It has happened. This thing, this giant gargantuan THING that has been hanging over our heads and weighing down our shoulders, this larger than life albatross around our necks…it’s gone.
Seven years ago Adam bought a business. Despite how I often characterize him as a goofy,bumbling, man-child, Adam has another side to him. He is an incredibly ambitious man who truly loves working, and what’s more, he’s good at it. Really good.
He’s driven, smart, and truly has a head for business. So a few years after university he bought a store. Within two years of buying this store he had doubled sales, expanded its services and improved its overall look and layout. Not bad for a 24 year old.
But no matter how good you are, no matter how ambitious and driven and dedicated, there are still circumstances beyond your control.
The Olympics came and went. The economy tanked. Our town started to wilt and falter. Businesses started closing. Adam laid off some staff and began working 6 days a week to fill the gaps. I imagine he thought this would be temporary, but he ended up working 6 days a week for the past four years. I can’t even begin to imagine what that feels like.
The downturn continued and Adam kept working, because that was the only option. To just keep working and pouring more and more into the business to keep it going until things got better. He rolled with the punches as best he could – re-vamping the store to get more available floor space without having to pay more rent, streamlining some of the processes and cross-training staff to be more efficient.
It was amazing, depressing and humbling to see him work so hard. I admire him so much for this.
The store has been a source of great joy, great conflict and great stress for both of us over the past few years. And through it all, I struggled to write about it. I couldn’t write about it, I felt – and still feel- that this was Adam’s story to tell. It felt wrong somehow to chart the progress of something I had so little involvement in, comparatively speaking. And Adam wouldn’t ever write about it, just like he rarely complained about it. It’s just not in his nature to wallow or stagnate or bemoan his fate (I do that for both of us it seems ;).
Of course he had moments of frustration, handfuls of breaking points over the years- we both did. But whereas I got to bury my head in the sand and avoid the situation, go to my own job, forget what was happening, he had to be there. Every day. Dealing with all of the problems and carrying all of the stress and not getting much out of it anymore, because after paying rent and employees and bills, there simply wasn’t much left over to get.
When we found out I was pregnant, everything changed. We hadn’t planned the baby’s impending arrival being a catalyst for such change, but that’s exactly what it became. As the days and weeks passed and we began to contemplate in greater detail just how our lives were about to change, we realized that we couldn’t just continue waiting it out, hoping things would get better.
We needed a steady income, I needed my husband to be around enough to enjoy becoming a daddy.
Adam decided it was time to move on and close up in September. I know this was a hard decision for him to make, and I tried to let him make it himself. I didn’t want to push or insist or cajole. I felt strongly that as hard as it was, he needed to say those words, come to that conclusion himself. I’ve had one foot out the door for years, but it’s a hard thing to let go of, a business you’ve poured so much into. So he had to say those words, he had to get to that point where it was okay to call it.
It took a while to sink in, but I think we were both beginning to feel comfortable with an end date in sight, even if it wasn’t the end we had hoped for. We’d still be coming out with less than we came in, but nonetheless for the first time in seven years we started planning for “after”, and it felt good.
Then, while we were on vacation, Adam got word that someone was interested in taking over the store at the end of July, instead of the end of September as previously thought. This was good news. This was great news. I had long felt nervous about these two huge life events – selling the store and having the baby – being tied so closely together. The thought of having a 3 month buffer to finish everything up, to decompress, for Adam to figure out what he wants to do next – this was a lifesaver.
So we came back from vacation, heard this news and were immediately plunged into an insane few weeks of non-stop back and forth, a crazy flurry of action. Due to the speed of the transaction, every day was a roller coaster of if’s and what-if’s, highs and lows.
The deal was going through, and then it wasn’t. Things were settled, and then they weren’t. We were going to be done at the end of July, and then suddenly the process would stall and things looked uncertain again. It was incredibly frustrating, emotionally exhausting.
In the evenings I’d get home from work and we would sit and look at each other. He’d talk and talk and talk, trying to figure everything out. I would listen feeling impotent and wishing I could do more, shoulder more. I rubbed his back and heard him speak and offered my support.
I didn’t know what else to do.
Back and forth and back and forth. Two weeks filled with phone calls and meetings and deals, inventories and signed and witnessed letters. Adam’s dad came out to help him tie up in ten days all of the loose ends he thought he had three months to deal with.
And then, on Saturday, we handed over the keys. We were done.
I have imagined writing this post a million times. I have waited for this day, hoped for it, prayed for it. Every time I’ve done my tarot cards in the past two years I have searched their meaning for any sign that this day was on the horizon.
It was strangely anticlimactic, this calm after the storm.
I don’t think it’s sunk in yet, that it’s over. Things are starting to shift, to take hold – I hadn’t realized how much time I spent continually worrying about the store, thinking about the store. I didn’t realize how heavily it weighed on us until the last few days as I kept observing thoughts pop unbidden into my head, worries about staffing and scheduling and bills and whether or not I’d completed some task or other. It feels very strange to have these thoughts pop up and not have to take action, find a solution. It feels strange to be able to simply shrug my shoulders, wipe my hands clean. Not my problem anymore.
Adam has developed a great relationship with the new owner and is planning on staying on for a few months to show him the ropes, but in a much reduced capacity.
In many ways he’ll go back to how it was at the beginning, how it would have stayed if things had gone as planned. Working five days a week instead of six. Working 8 hours a day instead of 12. And actually being paid for the work he’s doing.
Miracle of miracles! I think he might just lose his mind from all this free time and money!
I’m a strong believer in taking the positive out of situations – even ones that have felt so depressing at times. By doing this I don’t want to gloss over how tough it’s been because that would undervalue how hard Adam has worked to keep all of it together. There have been many fights had and tears shed over this business, it’s put a great deal of stress on us as a couple, emotionally and financially. But nonetheless, there were incredible moments, fun moments, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, I never thought I would get to this place, but I don’t regret it.
I think this experience has strengthened us in a way that no other could. Working so closely with Adam has given me a unique view of him that I don’t think very many other people have about their spouses.
I learned that he’s an insanely hard worker, that he’s trustworthy and honest, he treats people right. He’s a genuinely kind person, – too kind sometimes, and he has a hard time saying no to those in need (but really, this isn’t a negative, is it?).
I’ve seen how his customers have grown to respect him, love him. It wasn’t unusual for people to phone him for a sale and simply leave their credit card number, trusting him to pick the right item for them and not screw them over.
Whenever I worked in the store with him, as soon as people found out I was his wife they would tell me that I picked a good one. That I was lucky to have him as my husband.
And although it was hard at times, frustrating at times, and although if I’m honest, one of the things I’ve learned is that I never ever want to work that closely with him again for the sake of our sanity and our marriage and our lives please god NEVER AGAIN- goddamn do I agree with his customers.
I did pick a good one. I am lucky.
We are fortunate to have had this experience that has broken so many marriages, and come out stronger for it. I think that says a lot about us as a partnership, but more still about the kind of man Adam is, the kind of man he becomes when the going gets tough.
So no, I don’t regret it, but I am so, SO glad that it’s over. I can’t wait for Adam to have two day weekends, a full week of evenings off, a full paycheque. I can’t wait to see who he becomes without this weight, in the absence of this albatross.
I can’t wait to share these next few months with him unencumbered by responsibility, before a new, infinity more fun and rewarding responsibility emerges onto the scene with a happy wail.
More than anything though, I am so very,very happy to write the following words in regards to this business, this chapter of our lives:
(But also, The Beginning!)