This is not how it was supposed to go. In June of 2017 I nervously and excitedly “retired” from my career as a financial advisor. One month before Cartago opened.The decision to retire was not exactly my choice. My ownership stake in Cartago was such that it violated my contract for outside business activity with Sunlife. This was an annoying development that I hadn’t thought through when I incorporated Cartago. With the project one month to completion, what was I going to do? I had planned to leave Sunlife in February of the following year, not at the end of the month. I was 4 months pregnant and my plan was to stay at Sunlife until I gave birth, take a year of maternity leave then exit the business. Work whenever I wanted as a server in my family’s bar. My fun job. This would leave me free to be a mom (whatever that looked like) pursue other passions and decide what career direction I would take next. Oopsie Whoopsie. I was annoyed but also excited about the unexpected because why not?
Cartago has been in Jordan’s head for 15 years. It’s taken on different incarnations as he honed his craft and his palate. It became clear in January of 2016 when he and I stumbled upon what we call a beer cafe on the island of Koh Tao in Thailand. A small space that creates a great sense of community among people from all over the world and the island if you’re lucky enough to stumble upon it’s off the beaten track location. We spent many a night here while we were on Koh Tao. On one of the nights, Jordan talked about how he had wanted to open a cocktail lounge in previous years. As many of you know, Jordan is one of the OG’s of craft cocktailling in Edmonton. His cocktails are exceptionally elegant and balanced. Simple ingredients that are unpretentious but strikingly delicious; enjoyed and appreciated by novice and seasoned cocktail drinkers alike. He can romance the entire drink from the glass to the oil that comes off the zest of a garnish. By this time though his love of beer had taken over and he was passionate about beer types and craft beer in all it’s forms both local and international. If he was ever to do a bar it would be something similar to this beer cafe we were sitting in. He had given up bartending for a few years because he felt that in order to have the other things he wanted in life (A wife and family) bartending or bar ownership just wasn’t in the cards. I wasn’t so sure about being a wife or having a family but I was drunk on an obscure and delicious Sri Lankan stout and deliriously in love so I said: “ You should do it. Open up your bar. I will help you open up your bar.”
Every detail of Cartago was conceptualized and agonized over by Jordan so that it would be perfect. For him and for the community. So that it would be exactly what it needed to be. In my opinion he nailed it. His best friend Danny came onboard with the project in late 2016 and so it was the three of us. The three amigos. They would run the show and I would just be along for the exciting ride of watching my love live out his dream. Helping here and there as needed. This was how it was supposed to go.
To cut to the quick. Jordan is no longer part of Cartago (Except by proxy as my life partner.) Danny and I own and operate Cartago together. This is not entirely my story to tell so I will just say that for me it was the worst most heartbreaking decision of my life. I made the decision for my family and the survival of Cartago. There are some days it hurts both of us differently and there are some days it hurts us the same. I am grateful for all the days that we both know I made the right decision however heartbreaking it was and is.
This almost broke us. Rock bottom is a powerful place and as painful as it was on both of us, it turned the tide for him and our family. The road back to us has been hard. We both have some deep wounds that have to heal but with attention, work and love the scar tissue is getting stronger all the time. As an aside, the “hard work” people talk about in relationships is not necessarily the work you do for your partner. It’s the work you do on yourself so you can show up for your partner how they need you. This was my biggest lesson in 2018. I am grateful for a partner who is doing the work and he’s grateful for the same.
The emotions I carried around this last year were so foreign to me that I was a shell of who I know that I am. I operated in a constant state of anxiety. Adrenaline constantly coursing through my veins. I l couldn’t concentrate on anything and I forgot everything. I would avoid opening text messages and emails because I either didn’t know how to deal with them or didn’t want to deal with them. I have unopened messages and emails numbering in the 100’s because I just couldn’t deal. I also certainly didn’t want to initiate conversation that would lead to someone asking me how I was. I had deep shame. I gave away my total autonomy for someone else’s dream. Me, Ms Independent feminist. I thought if anyone knew this they would know what a fraud I was. This is why I have never really “owned” Cartago. I didn’t see it as mine. As messed up as it sounds I felt jealous that Jordan got to look for a job. A new adventure that I craved but was unable to do because I was here holding down the fort on someone else’s dream. I could have sold Cartago and I thought about it many times. I knew though that if I sold it, it would change. It would become something it wasn’t supposed to be and I couldn’t do that to the community and family that we have built here. The most foreign of all emotions though was my constant victimhood. I have never felt like a victim. It’s a very hapless place. I was constantly asking myself and him: Why did he do this to me? Why was this happening to me? Why don’t more people see how bad this is for me? The truth of the matter is; I made every single decision. From the moment I said let’s build it in Thailand, those decisions were mine. No one did this to me. I did this to myself. It has only been in the last couple of months that I have come out of the victimhood fog. The ownership of my own decisions have been extremely powerful in healing some of the trauma of the past year.
I am grateful for a few things that kept my head above water this year. My parents have been steadfast and constant with their love and support. Absent of judgement always. My wonderful friends. I have five friends who know it all. The good, the bad and the ugly. They have loved and supported me closely and from afar. Being there in a panic when I needed them and also understanding that distance and unreturned text messages were sometimes necessary and not personal. I am going to be a better friend this year. They deserve it from me and I miss them. My business partner, Danny. We are the unlikeliest of business partners but somehow it works and it works well. This year Danny experienced loss too. Jordan is his best friend and this was not supposed to be how it went. He demonstrated incredible loyalty as a business partner in what undoubtedly was a decision that could have cost him a life long friend. Through it all he has remained positive and upbeat. Captaining the ship, working a million and one hours without complaint making sure everything runs smoothly. All while providing the best damn hospitality in town. I may be biased but Jordan and Danny are the two best bartenders in Edmonton. The knowledge and experience they bring is one thing but they have both carefully honed the craft of caring. They genuinely care about their customers. They know you, they are there for you and you will know it. There may be more skilled bartenders but you will never feel as taken care of as you do with Danny and Jordan. True professionals. Lastly, my daughter. She sleeps twelve hours a night and eats anything we put in front of her. That may sound trite when I’m talking about gratefulness but I didn’t have patience for anything this year and so I’m grateful that she chose me as her mom, this easy funny baby of mine.I was needed by her and she kept me tethered in some very dark moments. I don’t love being a mom but I love being her mom.
I am a bar owner. I own Cartago. I can confidently and positively say that now. It wasn’t my dream but it has been a dream of a business. That’s not to say anything has been easy. Running a small business especially a restaurant is not for the faint of heart and certainly not easy. But in such a short time we have built a community within a community and I am happy to be part of it and grow it. I am excited to open the deli next door with my best friend Kim and Danny and for what the future holds for us and for the community of Forest Heights. This wasn’t my dream but I’m going to make it my dream because it feels right and good now.
Writing this all out has been therapeutic for me. It may also answer some questions that some of you had but were too respectful to ask. I wrote this out because I am leaving this all in 2018. I am setting intentions for 2019 that are light, happy and exciting. More love, more friendship, more healing.