True North

I spent years comfortably ashore waiting for my ship to come in. I wondered what it would look like – would I recognize it if I saw it? Where it would take me when it finally arrived? Each day I slogged through my routine, not knowing where I’d go or how I’d travel when my big moment materialized – no scrawled X on a map and no way to pay the crossing anyway. I spent too many unhappy, adventure-less years on well-trodden paths. My yearning for unexplored lands, my dissent with complacent neighbors, and my unwillingness to breakout of a comfortable rhythm was maddening. I tried to suppress my frustration; to numb it or drown it with distraction, but it always returned, ever louder, as if the incessant crash of waves onto my cozy shore was the laughter of all the gods from today back to unwritten history.

I blamed anything in sight for shackling me to an existence not of my design. I didn't come from money, and no mentor came to show me how to lead a more fulfilling life. I tried to beat the frustration out; to be so tired I wouldn’t care where I was. That worked, surprisingly - for a while. Somehow, it worked so well that I no longer cared about being afraid, unsure, ignorant, or broke.

I’ll never forget the day I decided no ship would come – we had to build a boat or be stranded on the sand forever. Stuck between a comfortable but spiritually fatal reality and an unsettling unknown, I chose fear - the undiscovered had to be an improvement over the endless drudgery of everything I’d known so far. Sure, I made a lot of money, but I hated my job, had no "career path", and didn't save a dime because I was compelled to spend it to justify an eternal 50-hour workweek that was wholly passionless and miserable. Similarly, I'll never forget the day I decided to cut the umbilical from that last bastion of security and leap into the terrifying and wondrous wide-open sky of self-employment. By then, It was a matter of life and death: I could continue working two jobs and wind up having a heart attack or sleepily smashing into a stoplight or I could sack up and ship out. I was out running, heading toward home, when I realized there is no perfect time and place, no one’s coming to show us anything, and certainly no one will be throwing money at our little home-baked idea. It was now or never; all in or bust.

So we built our little ship with no plans, limited knowledge, and a general feeling for direction rather than an actual heading. We truly cast off in the post-Ironman haze of 2013, and before we knew it, time was sand flowing between our fingers and to-do lists changed from swim, bike, run, pizza & beer, feed cats to endlessly changing, must-not-forget-or-the-bills-won’t-get-paid, and it was all a kind of panic-joy. Somehow, we're sailing! We're not even taking on much water, and it IS new territory! The good days are so, so, so good, but the tough days are so, so, so tough, and there's not been enough sleep in the past two years to share between us. People aren't kidding you when they say that owning your own business is back-breakingly tough. They're also not telling you that you’ll be tired to your bones, your hair will hurt from exhaustion, your fear of not paying your bills will occasionally consume you and some days you will want to scream from dealing with the red-tape and ridiculous cost of everything that it takes to actually run a business. They also don't tell you (well, maybe they do) that there's no better feeling than being the captain of your own ship, no matter how small: making your own schedule, working for yourself, and providing for your well-being 100% even if that schedule is 25 hours a day / 8 days a week. No one mentions how the volume of the whole world is turned up because you are living right on the edge. They don’t mention that your customers are vital life-lines to survival, marketing pushes are like giving birth and each hand-crafted, underpriced, painstaking product that someone turns around and not only pays for but enjoys is 100%, awesome sauce that's shot intravenously into your emotional cortex. You learn as you go that you will be forever bound to those brave, daring, mad souls who venture forth into the unknown alongside you, and to those you meet along the way. You cling to each other in moments, and in a single hello, a high five or a shared bag of fresh herbs, you give back that understanding that no one on the other side of the fence truly has – yes, we may be dying here, but we are so very alive.

We've settled on the tide as our compass as we juggle the sharp edges of sleep-deprivation with the I-might-kill-someone-ness of no longer maintaining a regular training schedule while having a marriage and paying bills. It's a daily challenge where every month we get a new ball tossed at us and we're not quite sure how we’ll keep it in the air with the rest. Oh, learn about payroll? Okay! Worker's compensation insurance? Sure! Incorporate, why not?! The legal issues involved with packaging for retail – wait, do we even want to retail?! And never mind anytime we move a foot in any direction some state or local government agent is there cheerily saying,"We'll see you next Tuesday, don’t forget your checkbook!" Fuckyouverymuchtoo! Then, a day like today shines through like the sun cuts through clouds over the ocean, full of promise, and our meals are all perfect and we're done early and the customers who went to Hawaii came back with a gift of caramel macadamia nuts and it all fades to the background and seems like someday there just might be land in sight.

Another week starts and we keep sailing towards the horizon; to some country with no neatly placed thumbtack, no carefully referenced coordinates, at the whim of each gust of wind and eddy of the sea. Sometimes we speed along the waves and other times we row, row, row until our hands are blistered and raw and we can hardly hear our cries above the wind. But if there’s one thing I learned, in life, in training, in working, it’s that forward is the only direction that matters.

1 comment:

Ben said...

jeesh. that's incredible. so proud of you guys and inspired. I'd love to hear more details but reading that I felt like a was on the journey and realized that's what happen when you pay attention in honors english.