The last few -- okay, 8 months have been various levels of rough at the Culver house. We've had some very lovely times too, but mostly things have been stressful. And the root cause of this is work. The problem -- okay ONE of the problems has been that Jeff and I both have jobs that we essentially invented. So when work is stressful, we really have no one to blame but ourselves. And when you work for yourself, it's very hard to know if this is a "phase" that is necessary to go through so that you can then come out the other side. And it is also very hard to know when and where this "other side" is. Are we there yet? How about now? No?
When Jeff left Wamu, or rather, when Wamu went down in flames, Jeff helped with the Chase Bank transition and then started his own firm wherein he does various levels of consulting on design, marketing and brand development. The first year was incredibly stressful because we decided that it was also a good year to have a baby and for me to quit my job. This goes against our typically risk-averse decision making pattern, but his severance package combined with our savings allowed us a year of risk and it paid off.
After hustling for a year, working on various small scale projects - Jeff got an email out of the blue from a large restaurant group in Seattle asking about employing his firm (i.e. him) to market their restaurants. They'd seen some of his work or something, and liked it. I still remember the email, because it came in while we were spending a week on Orcas, just the three of us. It was early August, and things took off very quickly after that.
Jeff eventually started renting a tiny (like the size of a closet-tiny) office in Fremont and he became very busy - redesigning websites, menus, shopping for restaurant lighting, naming a new catering space, you get the idea. Other clients started coming in. And from that email on Orcas until July of 2012, I'd say that while things were stressful, there was almost always time for an episode of Mad Men after Edie went to bed. And at least MY work schedule was manageable. I was able to pick up the slack at home while Jeff worked his ass off turning his company into a legitimate thing.
But then this July, an old colleague from Wamu reached out and quickly hired him for a big project at the Gates Foundation. It was a major coup. And then like 1 day later, he got another job for a different team at the Foundation. And meanwhile, he still has all his old clients to keep happy. And then one of his clients at the Foundation referred him to a third team and now he has more work than one human should be doing. He has a virtual company with something like 6 or 7 part-time contractors working for and with him.
And suddenly we can afford to buy me a new car and talk of resuming long-dormant house projects is resuming ... but. BUT. Watching Jeff work this much is sort of like watching one of those thrillers where Matt Damon just keeps getting dirtier and bloodier and by the end he's limping around with shards of glass in his hair, a gunshot wound in his foot and all I can focus on is that THE MAN NEEDS A BATH AND A DOCTOR. Like all I want is to cut to the end where he's all bandaged up and rested. And clean.
Which is not to say that Jeff is dirty. And he hasn't been shot. But he just keeps dragging himself around, working until 2 or 3am and eating power bars instead of meals. It's hard to watch. AND. To add to this, I decided this Fall that, "Hey! Maybe I'll start my own company too!" So now Jeff is crazy busy, my work load is building, some of which involves taking trips for work, and we are farming Edie out to grandparents and Jeff is doing solo parenting and ... well... it's been rough.
But it's hard when I say that, because I also want to convey how amazing it is to know that this thing Jeff is doing, this company he is building - he did it without any handouts, without any built-in clients. It's taken time and a ridiculous number of late nights, but it seems we are on the precipice of something big: The Next Chapter.
Jeff signed the lease this week on an office space for his company. We took a family field trip with the first load of supplies this afternoon. I have a picture my Mom took of my Dad in 1980, in front of his new office space (my Dad also owns his own company, which he started when I was a baby), holding me in his arms with his office in the background. I couldn't help but think of that photo when I snapped these today:
I'm so hopeful - for Jeff and for our family - that this space offers him the opportunity to hire co-workers that will share space with him. Which will make his work-life more rewarding, more efficient, and hopefully, less stressful.