Letter to the Past, October 2009


Dear Janci Patterson of  August 2007,

I regret to inform you that in two years, you, hater of all things mathematical, will have the unfortunate experience of becoming, among other things, a business accountant. 

It is tempting to believe that the decisions that lead you to this predicament are those you’ve just made–becoming engaged and deciding to start a business.  But that isn’t true.  You put yourself on this path many years ago.  Let’s review.

In your first year of college you decided to become a writer.  (This is not the decision that causes you to become an accountant.  Hang with me.)  For many years, people responded to this news by asking you what you were *really* going to do with your life.  This lasted until right about the time you finished your third novel.  And it was good.  You were a senior at BYU.  You’d been doing this writing thing for four years, and you weren’t quitting.  Good for you.

It was during these years at BYU that you discovered that some of the reason people stopped asking you what you were really going to do with your life had nothing to do with the quality or quantity of your writing.  It had to do with your gender.  Roommates, teachers and church leaders all spouted the general counsel that it was a man’s job to provide for his family.  It was also good for women to educate themselves, but it was a woman’s responsibility not to prepare to make money, but to find a man to marry who was prepared to support her and her children.

Here it is, Janci.  Your first step onto this path.  Do you remember what you said?

You told them all that you couldn’t bring yourself to hold some guy to a standard you didn’t adopt for yourself.  You knew being a writer meant you’d probably never make much money.  But you loved it.  And if whoever you were going to marry loved something that didn’t make much money, then so be it.  It wasn’t fair to ask more of him than you asked of yourself.  You’d figure out how to make it work together.

And there it is.  Your choice for your life, made years before you even met Drew.  (And yes, you’re really going to marry him.)

The decision you’ve just made to support him in his goals to paint minis for a living was just a follow-up to the decisions you’ve already made.  And so you’re going to figure out how to register a business, how to bring in revenue, how to juggle the myriad tasks of business ownership, and *gasp* how to be your own business accountant.

You’re not scared yet, but you will be.  Once you get past the stress and business of being engaged, once you open up that business account, once you graduate and lose the safety of the teaching job, you’re going to feel the fear.  You’ll be scared that this task is bigger than you.  That it requires skills you don’t have.  That you’ll fail. 

Business ownership is a big elephant, but you’re going to eat it one spoonful at a time.  Every month there will be a new task to learn.  You’ll make mistakes.  Then you’ll fix them.  You’ll pick up one piece at a time until the whole thing is running like a well oiled machine.  And money will come in.  And you who hate math, who majored in English, who can’t imagine why people go into Finance–you’ll do the accounting.

And it won’t be that bad.  Because the business is something you and Drew own, you’ll love every piece of it.  Even the accounting.  It’ll be all yours, and you’ll be responsible for it, and you’ll love to watch it grow.

I’d love to tell you it all turns out okay.  That the business continues to grow.  That you’re able to actually meet all your goals.  That you won’t fail.   But I’m not far enough ahead of you to be able to see it yet.

When I get there, I’ll let you know.

Janci Olds
Garden Ninja Studios