Recently I had a pivoting moment in my life. Or I think that’s what you would call it. A moment where you just know that things are not going to be the same after whatever happened happened.
I was at a friend’s house at a small casual dinner party. We had got together that night because another friend of ours was home for the holidays, with her family from Norway, and this was the only night all of us could find time in our busy schedules to get together. There was a fourth friend that was going to join us also, but she was stuck in West Iceland somewhere on account of the terrible weather we were having that day. So a fairly typical Icelandic holiday moment: friends from afar and somebody stuck somewhere in horrible weather.
I’ve known these girls since we were kids. I’ve lived with them, worked with them and traveled with them and almost all of my memories from about a ten year period in my life involves at least one of them. Now they (and I too) have husbands and partners and kids (no pets, though) so we don’t see each other as much as we would like to but they are still some of the most important people in my life.
The day had been super stressful for me. We had a storm that day that had caused almost every tour out of the city to be canceled, and I had my phone glued to my ear that whole day trying to salvage my guests’ long-awaited trips to Iceland. We were expecting another storm the next day, during a period that was already very busy, and the whole situation was just a mess.
As we sat there chatting, getting caught up on each others’ lives, I got a phone call from a partner that I had been in touch with earlier in the day about a group I was trying to book with them. They had managed to find them spots on a tour the next day and I had to book them ASAP. I needed internet STAT, and I frantically asked my friend’s husband whether they had WiFI.
Next thing I know I’m crawling under their dining room table, with my laptop in my hands, to get to their router to get the password for their WiFi. Their floor was sticky; they have twins that are almost one year old that love throwing their food around, and I was having a hard time reading the password in the darkness under the table. God damn it I mumbled in frustration and tried to turn my mobile into a hot spot with one hand while maneuvering the router with the other.
At that exact moment, it was like I floated out of my body and I looked down at this wreck below me, stuck under a dining room table with a laptop in the middle of a dinner party. I had come straight from the office to their house, and I looked liked I had got dressed in the dark that morning. I had mad scientist hair, probably a deranged look in my eye, and it suddenly hit me: This is not normal!
My other friends who were giddy over the fact they had left their son with his grandma, a luxury they rarely enjoy in Norway (far away from their families), brought beer in a bag to get the party started. I brought a laptop and business calls.
If there is one word that comes to mind before any other when I think about 2016, it has to be gratitude. I Heart Reykjavík’s business grew a lot between years and with the help of my fantastic team we took it from a half-baked idea that mostly just existed in my head (I was running it as a sole proprietor making strategic decisions on a whim) to a growing legitimate company. The boyfriend quit his job to join the team full-time, we got a new office and got our affairs in order to obtain a travel agency license from the Icelandic Tourist Board. It was in one word amazing.
On a personal level, I was able to fulfill a dream of mine when we bought a new home in March. It all happened very fast and more or less three weeks after we first looked at the place we had moved in. We had been in our old apartment for almost seven years, the boyfriend and the princess for even longer, and although we did our best to make it cozy and comfortable it never felt like home to me.
When we first stepped into our new apartment, even though it needed quite a bit of work, I knew I was home. And nine months later I still feel the need to hug the walls and the floor every time I come home just for being there for us. We had given up on looking when we found it by accident. It was a little out of our price range but we had just about saved up enough money for a downpayment that would be enough for the bank to give us a mortgage for the rest. It was a classic tale of being at the right place at the right time and trusting that things would work out somehow.
I’m very aware that we would never have been able to do this without I Heart Reykjavík and all the support from you guys, the readers. Before I started I Heart Reykjavík as a business I didn’t have a job and apparently I was unemployable. Many of the companies I sent applications to back then in the hope of getting a job and that did not even respond to me are now my partners. They send me Christmas presents to thank me for the cooperation and listen to me speak about how I did this in conference rooms around town. The world is funny that way sometimes. We were living on a single income and even though we were not in trouble things were not exactly moving forward either.
At the same time that I’m so overwhelmed with gratitude that I just randomly start crying out of nowhere because I can’t express it any other way, 2016 was also one of the toughest years of my life. I’ve been dealing with anxiety like I’ve never experienced before, felt deep feelings of inadequacy which I haven’t been able to shake off completely and the continuous lack of rest has affected both my mental and physical health. I’ve had more tests done at the doctor’s this year than probably my whole life, to rule out obscure diseases that might be causing symptoms I know in my heart are stress related. I’ve eaten nothing but crap, because I never have time to sit down for a proper meal, and all of a sudden none of my (very expensive) outdoor clothing fit me anymore.
I’ve just powered through this because that’s what you do and that’s what I Heart Reykjavík has needed. You read that everyone hustles for 16 hours a day for the first few years of a new business so you assume that it’s normal to feel guilty about taking Christmas eve off to spend it with your family. That it is normal to find yourself on the floor under a dining room table working in the middle of a dinner party with your friends that you see 2-3 times a year. If you are lucky. Who you’ve completely neglected the whole year because you’ve been too busy to partake in life.
I have never successfully made a new years resolution and stuck to it. Apparently, I’m not alone in this but yet we try.
In 2017 I am going to try and take better care of myself. I’m going to eat better and I’m going to learn how to meditate and practice mindfulness. I’m going to read more (or listen more – audio books count too) and I’m going to spend more productive time with my family without feeling guilty about it. I’m going to find someone or something to help me through this anxiety I’ve been experiencing and I’m going to remember always to give thanks for my blessings.
As for I Heart Reykjavík, we will continue to strive for excellence and build on the foundation we laid in 2016. We are going to join Vakinn, the official quality system for tourism in Iceland, and have already started the work. We have put a deadline on applying for it by February 1st and want to have as much work done as possible by then. We’re going to produce more content, more blog posts and podcasts and all that got lost in the reorganization of 2016. Basically, we’re going to try to get back to being us.
I read something on the Seth Godin blog in December that really struck a chord with me that I will try to live by this year. It actually made such a profound effect on me that I printed it out and framed it and now it’s next to my desk at the office. There were three sentences in particular that resonated with me and I find very relevant to where we are right now.
The successful small businessperson who gives up the edge that made the business work in order to make it bigger. Bigger isn’t better. It’s merely bigger.
A lot of the time I feel like I have to prove myself to not only the world but the critics in my head too. At times I’ve felt I’m not successful because there are others out there that are bigger than me. That get more press coverage and Tripadvisor reviews and are somehow just more down with it than I am. And that people don’t take what I do seriously because I’m a woman, because I’m not a tech entrepreneur and I am not in the “cool” crowd. Ridiculous thoughts really, something that should have got left behind in high school. You know, if we had high school in Iceland and all.
I’ve been guilty of spending too much energy on these thoughts in the last year, the first year on this journey of mine where I’ve experienced some real hurdles that I have had to deal with, and my focus had strayed toward wanting to become bigger to prove something. But I actually don’t have to prove anything to anyone and in 2017 we will shift our focus back to I Heart Reykjavík’s core values. We want to be better – not bigger. And we want to do it in a way that is good for our community, our guests and ourselves.
So unlike last year, when I started the year stressed and fearful of the unknown, I start 2017 with the confidence that we got this. We have work to do, like every business has, but we’re on the right path and I can feel this will be a good year for us. As long as we stay true to who we are, nothing can stop us.
Bring it on 2017!
I started writing this post before the new year and had planned to post it on January 1st. On New Year’s Eve I had another pivoting moment in my life when the silly man with the beard on the photo above whispered in my ear as the clock struck midnight: will you marry me?
I said yes so I guess now I have to start referring to him as the fiancé. The photo below was taken moments later. My eyes are puffy from all the crying.