Lessons from a Pandemic

Lessons from a Pandemic

Susan Willens

Today is December 31st, 2020, and as much as I would love to believe that when I wake up tomorrow this past year will be just a bad dream, I know that will be a few more months of darkness before we see any semblance of normalcy. But the light is there, and I’m finding that it does give me hope.  

Although I wouldn’t necessarily call myself an optimist, I do have a ( I think) positive habit of taking horrible situations and reflecting on the lessons I’ve learned from them. From a business perspective, this year was extremely challenging as many of you are aware. I finally had to curb my competitive nature I just accept that it would be a struggle. Virtually every art show, festival and craft fair was canceled, and although Farmer’s Markets kept going in one form or another, my bread and butter, those big, touristy events were gone, and with them, about 80% of my income. I’m still grateful however. I’m grateful my spouse is an essential worker, although I know it’s been difficult and stressful for him. I’m grateful because I’m in a situation where our mortgage payments and food budget don’t rely on my income. I’m grateful that I don’t have to pay rent for a storefront or heat and electricity for a studio. I’m grateful that my little business can take a huge hit like 2020 and I can still get up, lick my wounds and move forward. Not all small business owners can say this and I am painfully aware how fortunate I am. 

This year also forced me to work on a few aspects of my business that desperately needed it. I have never had as much online business as I’ve had this year and it became painfully obvious how much I had neglected it and how important it was. I admit, I’m an old school salesperson, face to face, witty banter, the whole nine yards— I love it. I love my customers, I love when they “ooh” and “ahh” over my soaps— silly I know, but every artist and crafts person wants people to love their creations. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me feel good. That part is missing somewhat in online selling, but I think I’m finally at peace with it. I guess 2021 will be the test. 

If there is one thing that I have managed to improve by leaps and bounds this year it has been flexibility. I’m kind of proud of this because this is not something I’m good at but if there was ever was a time to be flexible it was this year! Stringent COVID protocols at Farmers Markets?? Complete redo of my shabby chic, cluttered booth set up to streamline and minimalist. No festivals?? I’ll set up in my driveway. Weather a problem?? My amazing husband cleared out our shed and my best friend and I created a “Soap Shack” complete with music and lights. I felt things constantly were thrown at me and I think I ( with much help!) did ok.

That’s not to say I handled this year well, I absolutely did not— my lifelong battle with anxiety defeated me on more than one occasion this year, from panic attacks and insomnia, to angry outbursts and crying jags and surprising bursts of confidence and creativity. I’m sure many can relate. What I didn’t expect to feel was guilt— guilt because so many had it so much tougher than me and seemed to be handling it so much better. Healthcare workers working endless shifts, parents working from home while their kids are learning remotely, not to mention those that have lost family and friends to this terrible virus or have had it themselves. Food insecurity, eviction, domestic violence—I’ve dealt with none of these things and still fell apart on more than one occasion. I think my goal for the New Year will be to try and keep that perspective going forward. 

Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts. I appreciate all your support this past year, whether you bought products, shared posts, or just left a nice comment on my page! I hope 2021 will be a year of celebrations, hugs, drinks with friends, concerts and football games. I wish you all good health and healing from all we’ve been through— may there be better days ahead. Sue

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