Time for some navel gazing, because just a couple hours ago marked 25 years since I entered the world at the first daughter of Daniel and Kathryn Clark. People always remark that life is so short, or life is so long, but lately I’ve been feeling like its just right. I know I travel a ton, work like a maniac, am great at planning for the hyper short term (spontaneous) and super long term (procrastinator) but not as great in the middle, etc. I really love being alive, I love the people I’ve chosen to spend my time on Earth with (Kevin, my family, my friends, my professional colleagues, etc.)
At 20, I wasn’t nearly as self-assured or confident in what I was doing, but I did know that I would be an entrepreneur. In fact, I new I would be an entrepreneur when I was 17 working at McDonalds to pay for garage band gear, and when I was 15 working for the family business, and when I was 12 and visited my Dad’s startup in the Maritime building (heated with steam pipes) or when I was 9 and figured out how to get all the Moms on the block to contribute lemonade to our lemonade stand. At each age, that idea of what I might do in the future took on different forms and when people asked, “what do you want to do when you grow up?” I would grasp around for the words to describe it.
Growing up I wasn’t taught that work was something to dread about adulthood, from my viewpoint it was an exciting adventure that I couldn’t wait to be a part of. A place where applying your mind to problems earned you more than just a good grade, and more than just money, it earned satisfaction and personal fulfillment. I always knew I would do work that I loved, because I never did anything I didn’t love. The second the smell of McDonald’s Egg McMuffins became too disgusting our the dread mounted in my chest about spending another day helping people ship freight, I made the choice to move on. Often I moved on without knowing what I would do next, fully confident that I could figure out how to make money paying the bills (building random websites, training old people how to use their computers, pulling espresso shots at the neighborhood coffee shop, etc).
I have extraordinary parents, who have stayed married in the face of plenty of challenges from rebellious kids (especially me) to financial hardship (multiple failed companies and near bankruptcy). They’ve taught me so much about love and commitment. I criticized them for staying married when I was younger, because I couldn’t see or understand their romance, but now that I’ve been married to Kevin for almost 3 years it makes a lot more sense. Relationships with human beings are fragile, beautiful things to be treasured and appreciated – and my parents loved me even when I was behaving terribly, when I was their heart walking around in the big bad world they couldn’t protect me from, and they watched in fear as I danced with danger from time to time. Fortunately (miraculously?) I kept on being right about decisions they thought were insane, from attending my senior year of high school part time to pursue my band (I was so ahead on credits) to dropping out of college to join the workforce at a Fortune 500 company, to quitting that kick ass job 2 weeks short of my wedding to join a tech startup.
Beyond my parents, I have the kind of marriage I never could have imagined. Kevin proposed to me when I was 21, and we were married when I was 22. The divorce rates for people married our ages aren’t great (37% chance for me, 22% for him) and a lot of people were skeptical when our on-again off-again relationship turned serious after 2 years of dating. Getting married young is probably the riskiest thing I’ve ever done, and the one agreement we came to was that I needed to have the space and freedom to fully discover who I am – outside the marriage. We weren’t going to be a hyper co-dependent couple, and I wasn’t going to have any kids for a long time (right now the plan is to revisit the topic when I’m 30). Instead, we would travel, live abroad, take turns doing startups, and development independent circles of friends. All the things we saw married couples NOT doing, and then complaining about as they filled out the paperwork for divorce. Not a guarantee of happiness, but certainly helpful. Since our marriage, I’ve worked on 3 startups and Kevin left his long-time role at Microsoft after living in China for 6 months. We’ve lived in separate states and/or countries for 50% of the time we’ve been married, made countless friends, founded a company together and travelled a ton. In short, my marriage is my grandest ongoing adventure.
Looking into the future…
I’m more open about my past, and guarded about my future. The future for my company is probably the most clear, and everything else follows from there. I know that when I leave this startup there are 2 things I will do: 1) take a trip to the remaining continents I haven’t been to with my best friend D’Laina 2) catch up on sleep. Then I’ll probably found a company of my own, I’m ready. Will we continue to live in the Bay Area – probably, since the heart of the tech industry is here. Will we ever move back into our blue house in Kingsgate – probaby, when we’re older? I’d love to have kids there, if I have kids at all. Will my life continue to be full of passionate, adventure and people I love – definitely. And being certain of that is enough for me.