I am the type of person that always chooses to grow. Maybe you don’t see growth as a choice, but I believe you always have an option to see life as an opportunity to grow or an opportunity to shrink within. I believe in the power of learning and have always pushed myself to limits others have told me were impossible in order to prove something to myself. I have been met with a plethora of challenges, but at each challenge, I would pick myself up and pull from past experiences in order to determine the best next step. Perhaps I didn’t have all of the answers, but I was able to take information from my past and apply it to my present in order to put together a fairly complete image of what I should do next. And from that place, I would learn the rest. I didn’t really mean to be “an entrepreneur” although I don’t define entrepreneurship as a job title, but more-so a mentality, so in that case perhaps I was always meant to be entrepreneurial.
As a student, I constantly spoke out of turn, challenged authority, and was eager to learn why, not just what. While I believe our school systems don’t necessarily teach this way of thinking, (that’s another post for another time), I went against the grain and chose learning how to learn even more than learning how to excel in a system that I didn’t really believe in. By the time I was in my early 20s, I had worked 20 odd jobs whether it was an entertainment tonight intern, a voiceover character for a nursery school TV show, a fundraising representative, a camp counselor, a waitress, a teacher, or a nightlife promoter, to eventually a partner in a burgeoning hospitality business running all marketing and events. I always looked at every new industry the same way, with excitement to learn and to grow. I took each opportunity no matter how odd or difficult as a chance to explore parts of myself that I didn’t know, but it always felt do-able. It never felt too far out of reach.
By the time I was I in my “wise” old age of 26, I ended up starting CatalystCreativ with a zany, famous tech CEO and my best friend. I pulled so much of my identity from running CatalystCreativ. There is so much about it I still love and is still so much a part of me. I learned more about myself over the past 8 years at CC, changing hats every day, challenging myself, (or having myself be challenged), and continued to choose growth. I knew that if I didn’t choose growth, the company would not grow, and would in fact die so I kept pushing myself to the extremes.
I was reminded multiple times to slow down. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes out of nowhere 4 years ago, but that didn’t stop me. I still found a way to learn everything about the disease, create my own solutions that no doctor told me was possible, and again defy the odds. My whole life I have pushed forward with such speed, even through the hardest of experiences.
And then I got pregnant.
My first pregnancy was short. I had a miscarriage early on and it was one of the most physically, emotionally and hormonally painful experiences of my life. I tried to pull from previous experiences of grief, pain and challenge in order to get through it but there was nothing to pull from. This was all new to me. I felt more alone than ever, and the only thing that got me through it was sharing about it and hearing others who had experienced similar paths to me.
I got pregnant shortly after and while my pregnancy was challenging because I am high risk, the last month of my pregnancy was one of the most emotionally difficult experiences. Since my identity has been so wrapped up in work for so long, I felt this feeling creeping up on me that I was no longer going to be the me that I knew. Yes, I had changed throughout the years, yes I had grown throughout the years, but this me was a me I didn’t recognize. The carefree, spontaneous, independent, working myself to the bone me was slowly starting to fade. Because I have type 1 diabetes, I was told I had to be induced so I had this date where I knew everything was going to change. I counted the days until my life would be forever transformed with excitement but also a bit of fear of the unknown.
After 24 hours of labor and a surprise c-section, I met my baby boy, Logan. I had read all of the books, listened to all of the podcasts, talked to all of the friends and I was ready to tackle this infant just like I dealt with the challenges of my first business. I learned as much as I could, asked as many questions as I could, and had all of the resources possible to set myself up for success. But Logan had other plans. While I was told that “breast was best” and it was a natural connection with your baby, it became one of the most challenging experiences for me. My son would not latch, (which I had absolutely no idea what that even meant even googling latching 9 million times prior to giving birth), I physically could not sleep even during the one hour my baby was sleeping, I had to learn how to manage my diabetes, manage my post surgery body, manage a whole new feeding routine for a baby, manage how to pump milk every 2 hours, manage how to squeeze my breast into my baby’s mouth while he refused to eat, and manage my emotions during all of this. I was used to managing stress, finances, people, clients, sales, marketing, branding all at once, so I felt super prepared! Only to realize, I had very few experiences to pull from that could get me past that feeling of: I don’t know what the hell I am doing.
Women all have different experiences post pregnancy and every single experience is perfect. This is my experience and only I can express what I felt in that first week. I didn’t feel what others would diagnose as postpartum, although when you aren’t sleeping, and can’t feed your baby, and generally have no idea what you are doing, I would say I felt a bit overwhelmed. I remember crying to my mom and asking will I actually get through this time. Will I actually be able to sleep again, will I ever feel like “myself”, the self I knew, will I ever be able to feel like I knew what I was doing? She reminded me of so many challenges in my life I have overcome, and yet this one felt different. This one felt new. Like a new version of myself that I didn’t have anything to pull from in order to understand it. And so what did I do?
I chose to grow. I mean first I chose to sleep at least for 2 hours. Then I think I chose to take a shower. Pretty sure after the shower, I chose to have a glass of wine. Then I chose to grow. I never thought I would be able to fully take off maternity leave, I truly planned to learn a new language and read a few books, but the first 8 weeks of my child’s life was all about turning to people I trust who experienced similar experiences, testing, and pivoting different techniques with my baby and trusting my intuition that I and only I (and my partner) know what is best for my child, and my body. Even with all of the advice, and the stories and the experiences that I learned from others, the voice inside me was the voice I had to listen to.
And then I realized that maybe I hadn’t been there before but I had the skills I needed to think about things differently than being absolutely defeated, exhausted and drained….
And then COVID hit!
I ended up being thrusted back to work earlier than I would have liked, to try to help rebuild our company that was significantly hit during a global pandemic. In a short 2 months, while my identity and mentality shifted significantly, so had the world. The things that kept me anchored to myself, my home in NYC with the nursery we worked SO hard on, spending time with friends and family, traveling, going out to eat, exercising, walking through the streets of the upper west side, my work, all were stripped away from me and so many others and I ended up in Airbnbs with my 8 week old in multiple homes, leaving everything I knew behind.
And I had to once again learn how to be creative, resourceful, dynamic and entrepreneurial. I had to think outside the box, go against the grain, learn as much as I could, but follow my intuition first and foremost. And that is to me what an entrepreneur is all about. It’s not about the glossy magazine cover stories, or the accolades, it’s about those hard nights when you are alone wondering what you are going to do to do right for your colleagues, stakeholders, partners, clients and listening to the voice inside you, believing in yourself to know that you are capable to take that next step, and that you are not alone.
I hope this article acts as that friend you need in the middle of the night when you are asking, is it OK if I just give him a bottle, or how do I learn how to let go of the person I was once in order to let in the person that I can be, or perhaps it’s just that reminder that the quiet voice inside you is the right voice to listen to.