COVID: where do I even start?

In times of uncertainty it can feel impossible to find a way forward.

I know personally I have been on an emotional journey since that first announcement of the cancellation of Melbourne International Comedy Festival. A lot of my friends, and of course my clients, were affected by this decision (though, we know it was the necessary call to make from a health and safety perspective). At that stage it didn't feel real, or at least the true weight of what was about to follow was not appreciated. I was hanging out with friends, partying, going to gigs... living life like normal, just with a sadness hanging over everything. 

A few days later, everyone left and faced a world turned upside down. I am used to all my "fringe friends" leaving. Around the 17th of March every year, Adelaide Fringe finishes, and all of my interstate and international artist mates leave. The memories are blurry and the hangovers are real, but the friendships formed are deep. I, being an Adelaide woman, stay here and continue with my 'normal' day-to-day. This year it was similar, but different. 

Some people stayed in Adelaide a little longer, some got stuck in other cities on their way home, others made it out of the country but then had 14-days of quarantine to face. The yearning for them to all come back is normal for me, but each day brought more loneliness and more anxiety this year. 

At first it was due to empathy. I felt for my friends and my clients as their businesses and livelihoods were impacted. Some artists are facing 6+ months of no gigs. This is shattering. Then it hit the hospo and tourism industries. I have a lot of wedding industry suppliers and seeing their couples having to cancel their big days brought a whole new level of emotional drain. Heartbreak, on many levels.

Honestly, it was around 1 week after the MICF cancellation (so Sunday 22nd March) that it really hit home for me in terms of my own business. This was not just something my performing artist friends would suffer through. This was a whole of country and whole of world experience. I realised my role in this too - as someone's accountant, I am their trusted advisor and they would be turning to me for guidance, help, and support. 

I am 29. I have never been through something like this. No one really has (maybe except the oldies). They don't teach you about this at university. This is not on my risk matrix. How the hell am I meant to advise anyone when I have no idea myself? God, that pressure. That overwhelm. 

I really wanted to run away, cry, give up. The weight of that responsibility was almost too much. 

Almost. 

I think we're all just taking this day by day and doing the very best we can with what we have. What more can we do right now?

The most important thing for me was to make sure my clients and my friends knew they were not alone, that they knew they could reach out to me, and to find out who was hit the hardest and needed my attention first. That was something I could do. 

I am super proud of myself for building this business from ~30 clients in July 2019 to over 100 by March 2020... but wow, that is a lot of people to reach out to and to update, especially when Scomo releases new schemes and lifelines everyday. I was watching the news, live, and my phone notifications were blowing up... ping, ping... ping, ping, ping! Gahhhh!!! 

I didn't really know what I was going to say, but I decided to call every single one of my clients. That was how I spent that Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Even though I probably didn't offer them much new knowledge, I think my clients just appreciated the proactive approach, and for me, their positive attitudes through this and the occasional 'good new story' really bought me out of the darkness. I was also super proud of a lot of my clients who have listened over the last year or two:

  • They have tidy books ready for lodgements, so I can help them get these cash bonuses and fill in Centrelink forms super fast
  • They have saving accounts ready to roll
  • They know exactly who they might owe money too
  • They know what income they would have had and what the financial impact truly is on them, which helps us to help them get help

So yes, there are some bloody devastating stories in the mix. A lot. But, that is not the case for everyone. Knowing that actually gave me a bit of relief and encouragement.

I am really proud of everyone I spoke to - those doing ok and those really struggling. Congratulations on your spirit, on your sense of community, on your kindness to each other and your own clients/customers, and on your resilience. Thank you for your faith and trust in me, and for your honesty when things have been tough financially and emotionally. We will get through this.

 

Once the announcements were made and legislation released, I got to reading. There is nothing worse than reading tax legislation and legal docs, but this is the thing I have been trained to do and is a way I can help others. The things I do for you guys... 

I was invited to speak on webinars for Unbridely (wedding industry) with Kevin Smith (money coach and my personal Centrelink guru) and for Guildhouse. It felt good to help!!! It gave me purpose, direction and forced me to get my head wrapped around what was out there for people to lean on when and as they need (and were eligible). Sometimes the pressure is good, right?

That week kind of felt like I levelled up. I saw my challenge and I took it on. I am keeping my finger on the pulse now, sharing info on my pages and in my social stories. We are just trying to reach as many of you as possible, as quickly as we can, in the clearest manner. This is literally what you guys pay me for! People wonder why they might pay a bit more than they would somewhere else. Well, it is for the personalised, accessible, easy to understand advice that I can give. 

 

On a personal/emotional note, this has been a roller coaster. I have felt fear, anxiety, overwhelm, loneliness, exhaustion, confusion, and guilt. I might not have dance gigs right now, but main income is through The Real Thiel, and I am blessed in the sense that accountants are pretty necessary in both the good and the tough times. I felt guilty about having stability. But, I am still self-employed and I did decide to build my business for the niche market of micro/small businesses in the arts. So... I was pretty anxious about what that might mean for me long term. Rest assured my lovely clients, I am not going anywhere!! I did a quick little 'stocktake' of my personal and business finances and found comfort and relief in that I can probably get through this shit if I have too, even if things get worse. I do take my own advice and have been putting money away in my fire extinguisher account. Turns out the fires are here and we might need to draw on those funds over the coming months. For sure I don't want to. I would rather buy a house in a few years, but, I am thankful that there are some funds there incase I need them later. It also means I can feel comfortable providing all of this 'extra' help and information, these webinars, consults and calls FREE OF CHARGE. My brain and my time is what you guys need right now and I am going to give it to you for as long as I can. 

I've also felt exceptionally lonely. Anyone who knows me knows I am super duper extroverted. Literally, I scored 100% extroverted on the Myers Briggs personality test. It is extreme. I miss the dance floor so much, the chaos of a packed venue, and even just people walking on the street! I am completely aware that for most people I must seem 'high maintenance' in terms of the level of contact, communication and connection I need, but without this, I feel drained (tired) and depressed. I made the call straight after Fringe to self-isolate as much as possible, just to help flatten the curve. It was the right thing to do, and I was in a position where I could easily work from home, but this new 'norm' is tough. Thank god we have internet! I have some amazing clients and friends who have been messaging, calling and having video hangouts with me EVERY single day. You guys are getting me through. If you want to have lunch together ever, hit me up!!

 

I am writing this at about day 15 of self-imposed isolation. I have some ideas on how to approach this weird chapter we're writing now, but in no way do I have all the answers. We're all in this together, and while it might be dark right now and even for a while, we're stronger together and we can trust that this too shall pass. For now, let's all just keep sharing the knowledge, the love, and the kindness. 

 

Now, wash your hands.

xxx Lauren

 

Please email, call, DM me anytime to chat about your situation and if we can help, we will!

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