Like most people I rolled my eyes when I heard the phrase ‘the crossroads.’ Life has a way of making you eat your words. While there were three elements in my life that all seem to crash at the same time, the most painful one was my professional life.
Working in a family business you don’t think twice about other options. It’s what you know, it’s what you do, and it’s who your family is. It’s important to say that I loved my work, was good at what I did, and enjoyed the working relationship, as both wonderful and difficult as it was, with my father, my boss.
When my father passed there were many decisions to be made about the ‘family’ business. Ultimately, I bought out my sisters’ interests and took it on by myself. Those first years were exciting and wonderful, and intoxicating. What I had no way of seeing was the change in the marketplace dynamics that shifted, changing our proprietary publications from cutting edge to not as essential. It became very clear that to continue as ‘we’ had been doing wouldn’t work.
The other option was to reinvent the business.
I wasn’t sure I had either the energy or enthusiasm to do that.
Perhaps the hardest part of the entire experience was of the memories of time past, both good and bad, the victories little, victories big. Remembering the battle over copyright infringement was up there with the launch of our Internet subscription service. Both were monumental events that we collectively worked on and towards. For anyone who’s ever worked in the family business, there are memories and ghosts around every corner, in every letter, and every file covered. I had to ask myself who was I doing this for? If I was doing it for me, was it making me happy? if I was doing it for my father, he was no longer here and I would have to trust that he was proud. The memories, the ties to the past, were some of the hardest things to put in context, in place.
It wasn’t a quick decision. I took my time, I spoke with others, I asked lots of questions, and once I knew I wanted to go in a new direction, I had to calm myself that it was the right choice. I sat on it and with it, and once I realized that while it scared me, it wasn’t a bad scare. It was the fear of the unknown. None of us particularly care to be that open and vulnerable in a public way but I found my people and they supported me.
It didn’t happen overnight. It still is in process.
I still have days when I wonder if I am doing the right thing. But then I think about it and I’m happy, and entertained, and having a wonderful time being confused every day. ~! I wake up feeling of purpose. I am happy with my choices. I am at peace with where things are going, the people I have encountered and the life I am leading. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t effortless. There were moments I felt I was wandering in the dark, lost and alone. The dark night of the soul. I realized it was part of the process, part of the journey. Am I dramatically different than I was before? Possibly not in my person. Am I professionally finding enjoyment in each day? Most definitely.
I am grateful for the questions that allowed me the clarity to claim the life I live now.