Updated: Aug 14, 2020
Goodbye to you
Goodbye to everything that I knew
You were the one I loved
The one thing that I tried to hold on to...
And it hurts to want everything
And nothing at the same time
I want what’s yours and I
Want what’s mine
I want you
But I’m not giving in this time.
-Michelle Branch, “Goodbye to You”
Closing a company that you have poured years (some of the prime years of your professional life, in fact) into is exactly the same as falling out of love with a long-term mate when you’re so committed and your friends are each other’s friends and even now you still really want to make it work yet you’ve come to the sickening conclusion that you cannot ignore the fact that you don’t want to make out with him anymore and aren’t attracted at all to the quirks that once made him so hot to you and actually kind of hate him a little but you still love him too and care about him and don’t want to hurt him but have to do the best thing for you and your life and future.
One full year before it closed, it started getting hard. Last summer, the romance started sloughing off bit by bit for various reasons (market forces, the NYC real estate tax, or he started pooping with the bathroom door open, you choose) and then dropped off precipitously a few months later. We never bounced back from the summer slowdown in the same way it’s hard to bounce back when your partner says something snide about the ingrown hairs on your bikini line he just can’t take back. In other words, once the attraction, or in the case of Uplift, any sort of financial cushion, goes, it’s really hard to claw it back. Couples’ therapists (or business coaches and advisers) can help. But most of the time, the writing is on the wall, isn’t it?
I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to do this, I say to myself over and over, staring dully out over the busy expanse of 23rd Street.
Or, I rationalize brightly, It’s not that bad. I really don’t have to shut anything down right now. I can take my time. I can process and figure things out but I’m safe and fine right where I am. Let’s target the end of the year.
The universe had other plans for me, or maybe deep down I had other plans for myself. Because back in March of this year, when some part of my brain (though admittedly not my gut) was still hopeful that things would work out, or that I’d at least be able to unwind the company seamlessly and painlessly and comfortably, the date July 31st popped into my head.
And, fast-forwarding, that was the exact date I walked out the door of what had been Uplift since 2011, never to see it in that form again.
As in a relationship that’s ending, I couldn’t bandage over the scratches and cracks anymore (figuratively but also literally--I didn’t have the money to fix a broken mirror or order more dry shampoo).
Eventually I couldn’t muster the energy to even try. I started snapping far too often at someone--something--I used to love and be really nice to.
As 2019 wore on and the slog became sloggier (way more than The Hard Thing About Hard Things or, for that matter, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus), what once were mostly peaks became mostly valleys. My employees started looking at me with fear and some mix of disgust and frustration (“She’s running this business into the fucking ground,” I imagined them griping to each other behind my back).
Instead of lying awake sleepless and staring at the ceiling next to a snoring partner whom I no longer loved but whose heavy arm was still entwined around my unwilling body, I lay awake every single night, all night, sick to my stomach imagining how I was going to tell those employees that I probably couldn’t make payroll in two days’ time. And that once that happened, I knew I would never be able to make it again.
That happened in mid-June.
In that instant, I learned something. I’d become so unhappy with my company: the relationship had run its course, yet I still felt committed, stuck in it. But I also knew that Prince Charming (or a new round of funding, or a superclean wind-down) wasn’t going to come along and “save” me. Newfound clarity (and my witchy friends) told me that order to open myself up to new and better-for-me energy, I’d first have to have the courage to close the door to Uplift. I just couldn’t make it work anymore...and I was done trying.
I announced the news to my employees on June 21st, the Summer Solstice, and to the public the following Monday.
I didn’t feel anything close to relief because the real slog had only just begun--I had to figure out how to unwind an entire business legally, financially, and literally in terms of cleaning out and getting rid of nine years’ worth of equipment and memories: it was like breaking up but still having to live with my ex surrounded by his dirty socks and framed pictures of us for two more months because we couldn’t afford the rents yet on our own apartments.
What made me feel the worst of all? My big secret: I wasn’t broken-hearted. Everyone expected me to be because Uplift and I had been together so damn long. Deep down, though, I was relieved to be closing down, eliminating the constant grind and stress, and most importantly, putting myself first and moving onto bigger and better things in my life. But how could I admit that to anyone?!
So I just sat there gravely at the front desk those last couple of weeks as people cried all around me.
What they didn’t know was that my heart had been slowing breaking over the last year or so as I learned with that painful clarity that I was never going to get what I needed or wanted from Uplift, and as a result couldn’t give what was needed--a vicious cycle that started spinning so hard it created a vacuum. Until it stopped.
And it's too late, baby now, it's too late
Though we really did try to make it
Somethin' inside has died, and I can't hide
And I just can't fake it, oh, no, no...
There'll be good times again for me and you
But we just can't stay together, don't you feel it, too?
Still I'm glad for what we had and how I once loved you.
-Carole King, “It’s Too Late”