This isn’t exactly shocking information, particularly to anyone who’s done it, but starting a business is lonely. It’s a lot of other adjectives, too—exciting, gratifying, terrifying, joyful—but damn if the lonely doesn’t creep in on you.
Starting a business doesn’t pause when you’ve had a hard day, a tough week, a debilitating month. It doesn’t say no worries, I’ve got this if you need a rest, and you always need a rest. It doesn’t make dinner for you or clean your house or walk your dog. You’ll be given no space to grieve when you’ve lost someone, no nights off to let your brain go blank or finish that book that’s been on your nightstand for four months.
It doesn’t remind you to take time to write, to sleep, to eat, to exercise, to love, to be a good friend or daughter or sister. Won’t tap you on the shoulder with an ahem, you’ve been looking at your computer screen for 16 hours, dear. For a good long while, it also won’t make you much money. You will work constantly and every cent you earn will only pause briefly in your palm before it’s tossed to someone else in exchange for electricity or dog food or the plugin you need you make your checkout process function.
But, you remind yourself, you do it for a higher purpose. You do it for the abstraction we know as the future.
Starting a business requires something usually reserved for religion and relationships (both of which often suffer in the throes of entrepreneurship): faith. A truckload of it. A truckload with a tendency to back over and flatten too many other things that matter.
You’ll come to crave it, because it is a different kind of quiet than the clacking of keys that usually soundtracks your days. A softer kind of silence, like velvet.
Of course, starting a business also bears special gifts. The ridiculous hours are only possible because you’re entranced by the entire process of building, making, believing. You swell with pride at even the smallest and silliest of achievements. (You fixed the margins in your mobile layout—you are a god!) Every failure, but also every success, belongs entirely to you. And for the first time in a long time, you feel like the wheels you’re so busy spinning are actually connected to pavement. The road is long, as they say, but at least you’re on it.
Eventually, you will reacquaint yourself with the word “boundaries.” You will set timers to remind yourself to live a life, although you may simply disregard their beeps and chimes. You will download a meditation app and sit crosslegged on your bed with headphones and breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth and imagine being filled with pure oxygen and all of your tension leaving you on your exhales like a gray mist.
You’ll feel embarrassed by the whole thing at first, even though your dog is the only one watching. But then you’ll find comfort in the gentle thrumming and psychedelic pulsing that unfurl behind your eyelids. You’ll come to crave it, because it is a different kind of quiet than the clacking of keys that usually soundtracks your days. A softer kind of silence, like velvet.
You’ll remind yourself of what paint feels like on paper when it is juicy and bright and melting like summer.
Most days you will still fail at the invention called work-life balance, but there will be those glorious moments when you succeed. You will slay the dragons and rescue yourself from the isolation tank that is your bedroom and brush your teeth and put on pants and sing to your dog and go spend time with someone who matters quite a lot. You’ll go to your cycling class and dance and sweat out all of your tension like a gray mist. You’ll find peaches from the farmer’s market and let their syrup drip down your chin and your arm and your everything.
You will water your plants and let the damp-soil-smell roll through you. You’ll remind yourself of what paint feels like on paper when it is juicy and bright and melting like summer. You’ll laugh at something other than yourself. And then you will go home and open your computer and work until 3am, but you will do it with joy, because it is your choice.
Starting a business often makes you feel like you’re losing something else—or many somethings, at times. And in a way, that’s true. But nothing in life keeps forever, exactly as it has always been. All things move. You have to keep shifting, too.
It’s important to remind yourself, though, that not every day is made for shifting. Some are made for standing still.
Take a look around.
Be your own best editor.
What are you making?