Reflecting on the Close & Welcoming what’s next

I’ve been sitting in my kitchen for the past hour, reflecting on the last day and a half – or collective few years. There is a palpable grief, and and overwhelming gratitude, coursing through my body; it’s a power that I know is not anxiety, for once; it’s the awakening of dormant hope, settling into all the little broken places and allowing me to more fully reflect on where I (and we) have been and what we’ve been through. I have a lot more I need to expel, verbally and through action, however today, it was a very acute reflection.

While I sat here I sifted through all that’s changed, searching through myself to match grief to gratitude, I was immediately drawn back to September and all of the countering emotions I experienced as I powered numbly through even more significant change within the now boundary-less year that 2020 will forever be. In September I turned the page on a very long chapter of my life, one that expedited my personal and life growth over the last 10 years. In September I closed on a sale and closure of a business that was the last of a series of anchors that I had dropped for myself in a town that I loved beyond measure. The departure was an overdue moment in many ways, yet still inexplicably abrupt since nostalgia and romantic ideals are always stronger than rationality.

That all being in the depths of 2020, a consolidated trauma we’ll be unpacking for years to come, I did feel called to go back and revisit a letter I wrote to some of the staff and key clients throughout the years, on the day that we shut the doors for good. I never intended to share this broadly, mostly because I wrote it as a stream of consciousness and didn’t, until today, have the capacity to re-read it, or reflect on all of the lovely, thoughtful and love-filled responses that followed. As I took it all in, I think it’s important to share in this space for a few reasons:

  • First, I undoubtedly missed people who deserved my sincerest gratitude and acknowledgement for their presence in those parts of my life. There was a lot going on, and my mind being in a bit of a fog would have been an understatement.
  • While this chapter needed to end for me for many reasons, it provided a significant and very intimate experience of growth and vulnerability that I had both benefitted and suffered from for 10 very impactful years; at the end I wanted to make sure I walked out with my heart full of gratitude, and placed firmly on my sleeve. I hope this reflects that for everyone who shared this space for me, and you know how deeply I appreciate you for what you gave to me, personally.
  • And lastly, but not insignificantly, it is real and true and reflects the bittersweet goodbye waiting at the finish line of most every ‘close’ in life and business that I (and we) can ever hope to experience; it was a fantastic ride of brutiful (brutal & beautiful) grace that showed us exactly who we did and did not want to be, and how we could take what might look like rubble and rebuild ourselves however we wanted, even in the face of grief, pain, struggle, and the god-forsaken year of 2020.

So with that all, I invite you to take a short tour of the inside of my heart, and what I am taking with me from the last decade, as we cross the threshold into the new; it’s not always going to be shiny and bright, but goddamnit, it will be a beautiful mess if nothing less when we put our hearts and soul into living, breathing, and forgiving our truth.

________

We’ve Come to the Close: Thank you for Everything

Nine years ago I was running on a treadmill in ACAC when I made the decision to open my first fitness business.  I was in town visiting friends — I had been visiting a lot — looking for any way to return to Charlottesville, and the comfort of the known.  While I felt like I was searching for any anchor, what I really wanted was the opportunity to build something meaningful, to challenge my limits, and to grow.  I wanted to push myself and was hungry for experience and community; I could feel the possibility that dripped from this sweet little town to expand my heart with it’s own inspired beat.  As I was running on that treadmill, weighing the options over in my head, something shifted for me; for the first time in years of running to train, I just hit the stop button in the middle of my workout and walked out.  That night I committed to open Pure Barre Charlottesville, and nothing was ever the same.

Almost a decade later I look back at that decision and all the businesses that would come to be, and I’m thankful that I was too naive and too young to know any better.  Had I known what was ahead, how risky it was or what challenges would come along the way, I don’t think I would have done it;  I likely would not have made it back to Charlottesville, or had the very clear privilege to have experienced this community, and everyone who contributed to it.  As it is, while there are many things that I wish I had known then or done better, if the choice was to do it all over again exactly as it was, or not at all, well, I’d throw myself right back through all the hoops, full fuego, because I can’t imagine not having experienced the memories and friendships that these communities have brought into my life throughout the last 8 years of operating.  

For anyone who has ever owned a business, you know, it is the f**king hardest, most challenging, often paralyzing experience that you could ever learn from; it is messy and beautiful, fully vulnerable and equally strengthening.  There is no easy button, ever. You experience failure more times than you’ll succeed, and you’ll want to quit 6 our of every 7 days. I’ve experienced it all fully; the best and worst versions of people, as the best and worst versions of myself — it was all fully human.  Taking it on while still trying to figure out who I was, and what I was capable of on my own and in all different spaces…well, all I can say is that it has been a hard fought journey to travel and I’m so grateful for it — for all of it.

 Each and everyone of you that is reading this note is someone whose friendship, love, support, and contributions to the different stages of journey has meant to the world to me, personally, whether you know it or not, and shaped some part of the path.  Some of the best and most significant parts of my life would not have been possible without you and your presence in it, through the good and the challenging, and I will forever be grateful.  

For those of you who were there at the beginning and trusted me as a 26 year old opening a business with no experience to speak of, I will never know what the hell you were thinking, but I am so appreciative you did.  You empowered me and showed me compassion as I learned my way through it, stumbling every third step or so and slowly finding my voice. For the many who came through the middle years, thank you for helping to expand the community to be something that was stronger and more beautiful than I had ever imagined or thought possible; it was overwhelming and crazy but also incalculably powerful.  To the many who entered in the last several years at M3 and stood vigil even through these last days, thank you for seeing the heart and soul within the walls, the heartbeat that started this all, and for allowing my heart to beat with you even when I wasn’t always able to be present; you have held space for me through grief, celebrated happiness, and most significantly this year supported my family as we navigated my dad’s cancer through COVID, which was the most difficult.  It has been a true honor and privilege to see the raw commitment and humanity that has shone through us all as we’ve evolved individually and collectively, several times over.

 To everyone who saw me, fully and independently, and embraced me as I unsteadily navigated through the challenges of being a human in this life trying to also keep all the wheels on the bus, I am endlessly grateful and indebted to you for your compassion and respect.  I cannot ever fully express how even the quietest words gave me the strength and resilience to survive a lot more than I ever thought possible.  Whether you have been here from the beginning to the end, or just a moment, you are a part of this collective experience (and community) that taught me what true love and compassion feels like to receive, and feels like to give; you challenged me to grow, to expand, and to find my strengths.  You held space for me as I became myself, found myself, and rebuilt myself many times over.   Along side of you, and through your support, I’ve learned who I am, what I stand for, what I stand up against, and my capability to stand for myself, and there is no greater value that I could ever hope for in my life. 

Today, predictably, is a very bittersweet day, but I have been ready for it for a long time and could not be more excited for what is to come in this next, new, chapter.  
Thank you all for everything; part of me will always be rooted in Charlottesville, in the memories, and all that I’ve learned. While I am NOT sad to say goodbye to brick and mortar business ownership, I will miss all of the love that I’ve known within those walls.  I’ve had a marvelous time and the next chapter has already started. 


Please keep in touch, and thank you all for EVERYTHING.  
xoxo
Val

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