Not too long ago…
Twenty seven cents.
My available checking account balance is twenty seven cents, I think in disbelief. I can feel tears burning the back of my eyelids and I try not to think about my past due cell phone bill or where I am going to find the money for the upcoming trip to the grocery store.
I am alone in my bedroom but I refuse to cry. Instead I stare numbly at my computer screen. Twenty seven cents.
Sitting cross legged on the slightly sagging mattress, the sounds of the city – cars honking, neighborhood kids playing, cats yowling at the moon – surround me. All at once, the weight of what I am trying to accomplish presses down on me, clawing at my lungs, slowly suffocating me.
But still no tears.
I have been crying a lot lately. Stress tears. Tears of fear that taste like exhaustion. But this time I am determined not to give in.
“I don’t take anyone seriously who tells me how badly they want something and then in the next breath tells me what they won’t do to get it,” I remember my husband saying to me.
We were standing in our kitchen musing about some current event that I have long since forgotten. His words, those words, however, remain imprinted in my mind, seared into my subconscious as if the conversation was minutes instead of months ago.
I remember his words and refuse to cry.
Some months before that…
“Maybe I should get a job.”
The sentence is on the tip of my tongue. It tastes bitter and a little sad.
Nine months prior, I had decided to quit my 9-5, take the biggest leap of faith of my life, and start my own business. I decided that what I wanted more than anything to wake up in the morning and do work that I believe in. And I was going to do everything in my power to make that happen.
But somehow along the way, I have become tired. And afraid.
My husband and I are sitting on the couch watching House Hunters but my mind is a million miles away.
“Maybe I should get a job,” I am about to say.
Not a part-time-gig-to-pay-the-bills-until-my-business-is-profitable kind of job. I am thinking of a real job. With a cubicle. And a salary.
I am thinking of getting a job even though I know that my own business demands more than forty hours of my time each week and therefore a full time career at any company other than my own would be the beginning of the end.
I am thinking of getting a job because even though my business is this beautiful, bright thing, fully capable of one day blossoming into a six figure powerhouse and bettering the lives of thousands of women, today is not that day and in the meantime, I am damn tired of being broke and scared shitless of being judged a failure.
And then I remember. “I don’t take anyone seriously who tells me how badly they want something and then in the next breath tells me what they won’t do to get it.”
“Maybe I should get a job,” I am about to say. Instead, I say nothing.
Present day… (or, a candid reflection on “following your dreams”)
In the year since I quit my job, here is what I have found: Following your dreams is not easy. It is not sexy or glamorous. It damn sure is not comfortable. It is much grittier than that.
Empty bank account, gritty. Food stamps, gritty. Falling asleep at your computer, gritty. Admitting to your best friend/parent/child/spouse that no, your launch didn’t go as well as you planned, gritty.
And yet these twelve months have been some of the most fulfilling of my career.
Which begs the question, is it possible to make money and make meaning at the same time? To do what you love, change the world, and be fairly compensated for it?
Maybe. (In fact, my business seems to be – finally! – rounding that corner as we speak.) But in the meantime, I believe that the advice “follow your dreams” should come with some sort of disclaimer…
Follow your dreams.
But in doing so, realize that this is not a glamorous path – at least not at first. In fact, it kind of sucks. It’s scary. And humbling. And you’ll probably be more broke than you’ve ever been. At first. But if you’re doing something worthwhile, and you manage to get past those early rough patches, eventually – not that first year, perhaps not the second or third, but eventually – you will be rewarded beyond your wildest imaginings.
Oh and P.S. whether they admit it or not, most of your friends are as confused and overwhelmed by their lives as you are about yours.
Do you ever feel like you have to choose between making money or doing what you love? How have you dealt with this conundrum in your life? What would you add to my disclaimer?