Sunday, June 8, 2014

Taking off the safety net

Early this year, I set myself a target. This is a departure from how I usually function. I have never been ambitious. That has been my virtue and my vice. Virtue because it allows me to do things and enjoy the moment with nothing else but the experience. My vice because I do not push harder, much to the chagrin of all of my superiors in any job that I have had. My feedback was always "Can do way better" and that used to break my heart. 

I felt sad for the girl who always took up a task wholeheartedly, not aggressively, with the utmost sincerity and yet no one seemed to notice. No one seemed to notice the honest effort or the earnestness or that the job was well done. All everyone saw was that it could have been better. I was always a work in progress. A person who's potential was not utilised. Every appraisal, I hoped my bosses would see my sincerity, every appraisal I was given a list of 4 names who had done better. 

My clients loved me, my trainees adored me, I always had feedback averaging at 9/10. But that was never a reflection of how my superiors saw me. 

I have attention span deficit. An activity does not hold my attention for longer than a few months and that has been my weakness. I have started several things and they fizzle out within a few months. Hobbies and interests are sacrificed at the altar of 'real work' or schedule or family. So when last August, I decided to give my cooking classes a fresh lease of life, I decided to focus on targets. This was to test if I really had it in me to run with an idea. To test if what I had in mind was viable, and above all to see if I had the sustenance to see it through. 

By the end of the year, I was to decide if I really wanted to continue with the cooking classes. I had them running for about 6 years. The breaks both big and small that I had taken were largely unnoticed by everyone except that I felt guilty that I was under performing as usual . I wanted to make a decision based on some numbers - and not on a (not so) baseless "I don't feel like doing this now"

December came and went. 2013 was a tumultuous year in every way and I drew a lot of strength and courage from teaching in my class. It lifted my spirit and gave me the confidence to face another day. So by December I knew, that I was capable of sticking with something as long as it was interesting. I told myself that it was upto me to make my classes interesting, I needed to evolve as much as I wanted my classes to.

For the next quarter, I set myself another target. I was to make a decision on moving the classes out of the house. This meant I had to set a target for enrollments and objectively look at recovering overheads and other costs. By the end of March, I was convinced this was the next step - to move out of the house.

Not just the scaling up, there were several personal reasons to make the move. My home was used as headquarters. While it has served me faithfully and well for all these years, the sheer logistics of managing all the material and groceries meant for the classes was boggling. Every inch of storage space was being used and as a result, material scattered over the house. The kitchen and pantry was the worst hit. No demarcation between supplies for home and supplies for my classes meant that my monthly grocery bills had skyrocketed and I am not that great at keeping accounts! The family was deeply affected. While they didn't mind it and were extremely supportive, the stress of class day was becoming taxing. K and Sage were under house arrest for the time that people were at home. Sometimes classes extend and students tend to hang around, lunch times would get inordinately delayed. Sage is epileptic and on strict medication for it. He needed to be leashed for the duration of the sessions and that would also induce stress in him. It took me an hour after the class wound up to pacify him on most days. I couldn't have more frequent classes because it was too much to ask of the family and home. I was uncomfortable with my very personal space was now open to strangers. For as long as I could think of it, I told myself that I would be better off with the classes at home.

After all the discomfort I mentioned, it also had manifold advantages. Since the home and workplace merged together, it was easy for me to monitor and take care of both. To be able to be at home and still work is a blessing that we seldom give thanks for. The fact that the kitchen doubled up as my back office meant that I could always dip into the supplies of the pantry or my stash of stuff for personal use whether it was a ribbon or sprinkles. I could work when I wanted or not at will. Managing the logistics of a home based enterprise is gentler tho in no way easier, one can set up for a session at 5 AM without even batting an eyelid (or brushing my teeth!) or work well into the night without the anxiety of reaching home safely or keeping an eye on a sleeping drugged epileptic dog.

I began looking for a space towards the end of April. I needed the place to be close enough for me to rush home in an emergency. I needed a large and airy space with a functional kitchen. I found an apartment a week later on my morning walks with Sage. It is close to where I live, in the adjacent lane. It took the owner a week to decide if he wanted to give it to me because I said I would use it for classes. We haggled over the rent a bit, convinced that I was desperate and because I wanted it for my classes, he charged me a rate higher than what he had earlier quoted.

Once I had the keys and my heart beat came back to normal, I realised that this was 'it'. The safety nets were off. The freebies had run dry and this  really was the time to put my faith where my heart and my skill is. For the first time, I felt elated and scared as hell.

I've spent an unproductive month, without being able to use the new space. Firstly because it was bare and had no furniture, secondly because I had sprained my back and Sage was ill and between everything else, I just found it easier to do the last few classes at home.

It took me about a month to get everything sorted. Carpenters, electricians, painters and the like to fix things and set them up. Through all the angst, I felt empowered. This has been my decision, my vision and its failure or success depends wholly and solely on me. Every decision has been a lesson in patience, planning and management. I drew again and again from my inner self. Talking to myself as I waded through. Not because I didn't have the unstinting support of my family. But simply because this is a journey I needed to make alone. I felt happy and peaceful and hopeful and all things good with each step that inched closer to getting the studio ready. I have always been confident, but I have been an approval seeker. I have always wanted my choices to be validated. Sometimes I seek it from people with no expertise in the matter, only because of the proximity of the relationship and then agonise over what they have said.

I don't know why, I didn't seek anyone's approval this time. I did my research, prepared myself and made decisions. When one thing failed, I looked for another solution. I didn't go running like a damsel in distress to anyone expecting them to fix it. I am feeling incredibly good about this.

Yesterday was the inaugural class at the new place. I cannot even begin to describe how I felt. I should write another post. There was one overwhelming moment when I suddenly felt "OMG, this is really happening"

So that's my big story. This is my big move. Here are some pictures of the new place. Wish me luck... I need all that I can get.


THE NAIDU'S said...

Wow...inspiring journey & Congratulations

Wishing you the best & am sure you would succeed


THE NAIDU'S said...

Wow Arundati...that's an inspiring journey. Congratulations on the new sure you would excel & exceed your own expectations.