A bittersweet day: The last day of school. Happy. Sad. Nostalgic. Exciting.
And yet, summer school is just around the bend… The road keeps going.
As usual, the past two months have flown by so fast, I feel like I have whiplash. There’s just something a little crazy that happens at the end of spring break when you work in a school. Suddenly, there are a million things to do to close out the year and people start getting really excited and before you know it…June has come.
May was a little tough for me. It started out cold. Then it got hot – really, really hot, like pushing 90 degrees (which is extremely unusual for this area). Maybe it was the extreme temperature fluctuations or the excitement of school ending that caused me to get really, really sick at the beginning of the month. I haven’t been really sick like that since January, so it was a bit of a shock to come down with such a terrible illness just when the weather was starting to show the promise of summer. In any case, despite my almost obsessive desire to finish out the school year with no more car rides…I had to succumb due to my exhaustion and take my car three days in a row.
It seemed like my body started to show the toll my long hours had taken as the month went on. I took a whole week off my after-school job while I was sick and then finished up the final week in mid-May. Then I had one more week of my before-school job and finished that on May 23rd. And now, even though I’m down to just one blissful job, I haven’t been able to do much of anything. I anticipated catching up on the business and doing massive housework and instead…I’ve been resting, knitting, reading and watching TV. I just feel so tired. But it has been a long school year and as I said, I think my body is just in recovery mode!
This year, I’ll be teaching summer school, so I will have three more weeks in June to record my mileage. After that…a much-needed, 6-week break! Thank heavens!
Happy summer, folks!
Truth be told, I don’t need a What If for this one. I know it’s okay because we all need to unplug sometimes. We all need to let go of our expectations and “shoulds.”
These past two weeks have been pretty big for me. A difficult situation at work, but also some good stuff: My second and third jobs came to an end and I’m down to just one blissful job (and a neglected business). I thought I would spend this holiday weekend powering through all the business tasks that so desperately need to be completed. And instead, I’ve done little else but housework, knitting and lying in bed listening to the rain.
For the first time since January, I did not post on Friday or Monday. I just let it go. And I’m good with that.
Last week was tough for me. Working with kids can be very hard, and not just for the obvious reasons. Sometimes, you have to witness a child’s pain and know that you cannot do anything to stop it. Sometimes, the ones you’ve worked so hard to protect and guide and love are the ones who leave your sphere of influence. Sometimes, you can only just hope and pray that God will protect those little dears when you, yourself, cannot.
Keeping it simple in business has always been a huge challenge for me. And that’s putting it mildly. I come from a very artistic, creative family and I find inspiration everywhere. I finish something (a new moisturizer, a new perfume, etc.) and before I’ve uploaded it, I’m off to the next project. I get into a new project and want to add it to the shop, only to find it doesn’t sell. I get a new packaging idea and I spend a lot of money on the supplies, only to abandon the idea two months later.
Let me tell you, my office is filled with bits and pieces of this and that – burlap bags, white gift boxes, brown gift boxes, jute twine, baker’s twine, rubber stamps, fancy pens, pretty stickers… All things that were, at one point, indispensable to a product or a marketing idea, and that quickly fell off the radar.
And targeting a demographic? No way! I have been completely incapable of doing that. In the past, I’ve said I’m targeting men and woman from 14 to 100 who want gentle, natural products. People who might be educated and knowledgeable of the chemicals in traditional products. People who might be socially conscious enough to appreciate homemade, natural products. People who are trying to avoid using plastic (which I have found to be a super small demographic, in itself.) Conscientious moms, pimple-addled teens, ambitious male cyclists who need a good muscle rub, new age goddesses who love natural perfumes, older women who want something gentle for their skin… Could this demographic be any bigger? Any more general?
I have realized some things as I work on unrolling a complete overhaul of Five Seed: I cannot function in this mental mess and lack of focus. It is unprofitable, unproductive and very stressful. I think this is something all of us small business owners need to address at some point.
So I’m working on specificity. It’s oddly terrifying, but whenever I freak out, I remind myself that there’s great relief in keeping things simple. I literally can’t keep going with all the products, the packaging and the total lack of a target audience.
Here’s what I have so far:
::I’m starting to put the focus on products I consistently love the most and on products that receive the most feedback. Flower Balm has become the backbone of my line and I cannot believe how many people have found it helpful for them. That’s what I want – for people to find healing with my products, as I did. I want to support the use of folk medicine and spread awareness of this disappearing art.
As I brainstorm on all this, I’m trying to figure out how I want to rearrange and reconfigure my product line. There’s a lot of change coming in that department!
::I’m accepting the fact that I need to take a deep breath and finally pinpoint my peeps. Who knows where it will lead or what it will limit and/or expand. I’m ready.
Who are my peeps? Women who…
…are in their 30’s (or late 20′s…or early 40′s…LOL)
…value the earth and have a strong sense of stewardship for our beautiful little planet
…believe in the power of folk medicine
…value their inner beauty as much, if not more, than their outer beauty
…understand the inherent power, strength and sexuality of the female body
…aren’t afraid of going out in public without wearing makeup
…don’t count calories
…pursue health not because it’s trendy but because they love and value themselves
Is that specific enough? Honestly, I’m not sure! But I’m working on it.
How have you business owners struggled with specificity (in any area of your business)? How have you kept things simple and focused?
As I work on my skincare book, I thought I should share a little of what I’m doing and make a case for myself about how much I need your help! (Was that a little too much? I’ve never been much good as sales, but I’m great at begging!)
Today, I wanted to talk about water. Poor, plain water that gets so terribly ignored these days.
When I was a teenager, there were really only two ways to hydrate: Crystal Light and Evian. I remember everyone putting Crystal Light in their water. God forbid we drink it by itself! And the marketing geniuses at Kraft had every adult woman I knew thinking that you could actually lose weight just by adding Crystal Light to your water.
As for those who fell into the plain old water camp (myself, included), Evian seemed to be the only decent way to make hydration trendy. I remember reading an article in Teen Magazine that models had taken to carrying bottled water with them wherever they went to keep their bodies hydrated. I’m ashamed to admit that I pretty much did anything Teen Magazine told me to do – especially if it was something that models do. So I ran out and bought a bottle of Evian. This was long before the BPA scare and Klean Kanteens. And I shamefully admit that I looked at all those brands of bottled water and the only one that “looked” like a model would carry it around was Evian. So that’s what I chose.
A month later, my mother clipped an article for me from People Magazine about how popular Evian water had become and that all the coolest celebs were carrying it around. There was a picture of Cindy Crawford getting off an escalator at an airport with a bottle in her hand. Needless to say, I was hooked. (Though, I only bought one Evian water bottle and proceeded to clean it every night and use it for seven months! I thought it was ridiculous to pay for a new bottle of water every day, even when I was only 14! I’ll just take it from the tap, thank you very much!)
Fast forward twenty years and we’re back in the water trends. Crystal Light is enjoying a resurgence of popularity thanks to their individual powder packs (great for the environment, too, with all the single-use packaging!) and their liquid flavorings. These “water enhancers” are all full of chemicals (artificial flavors, mold inhibitors, fake sweeteners and dyes), but marketed as a fun, hip, sexy way to be healthy and gorgeous. And check out their website blurb:
Create a delicious refreshment with our mixes – whether you and your 4-inch heels are turning sidewalks into catwalks or you’re meeting the ladies for an after-work gossip session. So let that hair down, put on that mini skirt and enjoy low calorie, zero guilt Crystal Light.
Is it just me, or does it make women sound like flaky, artificial, Barbie dolls with nothing better to do in life but worry about our looks? For that alone, I say, “Crystal Light: Shame on you!” (And I’m oddly offended by the mention of 4-inch heels as if that’s a reasonable, healthy and/or popular fashion standard for the average woman. Please!)
And what else does dear Kraft have up its sleeve? If Crystal Light is too retro for you, then luckily, you can try MiO! It’s basically the same thing, but marketed to a younger, hipper crowd, and to both women and men. You think you should drink water for your health? Umm, no way! Water is all about what you want, when you want it, according to MiO:
“MiO is the way to help turn water into the drink you need. And it truly is all about you. It’s your flavor and your squeeze…it’s never been easier to help water work for you, at your command.”
I’m so relieved that we, as a society, don’t have to rely on crappy, disgusting water in order to stay healthy. Thank god we are spared the torture of ingesting that horrible liquid, and that now we can “enhance” it with dyes, mold inhibitors, fake sweeteners, fake flavors and caffeine. What a damn relief!
And if you do consider yourself a purist and try to keep your water au naturel, then thankfully, we have Evian reminding us that water keeps us young. Because we can’t be healthy or beautiful if we aren’t youthful! And we can’t be any of those things without paying several dollars to drink tap water packaged in environmentally-destructive plastic bottles.
Okay, I know, I pretty much never get sarcastic around here, but honestly – this nonsense surrounding water has got me all riled up. Water is one of the most basic necessities of life. It’s simple, pure and doesn’t have or need any frills, bells, whistles or bling. Nothing is more satisfying when you are hot and thirsty. And it’s so, so good for your body and your skin.
If you have troubled skin, adding a tablespoon of chemicals isn’t going to help. Instead of having water flush out the toxins in your system, your just adding more toxins. And I think we all know by now that we don’t need a bottle of $5 tap water from the grocery with a fancy, French label. (If you haven’t seen Tapped yet, please watch it! It’s amazing.)
So folks, please – if you want glorious, glowing, healthy skin, stick to good, old fashioned water. Skip all the “enhancements” – they enhance nothing and just cause your body a lot more problems in the long run.
And if you feel so moved to help me fund my skincare e-book, please contribute and/or share my page. I only have about 6 weeks left to reach my goal! Thank you so much!
This one is dedicated, with love, to my $900 paycheck!
I haven’t written another update about my financial situation in a while, mainly because I have had a major setback – my computer is in the process of dying, so to speak, and each week, it seems that there’s something new that breaks. In the past two months, it has stopped allowing me to open certain programs, no matter what I do (and reformatting it is not a possibility – long story) and guess what’s included on the “I won’t open this program” list? You Need a Budget.
I bought the software earlier this year and quickly became completely dependent upon it. It is amazing and helped me so much to get a true picture of my financial reality. I can’t recommend it enough. However…I’ve had to make my way without it now for the past two months, which has been incredibly frustrating.
I was doing all right for a while, though, plugging ahead, doing the best I could. I’ve been holding my breath for April, when my paychecks would finally reflect a decent number, after the hours and hours I have put in at my three jobs. When I say I’ve been holding my breath, I mean that quite literally – each month has been such a challenge, and because of the lag between submitting timesheets and receiving our paychecks, I had to wait over 6 weeks to start seeing any pay from my morning job.
That first check was good – not great, but good. I had put in a lot of hours in the beginning of the program to get it started, so I knew it would be an inflated check. But I figured it wouldn’t drop more than a hundred or two in the following paychecks, since I was putting in regular hours every month on all three jobs.
And then…my paycheck arrived at the end of April. And it was for $900. And I cried. A lot.
I suddenly realized that I have been operating all year on a very strong belief that if I just work harder and longer, I will be rewarded. That was the plan. And suddenly, upon opening that paycheck, I realized that that belief was totally erroneous.
I’m not sure how anyone will react to that number – but if you aren’t sure what’s going on here, let me assure you that I regularly put in at least 36 hours a week of work (sometimes a full 40, sometimes, a little more). I work 11-hour days on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I put in tons of time every night preparing work for my students – unpaid, and without an expectation of getting paid for that. No benefits and two of my jobs don’t have paid sick days. And for all of that…I get $900 a month. That covers my share of the rent, my student loan payment and a week’s worth of groceries.
So now that I’m here, at the end of the school year, wondering how I’m going to make ends meet next year, I’m really conscious about the expectations I’ve put on myself in these past few months – behavioral expectations that came with an assumed corresponding outcome. And it didn’t work.
What’s really cool is that I’ve realized something amazing: that I’m free from the a+b=c economic model. It doesn’t exist anymore. You may put in a full workweek, but in this day and age, you may or may not be fairly compensated. End of story. It’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s not wrong, it’s not right – it just is.
I have read all those financial books and done all those mental exercises about digging into our beliefs about money. I’ve done that a million times, but I don’t think it ever hit home for me the way it has now. Apparently, I can work so hard that I only have a few hours of free time each week and still not come even close to a livable wage. And odd as it sounds, that’s so freeing to know!
Now the whole world is open to me. I feel like I can finally start making choices based on my personal desires, rather than just my needs and a sense of responsibility. I can start exploring what it will look like to work smarter, not harder (and/or longer). I can let go of this very limiting belief that I have to submit to a traditional position and work myself into the ground to be a valuable member of society – cuz it doesn’t work!
I’m excited to see what comes of this. I see big changes for myself in the next three months.
And what about you, dear readers? Did you ever have a financial epiphany come from a paycheck (or a lack of one)?
(And speaking of finances, I’m exploring the option of crowdfunding to help me raise enough money to finish my e-book. Please give me a hand and spread the word! Thank you!)
I recently read this amazing blog post: 9 Traits of Underearners. I recognized myself in all but one of the characteristics. Yikes. But not a surprise.
I’ve always considered myself an underachiever. And yet, if you ask people I work with, they would describe me as an overachiever. In fact, I was regularly called Overachiever in grad school – and not always in a nice way.
But here’s what my former grad school classmates didn’t know about me: I overachieve in areas where I know I can do well in order to compensate for my underachieving in just about every other area of life. Hey, look how smart and organized and poised I am over here in this one little corner and hopefully you’ll be so wowed, you won’t notice that I don’t try very hard in any other area!
I think underachievers (a category into which underearners fall) are living with a secret shame. We’re terrified of letting anyone else see how incompetent we are. And we assume that it’s incompetence that’s at the root of the problem. Most of us don’t even realize that there’s no incompetence there, at all! It’s just fear. The fear is so big that we can’t bring ourselves to try. And god knows, we don’t believe in ourselves enough to face those fears – or even to acknowledge them. Because if we did acknowledge the fear, we’d have to do something about it.
We cannot tackle this issue by trying harder, negotiating more, looking for better jobs, dating more, etc. There is no “doing” that will heal this. There is only being and believing in our worth.
As Iyanla Vanzant says (and this will give you chills):
Everything that happens to you is a reflection of what you believe about yourself. We cannot outperform our level of self-esteem. We cannot draw to ourselves more than we think we are worth.
Seriously. I’m going to put that on a pillow. And a poster. And tattoo it on my arm so I can look at it every single day.
So, dear fellow Underachievers: Let’s make a pact right now. No more overachieving to cover up our underachieving. And no more underachieving. Period. Let’s look at ourselves as our own mother, in every situation. Would we want our daughter to be with a man who doesn’t respect her? Would we want our daughter to take a job in which she is not properly compensated? Would we want our daughter to accept something that is less than she deserves just because it’s available?
Where are you currently underachieving and what step will you take this week to recognize your worth?