The decision to close a business is not an easy step to take. Especially, if the business is successful and in the midst of growth. Building a business, nurturing it, gaining clients, and helping clients year after year is every entrepreneur’s dream. It was my dream and I was doing what I loved to do in the creative arts field of music therapy. Then, after 15 years with 6 years in private practice, I closed it all down. Here’s a breakdown of what happened and how I took the steps to make the change.
● What changed and why
● What it meant and what I needed to do
● How my clients and others responded
● How it made a difference in my life
● How I feel now as I look back
Family comes first right?! If you get right down to it, it’s true. My family was more important than continuing to manage my music therapy business. In 2019, just before the covid pandemic arrived, I closed my doors to my music therapy clinic with enough clients that I had a waitlist.
Business was Growing
As a Music Therapist, I worked for 9 years in hospice helping people in their end-of-life journey through music. For a couple over-lapping years, I began taking clients on the side. I worked in-home with children with developmental disabilities. I grew to love working with those individuals and operating a business, and so Access Music Therapy, llc was born.
Opening a Clinic
After resigning in 2014, from my hospice position, I began providing music therapy services full-time to children and adults with developmental disabilities and contract services to long term care facilities. A year into this new journey, I opened a brick and mortar clinic/studio. I also added creative arts classes, hired an art therapist and offered that service as well. I was managing the business and seeing clients. It was great!
Planning for the Future
In 2018, Joe and I were thinking about adding other streams of income for our family. Our goal was to have rentals in order to increase our income and use that as part of our plan for retirement. We decided that I would start studying for my real estate license, casually.
Life is not ALL work though. My family included being mom to 2 adult daughters, step-mom to 2 teenagers who visited on weekends, and grandma to one. My parents were snowbirds and always lived at least 2 hours away and my mother-in-law lived in Minneapolis. My younger daughter, Lizzi, was diagnosed with schizophrenia when she was 18. At this time, she was 20 with one child. She wasn’t very stable.
The Polar Vortex
Schizophrenia is a very complex brain disorder that can include hallucinations, delusions, grandiose and extreme disordered thinking which all impairs daily functioning. Lizzi had developed serious complications due to her inability to consistently take medication. Not taking medications sent her into a mental tailspin and she ended up living on the streets of Duluth, homeless and trapped in her symptoms. Her son was being cared for by his father and other grandma. Lizzi was even out on the streets during the Duluth polar vortex in January 2019. Overall, she was living on the streets, lost to her family for a whole year! It was one of the worst times of my life. So much worry! You can imagine how hard this was to maintain my ability to do therapy with clients.
That is a lot for a mom to handle! Thank God, I was periodically talking with the police about Lizzi’s whereabouts. In April of 2019, Lizzi was committed to the hospital by the county for 6 months. This gave me some relief from my worrying and searching for her. She was safe, getting medications and the therapy she desperately needed.
A Balancing Act & Cancer
When Lizzi’s commitment began, we found out Joe’s mom, Mary, had terminal cancer. We began to spend many weekends and weeks with her in Minneapolis helping with treatment sessions and just spending more time with her. In order to help, I took breaks from my business to be available. During our time with Mary, we talked about my music therapy business and that I was almost finished with studying for the real estate exam. An idea to pull away from my business and possibly go into real estate was beginning to roll around in my head.
Advice from an Angel
Mary knew how difficult it was for me to be present enough for my clients and managing the whole business. She was very encouraging for me to consider going into real estate. The fact that it would be more flexible for my life was definitely a draw. And, I had been trying to hire another music therapist to lessen my clinical load, but it was showing to be a very hard road. Then, I put it out into the world that I was hoping to sell my business with my large client list. Many companies were interested, but they honestly told me it was more than they could handle. What?! I was balancing it all, but I knew it was time to put my family first and switch gears.
I took two weeks off from my business to pray and make the final decision to close the business. Many of my client’s families knew of my family life. So, when I came back and sent out the letter that I had made the very difficult, heart-breaking decision to close my business, many understood. The hardest part about closing up shop was that I was the ONLY Music Therapist in private practice for 100 miles. There was no one to refer my clients to. I planned a last session date for in-studio clients and finished out my contracts in the community. I gave many music instruments to my clients as gifts to encourage and enable them to continue music at home.
How Life Looked Different
Four months after Mary’s cancer diagnosis, she passed away in August 2019. I closed my music therapy business at the end of August. Joe and I took some time to rest and reflect in Hawaii for a few weeks. It had been a very hard, emotional year. Kauai, Maui and Hawaii was just what we needed to refuel. When we returned, I signed a contract with Messina & Associates in September to join their real estate group. I began orienting and learning more about real estate. It was such a different world than I was use to. Everything was so concrete compared to the therapy world. But, I knew my experience would benefit me in my new career as a real estate agent.
Lizzi was finishing up her commitment in the hospital and afterwards, she moved into a boarding home. She was stable with her supports, taking her medications, and attending outpatient therapy. Then, she became pregnant with Violet in February 2020. Covid hit in March 2020, and Lizzi came to live with us.
How the Big Change Feels
Inside of me, I was relieved to let go of the stress of balancing my business with my particular family life issues. I did struggle with letting go of my career as a Music Therapist. I had worked so hard to earn my degrees. This was a major moment to embrace the change. I feel it was a lot more than the average person has to deal with. Sometimes I ask God, why so much? But, He is always near and I just ask for guidance, endurance and strength, and that helped me to embrace the change. Those chapters are behind me and others have come along since, but I know that I was meant to “retire” from music therapy. It was a wonderful career for the 15 years. I don’t regret my decision.
With the needs of my family and not to mention the fact that the pandemic hit just months after, it was the right decision for me. If I hadn’t closed, my business would have possibly been wiped out because of the pandemic. My clients were typically vulnerable to potential illnesses, and my contract locations closed their doors to outside services.
Becoming a Realtor
I have thoroughly enjoyed becoming a Realtor. It gives me the flexibility throughout the year to have a better work/life balance. Making these changes helped me so much. I still balance a lot, but it’s different, it’s better.
Taking Action with the Changes
Are you burnt out? Do you have a work/life imbalance? Do you just feel like something needs to change in your life? Here are a few tips to sort things out:
Ask yourself these questions, “How much of my mental health is being sacrificed for this situation?” “Is this situation temporary or could it be long-term?”
Find support to work through the issue. See a counselor, talk to a trusted friend or family member, join a support group.
Take some time for yourself to really find out what changes you are willing to make. Whether it’s taking time off to be alone and think, pray, meditate. It’s very important for YOU to be okay with your decision to make a change.
There are many perspectives to every situation. Different roads one may travel down with different outcomes. Some people might power through and others might fall apart completely without a plan. I want to encourage you to the following:
Overall, it’s your life. Live it the way you need to live it. Take suggestions from others. You just never know where they might lead you. I listened to my mother-in-law before her passing, and it was very helpful. Take time for yourself. Changes are big and life-altering. I believe that if you use these suggestions, you will feel confident in your decisions.
Want to learn more about music therapy? Visit www.musictherapy.org