CIRCLES OF COMMUNITY | By JOANNA TEBBS YOUNG
This is to you: You who have stepped out of line. You who have acknowledged that the workplace isn’t your place. You who daily faces your fears in a world of uncomfortable self-promotion and uncountable unpaid hours. You who have questioned your own sanity that you would put yourself in this continuously tenuous situation. Who have questioned your self-worth in a society that only sees success in the color green. You who have danced on that hair-width line between charging too much and taking too little. Who have wanted to give everything for free because, after all, this work is your passion and “real work” is meant to be hard.
This is to you: the yoga teacher, the farmer, the massage therapist, the Reiki practitioner, the IT consultant, the freelance writer, graphic designer, and editor, the private practicing therapist, the life coach, the health coach, the business coach, the independent hairdresser, the café owner, the boutique proprietor, the baker, the carpenter, the toy maker, the jewelry maker, the soap maker, the seamstress, the dance teacher, the knitter, the stone carver, the music teacher, the piano tuner, the interior designer, the beauty consultant, the artist, the tutor, and anyone else who has ever believed in their ability enough to go it alone.
You are brave. It takes immense courage to leave the shackles of a job that may have been slowly strangling you, or to take a different route after a layoff or difficult life transition. It is not easy. (And, I understand, not always possible.) Our society does not readily support entrepreneurs and those who step out alone, where they risk putting themselves in a place of need.
(This raises an interesting question: Is not the American Dream one where anyone who is willing to work hard can “make it”? And yet, those who choose to work hard away from the conventional workplace — until they “make it” and we can then all cheer for the Great American Success Story — are viewed with suspicion. If you are struggling, the American Dream is just that, a dream.)
The American Dream is about individuals making it alone. But we are social animals. We, as some song said once, are not islands. We need each other. Need. Not a comfortable word, but yes, when you have chosen to go out alone, to pursue your passions and talents, you need help. You need support and encouragement.
Michelle Rock of BROC says that Vermont places third in the nation for highest number per capita of those in the microbusiness labor force and rates first in income earned through microenterprise. “Micro-business is the backbone of Vermont,” she says. Do you know what this means? It means you are not alone. That there are thousands of others who have “stepped out of line,” learning to make a go of it as an entrepreneur, as a sole-proprietor, as a small business owner.
And there are ways to connect and help support each other, some in physical space, others in cyberspace. Here in Rutland there is BROC’s Networking Lunch, Rutland Young Professionals, the Chamber, the new Women’s Professional Development Center, and others (please share any in the comments). Online there is Facebook, where groups such as Local Share allow you to connect with others and promote your services, and neighborhood sites such as Nextdoor and Front Porch where you can let your immediate neighbors know what you’re up to.
Please help your fellow and sister entrepreneurs by sharing their work — online and by word of mouth.
Promoting another person, even if their business is similar to yours, will not hurt your business because everyone, in their uniqueness, has their own strengths and niches. Think collaboration rather than competition. Above all, please don’t be afraid to ask for help. We are all in this together.
Author Howard Thurman apparently once said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” And it is also our small microcosm of the world here in our town and our state that also needs people who have come alive.
When a town is full of those who are doing what they love and what they are naturally good at, when people feel supported and encouraged in their own abilities, the community is stronger and more positive over all.
Your “tank” is fuller and you are more capable of reaching out and giving a hand of support to others. This, I believe, is why many who visit the Vermont Farmers Food Center on a Saturday — according to their Facebook posts and personal conversations — come away with a feeling of buoyed energy and happiness: that place is full of people who have chosen to follow their dreams, despite the many challenges, to do what they love.
And so I thank you. And I salute you. And Rutland thanks you.
(And to those of you who have found fulfillment and who “come alive” in the “conventional” work world, you too help make our community a better place. Wherever you find your happiness and your passion, that’s exactly where you need to be.)
This week’s Writing Prompt
Each week I will post two prompts related to this week’s article; one for personal insight and one for a creative springboard. Let them lead you where you want to go.
- Prompt 1: “I come alive when…”
- Prompt 2: The day she opened the door to her own business…