Checking Out, Checking In.

Ten years ago, I started a business. It never became large. It never made me rich, or even that well off, frankly. What it did was suck up mountains of my time, force me to work weekends, holidays and late nights. It took a toll on my body, on my sleep and my psyche. I worked long, hard hours and on more than a few occasions, I had to call in backup to help get an order out by the date I promised. If I had put in anything close to this amount of work anywhere else, I would probably be a VP of some division by now.

Over my working life, I’ve held quite a few jobs in many different industries. I like to think that I’ve done a good job at all of those places and if I decided that it wasn’t the place for me to stay, I’ve always reminded myself that I had learned a valuable lesson in the interim. I had learned what I didn’t want to do and whom I did or didn’t want to work with. Essentially, I got to know myself better through the trial and error of employment.

Putting in overtime always bugged me, especially when I was a salary man. I don’t think I’m a slacker as much as I believe that I have my priorities set correctly. I recall with horror the moment many years ago when I was confronted with this information and I had to keep it from showing. I had just started a new job managing a retail store and my new and enthusiastic boss, in an effort to make me feel… empowered, I guess, clapped a hand on my shoulder and said, “Are you ready to make XYZ store you top priority?”

I’m sure that he was trying to instill a feeling of responsibility and pride in me but what shot through my brain was, “My Mom, my Dad, my girlfriend, my friends, my health, my mental well being, hiking, biking, fishing, painting…. Buddy, this store doesn’t even make my top ten list.” I’m a hard worker though and I tried to make improvements and boost sales. That’s what he SAID he wanted. That wasn’t so true in practice.


He turned out to be a very difficult person to work for and after I had been there for about a year and a half, I left under a cloud after he caught me idly doodling on a piece of scrap paper when I should have been helping nonexistent customers. I had worked for a number of individuals after this particular individual, but always chafed a bit at being told what to do and when to do it. I confess, I’ve never “played ball” well and when I saw an opportunity to start my own shop and do things my way, I took the leap.

Being a small business owner means a lot of things, but what it means the most is time. You get none. The business gets it all. The funny thing was, all the unpaid overtime that I had put in before and resented like hell, didn’t bug me when it was for my own shop. It was all for me, and I enjoyed the work, which is good because there was a hell of a lot of it. More than I had ever seen before. But, hey, I was young, had a wife who also worked crazy hours and though this lifestyle almost ensured that we’d be toiling away through nearly every single holiday that came along, we had no kneebiters of our own, so why not? Then, about three years ago, that last part changed.

With the birth of my son, and then my daughter two years later, the slowing of the economy and my general weariness at having bent my shoulder to this particular grindstone for the last decade, I decided some months ago that I was done, cooked, burned out. I needed a change. The work isn’t fun anymore and what’s most important in my life are the two little munchkins who light up when they see me come through the door. I want more of that. A lot more.

Once the initial decision to sell my business a week or so of flopping around and coming up with strange and unusual ideas as to my next career came and went. I set aside the applications for hamster wrangler and licorice gunrunning and decided to take another look at my fading college diploma. I blew off the dust and just made out the faint cuneiform scratching on the crumbling clay tablet. It read, “Bachelor’s of Art Education, K-12”


I had given up on teaching a long time ago, mostly because it’s fiendishly difficult to find jobs teaching art. Most school shave one, perhaps two art teachers and in times of economic trouble, Art is almost always the first on the chopping block. I had done a lot of substitute teaching during my years of begging for work and I had taken two very important lessons away from that. The first was that I was going to grow old and die before a position opened up. The second was that I loved working with the little kids. K-3 is where I felt the happiest. The students are interested and interesting. The curriculum never leaves you confused and best of all; almost everything you show them is new and exciting.

I thought it was time to reexamine my college major with just a tweak or two for today’s reality. What I’ve found out is that I’m about six college classes and two tests away from being a K-3 teacher. I have a new goal.

Today, I will be signing the papers with the new owner. He will be handing me a check for, if not everything I was hoping for, an adequate amount to set my new life in motion. I’m going through a lot of emotions about this. Relieved that soon, I will be free of the burden that is small business ownership. Sad, to see a decade of my efforts leave my sphere of influence. Regretful for not having gotten to do a few things that I wanted in the business. Empty, realizing that I won’t come here and toil away like I have for so long. Pissed, that I ordered so many now useless business cards a few months ago.

Still, this is a good thing. Better than that, it’s the RIGHT thing. I’m tired of this work while the new owner is excited. He can’t wait to dive in and I have no question that he will do very well with it. He’s even invited me to come back any time and get my hands dirty, if I need a fix, for old time’s sake. That’s very nice of him, but I don’t see it happening.

He’s due to show up in the next hour and I’ll sign the business away. It’s just me, so there are no employees who have to be considered. I’ll put my John Hancock on the line, collect my check and stop at the back on the way home. When I walk through the door, my family will be waiting for me. It’s Christmas Eve today and the house will be warm and cheery. I’ll hug them all, Short Stack, Lulu Belle and Action Girl and get down to business. Being home for my family is my new endeavor. Teaching will help give me that ability.

Finally, I’ll be home for Christmas, and that’s the only gift I really need.



10 Responses

  1. It’s always good to be home for Christmas. Family should always take precedence…It’s good for your sanity.


    Thanks for the comment Trevas. I couldn’t agree more.

  2. It always bugs the hell out of me when I come across those bozos who want you to be some kind of robot for a company. Just who the heck do they think they are? What’s more important is, who the hell do they think we are? Some kind of toilet paper they can just use up?

    Good for you for getting out of that cycle and good luck in your next venture.

    Merry Christmas!

    Thanks Razz! I hope you had a merry one as well. Knowing you from your posts, I’m betting you made something wonderful to eat. Some day I’m going to show up on your door step with a bottle of wine and a smile for one of your dinners. Merry Christmas!

  3. Congratulations! And merry Christmas to you and your family 🙂

    And the same to you and yours! And thanks for the congratulations. Now all I need to do is find employment!

  4. All the best on your new endeavour! A change is as a good as a rest. Change is good once in a while; especially near vending machines!

    “One small step for someone, one large step for someone else.” I heard that somewhere.

    Or and arcade! I have no idea how many quarters I’ve popped into arcade games over the years!

  5. Teaching and raising up children go along great. Although the pay may not be as good as in some of the other jobs, you get the truly invaluable – a lot more time to spend with them. And it is a whole different type of time. Last year when my wife was on maternity leave we really got the best of it because of my teaching position and the flexibility you get with it.

    And all the best in your new life!
    P.S. Do save a business card or two, I bet there will be a big smile on your face when you find one on a bottom of some drawer in a few years from now.

    Thanks Grasswire. I’ll save more than a card. My company produced hand made kitchen and bath tile and I’m keeping enough equipment to have a pottery hobby studio. After something like fifteen years working with clay, there’s no way I can just give it up cold turkey. Besides, it will be a lot of fun for the kids to play with when they get older. I can’t wait to have the time with them that teaching will give me. That and I’m really looking forward to having my own classroom again.

  6. its people like you who make the best teachers so I wish you the best of luck. I’m still in college but until recently was having some doubt about my major and lots of people suggested that I should go into teaching. I actually did consider it seriously for a time and, just like you, could only imagine myself teaching the youngsters. I thought it would actually be fulfilling to saturate my working days with the innocence antics of children. Maybe its because I’ve grown to idealize my own childhood that I would like to be a part of others’. You really got me thinking about it again.

    Hey Tune Remedy,

    Thanks for the comment!

    Teaching can be a really amazing experience, good OR bad. When I was in college and single minded about becoming a teacher, I always imagined that I’d be teaching high school or at least, middle school. Just like my other experiences in jobs that didn’t suit me, I discovered that teaching the “big kids” not the right fit. The problem was that by the time I made that discovery, I was burned out. I needed to do something different. Well, now I’ve been doing something different for ten years and you know… I really miss having a classroom. This time though, I’m determined to teach where I’ll be happiest and that means with the munchkins. There aren’t a lot of male teachers at the k-3 grade level and I’m looking forward to being a positive male influence in the lives of our littlest people. The more I think about it, the more pumped up I get.

    If you think you might like teaching, then I’d suggest volunteering at a local school for a day or two and see what you think. It can be a very rewarding experience.


  7. I wish you all the best in your new / renwed role! As you’ve said yourself, with the new energy and a new perspective you will be able to enjoy your work as much as possible.
    Sometimes, I think about the choices I’ve made as a very young person – like choosing my studying field. A couple of years ago I thought I didn’t make the best choice studying journalism and actually I’ve never worked as a journalist, but as I get older the more attracted to journalistc writing I get.
    What I am trying to say is that sometimes it can look like we knew very little about ourselves, when in fact, we knew just enough to have made the right choice. It just depends on how you pursue those decisions.

    Thanks for the encouragement, Cashmerelady. Now all I have to do is study, study, study. Oh.. and get a job! I’m ready to get back to the the classroom, either in front of or behind the big desk.

  8. Wow, what an accomplishment. Starting and building your own business and selling it for what you’ll need to start the next chapter. Congratulations!

    I’m approaching my 10th anniversary at the company where I work and I’m starting to feel discouraged. In order to take the next step I’ll need to make an extraordinary contribution…and by that they don’t mean overtime. There aren’t enough hours in the day for overtime to qualify as extraordinary. If I had anything extraordinary left in me don’t you think I might want to expend it on what’s really important? Like, oh, I don’t know, maybe my kids!?! Don’t you think they deserve the extraordinary? So, I give up. I’ll settle for satisfactory at work and bring home what’s left for those that appreciate it.

    Way to go, TP!

    Thanks LBH! It’s great to have the support from you all! I know what you mean about hitting the top of your game and realizing that you’ll never make the big money. I made the same discovery with my own business and made my decision. Now I have a new adventure to get into!

  9. Happy New Year to you and your strangely named family! (lol)

    If you think they have strange names, you should meet my cat! 😉

  10. I’m very much in the same boat as Ladybug these days. To quote Jim from The Office, “If I advance any higher then this will be my career…and if this is my career then I’m going to throw myself in front of a train.”

    If I take one more step I will be in management which means slightly more pay but a lot more overtime and stress. As it is now, I make decent money, I like but don’t love my job and I come home in a good mood every night to a family life that is everything to me. I would still love to have a job I am passionate about, but right now my jobs as ‘dad’ and ‘husband’ are top priority.

    I’m still trying to work out the whole “Passionate job” thing too. Teaching seems to make the most sense to me at this point but I’m not burning with desire to start. I’ve done it before and the shine of idealism has been tarnished a bit by experience and maturity. Not that it doesn’t appeal! It does! Just not in that wide eyed “Wow!” kind of way that things look when you’re 21. What it would bring me is time with my kids and wife and that’s really all that matters so long as I’m happy with the work and make enough to live on.

    Still… wouldn’t mind hitting the lottery and being able to take on some of my hair brained business schemes, head on!

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