Twelve years ago, Becky, who was living in Westerville, Ohio, had all the trappings of success: she was a superefficient multi-tasker with a high-paying job as a regional manager for a residential developer. She had designer clothes, an expensive car, and $1200 a month cell phone habit. But inwardly, Becky’s life was unraveling.
As she describes it in my new book, "Birthing the Elephant," an action guide for women entrepreneurs, Becky had the job from hell: a tyrannical boss, nonstop deadlines, a staff of 40 to oversee, and major responsibility for managing the company’s $70 million construction portfolio. Her private life was no less stressful. She was married to a man with three children from a previous marriage and had just given birth to a baby. She was constantly on edge and too busy to take care of herself. “I never slept,” recalls Becky. “I smoked. My eating habits were terrible.”
In the course of a few months, her world turned upside down. Fed up at work, Becky finally snapped and quit her job. Realizing that her marriage was also coming to an end, she gathered her courage and left her husband and her home. Without work and in the midst of a difficult divorce, Becky found herself struggling to find a place to live that she could afford and where she could recover and raise her son.
While out with a real estate agent, she spotted a derelict old brick house just a few blocks from her former home in Westerville, a suburb of Columbus, Ohio. The house had been partially renovated as a bed-and-breakfast and then abandoned. Its empty, neglected rooms reminded Becky of herself. "This is exactly how I feel inside," she recalls thinking. "This house is just as sad as I am."
From the moment she walked in, she says, “I started dreaming about restoring the house. I would see a room completely done. I saw what color the walls were, what lights it had, what furniture was in it. I kept asking myself, ‘How do I know exactly what it needs?’ I’ve since come to believe that there are strong spiritual forces at work that we don’t pay enough attention to. But if we listen carefully, then what we hear will get us through, even if we don’t know what to do.”
Buoyed by her vision of what the house could be--and the idea that being an innkeeper would give her a way to work at home and take care of her son, Becky managed to put the money together to buy the house and complete its restoration. But staying focused and hopeful wasn’t easy, and she began feeling anxious about her decision.
“Oh my God, I’ve risked everything on this – I don’t have any savings left,” she recalls worrying. “But I just kept driving forward and saying, ‘I’m afraid. It’s OK to be afraid. I’ve already put in so much, so I’m just going to move ahead.’”
Being an innkeeper has proven to be a life-changing experience in ways Becky never imagined. “This has opened me up tremendously,” she says. “The guests who started coming were often very spiritual, very interesting people from all walks of life who were happy because they were doing the work they wanted to do. So it was a constant reinforcement for me.
“Every morning when I served breakfast, people told me their stories. They were incredibly gifted people using their gifts. Listening to them, I realized, ‘I’m on the right path.’ One of the things I learned from many of these people is that you are always in the right place at the right time. It may not feel like it, but the thing you need to understand or be exposed to is happening right now.”
“We never learn our most important lessons when we’re happy and everything’s going well,” adds Becky. “It’s when things get tough that we pay our utmost attention."
She has come to believe that the leap of faith she took in buying the inn opened the door to healing for herself--and for others as well. “One woman told me, ‘I like to stay here because there’s such good energy; this is just such a healing place.’ Parents come to stay and say, ‘You know, we were nervous about leaving our daughter at college, but now we know it will be OK. We feel so good after staying with you.’ The energy of the house not only healed me, it heals everyone who comes here.”
It’s also led to some unique experiences for Becky’s son, Jerrod, who has met a fascinating, ever-changing cast of characters. He’s had breakfast with the scientist who cloned Dolly the sheep and the man who invented the digital CD; he learned to dance from a choreographer who stages Broadway shows and has taken drawing lessons from a famous Chinese artist. Jerrod may have grown up in a small town, but the inn has brought the world to his doorstep.
For Becky, there was still another precious gift. After she had the website of The College Inn revamped, the person who redesigned the site arranged a blind date for her with a friend. Becky and Steve’s wedding is set for July.