Updated: Jul 18, 2018
“You’re crushing it!” she said in an exuberant tone. I stared at her and for a moment I thought she’d notice the twitch in my eye — my body doesn’t know how to lie without a physical reaction. But I didn’t speak it. How could I? She was so genuine and congratulatory. I thanked her and smiled a painful smile while the narration in my head played the unspoken dialogue:
“I’m not crushing it. It’s crushing me.”
This has been a wild year of hustle and hurt that has been both profoundly educational and horribly painful. In a video that I have in the days leading up to our launch last year, Lindsey is laying on the floor, her body writhing in frustration and we’re laugh/crying at the state of chaos around us. There’s a pile of old food, cardboard boxes, and office supplies that’s overflowing in the corner and I joke that we can’t even afford a garbage can (we couldn’t). I’d like to say that those days are behind us, but no. No. I think this whole endeavor has taken on a life of its own and on many days I feel totally beat down by how much energy is required for us to simply stay afloat. Or maybe I’m just so used to feeling anxiety that my only response is a kind of merciless indifference. I’m not sure how any of this is supposed to feel.
If I were to draw the map of entrepreneurship for you it would look like a spiking waveform pattern. The highs are sharp with knifeblade edges, the lows cut deep forming cavernous lines, and day in and day out the pattern looks like a graph charting an earthquake but extended out over hours, weeks, and months.
Thrilling highs. Gut-churning lows. Powerful growth. Financial crisis. Unbelievable generosity. Utter desperation.
This has been the year of standing on the edge of profound and uncomfortable change as though there is a part of me that I am knowing for the first time. I’ve found it to be a wholly lonely and autodidactic process, but equally powerful and life-affirming. It’s difficult to publicly acknowledge real pride in things you’ve accomplished without sounding like a damn buffoon but I truly believe that the value we place in ourselves is the value we then spread out into the world. This year I have spoken on some high-pressure panels, recorded podcasts, wrote for a few large publications, and my company was featured in a 6-page spread in Outside Magazine. Holy shit. But all that external stuff aside, the most important accomplishments I had this year were simply staying the course, successfully talking myself out of quitting, and cheesy as this one is it’s true: I became my own tender best friend in moments of intense loneliness and despair; some of the most grueling and devoted work I’ve ever done.
It’s a wonder to me why any of us chart this territory, start businesses, create non-profits, make our films, write our books, teach our classes, or start from nothing to build something substantive. I don’t know what the why is for you, but for me, somehow, I know that without this continued confrontation with my fears and weaknesses years may pass and the deepest corners of me might go unexplored and undiscovered.
How easy it would be to slip into a self-satisfied mediocrity.
As I enter into year two of this endeavor, and especially right now as we all confront the pressurized new years lists and obligatory reconciliation of past failures and future goals, I want to acknowledge that the experiences we have are varied, multifaceted, and swing back and forth all over the spectrum from shitty-as-fuck, to earth-shakingly enjoyable. Gratitude and thankfulness are essential, but they are also fleeting. Sometimes our plates are overflowing. There are times when we are exploding with love and stand in awe at the abundance surrounding us, hyper aware of the privilege that we live. And sometimes we are suffering quietly. Exhausted. Incapacitated by the weight of it all. Perfect balance is elusive, but I’m working towards softening the harsh critic in the passenger seat of my head and walking (running!) towards people and causes that light me up entirely. The poet David Whyte puts things pretty magnificently:
“You must learn one thing: the world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness to learn
anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.”
I believe that the continued remembrance of both our privilege and our suffering, our terrors and our joys, is what liberates us from small-mindedness. These cycles are part of what make us all so human and humbled. All I know is that ours is the same exhausted, confused, joyful, weird, alive beating heart. And what I am completely certain of, is that I wouldn’t have made it through this trip around the sun without my family, friends and community catching me every time I started to fall. They are the reason that I have persisted at all, and I am so indebted to them for their selflessness and generosity. And of course, my whole entire heart is bowing to my sisters-in-the-slog Lindsey, Gina, and Hadley— I love you so fiercely it hurts.
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU.
May 2018 be your richest, deepest, wildest, learning-est year yet, friends.
All my love.