Like many Americans, the weekend after Thanksgiving means holiday decorating for me.
As a young child growing up in the woods of New England, Christmas trees were procured from the backyard, or at the very least, directly from a Christmas tree farm down a back road. The smell of sawdust, evergreen, and possibly snow permeates my memory of early Christmases. The smells symbolized a season of hope and giving.
Fast forward 25 years, and annual Christmas tree procurement in an urban environment looks much different. To gain a live tree, schools and churches will have holiday sales in their parking lots. Fresh trees are often overpriced. And most urban homes are not large enough for towering fresh pines. Although it was foreign to me growing up, many people I know now have artificial Christmas trees.
I made the plunge myself several years ago, purchasing a diminutive artificial tree, as a small condo did not give much space for a robust Frasier Fir. And when I bought a much larger home, I swore that I would only go back to live Christmas trees, to connect with my roots. I loved the process of finding the perfect tree, of putting it in water, of the fresh smell of pine when I walked in the house. Buying a live tree symbolized "success" to me.
But for some reason, I held on to the artificial tree, residing in a tree bag in my garage. It didn't feel big enough, full enough, or pine-y enough for my lifestyle and definition of success. But yet, it remained.
Fast forward again to this year. I made the huge decision to leave the security of government service and start my own coaching and consulting business. As any small business owner will tell you, those first few months are hard - REALLY HARD, at times. Cash flow is always an issue, you question "Why did I do this?" and "What am I doing?", and ponder if this is a sustainable choice. Yet, you still keep going, as something inside you says this is worth it, this is the right choice. And it is.
Over the last 6 months, I've had to redefine what success has meant for me, constantly searching and reminding myself what my "powerful why" is with this choice. And while the bank account is much lower than I've been used to, the success and happiness accounts have had large deposits. Success is now measured by working with great and diverse clients; by doing work I love and that has impact; and by working outside on a gorgeous fall day. Success is feeling more broke than I have in a long, long time, but much happier too.
So as a new small business owner on a tight budget, I decided to bring out that ol' artificial tree this year to decorate for the holidays. It's not as big as past years, nor as bushy and pine-y. But as I look at the lights on that small artificial tree this year, I'm proud and reflective. I made it through my first 6 months as a small business owner, I continue to make smart choices, and I continue to invest in my own happiness and contribution to the world. My little artificial tree still symbolizes hope and giving. And who knows, hopefully that bank account will increase next year. I might even buy a fresh tree next year. But I'm pretty sure I'm not getting rid of my little artificial tree, either.