The other night Kim and I took a walk over to Glendale Blvd for the last Atwater Village Summer Nights on the Boulevard of the summer. It's not much of an event but it's nice. You can wander through little stores that display, in their windows, the very soul and dreams of the shop owner. Many are suffering through the realities of business and you can feel the self doubt as you spot corners being cut in product and displays. Most will be gone within a year, and new dreamers will then take their places, chasing their passion for knitted cell phone covers. It's inspiring and heart breaking at the same time.
All these thoughts were in my head while recently talking to a longtime and dear friend who has followed her passions all the way to Spain in search of the ultimate dream—not an entrepreneurial endeavour, but a higher goal—Love. Much like my own experience with 5 Boroughs Ice Cream and those "Dear Diary" businesses along the boulevard, my friend is struggling. Plopped down in the middle of a foreign country, with a minimal grasp of the language, hard financial stresses, and renegotiating a lifelong contract with epilepsy—she's keeping her chin up—but barely.
All of this makes me ask why. Why does anyone ever chose to open a small business or attempt a relationship when every card is stacked against you and the fail rate is so high? The only reason I can think of is because we cannot not do it. It is in us to do. When given the chance at starting my ice cream company I could not have said no, even though the numbers clearly made no sense. And I've read interviews of successful artists, athletes, and the like who when asked what made them do it answer simply, "I couldn't not do it. It's who I am, successful or not." This makes me believe that this is what we are all doing. These decisions lead to experiences we are compelled to do and to not do them would leave a hole in ourselves so large as too never be filled.
However, these experiences are fraught with the voices of naysayers and self-doubt, "Why have I done this to myself? What was I thinking? Why me?" But surely the greats have had these same thoughts. Surely, the Picaso's, Julia Childs, and the Barishnikovs of the world have thought, "This was foolish, I should have stayed home watching Raymond re-runs." They too had to struggle through the writer's blocks, the absence of clear direction, and the poverty of living a life they can't help but live—and so must we. Each one of those big-dream, small businesses on the boulevard, each person sacrificing for a chance at love, each and every one of us struggling to get a stifling 9-5 job are living the life we cannot not live. And much like the Picasos of the world, each one of us gets up everyday to live that life that only we can live, making art of our lives just by living and feeling it—for there can be no art without suffering, and no success without failures