There are things You've Got Mail didn't prepare me for.
Bills to pay. Sleepless nights. Nightmares in which books are not shelved in alphabetical order.
Things like working and living in a small town, where people consider you a stranger until somehow, someway, you convince them you're trustworthy -- and have decent taste in books to boot. Things like a sore back and sore feet. Tired 45-minute commutes. Rude customers.
I'm not sure any book or movie could adequately prepare someone to run or own their own business. It's why we're busy these next two weeks, meeting with accountants and business consultants making sure buying a business is the right -- not just the romantic -- thing to do.
Here is what you should know.
A year ago today, I was working at a desk job that I didn't hate, but I also didn't love. I was reporting to work and doing my job and using my degree, but I wasn't fulfilled. And I know I am naive and idealistic and young, but I believed then -- and I believe now -- that the work you do every day should be fulfilling. We spend so much of our lives at work, and while I think work can be hard and stressful and challenging, I also believe it should be meaningful.
I sought meaning in my first two jobs for four years. They were good years, and I would not trade an ounce of the experience I earned working hard behind a desk, answering phones, typing reports, immersing myself in the languages of law and health care. I wouldn't trade those years because I believe everybody needs a moment. The moment when they realize this isn't cutting it. The moment they realize good money isn't always enough to ignore the fact that something has to give.
Fast forward to this year, and I am learning a new truth, a harder one to swallow. (And a harder one to share.)
Work is work.
What I mean is this: I used to dread going to work. And guess what? There are days I still dread it. And I hate to admit that, because it feels selfish and ridiculous, that I might actually dread days where I get to live out my lifelong dream. But see? Work is still work. And there are hard, long days now just like there were then. There are difficult, challenging, frustrating people, just like back then. And the somewhat cruel reality is that I am working harder than ever, making less money than ever.
But the other side of that coin is that I spend every day among the things I love. I work hard, but I work hard doing something I enjoy, something I find meaningful and important. I write book reviews and promote books I enjoy on Facebook. I steer customers to books I think they'll appreciate, fall in love with even.
Make no mistake. I also sweep floors and take out trash and clean bathrooms and work longer hours than I ever did before.
So there are sides to this Kathleen Kelly life I didn't realize existed. Right now, especially, I am having a harder time than I did in my little Tallahassee store. I think that has a lot to do with owning a business versus managing one. It also has a lot to do with living and working in a transitional season. As I become accustomed to owning this business, I must also become accustomed to a new town, a new church, a new life. My old friends aren't here to see movies with; my old church isn't there to be a support during this season of limbo.
It would be unfair to judge my experience running a business on the past few weeks, because they are harder weeks than usual, I think. And when I look back on this year as a whole -- my time spent quitting my corporate job, starting the Tallahassee store -- I see it was all worth it.
We meet with accountants and business consultants this week, and I'm not sure where that will take us in this leg of the journey. But I'm clinging to the fact that regardless of the future, regardless even of the present, the past year has been worth the heartache and the tears. It's been worth the rude customers and the long hours and the backaches.
It's been worth it because yes, work is work, but work you love? I can't even begin to describe the value in that.