By: Gabby Fisher, ACE Digital Marketing Manager
I woke up happy today. An hour or two passed…still happy. I called my sister. We both suffer from anxiety and tend to be the anchors that hold each other down; we get each other through the tough times. I told her…”I’m really happy today. I don’t know why. Is this the calm before the storm? Why can’t I just be okay with this good feeling? It’s like I’m skeptical of happiness now.” I cannot remember a day over the past seven-ish weeks of quarantine where I felt at peace, and now I feel like I’m bound to that negative energy in a way where I’m having a hard time letting myself feel good.
I couldn’t sleep for the first two weeks of quarantine. I’d wake up sweating, filled with anxiety about my own physical wellbeing and the health of my family. I can’t protect them from this. As the oldest of four, my instinct is ‘protect at all costs’. I’m helpless in this situation. Then came the wave of uncertainty about my business, its future, and the grave reality that I would have to go back and rethink every vision I initially had for its growth and direction. The world I built my business in is no longer the world we live in today. I have to adapt, but what if I can’t? Would I have to take on a traditional job I hate just to pay my bills and get by? My worst nightmare.
I started looking into the federal stimulus programs. I read tons of articles, talked to fellow business owners and still felt completely unprepared and terrified about applying. As a sole proprietor, do I even deserve these loans or assistance? Surely there are businesses struggling way harder than me…people with multiple employees who have kids to feed. I felt guilty. Even a couple weeks later, I still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing…Okay, great, say I get approved for this loan, what if I don’t use the money correctly and have to pay it back? What if I violate some aspect of the agreement by simply not knowing what I do not know? I called my bank and some granting organizations that offered free help via social media; either long waits, no replies, and once, a super rude and unhelpful employee made me feel dumb for asking basic questions. I felt alone and just wanted to give up. I’d rather take a hit than try to navigate this process on top of everything else I was dealing with.
Now I’m applying for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance because my income has taken a serious hit. It’s a waiting game…I had to apply on two separate occasions because there was technical difficulties with the first application (a big waste of time) and so I find myself sitting, staring at the phone, waiting for an unemployment agent to contact me. Anxious that I’ll miss the call, which will add even more time to the process (potentially, weeks). Now, we wait…Some of my friends and family applied more than a month ago and still nothing. I feel horribly for them…adding to my anxiety.
Now, deeper into quarantine and isolation, I lack inspiration and energy. I consider myself an extrovert (mostly, though I can be very introverted at times) and I feed off of other people’s energy. That’s where my creativity and passion come from, community and through building meaningful connections. During regular times, I will bounce from meeting to meeting, all day everyday. At night, I’ll attend events of all kinds. I’m rarely home. I’m always out. I cannot sit still for more than five minutes. I’m obsessed with productivity and spending time with those I love. Now, I sit in stillness…a lot. A silver lining some may say…I guess. I’m on my way to learning that stillness is okay. But again, I feed off the energy of others and now, it’s just me. I simply cannot thrive in this environment.
Despite what I’ve written in regards to my struggles during this time, I consider myself a very positive person. I pride myself on being that way. That’s exactly why I wanted to write this…it’s okay to be that positive, energetic person in “regular times” and to struggle and lose a little bit of optimism during this arduous time. It’s what makes us human…our emotions, our reactions, our frustrations…what we learn from experiences such as these. I’m learning.
I’m learning that when I’m happy, I should sulk in it – I shouldn’t question it, I should live in the moment because the reality of it is, there will be many other moments, days, and circumstances (like a pandemic) where I will not be…and in those times, I will look back on a happy memory and I will be reminded of the real me and truly, that’s what’s beautiful about this rollercoaster we call life.
A Note: Next week, I will be launching a series of conversations with freelancers discussing the topic of unemployment. If you wish to contribute, please email me here.