Act 3 vs Act 1

With my Son away at college for his Senior Year, and my free time dedicated to getting my chalk art business off the ground, my mind has been wondering to the great, big world of retirement a lot. I still have about 5 years till I can really step into that stage of my life, but I can tell you I am most certainly looking forward to the days when I only have to answer to me. AND, I control what I will do every day, not just in the evenings and weekends.

I will be at my present job 20 years the end of this year, and although I’m quite content in my position, and appreciate the perks that come with working for a small business, I’m beyond ready for my retirement years. In all honesty, if not for the chalk art that came out of COVID quarantine, I don’t think I could realistically be considering retirement before at least 67 because I know I need a back up kitty in addition to IRA’s and Social Security.

Originally I was hoping to monetize this blog, but as I also discovered during COVID quarantine, is not a simple task. Especially when my content is a bit too esoteric to pin down followers, let alone businesses that would want to advertise on the site. When people started to ask about merchandise with the chalk art on it, it was the furthest thing from my mind. I realized though it just might be a great replacement plan and started to focus all my energy on looking into how to create a merchandise business.

AND, here I am, a year and half later on the precipice of opening an online store. The closer I get to this reality, the more excited I get for the prospect of actually being able to seriously start to plan for retirement. Retirement before 67. I don’t need a fortune as back up, just enough to supplement, and if I can get a jump-start on that I can also jump start my retirement.

https://thechalkcharmer.shopping

Fingers crossed and lots of prayers it works. 

As I pondered this next phase of my life, it dawned on me that I’m heading into Act 3 of my story and my Son is on the doorstep of his Act 1.

Yes, he’s 21 years old, but everything that has transpired in his life up to this point is actually a Prequel, leading into his Act 1. After he graduates from college he’s officially an “adult” stepping into the great, big grown up world of working full-time, pursuing his dream job and living on his own at some point. And all that goes with branching into being your own person separate from your parents.

Two vastly different stages for sure.

For me it’s about the stage in my life when I can work less, and play more. About having more time for me to do the things that bring me great joy, like my chalk art. About more freedom in how I spend every day. About actually having time to spend with family and friends and not having to schedule time months in advance. About actually finishing unfinished projects. AND, maybe even changing things up in my house, even if it’s just a new coat of paint.

But for my Son, it will be about working more, and playing less. About learning how to structure his day to allow time for play. About taking on the responsibilities of having a place of his own. About learning to be fiscally sound because there are now bills to pay. About balancing work, home and play.

Sure he’s been working on some of this, sort of, all through college, but he’s also had a lot of luxuries, like a meal plan. That certainly won’t exist any more, and learning how to not spend your paycheck on carry out and actually buying food and cooking can be a real challenge when you’re first starting out on your own. 

The more I pondered all of this, the more I realized although my Son and I are at two very different stages in our lives, they are also very similar. We are both stepping into the beginning of the next phase of our lives. Extremely exciting and scary at the same time. So much unknown, but we will have each other as support as we venture forth.

I’ve seen a lot of growth in my Son this school year, I think living in an apartment and having a girlfriend has helped with this. So although I still worry about how he’ll do on his own, if he comes to me for advice now, I know he will still after he graduates and eventually lives on his own. This alone gives me a little peace of mind.

As for me, starting a small online business is something I never would have considered, but my Son encouraged me to do so. And, because he has a better grasp of social media he has become a bit of an advisor when it comes to reaching a broader audience than my Facebook world.

SO, before we take the leap into our next act, we will continue to bounce things off each other. Just knowing we have each other’s back is a means to making sure we each succeed. AND, realizing just how similar our paths truly are, makes it even more special.

A Mother and Son stepping into the great unknown together.

Me Act 3 and He Act 1, both a new beginning with amazing possibilities.

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Woman, 2021. All rights reserved.

Goddess Masthead © Pamela Danko-Stout and Waking the Woman, 2021. All rights reserved.

Three Act Structure – courtesy of https://prewrite.com/blog/2020/07/29/a-beginners-guide-to-three-act-structure/

Daily Routine – ©123rf – artinspiring

Clip Art – ©123rf

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Light at the End of the Tunnel

As the world starts to attempt to come out of it’s COVID cocoon, it’s hard to not look back and take stock of the impact this year in isolation has had on my Son and I.

For my Son, who is a junior in college, a year off-campus, with all virtual classes has taken a toll on him in a very negative way. It has induced apathy and put him into a dull state of depression, something I don’t often see with him.

As an online gamer he spends a lot of time in the virtual world, so I figured he’d adapt well, but as the quarantine lingered longer, the lack of in-person learning and time with friends hanging out on campus began to wear on him.

For me though, I’ve found the quarantine and isolation time somewhat invigorating. I love being home, but up until shut down, if I wasn’t at work, I was out running errands, and when I was home, my time was dominated by chores.

During shut down I continued to work from home, but the work was limited because of the nature of the business.

SO, the in-between time finally allowed me the luxury to just appreciate being home.

I could actually ponder things that would be nice to change, or that could use a little updating: nothing over the top like renovation, but something as simple as new curtains, or rearranging furniture.

AND, purge stuff that has accumulated over the years without the necessary time to address it.

PLUS, for the first time in years I could finally start to conquer projects sitting in limbo, like my Son’s high school graduation scrapbook and framing.

In addition, I could take time to relax and read a book, which is something I can honestly say I hardly ever do despite the fact that I love to read. Up until shut down, reading the paper or an occasional magazine article was the extent of my reading.

The most important thing though, I could finally truly focus on my writing as a business. Something I knew I had to do in order to supplement my income leading up to and during retirement, which is a must in order for me to actually retire. 

Yes, this does sound like a lot to cover in any day, week, or month, but considering prior to COVID shut down I was working a 9 hour day, plus travel time to and from work, I now had 10 hours each day, 50 hours a week, and 200 hours a month to play with.

Minus of course whatever work I had to attend to, but that was never more than maybe 5 hours a day, so I still had 5 hours free, which to any mom is a like an entire day free.

Note, this extra time began to dwindle by mid-May, but any time not already plotted into my day was a gift. So I took advantage of it, and jumped head first into exploring my writing as a business.

In so doing though, I discovered monetizing a blog that is a bit esoteric, as this blog is, is not an easy feat to accomplish, without a lot of time and SEO know how, which I do not have, especially being back in the office every day since June.

Fortunately though, by the time I discovered this, I had also unearthed a new creative outlet. An outlet that I would also discover has far more potential than monetizing my blog.

And that new creative outlet turns out is something I could have never fathomed even in my wildest dreams.

Custom designed chalk creations done on my driveway.

What started out as a simple Easter greeting for my neighbors at the beginning of the pandemic has turned into a weekly thing. All it took was a passerby commenting how cheerful the creation was, noting how much we needed that, and adding I should keep it up.

Every week I tried something new, and about a year ago tried my hand with a mandala. 

Once I did that I knew I was on to something. Even during the winter I continued to create new art. Of course on a smaller scale, but I would hang it in my front window and post it on the Facebook page I created to share my art with those not in my neighborhood.

I even came up with a name for my chalk art alter ego “the CHALK Charmer” which is what my Facebook page is titled.

https://www.facebook.com/TheCHALKCharmer/

Upon sharing my creations friends commented that some of the art would look nice on mugs, or t-shirts, or bags, etc…

This got the wheels in my head turning.

Could my creations actually become something more than therapy for me on weekends?

Could they actually become a source of income?

So I began to explore the idea and I’m happy to say I’m on the precipice of starting a business to sell merchandise. 

Right now this idea is very much in it’s infancy. 

Turns out the avenue I was considering, which is a third party company that would host my shop, do all the fulfillment from printing-on-demand, to shipping, to collecting payment, may not be the route I want to take.

Although this seems like the perfect route for someone who works full-time while trying to start a side business, the samples I received may look good, but upon showing my co-workers, I discovered the quality of the base product is not up to par, which doesn’t sit right with me.

Samples of mug, pouch, t-shirt and tank top
Close up of mug

I may work in the print world, but I don’t handle merchandise like some of my co-workers do, and I trust their judgement. The last thing I want is my reputation tarnished by a poor product.

In addition, this third party company would also handle the customer service, which makes me twitch, because as someone who does customer service for a living, I know how critical it is to making or breaking a business. In general the CS reviews I’ve read are pretty good for the company I was considering, but it only takes one bad experience to screw your reputation.

With all this in mind, I’m now looking into my own e-commerce site. Of course this means I need to stock inventory, do all the shipping and payment collection, but I would be able to control all aspects of the business, starting with selling a quality product I believe in.

Starting a business is not something I take lightly, and to be honest is very scary, yet exhilarating at the same time. It is also something I would not venture forth to do without guidance, which is why I have reached out to my local Small Business Council.

After all, this is my future and I want to make sure I do everything right from the very start. I don’t want to half-ass this in any way.

SO, although this means my actual shop for the CHALK Charmer will be delayed, my vision for the future is getting clearer every day. AND, after speaking with the Small Business Council, I know it’s a valid vision, which means I can look to the future with great excitement knowing as long as I put the work in, my dreams will come to fruition.

AND, the kicker is, without my quarantine time, I could have been spinning my wheels for years trying to monetize my blog and in so doing been forced to give up on the hopes of retiring at any age, let alone 65.

As for my Son, knowing he’ll be back on campus for his Senior year has been enough to help lift him out of the funk that consumed him over his year in isolation.

Come August I’m sure I’ll be going through withdrawal having an empty house again. BUT, I’ll have my new adventure to focus on, and I’ll know my Son is where he needs to be to fulfill his dreams.

PLUS, I’ll be able to look back over our year in isolation together knowing despite all the anxiety and stress we became closer, and faced the challenges together.

AND, all of this made us stronger individually and together. 

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Woman, 2021. All rights reserved.

Goddess Masthead © Pamela Danko-Stout and Waking the Woman, 2021. All rights reserved.

Photos from my personal collection

Look Back – © 123rf – Pracha jaruprateepkul

Home – © 123rf – Vasvas

Free Time – © 123rf – Rabina Elif Aksoy

Business Start Up – © 123rf – Iryna Liashenko

Clear Vision – © 123rf – Zachery Blanton

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2020 VISION

As the month of June was beginning I couldn’t help but ponder how fast the halfway mark of the year was upon me?

AND, I wondered how could it creep up on me so quickly when I felt like I’d been standing still since the end of March?

OR, was that precisely why it crept up on me?

When stay-at-home orders were enacted, for all intensive purposes, time stopped. What was, was no more, at least temporary, and what would be was still up in the air.

At first this was all a bit unnerving, but once I settled into the notion of being forced to stay home, and knew my work from home would be limited, I embraced this time as time to focus on my dreams and aspirations for retirement.

I was actually a bit happy to finally have the time I needed to focus on my writing and this blog.

AND, I actually welcomed this time after the hiccup I hit in January that set me back as far as my goals for 2020 were concerned.

https://wakingthewoman.com/2020/01/31/the-best-laid-plans/#more-267

With this newfound, unexpected time, I once again had 2020 vision for 2020.

AND, not knowing how much time I would actually have, I knew I had to act fast.

Continue reading “2020 VISION”

The NEW Business As Usual

When I first started writing this post the world was on the fringes of falling apart. Were there signs of anxiety here on the East Coast of the US, sure, but the first cases of the coronavirus in the states were few, and although I was cautiously concerned, I was trying to live life business as usual.

That all changed suddenly when the first cases showed up in Pennsylvania, the state I live in, and quickly started popping up more and more across the country.

Then the World Health Organization declared it a pandemic, and the daily dynamics changed, and so did the behavior of the general public.

Chicken Little came to cry, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”

Now I am certainly not trying to lessen the severity of the situation, but the behavior of a large portion of the human race was certainly one of histrionics.

And to be honest it caught me off guard.

Continue reading “The NEW Business As Usual”

Facing the “IN-BETWEEN” Years

As the month of August unfolded the reality that my Son heads back to college to start his Sophomore year in 25 days hit me hard. I had that same pit in my stomach as I experienced all of last summer as his Freshman year crept closer with each passing day. 

It’s just me and my Son at home, so facing a truly empty nest for the first time in 18 1/2 years was beyond a challenge for me to say the least.

I had my ups and downs over the course of his Freshman year, but by the time he came home for the Summer I felt I had conquered a lot of those feelings.

To feel that sadness in my gut popping up again confirmed that I still have work to do, which I’m quite sure will be the topic of future posts.

Continue reading “Facing the “IN-BETWEEN” Years”