How’s your rollercoaster of emotions going, comrades?
I wish I could hug you. Honestly. And I’m not even much of a hugger [#spectrumkid]. But I can whole-heartedly say I’ve run the gauntlet of every emotion and feeling this last week [some of which I don’t even know that I’ve felt to this degree in my x37 years of life, but then again … this is a 1 in 100 year event after all].
And the craziest part of all o’ that? Well, it’s only week one here in Australia [for those hailing from – and reading from – elsewhere], so I imagine I’ll continue to ride this incredibly nauseating rollercoaster ride for weeks [and months] to follow, and the most ironic thing about all of this? … I’m not the person who even rides rides.
You’ll see me at amusements parks. Sure. But I’m at the bottom of the ride, waiting 45-50 minutes while my husband and our [fearless] children line up to be thrown upside down / all around, and my role in all o’ that? Well, it’s to hold the bags, and take the photos, and tells the little people pumped with adrenalin that “you did good, sweetie”.
Generally speaking? I don’t like to be on rollercoasters, let alone emotional rollercoasters, but thanks to COVID-19? … here we all feckin’ are, eh?
So, I’m going to break down the 6 emotions you’ll feel as the Founder of a COVID-19 impacted business, in the hopes that you just feel … less alone [courtesy of my transparency].
For me, mine all started with disbelief:
I remember way back, like … x8-12’ish weeks ago or so when one of our strategists used the words “pandemic”, and I’ll admit we were all like, “wow Bobbo, that’s a big assertion you’re making there” [it’s an inside joke, and difficult to explain], but she was following the data [and the curve], and she tried to explain it all to us, and we were all like *shrugs* “ok, mate”.
I remember just last week gathering around as a team for our last “in-person” WIP, and even then the disbelief was still so real, i.e I said, “we’ll pivot to full WFH, and this’ll just be a few short weeks”.
And absolutely said from a genuine state of disbelief.
Then it quickly became the more obvious … fear:
In hindsight? The disbelief was protecting my brain from understanding that this is something that’s going to change my business for a really long time, and it’ll undoubtedly come out of all o’ this an entirely different business [I still cling to entrepreneurial optimism though, and I tell myself that perhaps there’ll be a lot of good to come from that, too].
But the fear, my GOD, it’s been the biggest emotion throughout all o’ this.
I wish I had the luxury of “only” being scared for myself RN [because even that is all encompassing], but for me? My fear extends to the x14 good souls I employ at TDP [and want to continue to employ], and then my fear also extends further to the x4 spouses my people are married to / partnered up with [because, #empath] whose partners have now lost their jobs.
For me, the fear has absolutely been driven from the not-knowing, i.e when you sit with your Business Advisor and you’re used to financially forecasting x4 years ahead, and now? Myself [and our long-term Business Advisor] can literally only take it week by week? … it’s an unsettling feeling that I just want to go away, immediately.
Then there’s been the grief:
And you’re allowed to grieve.
For me? I’m grieving for what I built. A 5.5 year story that wasn’t without its challenges [like all startups], and for 3.75 years of those 5.5 years … I was in the most deeply unhappy business partnership, and I just remember thinking that the worst TDP days were over off the back of finally exiting that partnership.
I’m grieving for the clients we’ve worked with who went from having achieved incredible results, to closing the doors [due to necessary restrictions], and literally overnight.
I’m grieving for our graduate community [i.e the graduates of our in-person workshops].
And I’m grieving for my children, who were thriving in school [my son who is on the gifted scale, and who is no longer – currently – being extended the way in which he needs], and my daughter [who is our resident extrovert, and not coping with the social isolation].
And not so much an “emotion”, but it needs to be here nonetheless … it’s the exhaustion:
This one is obvious.
I am working day and night [and into the wee hours], just trying to keep TDP afloat so that there will be a TDP at the end of all o’ this.
Because there will be an end to all of this, and I want my business to be standing at the end of all o’ that, of course.
Then, there’s hope:
Because in amongst all of the ugly [and my goodness, I’ve received emails and LinkedIn messages from apocalyptic vultures who are chasing “opportunities” from all of this, i.e “hi Cherie, I’m a HR specialist. I imagine you’re staring down the barrel of mass job loss. I can help you with this”].
How.feckin’.dare.you send a first contact LinkedIn message like that, when you’re talking about a team I’ve spent x5+ years building [?!].
There has been beauty in amongst this ugly, and it’s been people showing their very best sides, i.e people who are like, “Cherie, there are opportunities for TDP in Canberra. I have put your name forward”, or friends who’ve dropped soup to my front door when I’m on my 14th hour working without having eaten, or my team. Jesus. My team.
[I took a break from writing this blog post to cry for a solid x15 minutes. I am back now].
They have worked around-the-clock to ensure that we’re going to be ok, and I can’t even ensure that we are going to be ok … and yet, they work. And work. And check in on each other [and me]. And I cried to our MD the other day and said, “I’m not hearing from anyone?! This is so lonely!” and she said, “Cherie? Nobody is contacting you out of profound respect for you, i.e they’re trying to give you space to create, and innovate, and do the work that you need to do”.
And I cried again, because that felt like the ultimate act of love + selflessness.
And finally? There’s the “entrepreneurial optimism” that built this here business in the first place:
And that’s what’s going to see us out of all of this.
My optimism built this company to be what it is today, and it’ll see us through the other side of COVID-19.
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