She was a force to be reckoned with behind her desk, and out in the world.  My mom always seemed at her best when there were problems to be solved.

Calm, focused, decisive...she didn't waver on the outside, even if she might have been panicking on the inside.  No one would have ever known.

She has been self-employed or in a position of management and leadership in some way most of my life.  She has worked in the real estate and housing industry since she was a single mom taking care of my brother and I.  I believe only now, at the age of almost 43, I finally have an understanding of what it must have taken her to step out into the world and make a living in a male dominated industry and society.  She was so beautiful and professional looking in her suits.  I really thought there was nothing she couldn't do.

My mom continues to inspire me today with her ideas and contributions, insight and knowledge of people and of business.  She also happens to be my biggest supporter and source of strength, along side of my husband.  Just knowing what she went through and thinking of her accomplishments makes me swell with pride and gives me the courage to take risks.

My family's stories are worth telling.  Mentioning them here is hardly what I would consider doing each of them justice, but they are so much a part of what I am feeling and doing today that not including them would have left a huge hole in my story.

It's easy to understand how I have arrived at this point of wanting to teach and design and knit for a living.  Because it's what I love to do, but most importantly because no one ever told me I couldn't.  It has never occurred to me in my entire life that having a good idea and making a business out of it wasn't, well, a good idea.

So why am I struggling, you might be wondering?  Me too.  With all of that inspiration passed on to me, what is the problem?  I have asked myself that on a daily basis for the last two weeks.  It's a bit of a mystery.  Or is it?

When I was little I regularly experienced what my mom simply called  'growing pains'; aching in my legs that seemed to come from no where.  Oh how uncomfortable I was sometimes, especially at night, lying in bed.  That seemed to be the worse time.  I did come to accept my mom's explanation of them as simply growing pains, because there was nothing else to DO but wait until the pain subsided.  I would lie there and create a vivid picture in my head of my body actually growing taller with each wave of pain.

That somehow seemed a reasonable expectation...a little pain to help me grow.  I could handle it.  I wanted to grow.

That memory came back to me recently in the middle of the night when I was lying in bed, listening to the silence and staring into the dark.  Anxiety and fear are now my growing pains when I don't feel sure of my life or what's happening.  It hits me in the wee hours when there's nothing to do but lay there and let it roll over me.  In those moments, anxiety replaces strength.  Fear replaces courage.  I don't feel like I have any control over my thoughts and fears in those moments...they just go on and on...

Fear of failure (seriously, what will I do when this doesn't work?). Fear of rejection (is anyone really interested in my ideas?). Fear of going/being broke (okay, this is a big one... just what are you going to do when you don't have a paycheck coming in?). Fear of being alone (and broke...of course I am not either of those, but I didn't say these fears were rational).

Fear of humiliation (see the first one...fear of failure). Fear of being joked about by family and friends (oh she's making another long will this last). Fear of regret (should I have stayed where it was more  What did Helen Keller say?).  Fear of the unknown (like the ever changing and expanding technology I have to navigate every day...what else am I going to have to learn to even make this happen?).

And finally, strangely enough, this thought rolled over me:  Fear of success (what if it I have the energy and passion to keep it going?).

There it is.  That's the one, the big one.  That's what's keeping me up at night.

Never mind the fact that my home studio and office is a mess.  Never mind the fact that I don't seem to have one clue how to start putting this altogether (well, I have some clue, but there are a lot of holes).  I have no set schedule.  No plan other than I want to teach and design and plan the fiber arts fair.  I need a logo and business cards and letterhead.  A website would be nice.  How can I sell patterns without a website?  More frequent blog posts are also a necessity so others can follow along on this journey.  I have so much to share and less time than ever, it seems, to share it.  The clock is ticking.

Oh, the details that clutter my mind when I lie there at night and let them take over.

Eventually I will get up out of bed because I can't stand it anymore.  I brew a pot of coffee, settle in to a comfy chair and reach for my knitting.  As my fingers and my brain begin to relax, find a rhythm, and work as one, the anxiety subsides, the fear dissipates, and I am reminded of why I want to do this.  The feel of the yarn and needles in my hands is all the reminder I need.

It's not about any of the endless details that will always need taking care of and tended to...I know what needs to be done, or, I will figure it out.  In days past, I could put things together in no time.  In fact, it has always been sheer joy seeing my name in print on a business card, and I couldn't wait to get it there.  It made everything seem so official, like this venture was really happening. 

No, those tasks and 'to dos' are not the problem.  The problem is I haven't put my intentions out there.  I haven't committed.  The little voice that keeps me up at night (in reality it is very big and loud) is trying to tell me to embrace my choice to do this...focus, simplify, and work at it every day.

It will come.

I guarantee my family members who have ventured out into that 'on your own'  world before me had some of the same thoughts and fears (or maybe they didn't?).  I also guarantee they didn't stay in that place for long if they were afraid.  They got up and moved and did and tried...and worked, worked, worked.

My biggest fear is success.  Why?  Because I have big shoes to fill.  Always have.  The expectations are high, BUT they are mostly self-imposed.  

I read somewhere recently that "Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear."

I think I found that 'something else'.

There are so many knitters, designers,  instructors, and fiber artists out there.  Where will I rank among them?  Is that even important to ask?

Do I really have something unique to contribute?  Have I built this all up too much without the talent and drive to back it up?

I don't know...but I want to find out.   

I am on the edge of realizing some of my deepest dreams and desires, if I can stay centered and trust my gut.  No matter how dramatic this may sound, I feel like I have been moving towards this my whole life.  That's why I haven't been able to rush into it.  That's why I haven't been able to just 'throw' a plan together and go for it.  It all feels too important to rush and take for granted.

I want to be present for every moment so I can look back in 40 years and remember the day I recommitted to my choice to live my life consciously, to take another risk.

It's a reasonable expectation...a little pain to help me grow.  I can handle it.  I want to grow.

Until next time...let's all "...behave like free spirits
in the presence of fate..." 


Knit On,



  1. Oh honey...I want to laugh, I want to cry, I want to bring a bottle of wine to your house so we can knit and talk it all through...because this is EXACTLY the conversation that has been going through my mind over the past 6 months in regards to my yoga studio. What if I fail? What if I succeed? Will people like me and what I offer for services? Do I have "IT" to do make this work? (Whatever "IT" is.) The questions and the worry go on and on. And then I go teach a class...and all the fear and questioning go quiet.

    I wish I could offer help...I could help her with her website I thought reading through your post. But really all I can offer is love and support. We are brave...following our dreams to make a life doing what feeds our souls. And regardless what ultimately happens to both of our adventures, our futures will not be haunted by "What if?" I'd rather face failure in the long run than the haunt of "What if?" And being that you have taken the step you have, I think you would too :)

    Hugs friend!

  2. My sweet friend Jenn...we have spent such a small amount of time together and yet I feel like we have been connected our whole lives. ;) Thank you for speaking and living from your are absolutely right. I don't want to be sitting in a rocking chair at the end of my life full of regret asking "What if?" And I won't. And neither will you. Big hugs right back at ya...

  3. Kat Leffler, aka Rav: Kat-taz-tropheMay 20, 2011 at 10:03 AM

    I am stumbling around at the very early stages of what i call my 'exit strategy'. With the firm belief that where one door closes, another one opens, I am planning my exit from corporate america. They don't need me anymore, at least not as much as my family, my community, my church, and most importantly my soul need me. So I am wobbling my way down the path to 'on my own', when i find this writing of yours.
    Thank you. I needed this, because you see, you are not alone, and now, neither am I.