This is for both of us
We beat ourselves up for what we failed to do, not what we did do.
Me too. I need to write this to remind myself why I’m doing this. To say well done.
I hope you’ll read this and will feel better. Know you’re not the only one. That you’ll give yourself a well done too.
It's FRAHM’s second birthday and I feel numb. I’m so tired. During lockdown I cycle to work and back, rain or shine. Today I couldn’t face it. That’s a big deal to me. Yesterday afternoon, as my kids squabbled, I sat on the stairs and cried. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t breathe. I just wanted to curl up on the sofa and sleep for a month… I think I actually slept for 10 minutes, until a little daughter-shaped face woke me, which is quite a nice way to wake, all told.
So today I gave myself permission to be ‘lazy’. I still feel guilty. I’m an idiot.
Today is FRAHM’s second birthday and I need a chin up. I need to remind myself what I’ve achieved, how many times I’ve felt like giving up and getting a normal job, wondering why I do this to myself. Now, as I recall the ups and downs, I remember how many more days I am so glad I do this than not.
In my state of exhaustion, it’s easy for the bad days to grope their dirty hands to the front. So, I need to say well done to myself. I bet you do too. It’s been a hard few months or more for many/all of us, in many ways that I’ll never know.
I started FRAHM in 2018 to be simple, to avoid this very problem. To learn from all the harsh lessons I’d learnt with Vulpine. To never stretch myself or my family so hard I destroy them or myself.
I was sick of the insane workload, the bullshit hours-culture bravado amongst entrepreneurs and the inevitable burnout that set me up for my breakdown. Every day I would feel guilty if I stopped work before I had to stop from exhaustion. I couldn’t let myself stop until I’d used up everything I had. Nothing for my wife, kids, friends…myself. Hours culture is counterproductive anyway - we need our brains to fire, well tuned, so they can have new ideas, see the problems coming, strategise, change…Be clever, agile, etc.
Being knackered means stupid. Stupid isn’t impressive. Especially not when it’s tinged with sadness and selfishness.
This was a how I have tried not to work in FRAHM. Giving myself the time and space to think, create, be happy. It’s not a natural mode for me. I will quickly default to ‘all hours’ if I let myself. My wife is my gatekeeper - with a her big stick. Sometimes, needs must, but I'm much much better at it, and much more contented.
Then, lockdown, fear, childcare, homeschooling. 3 long days in the office - Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. 3 days looking after the kids and doing the housework. Emmalou and I see each other on Sundays to try and recover (who needs the recovery most?! Who gets the lie-in?) and say hi to each other again, inevitably just catching up on domestic stuff.
What choice do we have? We have to look after the kids (it’s the law, and apparently the right thing to do). We have to work (and we are lucky to have jobs, we should respect that).
Yet, 3 days. Just 3 days to run a company, entirely, from director level to packing the boxes. 3 fucking days. 3 days but still growing, still getting better. No wonder I’m exhausted. Jeeeesus. 3 days. Winge winge.
It’s not 3 days really - there are live chats, emails, calls, decisions on fabrics so they arrive on time, Instagrams, ideas, notes, lists… 3 days in the office, doing it properly. 3 days with work in your peripheral vision, trying to give your kids your proper attention, so they don't fall into volcanoes or get eaten by zombie squirrels (Somerset is pretty hardcore).
Wait! Don’t feel you can’t bother me. I love it. Every live chat is a boost. I love the connection. I love to sell jackets, of course, they don’t just pay the bills and buy my kids their Weetabix, they’re a constant reminder of what I do and why I’m doing this. I love packing this boxes and seeing this reviews. It’s why I do it. I love my work. FRAHM wouldn’t exist otherwise. I do not love trawling through payment reconciliations on my accounting software, or hoovering the office, But there is satisfaction in turning the wheels a little further - it's boring but necessary stuff.
My experience is not unique. Hell, it isn’t even that hard compared to many. I can choose how I work. I could have put the company on ice and sat it out - stressful in other ways and definitely not my style...At least I have the choice. Thank god I did, or I wouldn't have watched (to my endless disbelief) FRAHM growing as I grilled fish fingers & taught my son his 6 times table.
I'm lucky. I have a partner to share things with. I’m lucky. I know a guy nearby who’s wife has died, who works freelance and has two small kids to look after. Seriously. I can’t even fathom that. Fuck. Just imagine. I could tell you 10 people right now, without pausing, that have far far harder circumstances than me.
There’s always someone having a harder time. Always.
The problem with these comparisons is that you start to deny your own self care. You think “who am I to complain”. Comparisons are useful to get context, for gratitude. We all suffer, somehow, sometime. We can't grade that suffering, telling ourselves or others whether it qualifies. If you’re finding it hard, be kind to yourself. You need to take cation. Be kind to yourself. Ask for help. Rich people, poor people, people in and out of love, ill and well, all suffer in different ways. Just don't get entitled about it! I always keep my radar on. Is this whining or am I in trouble? I'd say this blog was empathetic whine vs flad waving call for help. I'm not depressed. Just fuuuuuuuuuuuuu(uuu)cking knackered.
FRAHM has achieved amazing things in 2 years. Things I’m incredibly proud of. Things that make me happy, when I allow myself the chance to stop, think and recall them.
This stuff doesn’t flow from my fingertips like magic. I’m not here to self-mythologise. Starting a company is often, not always, fear, slog, mistakes, risk. Like life. It is also joy, satisfaction, self actuation, self respect. I learn something new every day. Wonderful. This is what I choose to do, after all.
FRAHM is fun: A fantastic voyage, full of monsters, sword fights, romance, daring deeds and nail biting plot twists
Now we should both write a list. What have you achieved?
Some hopefully not-too-self-aggrandising headlines that come to mind for me:
- Faced the fear and started another company, even though the last one almost literally killed me.
- Made 11 jackets as good as I’d hoped, that I am truly proud of. My main aim, always.
- You rate these jackets so highly (currently 99.4%) I keep thinking I need a few terrible reviews just so it looks less suspect!!
- Actually sold enough jackets to constantly grow.
- Raised over £10,000 for Mind.
- Created a business that has financed itself from day 1 (being a creative monkey I’m really proud of this).
- Done this unpaid (though finally I do get to myself a little bit, phew).
- Achieved this part time juggling childcare and consulting, then part time again with lockdown.
- Done this through enormous upheaval in our personal lives - crushing debt, exhaustion, house downgrades, family health issues, blahdyblah, we all have STUFF.
- Got through (so far!) lockdown with FRAHM in a better state than entering it.
- Taught the kids to ride bikes, to write words & the delights of Japanese animation.
Now write your own list. Don't compare it to mine. Stare at it. Think about those moments and where you are now. The times you pushed on and won. The times you lost. You're here. You're alive.
I’ll stop now. I’m very conscious of wanting to say well done to myself and thank you to you, without it become too self indulgent. But...bloody hell, I genuinely feel better for writing it down and considering it. Writing it down is useful. It’s what we should do. Did you? Please do.
I realise a lot of my tiredness is frustration. I imagine what FRAHM could achieve if (when!) life is a bit normal and I have some help. Bonkers. Well done me - if that’s ok?
Please tell me your story in the comments or elsewhere, your fights and successes, no matter how mundane you might think it is. Comment below, email me, tag an instagram #frahmjacket. Or just tell yourself. Just write them down and talk them out.
It needn’t be starting a company. It could be surviving a divorce. Getting off meds. Keeping your company afloat. Closing your company during lockdown and finding a way, somehow, so far, to stay above water - you're A FIGHTER - no fight last forever. Learning guitar. Losing a chunk of weight. Seeing the kids leave home reasonably well adjusted. Making art. Moving house. Just getting here in one piece, alive.
Think. Be proud. Well fucking done, you failed but you tried. You’re here, you’re getting there. Well done you, you fought. Well done, you made them safe. Well done, you're a good person.
WELL DONE. WELL DONE. WELL DONE
Keeping saying it chap.
Postscript: I get kind messages of support after blogs like this. I’m fine, just frustrated at my inability to do much more. But I am proud of how far I’ve got, so so happy at what I’ve created and I’m going on HOLIDAAAY next week. Back, all cylinders firing for August. Can’t wait. Well done me. Well done us. Nick.