This time of year is all about transition. The kids head back to school and the rest of us business types attempt to regain our equilibrium after a hectic summer of trying to squeeze in those half-day Fridays and answer emails from a variety of out of office locations, sketchy wi-fi signals adding to the fun.
When I was a teacher, this final week of August always brought with it a complicated mixture of anticipation and anxiety. “What challenges will this new academic year bring?” “How will I be tested and what will be the outcome?” were just a few of the questions I used to ask myself. The art of readying for the school year takes on a special meaning when you are an educator. Sure, there are the practical preparations such as filling supply orders and organizing welcome packets, but for me, it was always more of an emotional production. Before I met my new group of charges, I made sure I was rested, restored, and my spiritual gas tank was full. Experience had taught me that I would require every last drop of patience, inspiration and determination in order to make it through the required 181 days.
Even though I’m no longer a classroom teacher, I still feel nostalgia for back to school season. From my current vantage point, it seemed so much simpler then. When I was teaching, I willingly submitted myself to the school calendar, allowing its pre-defined structure to gauge my workflow and my expectations. I knew when I needed to push and when I could let off the pedal a bit. My students and I moved through the curriculum with a collective understanding that we’d start with Topic A and move on to Topic B and so on and so forth until we reached our end goal together. There was something extremely satisfying and supportive about working within such a well-constructed environment.
Now that I’ve become a business owner, the security of the academic calendar’s carefully orchestrated gridwork is gone. This past summer, I’ve worked steadily, shattering all the rules on work-life balance and healthy lifestyle along the way. Some may caution me to be more careful; that I might burn out if I keep up this pace too long. Others may tell me that this period of growth is only temporary, so I should make as much of it as I can while it lasts. And then there will be those who remind me, with an ‘I told you so’ tone to their voice that I’m getting what I asked for: the life of an entrepreneur infused with all the sacrifices and rewards that go along with it. I know there’s truth in all of those statements.
Controlling how often and where I work is my decision, based on many factors related to overall workflow, project timelines and interpersonal relationships. It’s what I love about being my own boss, although it’s not without a price to pay. I look forward to future summers, when I am not so “new” to this game, when I may be able to enjoy a full week of rest and play with family and friends without interruption. As I build my company’s internal support structure in the form of new hires and stronger vendor partnerships, I hope that I will be able to get away once in awhile and maybe even leave my laptop at home.
However, running a business means there is no off switch. I will probably find myself torn between work and play forever, as long as I’m the master of my own destiny. I say, that’s ok. I’m content with this arrangement and wouldn’t trade it for all the snow days or field trips in the world.
It’s where I belong and where I plan to stay.