Being an indie in a non-indie world

Swimming against the tide, and the challenges that have come with choosing an indie-shaped path. 👣

One of the most difficult things I've had to contend with as I've chosen a path of “doing my own thing” are the comments, judgements, or just plain differences I've felt with most of the people in the world. Or, at least, my world.

From my family and friends, to the people I'd encounter in cafes, on the bus, at social gatherings ... when out in the world, “doing your own thing” just isn't what's normal.

Not only is there the judgement that comes from taking the solo path, but an underlying expectation that you must know what you're doing (surely you must know what you're doing to be so reckless...), and thus at least be “making it” (i.e. somewhere between making a reasonable, sustainable income to making a lot of money from your business).

And therein lies the great challenge I've experienced. Navigating “the messy middle” that is my own doubts and gaps in knowledge and just experience, all the while having to keep up appearances to the outside world, and sort of pretend that all is well even when sometimes... well, it's not easy.

There was a time when I was worried about what every person knew would think about me doing my own thing, and would be there watching y every move and waiting to see whether I'd “make it” or fall flat on my face.

Now that I've made some money from 3 businesses I've started* (not counting the many more ideas I've had, which I've pursued to differing extents), mixed in with the real-world experience I've gotten, I feel different.

[*I don’t count the little money I’ve made from Medium and selling copies of my book “money from a business” – as I consider this my writing, and not a business]

There was a time when I used to dread going to large social gatherings for the fear of being asked “So, what do you do?” It was worse when my parents were around at things like weddings, when curious-to-nosey-to-prideful parents would ask my own: “So, what does your son do?” My parents, as supportive as they have been on my journey, of course feel their own stuff when it comes to sharing what I'm up to... and the changing answer I've given them, or the judgements they feel from others – as well as from themselves – hasn't always been easy for them.

I continue to answer the “So, what do you do?” question in different ways, depending on who's asking the question and the setting we are in. I work in marketing” is an easy answer, and one which is true. I’ve realised that not everyone can handle “the whole truth” or they simply don't deserve to hear it.

This sounds harsh, but I’ll try to offer an explanation here. If you tell me you work in corporate law or consulting, I take your word for it and no further enquiry ensues. If I introduce myself as ‘a writer’ (or someone who ‘writes things’), all sorts of questions have then been asked of me. Some of the responses I’ve gotten include: “Oh, what do you write?”, “You're not famous, are you?” or “Where can I read your stuff?” Even when this comes from a good place, sometimes (depending on the person), I'd rather not offer up too much to a stranger I've just met.

And then I had an interesting experience this weekend.

I was at dinner with my uncle, his partner, and his friends, all of whom I had met before, a couple of them with their partners who I hadn't met.

It helped that I had met most of these people before, but the couple of times I was asked about my work during the evening, I felt comfortable owning and sharing what I do. This was not the case five years ago, so this is new, and a market of my growth in character and confidence. I was – I am – proud of myself.

And the very next day, heading to a cafe for some Sunday writing and reflection... I found myself in one of the most interesting conversations I've had in a long time, with anyone let alone two cafe strangers. With the two of them, I was happy to show up as myself without question. We covered a great deal of intimate ground over the course of twenty minutes (possibly longer, but it the time simply flew).

Whilst I still prefer connecting in small groups, my dinner on Saturday evening was a lovely experience, and one which told me I have grown into myself – and with the confidence to own and share where I am in my journey – and that's something worth celebrating.

I'm currently reading Rob Walling's book, Start Small, Stay Small, in which he writes, when it comes to the solo pursuit that is a business:

“Surprisingly, anything is much easier the second time. And the third. And by the fourth time you can’t even feel the hair on the back of your neck, or the sweat in your palms because it’s no longer there. The terror goes away surprisingly quickly.”

It would appear that there's something to be said for that. I think, over time, my own terror has diminished, and thus I’m able to show up from a more confident and comfortable place. And that’s quite a satisfying realisation.

In turns out that being Jasraj is, in fact, the most normal thing in the world.