No Labels. No Limits.

Four years ago, I was feeling less than courageous. I was on complete overwhelm. I had taken a backseat in my own life. When I sold one of my major businesses, I felt a sense of relief. It had been a wonderful investment and experience a few years prior.

I had purchased an event business that turned out to not have much book value at all. I immediately began work on a new name, all new branding, upgraded tables and chairs, fixed many internal assets, created an operations and HR manual, developed new strategic relations, designed new pricing packages, and on and on… Within six months, I had designed a team and all-new processes to create a healthy margin and a sustainable business plan. When I decided to sell the business, we had grown it to over four times my invested amount.

At this point in my life, I had a small infant, my fourth little bundle of joy. I had become pregnant with him in less than a year’s time after buying the event venue. I knew I was close to reaching my human limit. And, my husband at the time, had exceeded his. This was one of the reasons I felt it was a good time to begin to let go. At the same time, something was eating at me. Labels. Limits.

When I was eight months pregnant, I was called by the local chamber of commerce, encouraging me to attend the local entrepreneurial awards. I wasn’t sure how I could fit it into my schedule because of all of the work deadlines and kids’ activities. Per usual, I figured it out and dragged my husband to the event.

Before I knew it, I was being called to the stage to accept the Marketing Entrepreneur of the Year Award. I waddled as fast as I could to the front of the room and climbed the stage. There was an echo of applause. My heart was racing and tears swelled up in the corner of my eyes. I remember thanking the entire community for their decade of support for my business and my family. I thanked my team and my husband, shook hands with the hosts, and (as gracefully as possible) descended from the stage to take my seat next to my husband. He feigned a smile. No hug. No congratulations.

That night after nestling my big belly into a comfortable position in bed, I asked him why he was so distant and why he hadn’t congratulated me. He responded, “It’s just smoke and mirrors. Go to bed.” (See next post for more on this. Was he right?) I cried myself to sleep. I was beginning to believe him. But, more so about the marriage, than my hard work. Smoke and mirrors? I was feeling limited, for the first time in my life.

My husband filed for divorce when my youngest was two years old. He had labeled me a failure despite any successes or the love I continued to show. Time stood still. I felt abandoned and I felt I had failed. What I didn’t see at the time was he had failed me, and our marriage. Selling the business was my attempt to show him that the marriage meant more to me than the business. While this may have felt nobel at the time, I didn’t realize that it wasn’t about failing so much as it was about not having the support I needed to meet my full potential. It wasn’t really failure I was feeling, it was a lack of love.

I’m over six years out from that evening of the awards ceremony. I’ve been through what has felt like the fires of hell. But, like that restructuring of a business, I have rewritten my vision, rebuilt my team, created new pathways, and I have fully owned who I am and where I want to go. I lead with love and optimism. This is the person I was born to be. I had lost myself during my marriage. Let me be clear, I am not an advocate for divorce, I am an advocate for happiness. I wanted to work it out. He didn’t. And, now I’m free to keep creating. A bittersweet, beautiful blessing and gift of time.

In the end, because of a severed relationship, I found myself again. There’s an excitement in the air. I’m an entrepreneur of my own life.

There is a delicate balance in any partnership, in any relationship. There’s give, take, and compromise. But, I’ll warn you that if ever anyone tells you that you cannot achieve something, or you are undeserving, listen closely. Their real message is that they cannot achieve what you can and they are undeserving of you. Their limits are not your own.

[Thank you to Autumn Luciano for sharing her photography talents and capturing my spirit, drive, determination…my resilience, in the photo above.]