When the Train Comes Off the Tracks

Sometimes life can feel like being the conductor on a train. These are very precious times. It takes a lot to derail a train. You’re driving full speed in the direction of your destination. Little bumps and pushes come and go, seemingly unfelt. Debris will fly in your way but you plow through. The train is practically invincible. It takes a force of nature to change its course.

That’s how Brendan and I felt in April of 2014 when we first began planning True Respite. We had a plan, we had a vision, we had a destination and we were plowing towards it, full speed ahead. Then in July of 2014 a true force of nature knocked that train over and we weren’t quite sure how we were going to get it back on track. I was pregnant.

We discovered the news four days after Brendan sat down with my family and explained that it was the worst possible time to have kids because we were opening a business. He calmly explained what we had already decided together: they would have to wait at least five years for grandkids. We wanted to give our all to both the brewery and our kids and therefore didn’t want to have any kids before the business took off and built momentum of its own. Little did we know that as he explained this, I was already 6 weeks pregnant.

Needless to say, the news came as quite a surprise. How would we make this work? How could we have a child while we’re trying to start a business? Can we manage the financial risk? What about the wellbeing of the child? What about our own wellbeing?

After much thought and toil, we decided not to let having a child stop us from pursuing our dreams of opening a brewery. Instead, we could keep pushing forward as if nothing had changed. So we did. (And as a personal side note, I will tell you that giving up beer for nearly 9 months is extra hard when almost all of your free time is spent planning to open a brewery!)

Then the most incredible thing in the world happened: Aidan William O’Leary was born on March 5, 2015, at 10:20 am, weighing 7 lbs, 2 oz and carrying the key to our hearts. There is nothing more exhilarating, more terrifying, or more beautiful than welcoming a child into this world. As of that moment, our entire view on life changed. Opening True Respite went from being our dream and passion to being a way to teach our son how to set goals, follow dreams, and nurture passions. Everything in life became more than it was before.

It all became far more difficult, too. Trying to care for a newborn was the hardest thing we have ever done. Brendan went back to work full time after one short week and I went back full time myself when Aidan was 12 weeks old. So there we were, both working full time as engineers, caring for a baby, and staying up late at night to write the business plan after Aidan went to sleep. It was tough. Sleep was a luxury we couldn’t afford if we were going to accomplish everything. We stayed up late to work on the brewery, woke up early to go work, and woke up multiple times a night for at least 6.5 months when Aidan needed us. It took a toll on us physically and emotionally, but we somehow found a way to power through. We wrote a full 140-page business plan, built and perfected our financial models, selected contractors, selected brew house equipment, met and secured our Brewmaster, and more. It’s amazing what you are capable of when you really, really want something.

This experience taught us so many things:

1) Having a kid and helping them grow is the most incredible thing we’ve experienced. Kids change everything but they are more than worth every hardship.

2) Motivation and drive is a powerful, powerful tool.

3) The train of your life really can’t be derailed unless you let it. Sure, powerful blows can become diversions on the track. They may take you to a new destination; sometimes close and sometimes very far from your original destination. But you always have the power to keep the train on the track.

It’s up to you, the conductor, to choose how you approach these diversions and how far you’re willing to travel “off course.” Sometimes the scenic route can be incredible. Other times, you just have to make sure you have your cattle guard installed.

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