The Linchpin

It’s been over a year since I wrote in the Hobotect, mostly because I’ve  been so busy getting Luxuryhound up and running. But I find I miss having a ‘diary’ that can be more scattered, more a record of what’s going on in my real life. I’m trying to walk a line with the Luxuryhound blog with a tone that’s real and personal and fun, yet still business-oriented and relevant to people who care about dogs and don’t give a bleep about my architecture projects and my fancy-dress camping and my living situation. Probably no one else does either, but it doesn’t matter. The point is that I don’t have to care.

So what’s going on? Luxuryhound has changed completely since I last wrote in this blog. It is a real, living, breathing company now. If the definition of a business is that it has customers, then we’re a real business. We don’t have nearly enough of them yet, but hopefully that will come. It took an insanely long time to get to this point, and I’m not sure I would recommend it to anyone, but I guess I would say that about most of my life paths. They’ve made sense to me at the time, and I wouldn’t be the person I am without doing them, but there must be an easier way for you.

The title of this post is from Seth Godin’s book ‘Linchpin’, which I’m currently reading. I generally like Seth’s stuff, though it suffers from the same disease most current non-fiction does: they tell you what they’re going to tell you, they tell it to you, then they tell you what they told you. But then they do it again 10 times. The books could usually be reduced to 1/4 of their size without losing any of their message. Oh well. Anyway, I just came across a quotation that spoke to me. It’s from Ralph Waldo Emerson, and I’m going to trust that Godin is quoting it correctly because I don’t feel like looking it up. Here it is:

If our young men miscarry in their first enterprises, they lose all heart. If the young merchant fails, men say he is ruined. If the finest genius studies at one of our colleges, and is not installed in an office within one year afterwards in the cities or suburbs of Boston or New York, it seems to his friends and to himself that he is right in being disheartened, and in complaining the rest of his life. A sturdy lad from New Hampshire or Vermont, who in turn tries all the professions, who teams it, farms it, peddles, keeps a school, preaches, edits a newspaper, goes to Congress, buys a township, and so forth, in successive years, and always, like a cat, falls on his feet, is worth a hundred of these city dolls. He walks abreast with his days, and feels no shame in not “studying a profession,” for he does not postpone his life, but lives already. He has not one chance, but a hundred chances.

In the years after I graduated from university I worked on Wall Street trading stocks then coddling private clients; I tutored the SAT; I worked at a large scientific research company writing technical grants; I painted a large house;   I measured wealthy people’s residences for curtains; I temped answering phones in office; and then I went to architecture school. I thought I was sorted. And, so did my family. When I graduated at the top of my class after receiving multiple promotions while working the whole time, my mother heaved a sigh of relief. ‘My daughter the Architect.’ So what happened?

Beats me. Part of it is that I have the kind of personality that just isn’t satisfied doing the same thing all the time. I get bored. Being an architect solves most of that problem because it necessarily involves continuing to learn all sorts of random stuff.

A bigger part probably has to do with my reluctance to work for other people. Ha ha! Do you like how diplomatically I put that? How about ‘I have a problem with authority’. It’s not a desire to work completely alone, as I’ll admit to having struggled with depression over the past two years while being alone SO £*$&^ MUCH OF THE TIME.  In fact, I absolutely love collaborating with smart people, and I’m finding, much to my surprise, that I love working directly with clients (who are the ultimate boss). But it’s when someone who I don’t respect has the power to tell me what to do all the time that I lose my will to live. Working for myself is the ultimate gift, no matter how difficult and anxiety-producing it may be.

I’m extremely lucky that I was given an inheritance that is by no means enough for me to not have to work, but is enough to make me feel freer than someone who’s never had that. In starting Luxuryhound I have risked the majority of that freedom, and if it doesn’t work I’ll have to walk away with most of it gone. If that happens, I hope that I’m strong enough to start again.

Er… what else is going on? I was engaged to be married, and now I’m not. It’s a long story, and I’m still wondering what’s appropriate to write for an audience that is composed mostly of my friends, but may easily include others. And how honest, really, to be. Here are the facts: I returned to Scotland in September of 2009 because my apartment in Boston was due to be occupied until November. I had no job and was trying to figure out what to do – and my mother’s apartment in Edinburgh was empty, and therefore free. In the middle of the month I met a friend for a drink in Marchmont, and bumped into S., a guy who I had very casually known in the pub the year before. He asked for my phone number, and before I knew it we were caught up in a whirlwind romance. I was due to return to Boston in November, and he didn’t want me to. Three weeks after we started seeing each other he asked me to marry him, and I told him to piss off. I didn’t know what I wanted, but I also knew that apart from friends in Boston there was no reason for me to go back. I tied up some loose ends and returned to Edinburgh just before Christmas that year.

I knew it was a bad idea for us to move in together too quickly, so I rented a room a few blocks away from him — which I never spent a single night in.  I was having terrible trouble adjusting to being in a place where I didn’t have many friends – apart from a few wonderful people I knew from my previous company – at a time when I was struggling to start my own company and spending most of my time alone. In February I was cracking up with the stress of not having a home – just a room with some of my stuff and an apartment where I slept every night but didn’t feel any ownership of. S. and I had said that I shouldn’t move in until we were engaged. One night at the pub I was losing it, and he said ‘why don’t you move in.’ It took us a few minutes to realise that we were engaged. It took a few days before we told anyone, and even then it felt very strange. It was nothing like the proposal that I’d always dreamed of; it was too soon and too forced. We did start planning the wedding, and even put a deposit down at a fairy-tale castle. Then things started to fall apart. Neither of us was happy, and we couldn’t tell whether it was the situation, or whether we simply weren’t meant to be together.

We still can’t, really. Fast-forward almost a year, and we broke up and I moved out. A few days after we split I went to Morocco by myself to get some head space. All I learned was that I don’t really like travelling by myself any more. Oh, and that I’ve come to a point in my life where I prefer an ensuite bathroom in a hotel room. Funny. Anyway, I really thought we were over and that it was time to move on, but… we are now seeing each other. Dating. A couple of times a week, like maybe we should have in the beginning. He is realising that he might need to make some lifestyle changes in order to be in a successful relationship, and I’m realising that I need to communicate with other people a higher percentage of my day in order to be happy enough to act human. The story is definitely not over.

I live in an absolutely gorgeous apartment right now. It’s a modern penthouse near the water with 360 degree views of the city out of huge windows, and a large roof terrace. Unfortunately it’s a bit too expensive now, and the landlord is raising the rent significantly in September, so we will be moving. ‘We’ is my friend Tanja, who I met through girlgeeks, and her (now my) friend Cassie. I’m dying for my own space, but I simply can’t afford it right now, and that’s it. You can’t always get what you want. But sometimes you get what you need. 🙂

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