Collage of a woman with a paint swash over her eyes

I’ve simultaneously felt all of my emotions — from rage and grief to empowerment and optimism — these last weeks. From my place of privilege, in that my fear of death is eclipsed by the fear of life inconvenience, I have spent no less than 3 hours a day dedicated to mentally cataloging all of the career decisions I’ve made in my life and the potential this virus is robbing me of. I spend another few hours grumbling about the relief efforts positioned to help small businesses but written by people who likely haven’t navigated starting a business recently enough to realize that many don’t qualify for that relief and are scared that they’re going to be forgotten about because the “small business” box has been checked.

Before I get too far into it, a bit of exposition:

In December 2019, I embarked on a complete business pivot to focus my efforts on coaching, creating and connecting. I spent months meeting, testing, networking, bartering, studying, self-doubting, perfecting, rallying, ready to unveil all of the efforts I put into these offerings. Then, my child’s daycare closed. I could no longer hustle at my same pace, bopping from meeting to coworking to strategy session. My inaugural paying contract canceled. My case study clients turned attention elsewhere before I could get the timely testimonials and reciprocal promotion on the heels of working together.

I bought into the “work hard play hard” environment for the first 15 years of my career, investing grueling hours and hoping to cash in on the carefree party that I was anticipating. I was the primary breadwinner in my family, a point of pride for me. Then I fell into the trappings of most women my age, I burnt out, aged out, and freaked out. I was laid off, knocked up, and rehired all within the same month. My world felt upside down, a waking nightmare for a Type-A career-focused workaholic. I sought the counsel of a career psychologist and it gave me a few “ah-ha!” moments but left me with no clear place to go. I validated that I needed to be in a more social role, helping and leading people. That was almost 3 years ago.

A year later, I left a full-time role to begin consulting with global varietals of the same corporate culture. It was comforting at first. I’m weirdly good at plugging into orgs in times of change and helping people find something better on the other side. Soon though, I was back to working way too many hours, setting no boundaries, demonstrating every troublesome tendency that I coach others to avoid. I saw it. I stopped it. I took another leap.

I decided to see what I could achieve if I cleared all of the barriers I hid behind when it came to my “side hustle” and let the outgrowth of my consulting work, well, grow. I put into practice what I’ve preached on behalf of large brands for myself and mission-driven humans. I borrowed from my consulting revenue and prioritized business development. I made a road map and gave it the same priority I gave my clients. I had an incredible few months. Each day was full of small victories, crushing setbacks, big advances, and unforeseen obstacles — and they were mine.

Now we’re here — destabilized as the physical and mental spaces we occupy have changed completely.

I’m isolated in my small city apartment with paper-thin ceilings and walls, on the ground floor (high-traffic hallway) with little natural light. Many of the “efficiencies” I built into my life now translate to “unprepared”.

I know cerebrally that this is a collective trauma — too much, too fast. It’s a blow to our nervous systems.
I know all the things that have made me a good entrepreneur are working against me right now.
I know I battle anxiety on a daily basis.
I know the disappointment isn’t necessarily directed at myself.
I know this isn’t what anyone planned for.
And yet, I FEEL guilt.
I continue to hold myself to non-human expectations that I advised others to ignore.
Sometimes those unreasonable expectations are what push me to achieve more.
Sometimes those unreasonable expectations completely overwhelm me.
This is one of those times.

When I catch these feelings, I make a safe space for myself to feel all of the things at once. I used to pride myself on being able to optimize my capacity, but capacity is a finite thing. The optimization comes with prioritization, and prioritization requires you to eliminate things. So rather than all the things I feel like I should be doing, I cut things that I shouldn’t be doing. Quiet some of that noise.
I don’t need to make dalgona coffee.
I don’t need to start a workout routine.
I don’t need to use my food styling kit to document meals.

I do need to keep my family safe.
I do need to be emotionally available to them.
I do need to nourish their bodies and their minds.

I add to those things and build from there.

I do need to keep my family & tribe safe.
I do need to be emotionally available to them & nurture a space for their emotions.
I do need to nourish & enrich their bodies and their minds.

I use this lens to measure decisions. Somehow, the external qualifier alleviates some of the guilt (even though I made the rubric). What is decidedly missing from this list of things is that I need to have viable revenue streams for my business. I count this as an incredible fortitude that won’t last forever but can get me through right now. I focus on that when I go down the rabbit hole of business development, pitching offerings created to solve the problems of a pre-COVID society. Arguably, a lot of the advocacy that I built &AND& around will be even more prescient when this plays out further. To effectively solve a problem, though, you need to fully understand it — and this problem is still manifesting.

So I continue my on-brand mental gymnastics of dialectical thinking and unpack further with each “yes, and…”—getting closer to whatever will be next.

And for you, if you’re harboring guilt or holding on to a “should,” I hope this provides a momentary respite. I won’t give empty reassurances, but we can explore this together.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign in
Cart (0)

No products in the cart. No products in the cart.