Friday, April 17, 2015

12/52 :: june.

I feel like I'm in recovery mode, which is hysterical, since most nights this week I've been out until 11, and the bookstore has about six more events to endure/enjoy before we're done for the month. Hardly rest and recuperation, but such is small business, I think. 

Last weekend, our little store supplied all of the books for Word of South, Tallahassee's newest -- and only -- music and literature festival. I met Ann Patchett; Jordan engaged in long, theological discussions with Tony Hale; my staff survived; and we sold well over 600 books. Amazing. 

Of course, there were hard things, too. It rained all weekend. The entire festival was outdoors, so the inclement weather meant smaller crowds and a lot of humidity, which, naturally, books loathe. I had to leave my staff to fend for themselves all day on Sunday; and although I'm learning to delegate, it's hard. I feel guilty and unsure, not in my staff's capabilities, but in what is fair for my employees as I run my business. When can I take vacation? How long is too long of a day for one person? What tasks are meant for two people instead of one? What do I expect from a sales clerk versus a manager? 

These are hard questions for me, and I'm still unsure of the answers. But last Sunday, I chose a friend's wedding over the last day of Word of South, and while complicated, overall, that decision alone feels like a victory. 

Much of small business ownership is figuring out what I can handle, and for how long. At the wedding last week, another friend asked if I intended to run the bookstore forever. (I believe her words were: "Is this, like, what you want to do? Long-term?") And I know most people assume my answer would undoubtedly be a resounding YES. But the truth is, the store and I have a complicated relationship, and I don't know what the future holds. (It's a bookstore, for crying out loud.) Things are going well, and I'm happy, but I'm tired. A lot. And I'm really just taking things one day at a time. 

Word of South was a success. All of the time, money, and effort was worth the exposure we received and the money we made. Plus, I firmly believe in the bookstore as a community gathering place, and that includes extending our hospitality beyond our city in as many ways as possible. Sometimes that means a podcast, sometimes it might mean traveling to Tallahassee for a festival. We're the only independent bookstore in our region, and I'm proud of that. Again, I never know what the future might hold, but for now, I'm happy to lay claim to that territory, and to extend our hand to faraway friends and customers, too. 

It's funny; in my old life, I would have attended Word of South in awe. I would have gone to hear Ann Patchett, and maybe gotten a book signed by Tony Hale. We would have left for my friend's out-of-town wedding in a much more reasonable amount of time, and I would have spent the weekend relaxing with friends in sunny Sarasota. In my new life, the one I have chosen and the one I refuse to regret, Jordan and I worked for 12 hours in the rain. I hugged Ann Patchett, but I never did get to hear her speak. We arrived home exhausted and smelling overwhelmingly of cigarette smoke (one of the indoor festival venues was a nightclub), and we got up the next morning for a five hour trip down south. I held my friend's baby and smiled in wedding pictures and breathed the salt air, but I admittedly felt a bit like a zombie.

This new life occasionally resembles a pinball machine in which I am the ball, bouncing from corner to corner, edge to edge, trying to make it to the empty space that is this summer. A wise local friend and entrepreneur reminded me this week: Everything slows down in the summer. If I can make it to June, I'll be okay. 

When I look back on this spring, when I reminiscence -- because one day I will -- about the bookstore and life without children and living in a small town and running a small business, I think I'll be so proud. Grateful, too, that we got to live this adventure, even for a little bit. And it's exhausting and some days exhilarating, it's a darn grand story to tell.

I am grateful, make no mistake. But also? With Word of South behind me and Independent Bookstore Day in front of me, I am anxiously, impatiently hoping for June.

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