What is it with milestone birthdays that make you question your life and how far you feel you should be on your journey? 40 just seems to be so...major.
(The photos are a collection of me as a child, in my teens, 20's, 30's, and my 40th bday)
I have to say that growing up, hell even 10 years ago, I would NOT have had the slightest idea that I would be doing what I'm doing for work. I'm not someone who has always had a clear path or even mapped my life out. It's hard to explain this, but I grew up in a really privileged community and failing (like not going to a 4 year college) simply was not an option. I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do when I grew up, but I was betting that I would end up being fabulous. I was also secretly jealous of people who growing up always seemed to know what it is they were going to do. My husband, for example, always knew he would be an engineer. That was his plan in high school and he ended up getting a PhD in Electrical Engineering before I even began to figure out what I was meant to do.
For much of the past few weeks I have been fraught with self doubt and general insecurities; Am I far enough in my business? How do I set my business up so that it can grow? Am I really 40 years old and talking about dildos and fellatio? Where do I go from here? etc. As you can see, I could on for quite a long time, but I will save you from all the crazy in my head. I kinda feel like I need to be judicious and let my fears trickle out slowly or people will be going around talking about what a "hot mess" I am, which, in all honesty, probably ain't far from the truth.
Being in the field of sex and sexuality is truly the right place for me. I get it! But owning your own business in this field can be very frustrating. For years I did what I do but under the umbrella of a non profit. Working for a peer based non profit serving HIV positive youth probably made a lot of people assume or believe that I am HIV positive. Being so new to the field I wasn't sure how I would handle other people's assumptions, but it didn't seem like me being HIV negative was a big issue to the people that I served. However, I did quickly learn that many other service providers and service agencies in the San Francisco HIV positive community felt that I had no business being in the community because it wasn't "my" community. That is some seriously fucked up shit and it would take a whole blog post for me to get into the meat of it. Suffice it to say that I would have had some serious reservations over accepting the job if I had known how difficult my road was to be. This is one of those cases where ignorance was bliss.
It was only after I left the safety of the non profit that people began having difficulty understanding what it is that I do. As a new business owner, I joined business networking groups for entrepreneurs and even a local Chamber of Commerce. For over a year I continued to go to business mixers and weekly business leads meetings. I got the sense that people never got what it is I do, and because of that, I would never get good business leads. It also became pretty apparent that just because you own a business doesn't mean that you are actually good at running a business.
I got really lucky launching my business due to a few reasons; 1) I had direct experience running a non profit that had a ridiculously low and ever decreasing agency budget, and 2) my business is related to sex and sexuality and that self generates a lot of interest. I'm acutely aware that in a little over 2 years in business I have gotten more press and general media attention than people who have been in business (not related to sex or sexuality) 3x longer than me.
Success, whether it is true or perceived, can be a really weird thing for people to deal with. I've lost a few friends who were jealous of my success. Looking back now, I can see they were never true friends and that we were only connected by being friends with the same group of people. On the other hand, I feel like any successes I have had are not even remotely understood by most of the people in my direct and extended family. It's a strange idea to comprehend that my family will never really appreciate how fabulous I am. This probably has a lot to do with me being at a loss whenever I receive a lot of fan attention and/or being occasionally recognized when I am out and about.
I am extremely grateful to everyone who believed in me! I'm really thankful that I was able to start a small business in a down economy and work for myself. That alone is a huge success to me! The fact that I have made some amazing friends within my sex educator community is also pretty freaking awesome.
Honestly, I probably wouldn't have been motivated to start my own business 10 years ago. Growing older has brought me an understanding and appreciation for all the big and little successes in life. I guess turning 40 isn't as bad as I thought.