April is a real feelings month for me. It contains the anniversary of my business, my birthday and the start of my reignited love affair with Chicago summer. Even in the last few weeks of March, I start gearing up for it. I go through old journals and get mushy about my baby business goals (“pay everyone on time!”, “get some schools to answer the phone!”), I re-read my lengthy list of annual intentions and begin to imagine what the next year of my life and my business might bring. If you’re lucky enough to live with me, you know this is the time of year I start my first conversations of the day with questions like: what if your 24-year-old self could shadow you for a day, what would they say? or do you think the meaning of life is in the wanting or in the contentment? (a moment of gratitude for my introvert boyfriend)
In April, my contemplation about where I’m at or where I’m going is so exhaustively thorough, it often has the ability to override other life functions - my friend Steph and I have long called this The Feelings Aquarium. For me, it means I’ll stay up late pacing or conversationally deep diving with friends over wine. Or I’ll lose track of time while spacing out in public or accidentally derail my own meetings to talk about the meaning of life.
The internet tends to be a dangerous war-zone for me during these times as everything I read seems to reflect extremes of what I’ve done right or what I’ve done wrong. What I’m starting to notice is that the longer I hold the business owner title, the higher my expectations are of where I should be by now. There’s something quite forgiving about being able to soften early failures with “We’re just getting off the ground! We’re a baby business! We just want to get some schools to answer the phone!” The benchmarks I used to set around establishing basic operations are behind me and now that I have a staff and a salary, it’s hard to be clear about what success looks like for me or my company. I find myself getting lost in comparisons with businesses that are further along than me in just year two or harshly judging myself when losing a client in a way I might not have early on. The pressure to already know by now often takes over the clarity of what really matters to me.
So this month, in all my looking outwards to find where I want to be next, I found comfort in looking back and remembering my past process. I wrote two pieces I chose to share: one on failing in obscurity - undoubtedly the most painfully relevant and crucial lesson I’ve learned as an adult, and the other about the ways that anonymity can fuel growth.
I also found surprising solace in listening to a group of teenagers in Austin talk about their own journey of self-acceptance, each story alarmingly parallel to my experiences as a 33 year old woman. It seems not unlike navigating high school cafeteria politics, once you surround yourself with people who genuinely support you, the forces that aren’t supporting you are easier to ignore.