I am no longer self-employed. My physical therapy clinic, Flourish, has wilted away. Not exactly wilted, more like it was surprisingly and thoroughly uprooted, not to be transplanted elsewhere. And I am wonderfully at peace with this.
Owning my own clinic has been an unexpected journey, a challenge, and a rewarding experience. I was thrust into self-employment after getting laid off at the onset of the pandemic and with zero job opportunities on the horizon. I ended up learning a lot, reinvigorating my passion for my career after realizing that I had become burnt out at my previous job, and meeting lots of cool new people and friends. I loved the freedom that came with working for myself and outside of the red-tape and decreasing-reimbursement nightmare that is working within the medical insurance system.
But starting a clinic during a pandemic, with no built-in referral source or connections, and convincing people to pay cash and not use their insurance was an uphill battle. Add to that my husband’s self-employment – complete with wildly unpredictable and variable income – and things were not going smoothly.
When my husband started suffering from mysterious medical ailments – we think anxiety-induced – and we lost our free family babysitter and I lost my very affordable shared-rent situation, the writing was glowing on the wall. I tentatively started poking around the job market to now find numerous opportunities, decided to apply for one in an unfamiliar setting, and received a job offer within a week. The path to move forward with my company was shrinking and overgrowing with weeds and downed trees, while there was a wide open, well-manicured boulevard of working for someone else begging me to walk in that direction.
I was surprised, however, with how much shame I felt at quitting or “failing” in running my own clinic. Success and failure are self-defined, but closing my doors felt pretty fail-y. I had surrounded myself with online resources and social media accounts dedicated to small business coaching, cash-based physical therapy ownership, and “Girl Boss” hoo-rah. They all seem to know the “secret” to successful self-employment, and knew that success was guaranteed if you bought their coaching package and followed their simple do’s and don’ts. I had positive affirmations pouring out of my screens, encouraging me to persevere and success would come.
Now, obviously, statistically that is far from true. Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2004 showed that 20% of new business in the health care sector didn’t make it past their first year. In the second year, another 17% dropped out, and the percentage continues to drop every year. I made it over the 1-year mark, so at least I got through the first culling!
I believe my bruised ego also came from the “can’t stop, won’t stop,” “never say die,” success-driven culture we live in. Of course I wanted to succeed! But truthfully, the only way I made it as far as I did is because I am married, my husband was pulling in some (random, unpredictable) money, and we got a bunch of stimulus checks! I had several good months compared to others, but never was I close to what I would have made working regular hours at another business.
Switching gears and going back to work for another felt like an immense relief, once I allowed myself to really consider the option. No longer would I have to stress about when my phone would ring next, about what to do for marketing and how to get clients, about finding content for never-ending social media posts, about wondering what would actually be effective out of the umpteenth efforts I’d made to get my name out there. Now I could simply show up to work, patients would be there, and I could do my job and go home with a paycheck.
Most happily, this new arrangement has even assuaged many of my general fears about working out of the house at all when I have young children starting preschool and beyond. I was so confused how anyone could work when their kids have early release days every Friday, have one or more days a month with no school (adding up to way more than typical PTO allotments), and are done with school at 3:00pm after not starting until 8:30. The daycare situation seems to get even more complicated when kids aren’t home all day every day, but have these less-than-a-full-day-of-work windows at school and still need supervision when home.
My new job is at an assisted living facility, where the average patient is 82 years old. They have earned the right to slow, lazy mornings and do not want to be seen before 8:30 at the earliest, and they are generally ready to be done with appointments by 4:00 in order to get ready for that early dinner. So the hours will perfectly fit my life moving forward, and I have a boss that truly respects the work-life-family juggle and is willing to make my job fit into my life rather than the usual vice versa.
Add to that the regular paycheck and the weight that takes off my husband’s shoulders, and I am feeling pretty optimistic about the future again. While I would have loved Flourish to live up to its name and continued working for myself, it simply wasn’t meant to be at this time, and that is perfectly ok. Despite the title of this post, I don’t actually feel like I quit, but rather like I pivoted and adapted, as we are forced to do so often in life.
Nothing in life goes according to plan, and if it has been for you so far, just wait. The only constant in life is change, and we cannot see the future. In my job interview, my now boss asked me where I saw myself in five years, and I laughed out loud. “Umm…living on Mars?” I have no idea. The chaos of the last two+ years has only highlighted the fact of how little we know about what will happen and how little control we actually have over our lives. We can control our reactions and how well we adapt to the road bumps and chaos, but there’s no controlling the chaos.
So here’s to being flexible, adaptable, willing and able to change. I’m grateful to work in a career that is typically in demand, so I could become employed again. I’m grateful to have survived the pandemic, to have my family intact, to not be camping on the side of the highway like so many new people I’ve seen. I’m grateful to get to continuing living this beautiful, horrific, chaotic, destructive, and joyful thing called Life.