On Tuesday this week, Arcadia turned One. A time for celebration, excitement and new horizons, for sure..? Yet for some reason I felt flat, disengaged from what it all ‘should’ mean. I hadn’t planned anything beyond the usual appointments, didn’t really get round to it somehow. Despite enthusiastic congratulations from friends, family and clients, to me it felt like just another day.
Girding my loins to embrace the duties of a grown-up Business Owner (I am One now, after all), I set about downloading new business plan templates and crunching those numbers until I had averages and percentages coming out of my ears. My figures looked very encouraging on my colour-coded spreadsheet, yet the dark expenses lurked below, snapping at the heels of those cheerful yellow boxes tripping along the line marked ‘Total Income’. I tried to make it look as businesslike and engaging as possible, with some little graphs and bubble diagrams, all the while wondering who would see it, what was it all for, and thinking I should be drumming up business in the time I’m spending on this. It just felt like a continuation of the uncertainty that comes from going it alone, a realisation that some of the tougher things are set to continue, perhaps for a long time to come. Sound familiar to you other sole traders out there..?
Last night I got home late and for some reason I stopped and stood on the landing listening to the noises of the house and the neighbourhood. I frowned at the scuffed and yellowed door frames, felt the patchy carpet scratching the soles of my feet, admired the soft green walls in my study, and wondered why we still hadn’t put pictures up. I realised it’s been a long time since I took a moment like that, simple though it sounds. Looking at my home, seeing what I’ve put off for so long, in deference to another priority. The little things, yet things that make a home a home, a life a life. Since beginning my OU course as a precursor to my degree now five years ago, I have been focused on a goal, a meaningful goal, a goal that came before all others. And yet, for some reason, I’d been judging myself for it.
To become a Physio, to be a good physio, to do right by my patients by creating Arcadia, giving them time, teaching, understanding. To look back at my first year in terms of figures, numbers and stats I now realise was not the point, and it’s the reason I felt flat, bewildered, and even scared. Money has of course been a driver, that stick prodding at my back with bills to pay, a flea-bitten cat and a knackered old car to look after. And I’m not there yet, nowhere near my goal of equal income to my fiance, spending on house or car repairs without feeling sick, venturing beyond Primark for my wardrobe, such as it is.
It’s harder than I thought to realise the moment when I have actually achieved something. Especially in a precarious situation like sole tradership, which invariably the outside world values in monetary terms, and which can shrink down just as quickly as it can swell and bloom. Harder still, perhaps, for those who have to deal with my occasional meltdowns, when to them it has been clear all along. A year ago I felt brave, not quite fearless, but bold, open and driven. This week, let’s just say I have felt these things… a lot less. So I’m now trying to see it with a different perspective, trying to stand in my clinic and actually see what I have created, because that’s what it was all actually about. And realise that all the financial ups and downs shouldn’t detract from the real achievements.
And I have achieved something. An environment people like to come to, where people learn and start a new relationship with their own bodies. A business with happy clients, a business which has payed the bills. If I note down the values I started this business with, then I am living those, I am teaching people, helping people, I am making a difference. I’m a cheerful colleague, I’m a haphazard networker, an enthusiastic presenter, a knowledgeable carer. I feel, though it’s hard and unsettling and frightening sometimes, I’m doing the right thing for very much the right reasons. And that, I now know, is worth celebrating.