I’d Like to Find My Old Self
I’d Like to Find My Old Self
This journal entry was originally written on 7/17/21. I’m keeping it here, as a part of history, hopefully to help you wherever you are. Thanks for reading.
“Time won't fly, it's like I'm paralyzed by it
I'd like to be my old self again
But I'm still trying to find it”
- All Too Well, Ms. Taylor Swift
It’s been like the worst kind of break up. I think. I honestly haven’t been in a bad break up before. But I listen to a lot of Taylor Swift.
After 5 years with one big dream, one goal, one work- it’s gone. It wasn’t a clean cut thing either. It’s hard to explain it to anyone who wasn’t acquainted with Twenty Seven - but it was a lot more than a business. It was a living, breathing extension of myself. It was what helped me feel better, what kept me going, it was a deeply personal place.
The walls of the store were like the walls in my brain. You could walk in and see everything laid out on the table - the vying for hope, trying to find joy, questions about myself and the world around me. Every detail was an extension of me. Every color had a purpose. Every employee was a friend. Every inch of the building was something I touched and loved and poured myself into freely.
The poor, precious dream was rattled off the tracks the day COVID hit the U.S. It wasn’t Twenty Seven’s fault. It wasn’t my fault. But it had only been open for 5 months.
Even before that, the unraveling of me had started. When you let people walk into your heart, you will be hurt. And I knew this as a concept, but I really did not know what this kind of hurt felt like.
To fill a store with thoughts & feelings deeply personal - whether anyone realized it or not (most people did not) - and then to open the door. Terrifying.
It was in a city I love, but perhaps didn’t love me quite as much. My dream was really different, and young, and colorful. Which at first, I felt welcomed. (I would like to deeply thank the ones who always got “it” and stayed around, you are a lifeblood and blessing in my life. Thank you.) And then I quickly felt isolated. And then I started realizing what a terrible risk I had taken. To risk opening my heart and mind for anyone who wanted to walk in.
First, the local newspaper highlighted my male subtenant. I had to call and ask for my store to be included in the article about my store. Then the article was published and I was written as “hoping to piggyback off his success.” I was the only one who tried to correct this article. I started to feel an unravel. Wow, no one is really understanding what I’m hoping to do. Also, like wow, hi sexism!
Then came my new routine as a business owner. The things that mattered were numbers. I had to make money. So that is exactly what I thought about. Numbers were everything. I worked 12 hour or longer days. I didn’t come home when I thought I would. I started having nightmares and losing sleep. I thought if I could get ahead of the numbers, I’d feel better. I started to unravel.
Then came words and faces and looks that made me feel like fourth grade me. In fourth grade I didn’t get picked to be on the cheerleading team, but my best friend did. She celebrated with another girl in front of me when the team list was posted. I could choose the exact color for this type of burning feeling. It hurts. I tell myself I’m too sensitive - but it’s always hurt me. People would not understand my dream constantly. I didn’t expect everyone to - but the constant looks and faces started to make my heart hurt. Strong words, stupid words, weird words came through the door of my sacred space. Blatantly unkind words, passive aggressive words, confusing words. Unravel, unravel.
Then it hit on March 15th. Then I closed the store. Then I tried to keep my dream alive with a closed store. I tried to persist and make it better than ever. And show everyone who was mean just how wrong they were.
Then I couldn’t get any loans. Then I couldn’t sleep. Then I often couldn’t breathe. Then I started to completely lose me.
I beautified the space, got rid of the toxic mold, made it wheelchair accessible, made it colorful, repaired damage. I tried so hard. But sales kept declining. People were scared, so many layoffs, protests, and scary news. I couldn’t do anything about it. I started having a hard time focusing. I started feeling lost.
I cried every day. My card got declined when I tried to buy a coffee. I felt like I was going to die.
A mentor I trusted told me I didn’t know what I was doing and they were disappointed in me as a person when I couldn’t pay them on time. I cried so hard that day, my contacts fell out.
I hired new employees. I finished the space. I actually somehow created a new tea business from scratch during this time. But I was hollow. It felt like I’d never be able to recover.
We opened - and I felt hope. I was unbearably stressed, but a bit hopeful. I could hardly walk in the store for more than 20 minutes without starting to cry, I wondered if my employees knew that.
I had so many dreams, and it was so hard to just get through a week that dreams started getting pushed down. Had it already been 6 months since I took a pay check?
Then my cousin died. I was told outside the store. He was 20. It was Small Business Saturday. I thought things were going to get better.
Things got a lot worse. My anxiety hollowed me out. My depression sunk me very low. I was grieving what seemed 20 things at once, while working 70 hour weeks. All until I couldn’t breathe, wanted to vanish, couldn’t draw, couldn’t walk in the store, couldn’t dream anymore.
And I found myself in bed sick and exhausted, sobbing profusely. I had completely lost touch with me. I grabbed a blanket, walked into the kitchen where Connor was standing, and just cried until my eyes burned while admitting I couldn’t do this anymore.
The closing of things was a blur, because I had to make it blurry to survive. I can’t process much yet, it’s only been 2 months. But in a very short amount of time I had to do tasks I never ever wanted to do. I had to call my employees and tell them I had to stop, I had to throw away so much of my own artwork, I had to pay out so many things and try to not leave loose ends.
I truly believed that at the other side of Twenty Seven, I would just die. Sounds dramatic - but I lost sight of a lot of life beyond the shop. I truly couldn’t do most of the things I loved to do (the whole reason I started a business in the first place).
I am now in a really weird place. I feel such a huge relief and freedom from so much anxiety - while simultaneously feeling very sad and lost.
If your life has recently turned out very different than you hoped - whether that be a bad break up, a dream ending, or a big change - I wanted to share this story with you.
Here are some things that are really helping me in this rough, rather depressing aftermath:
my dog & my cat & cuddling
actual, real rest
one-on-one time with friends
journaling & writing down new dreams
eating nourishing foods
breaking down my feelings (often) with my best friend
a good long break from social media
Here are some things I am honestly just struggling with still:
remembering drawing because I love to
separating my worth from numbers
redefining what growth actually matters
watching my city move on without me
feeling like good things are still ahead
And here are some truths that have come alive since closing my business:
I thought no new opportunities would come to me after I closed my business. What actually happened: I’ve had more life-giving work come up now than I have maybe ever had.
I thought no one would care about my work anymore. While yes, I continue to lose lots of followers - I have also simultaneously felt deep support and kind words from so many people (the people that really matter anyway!)
I thought I wouldn’t recover, and that I wouldn’t be me anymore. But what happened: I feel so much better. I am sad, but I am me again. Or at least getting there :)