In Your Twenties, Building a Business is Building a Life
January 24, 2013 § 4 Comments
Two hours ago, my friend A called life “really fun.”
Fun, she said, even when its hard – and too fun, she pointed out, to choose not to enjoy yourself when it happens to be.
Here’s what I learned in 2012: entrepreneurship in your twenties has everything to do with building a life. A life is made up of people. The experience you have living it can be good or bad. It depends on who you know.
Here’s how I usually learn: hindsight. Here’s how I learned in 2012: showing up. That’s how I made real friends. Good ones. The make you laugh so hard you snort and then not get embarrassed by your snorting noises kind of friends. The have your back real quick kind of friends.
Here’s what changed: everything.
I learned that while building your first business is difficult, building a life doesn’t have to be. See, a social enterprise, like a life, is built on belief. Belief is kept alive through experience. Experience comes from people.
There’s a perception going around that us entrepreneurs are all grit and determination, living in basements with laptops in dark rooms and skipped paychecks. And, the truth is that nobody can keep that up for too long. We had to figure out how to do it differently. We had to start lives. Now, we’re in the light, laughing with people who know the difference between broke and poor and put cash down for our beers when we’re tight that week. We’re learning from passionate conversations. We’re finding ways to make things beautiful. We’re going all in on our passions. And, dammit, we’re figuring out health insurance and internet bills and signing leases just like the rest of you.
It’s just not all couches and credit cards anymore. Not when we’re building lives.
Here’s what I learned: all this has everything to do with a focused, disciplined life, and nothing to do with skipping out on living. Not skipping out on living has everything to do with relationships: with your mom, your friends, your grandfather…all the people that come together, and make sure your ducks are lining up like you need them to.
That’s how S and I landed a place to launch out in together. I met her at a party, all red lipstick and intense focus, drinking whiskey on the rocks and making a point to the men across from her. Three of them, all leaning in and listening. I wanted to listen too, so I asked her for her number. S is making a life while she works to create sustainable clean water solutions. We had a lot to talk about. Talking turned into eating turned into laughing turned into drinking turned back into laughing and eating again…turned into finding a place to build lives around what we do.
It was only after putting our heads together to find the perfect fit for our not so normal lives that I realized how much we were doing right, creating a physical and metaphysical atmosphere to live out of.
Two months later, we signed a lease on a place with an office, where we’ll hang four foot photographs of her work in Cameroon, and build a long desk to share on the days when we’re home. Our friends will come over this weekend to help us build beds and desks and a sofa. Somewhere along the way, I’ll hang up my Samoan tapa and that silly set of masks I bought the first time I set foot in East Africa.
As we walked through the apartment and designated the “office,” let potential roommates know how much we work from home and planned a rent budget for me quitting my part time job, I realized that I’d bought in. Hook line and sinker, my whole life – I’ve become an entrepreneur.
We finished signing our lease in the afternoon. My friends invited me out that night, to get on train to West Village to laugh and live with them while I take a break from my work – like any girl with a big, happy life – a fun life – would do at the end of a long work day.
This is what buying in and moving to New York for my social entrepreneurship gave me: a life.