I was sitting at my computer this afternoon, a page of notes to one side, an open calendar to the other, Skype headphones on, sorting through dates with my UK microbiologist. Material samples being prepared by a university group weren’t drying as fast as expected so delivery would be delayed. This collided with a hard deadline for starting experiments at a testing lab: no samples by Tuesday morning, no start until the following Tuesday.
We discussed our options: could we pick up samples from Nottingham on Monday morning, drive them down to Portsmouth for delivery before 5 pm. 200 miles, four hours driving, one way.
And I needed to be in London for a meeting with investors on Tuesday morning, Southampton for a clinical trial discussion on Wednesday, Maastricht Saturday for a friend’s 60th birthday…lines on the map criss-crossed and blurred.
Déjà vu all over again, trying to do it all?
Or just difficult choices, waiting to be made?
I took a time out for a think.
After the crash in June, I realized that my ‘portfolio lifestyle’ could not work. There needed to be focus, choices, commitments. Some things would be let go or handed to others. There would be balans en grenz around business and not-business time, living spaces would be consolidated, there would be a priority on relationships. I would stabilize the businesses, simplify my management of them, reduce expenses, sort the visa, and more, month by month.
It couldn’t be done overnight, but over the months life would change to something sane.
Fundamentally, I remain entrepreneur, expat, and partner. I can build a successful business making products that help people and that give back to employees, investors, and the community. I shall travel and understand places and people, enjoy conversations in cafe’s and excitement in festivals. I will share laughter, insight, love in a close relationship. Those three things in my life are important, non-negotiable: they are all things that I commit to, work hard at, and take deep pleasure in.
But fears slither into that straightforward paradise.
These are three difficult things individually to sustain; each needs a large commitment of time and resources. Together, they may still be too difficult.
In the short term, the businesses need to be stable, because the expat life is impossible if they fail.
In the long term, only relationships matter, more than any business or place.
I can’t simply mashed the two together into a frenetic on-road life. It works intermittently, but is no fun for anyone full-time.
The alternative, mixing the two with half away and half at home, has also proven spectacularly unsuccessful: both get neglected half the time when life is partitioned.
I have to admit that no matter how attractive the opportunity to live abroad and build a business looks, the reality is messy and stressy. My reactive pace and footloose flexibility is hard to reconcile with taking dedicated, slow time for enjoying extended family and leisure pursuits together.
It’s a short-term spiral with long-term consequences. I fear the anger, failure, loss, abandonment that may result. Worse, I likely create those same fears in those close to me.
I’m left wondering whether the life I want is a life that is too difficult to others, perhaps even for myself, to live with.
I look again at the calendar, the maps, the tasks.
So, which takes priority today? Should one be allowed to take away from the other now?
Give in to the mess and do what needs to be done, one more time?
Draw a line and acknowledge that change has to start somewhere, here, now?