I was sitting at my desk slumped over my keyboard.
I had recently announced to 50,000 customers that I was going to give my business away. It was time to do something different. I was out of ideas. Out of energy and out of whatever it is that fuels the inner drive of an entrepreneur.
I didn’t want to have people scrutinizing my books. I didn’t want to have to explain why my sales had dropped so drastically in the last 2 years when so many other competitors were flying high. I just wanted to be done with it. Close that chapter and move on.
I thought it would be meaningful to pass on the website to someone that would benefit from it like I had. Maybe a single parent that needed income. Or maybe an empty nester looking for a creative outlet.
I asked for people to contact me if they thought they would be a good fit to run a vector art business.
I wanted to pass it on to someone who could breathe new life into it and take care of the customers who had so faithfully purchased my kids’ soccer cleats and band instruments and paid for family vacations, a mortgage and life in general for over a decade.
There I sat slumped in my chair. I had just realized that I couldn’t give the business away. I had a ten thousand dollar debt attached to it and whoever took over the business would be responsible for that debt.
I felt so trapped.
I had waited too long to sell the business, and now I couldn’t even give the business away properly.
I couldn’t do anything properly. That’s how it felt anyway.
It was there, in front of my computer on an overcast spring morning earlier this year that I realized I was an imposter.
I had been posing as this capable woman that ran businesses and traveled the world and raised two boys alone, but here before my eyes, I saw the truth. I had suffocated a thriving business with my apathy, and now I teetered on the edge of bankruptcy. I had no special superpowers.
Filled with indifferent numbness, I watched over the course of two years the slow demise of a once lucrative stream of income. Day after day, my savings depleted, the heaviness of indecision and paralysis persisted, and I did nothing.
Hundreds of people had responded to my giveaway announcement, and my inbox was overflowing with hopeful customers and heartbreaking stories of people who needed a second chance at life.
I closed my laptop.
I couldn’t help any of them. And I had no idea how to help myself.
Fast forward six weeks.
I was smack dab in the middle of a race against the clock. I needed to get my Airbnb completed before Friday at 11 pm. I’d just started cleaning houses for a friend during the day, which left me working on my own house through the night.
I found myself in a public bathroom scrubbing toilets. It was my second day on the job. The first job I’d had in nearly twenty years.
As I started work that day, I recalled a conversation I’d had with a friend years earlier when I was riding one of the high waves of life.
One sunny afternoon, I left my sign shop to run a few errands and stopped in at my friend Lanae’s ribbon business. We both had thriving online businesses, and I enjoyed shooting the breeze with a fellow entrepreneur.
We talked about the road that led us to have our own businesses and the change of mindset needed to start our own gigs.
As we wrapped up our conversation, she said something I’ve never forgotten, “It doesn’t matter if the market changes and this business fails, I know HOW to do it all over again.”
I wholeheartedly agreed, “Lanae, we know HOW to fish. We’ll never view the world the same way. I could never go back to working for someone else now that I’ve felt the thrill of having my own company.”
That was the thought that went through my head as I reached behind the toilet to wipe up the soggy paper left behind on a public restroom floor.
“How did I end up here?”
“What happened to that woman that knew how to fish?”
Depression happened. Grief happened. Life delivered a curve ball my younger self could not have anticipated.
I lost my faith. Grief set in. Depression paralyzed me. My business failed. I lost my confidence. I could no longer see that I had anything of value to offer the world.
I spent nearly two years trying to find a purpose. Trying to find something that lit my soul on fire...or at least something that kept me from climbing back into bed each morning after my kids went to school.
Here I was, feeling thankful that someone would even hire me to clean toilets.
It was seven hours into my new job, the afternoon of the second day, that the fog that had consumed my life for so long lifted.
I was detailing a large wine tasting room. It had 20’ high ceilings and glass walls that folded open to the courtyard. Everything about the setting was inspiring to me. So modern. So inviting. So spectacularly beautiful.
I collected the trash and flung the big bag over my shoulder and walked outside to the garbage can where I read the following words neatly cut out of vinyl on the employee door:
“No matter where you roam, be sure to have a diamond in your mind.”
A diamond in my mind. I’d always been so good at having a diamond in my mind. The next project. The next goal. The adventure on the horizon.
When confidence is high and hope fills your heart, it’s easy to dream. Having the shimmery diamond of hope fluttering around in my mind with each new idea I thought up was something I took for granted.
When life reduces you to borrowing money from your teenager so you can put gas in the car so you can get to your new job cleaning public restrooms, it’s a little harder to see that diamond.
At least that’s what I thought.
That afternoon as I polished stair rails and wiped down baseboards, I looked out over the beautiful courtyard and saw in the distance the tiniest glimmer of a shiny diamond sparkling in my mind.
The idea came to me so clearly. So concisely. So matter of factly, that I knew I would need to give my notice for this job.
Seven hours of cleaning had cut through the paralyzing fog of indecision.
I could see my diamond on the horizon, and I knew what I had to do.
Continued . . .