Learning To Fail.
It’s been 10 months in the Philippines. While there have been many beautiful moments of impact and breakthrough with the A Beautiful Refuge shop, we’ve been successful in getting the wheels turning for our big factory project, and we’ve been (mostly) able to acclimate to living overseas and (mostly) able to pay our bills, there has been a bit of a dark cloud hanging over my head- the feeling of failure.
Though logically I know that my feelings aren’t exactly realistic or healthy, it doesn’t change the fact that I feel like ABR should already be running more smoothly than it is right now. I feel like the factory project should be farther along at this point. I feel like I’m helplessly stuck in a holding pattern, waiting for things to happen s l o w l y, and I really despise that feeling.
I think that many of those feelings stem from the fact that it’s been a humbling almost-year for me, because I haven’t always been able to deliver. I grew up in a very performance-based environment that placed a lot of value on excelling in academic pursuits and in cultivating a high-producing, relentless work ethic. I’ve always been a “can-do-it” girl, and I thrive on doing a GREAT job at whatever I do. I remember overhearing my colleagues at one of my first jobs back in the day marveling over that capacity- “Hannah can do anything- just give a project to her and it will be incredible”- and I have fed off of those words for years.
It’s been a new experience for me, this year, to have to cancel huge orders for ABR because I couldn’t get suppliers lined up by a certain deadline. It’s been a new experience to not always be adored by my freelance clients as I struggle to make the quality of my work the same as it was in the states- shooting visual content in a tiny, dark apartment instead of my light-filled studio space in the states, and struggling to write copy in between my other “full time” jobs with a half-fried brain. It’s been a new experience to not be able to deliver through this blog- I have such a backlog of posts that I’ve promised but haven’t yet written.
To be honest I’ve found myself wanting to shrink back a bit, and I’ve felt that old enemy, anxiety, creep in. My chest tightens when I open my email inbox in the morning, I’m not as confident as I usually am, and I’m not as motivated to pursue new freelance clients/projects/collaborations.
Part of that is probably a bit of depression, too. Both Andrew and I can get incredibly lonely (It’s hard to make friends as an adult, even harder in a brand-new environment). We try to combat feelings of depression by taking care of ourselves, working out, attending events and being around people as much as we can, but it still affects us.
I’m not really sure why I’m writing all of this down in a public blog post- I sat down to write a “end of month update post”, and this is what flowed out. I’m going to hit “publish”, because I think it’s important to be honest about my experience as a social enterprise manager and freelance entrepreneur. It can be so easy to create an image online that consists of only the fun and exciting parts: expat adventures, “digital nomad #goals”, beach days, happy employees smiling at the camera, stories of hope and joy and excitement. I want to share those stories, but I want to share this stuff, too. I don’t want other entrepreneurs to feel pressured to put on a happy face, or pretend like they love every moment of what they do. I don’t want aspiring social enterprise owners to stumble into the socent world without knowing that it’s not always easy and rewarding.
The highlight of this past month was definitely traveling to the island of Bohol. We scored some incredibly cheap round-trip tickets, and a friend blessed us with a free place to stay. Nature and adventure are both incredibly healing and energizing forces for me, and I worked through a lot of emotional baggage while floating in the ocean, walking through quiet forests, and also (in a less glamorous fashion) laying on the cement on the side of the road and crying (It’s a long and hilarious story!).
I’ve also loved my new self care/fitness routine lately. After one too many people here in the Philippines told me “You’re getting fat!” (It’s not a cultural taboo like it is in the states), I realized that my body has, indeed, gotten a bit unhealthier over the past few months and I committed to take care of my body a bit better and get my butt to some yoga/boxing/crossfit classes. It’s been such a huge positive boost for my overall mental health, in addition to making my body stronger.
October and November ended up being insane months for ER’s business (‘tis the season for lots of bespoke wedding gowns and bridesmaid dresses) and for my life… We were concerned about the success of a crowdfunding campaign running through December, so we’ve chosen to push the beginning of the factory fundraising campaign to sometime in January, in the new year.
This will hopefully give us a bit more time to work on crafting the perfect designs for our limited-run kickstarter garment collection, rope in a few investors or larger donors, and also have time to enjoy being with family over the holidays instead of being glued to a computer screen.