See a bigger version here: http://fundersandfounders.com/too-late-to-start-life-crisis/
Before I get to the part about how Francis and I wound up together and resolve the convoluted love triangle between my Irish friend, Francis and I, I should probably tell you that while I was plunged deep in this long nostalgic period I wasn’t’ feeling as warm and fuzzy as the tale may lead you to believe. And it was the combination of blues with the nostalgia that brought me to the unlikely conclusion that starting my own tour company was the best path forward for me. So this little “love story” vignette is a crucial piece in the puzzle of how I wound up (in chapter 4 of this blog) listening to the third business adviser (who didn’t seem to believe in my project) point out to me with incredulity: “You have no business experience, no knowledge of marketing and no accounting skills. You don’t know how to make a website, you’ve never heard of Pintrest, Twitter or read a blog. You don’t even own a cell phone. And, you want to start a luxury French tour company.”
Maybe you’ve been in my shoes before: my life centered around being a wife and mother and I seemed to be losing any identity independent of others. I felt increasingly invisible. The “behind the scenes” guy. The backstage man. The road crew without whom the show wouldn’t be as good but whose job description includes going unnoticed.
Let’s liken it to an analogy I can dredge up from high school. I tried out for a play and didn’t get a part on stage but was still excited about being part of the production. So, I joined the sound crew and had a marvelous time attending all the rehearsals and hanging out with the kids who did get roles during the practices where we were all equal and the actors and directors deeply appreciated the contributions of the crew. But, on show night you feel like you are missing out. Only the actors get to talk with the public who showers them with laudatory praise and flowers. You almost never hear someone say “wow, the lighting was just fabulous for that play” or “gosh, wasn’t the sound quality fabulous” but you do hear complaints if something is off. The audience may even remember the actors role at the class’s high school 20 year reunion… whereas you know the lot of the sound guys, lighting guys, prop guys, costume guys and all the other dozens of people it takes to pull off the show. Forgotten.
That didn’t keep me from getting a job in the scene shop building sets in college and it didn’t discourage me from taking costume design classes either! But still…. You get the point of the metaphor.
When the earthquake ended my dream of getting a PhD AND I’d spent a lot of time and money researching every corner of Paris for a guidebook that would never see the light of day… Well, I began searching the internet for a regular job that would use my skills and education AND give me enough vacation time to accompany my family to France for part of the summer. The best jobs in my fields weren’t in our area and didn’t’ have the summers off. To get summers off, teaching was the only choice, but I quickly discovered that you either had to be a State certified teacher or have the right connections, and it seemed likely that you really needed both. Since I already have two master’s degrees, the last thing I wanted to do was study for a teaching certificate if there was no guarantee of a job at the end. No point in spending more time and money unless it would definitely lead to a job.
To use another metaphor, my search reminded me of what a disgruntled gardener at a plant nursery said to me with exasperation one day “Lady, everyone comes in here looking for some magic plant that doesn’t exist. They want something that doesn’t need water when we are living in a semi-desert, they want it to grow in full shade, it’s got to be evergreen AND they want it to be cheap. I’ll be damned if they don’t expect it to have flowers all year too. Lady, you can’t have it all. You’ve got to choose what is most important and just focus on that.”
I began to feel like I had to make a choice between a career and my family because they did not appear to be compatible, at least in my case. But instead, I threw myself head long into finding, not just a solution but something I would love doing passionately… I began my quest for the “magical plant”.
The magical plant turned out to exist. Well not yet, but it would! I found the seed by rummaging deep down in my imagination. I would eventually call it“Sojourner Tours”. My boutique tour company. And I knew I could grow it. I just didn’t have any clue how.
Sojourner Tours was born out of this period of nostalgia, this musing over the path that led me into my current conundrum. Wondering how I got to where I was. Figuring out what were the most wonderful elements of the path of my life and focusing on making them flourish again. (If you’d like, you can take a peak at the outline of the history leading up to the philosophy and creation of Sojourner Tours on my company’s “history page“.) It’s ironic, I know but… to be innovative I had to be at my absolute LOWEST, the point in my life when I felt the most LOST, the most HOPELESS, and as though I had hit a DEAD-END IN LIFE. The worse my situation became, the more driven I was to do something really “fucking” awesome. There didn’t appear to be any paths laid out for me to choose from… but I was hell-bent on moving forward whether it meant forging my own path, tunneling or blowing things out of my way with dynamite. I was not giving up. I would not be broken. And I had no intention of settling anything less than a “magic plant”.
By now I was thirty seven.