Choose your own adventure January 9, 2012Posted by Vidya Crawley in Uncategorized.
Tags: Personal Reflections, Relationships
Remember those ‘choose your own adventure’ books we’d read as kids and how it gave us the sense that we actually had some influence over what happened to the story’s characters and, maybe, by extension one day, ourselves?
Two years ago today, I chose my own adventure. I started writing The Fishbowl Manifesto to share the experience of closing a chapter in my life, embarking on a voyage of discovery, and crossing the pond from Vancouver to the UK to live with the Englishman. No plans, just intentions. I really wanted to find out what makes me feel connected to my surroundings…was it love? Was it living in the countryside? Was it a more hands-on career? Was it writing about my experience and clicking ‘Publish’ after each post, even though it all felt incomplete? Perhaps all of the above.
Here is a rather unflattering picture of me on the night that I arrived in England on a red-eye flight. Most of the country was snowed in, and hilly High Wycombe didn’t fare too well. Since the Englishman’s flat was at the top of the road, the taxi driver wasn’t about to test his luck. Instead he went around to the deserted business park that was on the other side of the nature reserve that our road backs onto, and dropped us off. We trudged through the snow and woods in the dark, with my two suitcases in tow, and emerged on the other side to go home.
Once inside, the Englishman and I looked at each other, somewhat uneasily, as we both thought, “Oh my God. What have we done.” Our Trans-Atlantic Love Story so far only involved spending about 10 days with each other before we embarked on this journey. We were more ‘strangers in a snowstorm’ than a proper couple, really. So one of us said, “It’ll always be an adventure,” and the other concurred. And here we are two years later, married on the same day we first met, building our fledgling empire and on our way to becoming screenwriters (him) and greengrocers (me).
With that, dear readers, I bid you farewell from the fishbowl. Thank you so much for joining me and providing your words of support and encouragement along the way – it has meant the world to me. Just remember to choose your own adventure, and as this quote from The Toltec Path states, make sure you choose a path with heart.
“For me there is only the traveling on paths that have heart, on any path that may have heart. There I travel, and the only worthwhile challenge is to traverse its full length. And there I travel looking, looking, breathlessly.” (Don Juan – A Yaqui Way of Knowledge)
The H-word January 7, 2012Posted by Vidya Crawley in Uncategorized.
Tags: Happiness, Personal Reflections, Relationships, Work
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In writing this, the penultimate post on The Fishbowl Manifesto, I used the search function on my blog to see if I’d used the H-word in previous posts at all. It turns out that I haven’t, which is rather strange for a blog about a personal journey and the reflections that come with. Perhaps it’s for the best, as there are so many other articles, essays, theses and even books on the subject. It usually sounds like a destination at the end of a long corridor, or the jewel on the crown of achievement. I am, of course, speaking of happiness.
Or perhaps it’s because, even through a two-year journey of following one’s bliss, that hard-to-define notion of happiness still manages to elude, confound, perplex and, dare I say, mislead. Some say it’s about finding happiness in the moment, and others say it’s about the fulfilment of reaching a longer-term goal or dream. Where do I stand?
Those who say that happiness is in the moment imply that it’s about being happy about or for something that you have in your life at the time. My chance encounter with the Englishman in Prague was a happy moment, and one that would change my life. The act of packing up and moving to England and starting with a blank canvas was also a happy moment – the thrill of embarking on a new adventure. But they don’t last.
I read an article in the latest Economist about the history of advertising and it said something along the lines of this: there is nothing that makes people more neurotic than the expectation that they should be enjoying themselves. There have been many moments in this two-year journey that wouldn’t qualify as happy or anything close to it: sadness, vulnerability, uncertainty, stress and loneliness all featured along the way. I couldn’t buy my way out of them, nor could I fight my way out of them. As much as I tried, I couldn’t recreate a previous happy moment to trump a current unhappy one.
Writing this blog, however, has helped me to process some of those moments (and to appreciate the truly happy ones):
- The post about vuja dé taught me about renewing my perspective and seeing things again, for the first time
- Separating expectations about my life from actually living my life was the advice I gave myself to survive an identity crisis
- Standing up and taking a chance on my true self gave me the courage to manifest my new business
- The repeated act of crossing bridges is what a long-term relationship is all about
The longer quest
“Happiness is the progressive realisation of a worthy goal.” (Earl Nightingale)
Those who say that happiness is a longer journey imply that there’s a bit of a quest. I used to think my quest was for balance (the B-word, a close relative of the H-word). Each progressive chapter, each piece of the pie, would bring me closer to being whole and complete. Good thing I’ve abandoned that strategy.
If you try to tick all boxes (job, home, family, social, health, hobbies, etc.), you end up doing just that: passing the minimum threshold in various areas of your life but never quite creating the contribution that would make your life meaningful. As the author of The Art of Non-Conformity, Chris Gillebeau, says, “Balanced people don’t usually change the world.”
If you establish a worthy goal to pursue, you’ll need the focus, drive, dogged determination and even obsession, to get there. As they say, something’s got to give. When I crossed the pond to have a relationship with the Englishman, I gave up city life, friendships and a professional career. When I open my shop, I’ll be working 12-hr days, 6 days a week and won’t be taking a vacation any time soon. Is balance over-rated? After all, we appreciate something more when we’ve had to give something else up in order to get it.
Having it all
Of course I want it all: the exquisite moments and the greater quest. Who doesn’t? I know now that it’s not Happiness and Balance that I seek. Instead, couldn’t we replace them with these:
- Passion: making the things you do a true representation of who you are
- Purpose: fulfilling your potential while also meeting a greater need in the world
- Connection: extending the boundaries of what you think is possible by sharing moments, choosing to love, and bearing witness to each other’s journeys.
Stay tuned, dear readers, for the final post on The Fishbowl Manifesto – it’s been an incredible adventure!
An afternoon in Thame January 4, 2012Posted by Vidya Crawley in Uncategorized.
Tags: Countryside, Food, Photography
As part of the ‘Fishbowl Manifesto Finale’, I hope you enjoy this little photo-tour of an afternoon spent in the town of Thame in Oxfordshire. Looking back over the past two years of writing this blog, in addition to my personal reflections, there have also been themes of photography, exploring the English countryside and, of course, food. These themes are the focus of my second blog, The New Greengrocer, but in honour of the journey that led me to those interests, I am posting this here.
Thame is a lovely historic market town – and though many towns share that slogan, this place truly embodies it with a long walkable market street, plenty of independent businesses and historic buildings. The buildings date from the 13th century onwards, from Georgian inns to late Victorian townhouses. Even the more “modern” fire hall and local theatre have a certain character to them. A quintessentially English market town, I think!
There are numerous independent shops, cafes and pubs along the High Street, making Thame a town to visit more often to really appreciate them. We made a pit-stop at Rumsey’s Chocolaterie and Coffee Shop, a deliciously successful local food business (established by a couple inspired by the film Chocolat), and ended the afternoon at the James Figg, a cozy pub serving good food and real ales by the fireplace.
Empire Building Part II: The change within January 2, 2012Posted by Vidya Crawley in Uncategorized.
Tags: Entrepreneurship, Personal Reflections, Relationships, Work
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Another year is upon us and, for me, a very important day lies ahead: the 2-year anniversary of making the biggest change in my life and starting this journey of the fishbowl. Initially, the visa that I obtained to come over here would only last two years, and the day has loomed over me as a deadline, sometimes symbolic, sometimes rather unnerving. I’m happy to report that I finally received my new resident permit in the post which allows me to stay in the UK with the Englishman and continue with my plans to start my own business. It certainly meant that we could relax a bit over the holidays.
Towards this milestone still, over the next week, I will post my final musings, reflections, and photographs on this blog to conclude what has been an incredible adventure. The adventure doesn’t stop here, of course, but it will soon be time for this fish to jump into the big sea…
Previously I had written (in Empire Building Part I) about being married as an opportunity to build an empire with a partner – supporting each other in pursuing our most compelling dreams and goals. This is the part where we roll up our sleeves and get to work. Only it’s much more difficult, because we have to actually change. (Again.)
“To achieve something that you have never achieved before, you must become someone that you’ve never been before.” (Les Brown)
The Englishman (who seems to be getting wiser and wiser by the day…or perhaps I’m becoming less and less stubborn?) quoted the above to me when we were hashing out what our empire is going to look like. I’m no stranger to embracing, and often creating, change in my circumstances. It’s all fine and dandy, exciting even, when you want to do it – when you actively want to improve something about yourself. But this feels a bit different. Setting a major goal to achieve, or vision to realise, actually dictates the terms of how you need to change. I suppose it makes sense. After all, how can we want something that we’ve never had before, and not consider that we have to change in order to get it?
I also realised that this is like closing the current chapter of my life and starting yet another one. It’s a bit uncanny as I write these words…how familiar they sound given where I was two years ago.
In the process of starting my business, especially a bricks & mortar business such as a shop, I’ve had to ask myself some tough questions about the days, months and years that lie ahead. These are the sort of questions that don’t appear on a business plan, but that must be answered before writing one. If you read one of my very first posts about my ‘un-plan’ for 2010, you’ll know that I don’t naturally have the inclination to set specific personal goals for myself. But now it’s time to sit down and set 1-year and 5-year goals for my business, and even think about where I’d like to be in 15-20 years.
Even choosing the legal structure for my business made me confront the conflict in my values – between autonomy and collaboration, personal profit and community benefit, lifestyle and contribution. And I will finally have to address that little issue of ‘not being a morning person’ if I’m going to run a shop and cafe!
Other entrepreneurs that I’ve met with have simply said that you have to be prepared to do things that you never thought you’d have to, or that you’d simply rather not do. In my case, to supplement the bank loan that I need to start the business, I’ve had to raise financing through other means: the Bank of Mom & Dad for one, and approaching friends and colleagues to invest in me. Initially I was hesitant, but it soon became clear that this was completely in line with the nature of the community-based business I wanted to build.
It’s difficult to distinguish ‘personal’ from ‘business’, and ‘me’ from ‘us’, for even though the Englishman and I are working on separate goals, it all becomes intertwined. Whether legally or not, we are each other’s biggest stakeholder. Both the risks and rewards are shared and, to be honest, that sense of partnership has made this whole journey seem plausible and, more importantly, worthwhile.
The Post-It Note Monster November 4, 2011Posted by Vidya Crawley in Uncategorized.
Tags: Personal Reflections, Work
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What do you do when you want to achieve something you have never achieved before – something that you might think of as big, audacious, and improbable? Two things. First, write down the goal as if you have no doubt in your mind that you can achieve it. Second, write down every little thing that needs to happen between where you are right now and where you’ll be when you reach that goal. I call it the Post-It Note Monster, as I write each of those little steps or actions on a Post-It note and stick it up on the wall until a gigantic mass of notes takes shape.
As someone who made a major life change when I moved to the UK almost two years ago, I can assure you that this works! To begin, your goal moves from the ‘what if’ or ‘wouldn’t it be nice’ fantasy world and into the real world. This is an important mental and emotional shift as most self-improvement coaches and books will tell you. The fact that the Post-It Note Monster greets you everyday as it occupies more and more of your wall makes it difficult to ignore that the path to achieving your goal has already begun.
And then, that mysterious (but actually scientific – it has to do with your brain’s reticular cortex) thing happens where you start to clue into the steps you have to take, the people you need to connect with, the things you needs to research, etc. – even though you’ve never done this big thing before.
The trick is to make each sticky note represent a step or action that is small enough to complete in one sitting. So instead of ‘get a visa to go to the UK’ you have to write ‘research UK visa options’, ‘obtain visa form’, ‘take passport photos’, etc. Or, instead of ‘write a business plan’, you write down each individual section of the plan and all the research steps separately.
The beauty of this method is that it works faster than you initially think it will. This is because you’re spending all your time thinking of how to achieve your goal – while you’re breathing, eating, sleeping and brushing your teeth. With every Post-It note that you cross off, you’ll probably think of two or three more to put in its place – and chances are, you’ve already started doing something about them.
Though I’ve been thinking for some time about starting my own business, and the Englishman and I have been getting our ‘empire building‘ plan underway, it wasn’t until I created another Post-It Note Monster that I started getting some traction. In the one week since I left my job at the shop and started sticking notes to the wall, I’ve written half of a business plan, scouted several locations, found three community groups to partner with, sent about 100 emails, attended a session on community funding, and chatted to a local businessman about buying his deli!
So, what have you been thinking about that seems too big, audacious and improbable? As long as it’s connected to your true self and your true values and desires, it can happen. Just let the sticky notes do the work for you.
Empire Building (Part I) October 17, 2011Posted by Vidya Crawley in Uncategorized.
Tags: Marriage, Personal Reflections, Relationships
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” (Lao Tzu)
The post-nuptial question that I’m most often asked is “Does it feel any different being married?” Actually yes, it does.
There are many reasons to get married: settling down, making a commitment to your partner, having your dream day, or perhaps, realising a bigger dream. For me, it was less about dresses and flowers and cakes and more about standing side by side with someone and leaping into the great unknown – a place where you’re just as likely to be confronted with your worst fears as you are to realise your greatest hopes and dreams. After all, getting married is just a moment in time; being married is something else altogether. I didn’t know what it would actually feel like to be married, and I certainly had my share of fears and doubts: Will I lose my ‘single’ identity? Will things become stagnant? Will I lose my sense of adventure?
But maybe marriage can be the start of an adventure? It is a very weighty, life-long commitment, after all, and for a headstrong, independent person like me, I need to feel like I’m committing to more than just a social institution. So let’s use this change in status from ‘single’ to ‘married’ to catalyse more change, I thought. The kind of change that makes you strike out and make your mark on the world. The kind of change that says ‘now or never’. The kind of change that pushes you to build an empire with your partner, even. On this, we both agreed.
When, on the 17th of July, the Englishman and I exchanged vows in London to become husband and wife, we talked about crossing bridges in Prague four years ago when we first met, and how we would cross many more. A few days later when we solemnised our vows in a Hindu ceremony in my parents’ home, we literally tied the knot (my sari was tied to the Englishman’s scarf) and jointly took our first steps while promising to be each other’s best friend for life. Later that evening we danced tango in front of our family and friends and then we all joined in a drumming circle and shared the most amazing positive energy.
It wasn’t until recently, though, that we shared perhaps the most meaningful gesture of all while at home on a lazy Sunday afternoon. We told each other what our most compelling dreams are – something we’ll commit to supporting each other in achieving – and we shook hands on it.
That’s all I can say for now, so stay tuned for more!
Vuja Dé June 1, 2011Posted by Vidya Crawley in Uncategorized.
Tags: art, Personal Reflections, vuja de
Happenings of late have made me change the way I look at my life and the way that I look at change itself. Even on the path to following one’s true desires and passions, there are ups and downs along the way – don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. The exhilaration, the adrenaline rush that comes with starting something anew…it can give way in time to a feeling of routine and inertia. I’m learning that I actually thrive on new adventures, new impulses, new risks – it’s the staying power that I need to come to terms with. It’s strange how, instead of focusing on what we want to change, we can sometimes become addicted to the change itself. After riding the big fresh waves of change, is it possible to get accustomed to still waters?
Surely a promising new role in a local entreprise (beginning today!) and entering a marriage with the Englishman (six weeks away!) should be plenty to keep my adrenaline levels going, but they both consist of major commitments with a longer timeline than I generally feel comfortable with. It’s about time I started viewing things with fresh eyes. I read an article awhile back which piqued my interest because it started with the same quote by Marcel Proust with which I began this blog: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” The article was about something called vuja dé. It’s ‘the sense of seeing something for the first time, even if you have actually witnessed it many times before’.
Artists, especially painters, seem to possess this skill, their works being a representation of what they perceive in the moment. I had the chance to witness this recently when I sat for a painting group in the local area. One of the painters, Rae, is a family member of one of my coworkers and she invited me to be the subject for the evening.
A drive through The New Forest April 27, 2011Posted by Vidya Crawley in Uncategorized.
Tags: Countryside, New Forest, Photography
The Englishman and I recently went for a drive through The New Forest, spending a leisurely day down south for a change of scenery. What a lovely place – beautiful gnarled trees, new green shoots coming through for spring, ponies wandering around freely – I would sum it up as ‘woods with character’. The best part is that you can pull off the road just about anywhere – a country pub, one of the little villages dotted throughout the forest, or just onto a gravel curb to get out for a little stroll. Here it is, in pictures:
The new blog is up and running! March 13, 2011Posted by Vidya Crawley in Uncategorized.
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As you have been reading of late, I’ve launched a new blog called The New Greengrocer and have written a few posts and pages to get it up and running. I’m really excited about this new outlet which I intend to keep fresh with posts and photos of all things seasonal and food-related and give you an inside look at my work as a greengrocer. I will still blog on Fishbowl Manifesto to share my reflections on all the experiences this pond-crossing, leap-of-faith, life-and-love adventure has to offer. Thanks for reading and supporting me – stay tuned! xo
Manifesting the New Greengrocer March 9, 2011Posted by Vidya Crawley in Uncategorized.
Tags: Food, Personal Reflections, Work
It was coming upon 10 months of working as ‘shop girl’ in a local food business when I realized that things weren’t quite adding up for me. Was I just managing someone else’s shop floor? Was the effort I was putting in really going to impact the business or was I just doing extra work out of personal interest? Would I get to implement improvements that, as a consultant, were obvious to me? In short, could I really find fulfilment as a shop girl??
Leaving my professional career to do something hands-on and more people-focused – “high touch” essentially – in an area that I’m passionate about still feels like the right choice. Though doing a job without a sense of autonomy and responsibility doesn’t quite work for me. I didn’t believe that I had that elusive entrepreneurial quality that makes people strike out on their own and run a business, but I’m learning that it’s the way forward for me!
When people ask me that inevitable conversation opener ‘what do you do’, I stumble on my own words as I mutter something about working in a local food shop, well, a shop that’s also a garden centre, oh and I manage the cafe too, so officially I’m a Speciality Food Shop & Cafe Manager, though I used to be a management consultant in my previous life, etc. The other person is usually confused or uninterested and I haven’t even told them how much I get excited about fresh fruit & veg! So it’s time to jump head first into my new calling…as a greengrocer. Working with producers, creating a unique food shopping experience and bringing people together around seasonal and local food – that’s where I’ll be. So a ‘new’ greengrocer of sorts, or maybe a throwback to the traditional greengrocer in the pre-supermarket era?
This is where it gets interesting and the manifestation part comes in. As the integrity issue was simmering within me and making me decide which values I wanted to embody in my work, I loosely plotted my next venture – an outlet, really for my adventures in greengrocery. It would be called The New Greengrocer (click for a preview) and would explore where food, ethics and entrepreneurship connect. A few days after my last post, I had my job review and then it was revealed to my that both my managers are effectively leaving have asked me to take on a new role as General Manager to lead the business forward.
Daunting? Yes. Chance to make a difference? Hopefully. And what does the Englishman think? It’s probably the best way to find out if I’ve got what it takes to run a business. But instead of having my identity rely solely on the job and putting my proverbial (free-range) eggs into one basket, I’ll have an ongoing outlet for exploring what I’m passionate about. Stay tuned!