If I am to be completely honest about my life and my work, I would tell you, without hesitation, these things:
I love my job. I love what I am creating at Clementine. I don’t miss practicing law for one moment. I am grateful for the ups and downs of each place I have worked; for the clients who swore at me, for the horrible pay and long hours, for the better pay and shorter hours, for the clients who hugged me, for great Boards and incredible colleagues-turned-friends, for being hired and even for the one time I was laid off from an organization I loved fiercely and from which I truly felt betrayed. I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t been there, so I am, really, grateful. I would even say, with some confidence, that law school wasn’t a total waste of time.
I would tell you that being a wife, a mama and a small business owner are my entire identity right now. There is no room for anything else, and the space in here is cramped. I love them all for infinite reasons and for as many reasons, they often are in conflict. I can’t remember what it is like to have time to myself, without worry.
I am able to pursue this work because my husband has a good job. I don’t bring in a regular pay check. I am so grateful to him for the ability to have this imbalance. At the same time it has caused a lot of conflict for me. Identity conflict. Am-I-worthy conflict. It has made me think I should go back “to work”. I still do contract work, so that I can have at least some regular earnings. I trust and believe that soon, Clementine will be profitable or will lead to doors that are. But I have thought, not infrequently, that I should just go “get a 9-5 job”.
I work. A lot. I am often working when I am home, when I should be “off.” So often. As any small business owner can tell you, this is as inevitable and unavoidable as it is unfair. It compromises your loved ones, your sleep, your patience, your attention to other things. It is also joyful and exciting to make progress for your own self. It is equal parts unavoidably conflicted and unbelievably stimulating. My daydreams are most often caught up within work, with what the next phase of creating will be. I don’t travel. I don’t even yearn to travel right now (even to Montreal which is mere hours away, where I should go to get a little inspiration, and some fresh air). I am, by nature, a daydreamer. Getting-it-all-done is harder. I get stuck. Whole days go by and nothing gets done. When you work for yourself, this magnifies frustration. It is hard, hard to finish my taxes and accounting; to make sure all of my bills are paid and that the lights don’t get shut off.
I had to plow through some difficult moments in career identity to come to believe that what I am doing has value. After an entire adult-life spent working for low income families and victims of violence. I should have struggled. I did, and I came through believing that what I am doing is what I should be doing. It has value. Different, but just as much value - to me, my family and my community. Now, I support artists, some moms and dads who are making really incredible things. I pay taxes to my town and to my state. I make charitable gifts and donations. I make some wives and friends and moms really happy. I am surrounded by truly wonderful beautiful things and that just makes me a better person. The store is an extension of me, which is, as you might imagine, incredibly vulnerable. Yet working for myself comes with a profound type of happiness. Lying in bed at night dreaming of wall colors and shelves is as exciting to me as planning my wedding was. I collaborate with and pay people for their creativity; these are acts that bring me continual joy.
Honestly, I made a really good choice when I chose to take the leap that became Clementine. Even when I found out I was pregnant a month after the store opened and, thus, undertook two unfamiliar journeys that would soon encompass every breath I have.
I am incredibly lucky. An extrovert by nature, I’m fed by the energy, conversation and creativity of my vendors turned friends and confidants. Of my customers turned friends and confidants. I am lucky to have a husband who is willing to try to have difficult conversations with me about my work, even when I am less than receptive. I am lucky to have a dad who built my first desk at the shop and a mom who has filled-in for me when Julian was sick, and then just kept helping (and oh, gosh can she organize). I am lucky to have a marriage and a family and a community where there is support at all, even when it’s not always constant, even when we all hit ruts. I am lucky to have a baby whose daycare is around the corner, so that sometimes (today, in fact!) I can steal a kiss and a wave as his class strolls through town. I am lucky to have a job where I got to bring my baby to work with me for 11 months, to spend all of those sweet moments nurturing all of the newness in my life.
I am not a 9-5 type of girl. I am fiercely committed to uncovering bits of love, beauty, font, inspiration, linen and the perfect shade of robin’s-egg-blue. To say that this is all a labor of love is an understatement, but a really apt one.
This very long post is to say that when Vermont Works for Women (a really wonderful organization that you should click on and donate to) asked if I (/Clementine) would support their touring exhibit that celebrates the connection that women have to their work, I said yes. I love the idea that people are celebrating the idea that our work can be what transforms and connects us. I mean, hell yes!
Here’s more about the exhibit. Join me on January 18th from 5-7 for the opening reception. The exhibit runs Jan 4-26th at the Folk Life Center here in Middlebury 88 Main St!
Labor of Love
This exhibit, which was created by Vermont Works for Women in collaboration with the Vermont Folklife Center, features stories and photos celebrating the transformative power of work by focusing on ways in which work can engage our passion and connect us to others and in communities. It was created as part of VWW’s 25th anniversary festivities.
The featured women are farmers, doctors, tattoo artists, college presidents, electricians and general store clerks. They are passionate about their work, exemplify excellence in their field, and are an inspiration to others. Through Labor of Love, we have the invaluable opportunity to discuss our experience of work with the young people in our lives and with each other – to talk about the choices we’ve made and the twists and turns of our individual journeys. They are stories worth sharing.
Through the end of January, Labor of Love will be on display at the Vermont Folklife Center Gallery in Middlebury. The exhibit will travel to additional venues across the state throughout 2013.