They said you never see it coming. Love that is. These words were said to me on a phone call last April under a full moon. I never quite understood that saying until I experienced it myself.
Two months prior, I had professed my love for someone who had been in my life for a long time as a friend. It had shocked both of us - me most of all. We met when I moved to San Diego in 2015 and were both starting new chapters in life.
Less than a week of knowing each other we were hitting 5am yoga classes together, taking evening walks picking out our favorite houses, discovering we both loved bringing fuzzy socks to the movie theater and that most importantly, we could make each other laugh so hard that one of us almost always ended up with stomach cramps (usually me).
It was effortless.
After six months of bliss, life had other plans for us. He was quitting corporate to live in his van and travel the west coast and later South America. I was getting my first place by myself and continuing my work at prAna. We always kept in touch circling back around each other to keep the hope alive. We never even voiced this hope - it was unspoken between the both of us.
If you know me, you know that I don't trust anyone and that I am very careful with who I let in my life. And then last year right before COVID, I was hit by a category 5 force hurricane wind wanting only love and to share my deepest darkest scars with someone. Specifically, I wanted to tell he who must not be named that I loved him. So I did.
I was (and still sometimes am) so afraid that no one will accept and love me for all that I am. This was due to my own personal beliefs but also due to opinions shared with me from a close family member. This family member told me with great confidence right before I launched Anact that nobody would want me if I pursued the path of being an entrepreneur.
It crushed me.
I was told that I would be single and lonely because I would scare men off. I've never been married and if you look at my dating record... I don't have the best track record to draw upon (sorry in advance to anyone who I have dated who is reading this) so I believed her at first.
What helped me push past this experience was knowing that I would never be in an authentic relationship if I didn't do Anact regardless of the outcome because I would never be able to show up for someone else the way that I would want to or trust that they fully saw who I was and loved me for my Elon Musk meets Kanye West meets AOC ideas and thoughts that percolate in my head at 2am. This has been hard to pursue while my friends get married, have children and I nurse the baby of a business that is Anact. I'm so grateful for my family and friends who have stepped in to support me throughout all of this.
I'm incredibly ambitious, driven, and sensitive. I would rather plow through books from the library than go to a group function. I have big dreams for Anact as well as dreams of living in a cottage by the sea raising my family while doing investigative reporting and writing. I question everything (and I mean everything) around me and I have put on horse-blinders only accepting my best refusing to be limited by the age old saying - that's just the way we have always done it.
But I gave myself hope that he would accept me for all of these things. The funny part I found out though - was that it was the pieces of myself that I liked the least that connected him more to me and the emotional intimacy that we had built throughout the years without realizing it. The laughter, the play, the ability to share our visions for ourselves. It's funny, I always thought you got to hide the pieces you disliked most about yourself from the person you love but now I realize that's just not how it works.
Those moments when I forgot who I was and was having a break down from Amazon berating me with emails to on-board Anact and didn't know what to do so he called me and picked me up even though he was 3,000 miles away to remind me of who I was, what I stood for and that I was capable of anything in this world - including saying no to one of the largest retailers in the world really struck a chord in me.
For that, I am forever grateful.
Sadly, it didn't pan out for us last year. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do to end a relationship with someone I loved especially in the height of COVID. All I wanted was to hear his voice or tell him whatever crazy thing had happened to me after a long day running Anact. To be reminded that there was someone else out there that saw me for who I really was and loved all of my quirks.
Someone who would hold me while I close my eyes and remove the heavy weight of being a first time business owner from my chest even if it was just for a moment. Someone who would understand that I was putting myself through this not to make loads of money and escape to an island but because I didn't see anyone else doing the things that needed to be done to prepare for the climate crisis and I couldn't handle being sick to my stomach witnessing George Orwell's 1984 play out in 2021 for one second more.
Someone who wasn't intimidated by my drive and my dreams but was like - GET IT, GIRL! Needless to say, I've been grieving this relationship since last summer and am still in a bit of grief. Someone told me that grief is love that doesn't know where to go. I get that now.
Sometimes when I really miss him (which is a lot) especially because of the way that he made me laugh... I make this goat noise he used to do to me to remind me that it was real and that I'll have these feelings again one day. And every time I do, I always pray that he is okay and well and that he knows how much he is loved.
I learned so much from that relationship and also learned that is where are biggest life lessons are learned (I always thought it was in our jobs). I finally understood what Esther Perel meant when she said that her parents were able to survive the concentration camps in WWII because of love. I understood what it felt like to show your scars to someone and be vulnerable.
And most of all, I understood that I can't love anybody if I don't love myself.
This crazy marathon runner, female founder archetype I created for myself was a facade. Of course, these are pieces of me. But what I crave (and what I believe we all crave) is to be seen, heard and loved for who we are and not just what we do. To have a place to call home where you're not questioned for being yourself. Or in the words of Drake.... " to be wearing sweatpants, hair tied, chillin' with no make-up on" and have someone think you're the prettiest and coolest.
I share this with you because I believe there are a lot and I mean a lot of humans (especially women) with brilliant ideas and dreams who are dumbing down for fear of not being loved or having love for being who they really are. I almost did, which means we have to change the culture because God makes no mistakes on the way that we are designed. Period.
Choosing the entrepreneurship path is the hardest and loneliest path I have ever chosen but it has given my life greater meaning. It's made me put love first and lead with love in everything I do. This is a big deal for me because I truly didn't believe I deserved love until I was perfect and so was Anact (whatever that means).
How do we change the narrative and let love in?
For me, it's sharing my experience as a woman and a founder to help others know they are not alone. I have pushed through quite a bit because of watching other founders I look up to build businesses (shout-out to Ty Haney at Outdoor Voices) while sharing their experiences with love because it gives me hope and who doesn't like hope these days?
It's also a gentle reminder to everyone that we are all suffering from things we don't always speak of (or can't) and to give each person space to show up without labeling or putting certain expectations on them. I imagine most people who are reading this don't know this is an experience I have been going through, which is totally fine.
But what hasn't felt fine is an expectation I have often felt to explain myself while nursing a broken heart and running a business too. I've had so many men make assumptions that just because I don't have a ring on my finger that I'm available and make advances that have left me feeling frustrated because even though these advances are flattering - they are not the person I wish to receive them from.
These experiences of having my boundaries violated and my space not respected have not been exclusive to male interactions. I've had women try to befriend me by using slogans and tag-lines putting down he who must not be named (and really just men in general) in an effort to bond with me, which really hurts and sucks.
Saying things like "girls rule and boys drool" might have worked when we were younger but I truly believe that each human being is sacred and that just because something didn't work out doesn't mean that anyone is the bad guy. Because if any of these people knew how close I came to love (and that I got up at 2am to include this piece because that's how bad I wanted to write it) then I hope and pray they would tread more carefully with more respect even if they haven't had that experience for themselves.
Don't get me wrong. I would love to cut through the heart of it and bulldoze Anact to a multimillion-dollar company but the reality is that you don't get there without putting in a lot of love and maybe just maybe some of the best takeaways on the quest to hit specific financial milestones are not the milestones themselves but what we learned about ourselves and the moments that we create along the way.
I know I'll never forget that moment I heard him say that whatever I did to not look back in anger... just be grateful and walk away. Ouch. That hurt to type.