It has been an interesting year. I am currently in Chicago for the second time working on a client project – Chef Jenn Stoker’s brand – and building up my network in the Midwestern community. It is such a beautiful city and as I sit in my token Starbucks, contemplating life and sipping my 1st double espresso Stateside, I am overwhelmed with the feeling of choices. Before me is a bountiful array of opportunity, the pool swimming with positives and negatives, but choice belonging to me. What will I do next? Simple answer – lots.
But first I will start with some observation.
I have just come from a meeting / breakfast with a friend and esteemed colleague Eric. He is in town from Southern Illinois for an AIGA event he is running in town. We have worked together for over two years on ideas, projects and brainstorming, but only met in person for the first time in January and now this is our second meeting – this time with the family in tow.
This morning, it was a great opportunity for me to see the other side of Eric, the family man. I observed Eric with his family and listened to his wife discuss his forward thinking approach and his ability to do anything that he wants as it relates to making money – and the fact that he chooses to focus on community involvement and non-profits instead, but in a very undirected matter. I know this about Eric, but it is interesting to see a spousal view of his business choices. You can sense the tension even though I know that she is ridiculously proud of him. He is like a bird following a shiny object when it comes to opportunities; he heads towards the newest and shiniest one, seeking the opportunities that like me are going to change the world for the better. And it doesn’t matter if the end result brings him cash, he just likes the journey, the discovery and ultimately the passion that comes from it. Being the bird that he is has advantages and disadvantages long and short term.
In my own marriage I was revered by my husband and I was never challenged or questioned on my choices, which was a blessing and a curse. He knew that I always had our lifestyle and future in mind, but the choices were still mine which almost added a second layer of pressure to make the right decision. I would say I was like Eric – a bit undirected and flitting around – not making specific choices, but just following the shiny objects aimlessly so I didn’t consciously disrupt the balance that was in place.
Why did I do this? I think that it had a lot to do with the pressure of performance: What if I do this thing that I really believe in and what if it fails? Will I lose everything? I was scared.
In my now current moment of unwed-dom (pending my April 13th court date, of course), I am finally building in the framework for my own future and building a business plan for my life, my exit strategy and where I want to go during the time in between. I am less like a bird and now more like a cheetah and I am finally directed: #1 know what I want (SEEK), #2 learn everything about it / work harder than anyone else (STALK), and #3 figure out how to get it (DESTROY or maybe CONQUER is a better word).
Eric’s wife Sara and I touched on the topic of marriage briefly and she had a very interesting take on marriage and she said she felt that not wanting to get married was selfish because it seemed like not wanting to share your life with someone. Living in London where NO one gets married, I haven’t really spent a lot of time thinking about whether marriage is right for me or not. After thinking through what she said on my walk home, I don’t think sharing vs. shelfishness is the reason for me getting married or not. I think marriage is a very conventional and defined union which doesn’t work for everyone. Perhaps I feel this way because my mother is the woman who has always wanted the white picket fence and marriage is top on her priority list still at 60 years old (even though she has already had two very successful marriages which ended) and she promotes it so much that it makes me go the other way, but maybe it is also because I have already had the perfect, completely successful marriage and I have exited from it in a very positive way.
I have lots of friends who are in the boat at 30ish seeking a man to make all their dreams come true and unwilling to compromise for less than magic. Unrealistic? Maybe, but I don’t blame them. Each and everyone of them absolutely deserves it. I, on the other hand, am fortunate enough to have had the perfect marriage already and now it is my time to focus on my life. I was in love with a man in a way I could have ever dared imagined – the best part being we really liked each other, and especially we liked living together as partners. Neither of us really believed in the conventions of marriage at the beginning, but believed in saving 7-10% on taxes and lots of money on health insurance so we got married. So why didn’t this perfect marriage work? Well, the imperfection was I didn’t get what I needed for the business plan of my life from the relationship. I was undirected because I didn’t want to compromise my precious happy marriage. It was too perfect, maybe. When I did finally make changes, and began realizing what I wanted to do for my future, I lost the balance and it all fell apart. Like a braided river, we branched off into different directions and I found my inner cheetah… maybe only for this moment and I will revert back to wanting a marriage again, but perhaps this feeling could be for life. Either way, I get to choose.
I am left asking myself more questions – is it really important to have it all?
Easy answer for this morning is, “No.” I think for my future it will be about my partnerships sharing a common lifestyle and interest and less about being in a loving and perfect marriage. In some cases it could be enough with the common interest being children. It could be with one partner or several. You have to really like the person (not necessarily love them, but LIKE them enough) to want to spend years raising your children and living in a communal environment, so I want to.
So, when I think about the place I am in, I am learning to walk to the left, finally. I am happy in London and joyful being a free spirit in an environment which could only be cultivated by Europeans. I am content in my life and learning I get to make the choices for the next steps in my future. I am 30 and I feel 30, which is great to not want to be younger or older anymore. This is my year. I believe in myself, my abilities and I know I can do anything I want. I know that I will have children in the next year or two and I know that I will do it with or without a partner. I know that I will build my business with or without investment and support and I know that I will be successful whether it is defined by conventional success or not. I know I will eventually get my PhD and I will be an internationally recognized icon for the work that I do with food, the future and kids. Eventually part of my exit strategy is that I will have a chance to be able to have a retreat in the woods with my own veg patch and garden full of grandchildren, with or without a partner, but definitely with lots of friends. My own little eco utopia.
What’s your business plan for life? Keep in mind the exit strategy!