Two years ago, I was 33, and single for the first time in nearly a decade. My partner and I had been planning to buy a house in the country, but I found myself back living in a shared house in East London with friends. I felt as though my life was over.
I got the cliche break up haircut, and threw out everything that reminded me of my ex and our old life. I also decided to leave my job as a management consultant and start an online gifting business.
Everybody around me told me I was mad. It's difficult starting a business at the best of times - never mind when you're recovering from a messy break up - but two years on, I wouldn't change a thing.
Far from being a big mistake, I've discovered there are some real positives to setting up a new business in a difficult period of your life. Here's what I learned from the experience:
A new project can give your life renewed focus and meaning
The first few weeks after I moved back to London I happily wallowed in bed with Netflix and regular deliveries of ice cream and pizza. And I saw no real reason to break out of this cycle any time soon. But with the constant threat of my savings running out and the excitement of brainstorming ideas with friends and creating my own business, this phase passed pretty quickly.
A change in lifestyle opens you up to new people and ideas
As part of a couple, my friendship group had dwindled over time into a small group of other couples, most with kids. Not only were my new housemates able to teach me how to be single again, they were also great for bouncing ideas off about my new business idea. For example, a conversation one evening where we discussed that so many people we knew seemed to be having their second or even third babies led to the creation of one of our most popular boxes - a gift that helps toddlers welcome a new baby into their family.
One more change in the context of big upheaval is less daunting
I had always had the idea that I would start a business 'one day'. Naturally risk averse, the right time or that perfect idea never quite developed. When everything was turned upside down, I got that push I needed to just jump off into the unknown. After all, I had nothing to lose
I had all the time in the world to focus on my business
Without a partner to consider, I could stay up until 2am working on my website any time I liked. The freedom to work any and all hours that are required is really useful when you are first creating a business. I never knew when a new idea would strike and I could drop whatever I was doing and shift my focus across to that.
I could put myself first - and not feel guilty about it
While in the past I had felt guilty for working long hours, and would rush back to spend time together with my partner when I was able, I no longer had to think about anyone but myself. Being selfish is a useful tool that many driven, motivated and ambitious people regularly use. There was something incredibly freeing and confidence building about being my own boss and doing exactly what I wanted when I wanted to without having to consider anyone else.
Although it's still early days I can honestly say I have not looked back once and am happier with my choices than I've probably ever been. The house in the country still lingers at the back of my mind, but that can certainly wait for now.