Strangers in a Strange Land

Strangers in a Strange Land

Have you ever wondered why we can't hear each other in a world that is talking relentlessly?  The reason is we are not having a conversation.  We are living in a push-pull environment, where messaging is pushed upon us in our daily feeds, or we are pulling what the we think we already want and know. But we don't know what we don't know, and therefore how can we know what we want? And how can we know what we don't know. 

I think a lot about this.  And I find myself from time to time screaming at the top of my lungs, and yet unheard and unseen.  And so I have decided to stop talking, and start writing. And maybe you will find this, and maybe you won't.  I have to believe that those who are meant to, will.   

In the past 3 years, especially since COVID19 descended upon us and we were sent inside where we stayed for fear of the unknown.  It was surreal - the deserted streets, living under mask, and living online through all the important events of our lives.  I remember dropping off gifts for Christmas for our grandchildren at the door and running back to the car to be safely inside when they opened the door for their gifts. Like what was going to happen if we came in contact with the contents of our family's air.  And we were afraid that if we did not follow the rules, the worst would happen, either to us, or our loved ones. And so we all did our part.  

But here we are now, 2023.  And our lives have changed.  Mine has for sure. To be clear, change is not good or bad. It is change.  And change is hard most of the time. I like change for the most part. It offers a new perspective - a chance to see from another point of view. 

In retrospect I am grateful for the pause that the pandemic gave us, because it gave me a chance to learn a new way of being.  To explore different ways of approaching business and life. 

Since 2020, my life has literally changed in every facet.  And that change came just in time.

In March 2020, before the pandemic, I accepted a job as a business analyst in Winnipeg, Manitoba in the health care industry. I packed up my belongings and moved on the weekend of March 13 to start anew on March 16. As we travelled the Yellowhead, we listened to unravelling of life as we knew it on the radio. As if a war had broken out. Places along the highway were closed or locked, and at one point we stopped to consider if we should go back to be with our family. 

The plan was for my husband to work the store while I would come home everyone 2 weeks.  I started my new job on a Monday, and I was sent home to work that Friday along with everyone else in the world. My business, ZÖE, was shut down by the government.

Pivot became the word of the day as our business model literally became illegal over night.

We went from an in-person shopping experience with a respectable bottom line, to an online / by appointment / limited access experience with an 80% drop in revenue almost immediately, particularly since people were not leaving their homes, and shoes were not necessary to their existence. 

March 2024 will be my fourth year working in Winnipeg. I have been working online, and have been able to somehow do both - try to organically lead my business through the transformation from an in person shop in the small city of Regina, to a world wide online store where geography is irrelevant.  

I say organically, because i did not invest in marketing. Instead, I used social media to dance my way into the hearts and minds of anyone would was watching.  Many people asked my why I was dancing, and to be honest, I needed to keep my spirits up, because there were many days and months when I could feel the life of my business slipping through my fingers like fine sand.  And so I took the high road, for my own mental health, and hopefully others who may have been watching. I just wanted a reason to smile, and not be afraid of the stories I was telling myself. 

In fact, I did not spend a penny that wasn't absolutely necessary, and I did not borrow a penny either, because I could see the aftermath of the covid experience. (I can't imagine the stress of having to pay a government loan in this devastated economy.)

My prediction was there would no recovery for years to come (still waiting); that downtown would be obliterated, (yes) with the move to the workforces continuing to work from home (at least part time); and the lack of vision on the part of our city leaders to intercept the future and reshape it. (Correct-a-mundo)

Once the powers that be deemed the pandemic over, and that we were "open for business" it was too late.  Too much time had passed; new habits were formed; priorities changed.  And even if we were "safely" "open for business", we were starting over - strangers in a strange land.

Monthly sales were not enough to meet the rent, and so the writing was on the wall.


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