You live, you learn. – Alanis Morissette
This wasn’t a very hard post to write, but definitely will not be an easy one to publish nor share on social media. This is not the first time I write about the hardships I’ve faced in the past decade either. This is, however, the first time I’m sharing this knowing that some of my business contacts might read it. Some strangers to parts of my story too. I think any lessons we learn at any point in life can’t be separated into personal or business or career, especially for entrepreneurs and small business owners, but also for everyone. Our lives and psyches are intertwined more than we like to admit or face. Everything is personal and nothing is without context.
So to share my lessons I felt mine can’t be listed without a bit more context to better connect them and understand where they came from. The post breaks periods and then lists the lessons I concluded around that time.
So we start from the beginning…
2009: Just turned 35, fresh out of a breakup, and three years since coming back from Toronto and restarting my life in Amman, and into my entrepreneurship journey -that was interrupted by a global financial crisis midway. Learning how to deal with the anxiety that comes naturally with running a business and also the one that comes after a breakup. I was skeptical about the new decade and what it could hold for me but neither skepticism nor anxiety prepared me to what lied ahead.
2010–2012: The decade actually started extremely well on the work, financial and relationship fronts, then got the news that my sister has a serious untreatable illness. I call this the first tremor. It left my family and I in a confused & sad state, yet life somehow went on. I managed to finally move out and live in a cozy apartment in Amman, a dream I worked very hard to make happen. Work continued to do well and grow, financials too thus traveling to new places and owning more gadgets. Sister’s health took its first bad turn, doctors, hospitals, googling endlessly to learn more. Still, life went on.
Lesson #1 : What’s get classified as bad or good gets redefined constantly.
Lesson #2 : Bad and good can co-exist for anyone at the same time.
2013–2015: Work got worrisome, anxiety again, followed by a bad breakup then the second tremor came. Mom is showing mild cognitive decline then dad is diagnosed with renal cancer. Doctors and hospitals again, roller coaster between good enough prognosis then the real one hit. He has months to live. Anxiety hits high levels, mixed with mourning, and scrambling to deal with it all, I see a dark cloud coming my way, dad gets sicker & thinner and mom gets diagnosed with Alzahimer’s then dad finally finds peace. The dark cloud arrives. The earthquake. Suddenly I have to take on so much responsibility at once, an ill mother and an ill sister. During these months and years, I don’t know how I trusted myself to still lead and manage my company, I don’t know how my partner and staff thought I could. I had money, and I used it to solve any problem at work or at home. My sister found her peace mid 2015 and I became more grief-ridden and ended up socializing much less than normal, yet somehow in the midst of all of this grief and sadness I fell madly in love.
Lesson #3 : It can get really really bad, unimaginably bad and so very fast.
Lesson #4 : When the real bad hits, you have really one choice, you choose to survive or you wither.
Lesson # 5: Courage, inspiration…etc. are things people see in you because they just can’t imagine it getting really bad that fast.
Lesson #6: Bad times filter out those who were only into your fun self, and brings closer those who were truely into you, wholeheartedly.
Lesson # 7: When bad hits, find a great therapist, find love too, both will save you.
2016–2019: I gradually started to regain interest in socializing, in thinking, learning and helping create and grow what I love most, digital products. Yet, at the same time, had to finally face the reality of what had become of my company, the losses it accumulated and its debts I had to start repaying, since in Jordan “limited liability” is not really limited. But that’s a story for another post. We restructured and have been running a profitable operation ever since.
Lesson #8 : If you are crazy enough to start a company for the first time and don’t want to do it alone, make sure you have a great and decent partner, who is not only there for the success but will carry the failure with you too.
Lesson #9 :Never underestimate your grief, it affects everything, especially making you try to avoid dealing with other problems that seem less important thus can be postponed.
Lesson #10: Show your vulnerability, even publicly. It frees you from self-pity and helps you move on.
Lesson #11: Do what you love at least 50% of the time. Live the way you want to live. Be with whomever you want to be with. Be curious. Enjoy living until you can’t.
I hope some of these lessons helps someone else dealing with a bad turn, or helps you empathize better with the experience someone else around you is having. Or just helps toughen you up! I’m kidding, only living can do that 🙂