Today I am spending my first official open-for-business day in a new downtown office after working from home for more than 18 years. This day represents both a leap of faith and a test of courage as I step out from the comfort of my home office into the local business community at large. It’s also the result of a belief I have long held that we not only create our own opportunities in life but we also affect our future through the perception we choose to accept as our reality.

To be sure, I would not be here without the love and support of my family or the challenges and successes I have been fortunate to share with some amazing clients near and far, many of whom have been doing business with me virtually for a decade or more.

It’s also something I never could have accomplished without the Internet, which made geography irrelevant and learning from home not only possible but limitless.

But I absolutely would not be here if I had not also found some incredible mentors, some of them my own clients, many of them women, inspiring me by example to keep trying and to keep telling myself, I CAN DO THIS.

I say this to myself each and every morning, often many times a day. And do you know what? Sometimes those words echo back to me when I need to hear them most. I’m telling you this now for one simple reason: If I can do it, so can YOU.

Since I started my business, I have always made a point to dress for work and arrive “at the office”, whether it was a closet, the kitchen, a sunporch or our family room, ready and willing to make a day of it, and to serve others to the best of my ability.

Once that meant hiding in the bathroom with a towel over my head while I participated in a global conference call at the same time my cockatiel decided to do his loudest jungle call. Another time it meant trying to stay calm when my toddler playing barbershop actually cut a chunk of my hair off while I was on the phone.

I chose to be a stay-at-home mom in 1986, leaving a position as assistant managing editor of our local daily newspaper when my first child was born. At the time I could not fathom putting my newborn in daycare. I know I was fortunate not to have to make that choice. By the time I was ready to return to the workforce and had located a great daycare facility, the newspaper had a new owner and a no-spouse policy that prevented me from being able to practice my profession in our small town (my husband was publisher at that time). Daycare costs, however, far outpaced my earnings at the time making a return to an external job without any financial incentive.

I struggled with various at-home jobs including desktop publishing and selling toys until around 1995 the Internet came along and set me free. I learned html about the same time it was being invented, and I have never looked back.

In the meantime, I raised two children and worked as often as possible between countless scout meetings, soccer games, car pools and swim meets, often late at night after their bedtime because that was the best time with the fewest interruptions. In the process I hoped to both inspire and provide an example to my children that they, too, could make their own way in the world. Both of them are doing that now and making me proud to see their ongoing efforts despite the especially tough economy that greets their adulthood.

Today, I have a new little office at the back of the first floor of the former federal courthouse in Cape Girardeau, Missouri (a building which has further distinguished itself more recently as an on-location film spot for the popular movie Gone Girl).

I have claimed a first floor room as my own, complete with some purple paint and a 6-foot banner. Also setting up shop on the first floor is a new business, a co-working incubator for freelancers and entrepreneurs known as Codefi. I consider myself especially lucky to be both their neighbor and a soon-to-be new member enjoying a creative business environment that includes a conference table on swings, a video studio, a training facility for clients, a networking environment for like-minded individuals and a convenient kitchen just down the hall.
It’s an exciting new environment to say the least.

On my desk there is a tiny blue book, just an inch or so in height, entitled Believing In Ourselves: A Celebration of Women, edited by Barbara Scofidio. I purchased it at a bookstore in the ‘90s and I’ve kept it in my office ever since.

In its Introduction, Scofidio writes:

“The voices of the women represented in this volume are varied, but they all have one thing in common: a powerful belief in themselves, a belief that allowed them to take risks, overcome obstacles, and reach their personal milestones. Whether their words were written a few years ago or a few hundred years ago, their message is as timely as ever.

“No matter whether we are homemakers or lawyers, or homemakers and lawyers, a strong belief in ourselves is the foundation upon which all of our successes will be built.”

A couple of my favorite quotes:

“I have always felt that the moment when you first wake up in the morning is the most wonderful of the 24 hours. No matter how weary or dreary you may feel, you possess the certainty that absolutely anything may happen.” – Monica Baldwin

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” – Anais Nin

Never have those words meant more to me than today.