The Year In Reflection: Looking Back At 2021 With Hope Not Hate

the year in reflection

I didn’t think 2021 could be worse than 2020.

We all went into New Years Eve of 2020 hoping for a brighter year and a year where we could forget the trials and tribulations that was a pretty unexpected year.

But somehow, that hope was short-lived and we ended up in the land of deja vu – only worse. We knew what to expect this time!

Or did we?

 

I’ve come to learn from all this that we’re all in the same storm, but we’re not all in the same boat.

 

A personal story…

 

I want to share with you a little bit about my year’s experiences and what I’ve learnt from them. This isn’t an easy post to write and I know it has the potential to look like a woe me post. Trust me, it’s not and I almost pressed delete! But it has to be told. My hope is that by sharing a bit about me and my journey of the last 12 months, I can show anyone who’s been struggling that you’re not alone in this great big poo-fight that was this year. Despite what story social media might depict.

For me, 2021 came with much heartache, loss, grief and depression. Yep, I said the dreaded D word. I thought all that was behind me after recovering from PND, but this year just got too much.

As some of you know, I’m based up in sunny Queensland and we’ve been pretty sheltered from the events of the last 22 months to a degree. We haven’t endured the lockdowns of NSW and VIC and we’ve been reasonably restriction-free except for masks, the hasty snap lockdown (6 in total!) and the norm of restrictions that we now come to expect. We’ve been locked away from most of Australia, a bit like WA. No one in or out. It’s been hard on families and even harder on businesses. But we’ve all remained fairly tight-lipped knowing others are doing it tougher, but still not living in a bed of roses.

I’m originally from Melbourne and all my family and friends are there. The heartache I’ve felt for them and everyone who’s done the hardest of yards (in all States), is real.

I’ve not seen my parents in over a year (I know it’s much longer for some and my heart goes out to you) and I’ve not seen my brother, grandparents or friends in 4 years. We had planned to return to Melbourne for Christmas last year, but that wasn’t possible due to restrictions and border closures.

If only things were different and we did get to go back last year. It might have made the events of this year a little easier to deal with.

 

Dealing with loss.

This year I lost my Grandma. She passed away in June in Melbourne. I wasn’t able to say goodbye or attend her funeral. She had a fall and was in a coma until she passed. Her funeral had restrictions and I sat and watched on my computer screen 1800km away. I saw my family in mourning and couldn’t hug them or be with them. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But again, I know many have experienced a similar thing. Sadly, I’m not alone in that.

My grandma’s death hit me hard. I was close to her. My brother and I spent every school holidays with her while my Mum worked. We’d travel on the train into town to meet Mum for lunch. She was an amazing lady and the best cook. She was English, so we enjoyed all the good ol’ English meals when we went over there. I never thought the day I said goodbye to her 4 years ago to leave for Queensland would be the last I would hug her or see her in person. I never thought the last time I’d speak to her would be on Skype in her nursing home for only a short time.

I’ve only now started to come to terms with it.

What I learnt?

  • Time is precious and our families mean everything. I have put so much time and effort into my business (2 businesses) at the detriment of family.
  • Don’t feel guilty about taking a time out or spending time with your kids – My son is 8 and sometimes I feel like I haven’t spent enough time with him. He’s growing up so quickly and I feel like I’m always trying to catch up.
  • Be in the moment, because the moments go by so quick.

 

The abusive client.

In the midst of all that, I was dealing with an abusive client (thankfully ex-client now), emotional fatigue and a cancelled 40th birthday where my parents had planned to come up and surprise me. Frustratingly, they had to cancel their trip 2 hours before boarding their flight because the border got closed, again!

And that abusive client, well that was happening right when my Grandma was in hospital. Ever received a phone call at 8:45pm on a Friday night, answered it and got hit with 15 minutes of abuse?

No, neither had I.

This was abuse like I’d never heard before. I hung up shaking and crying. I was beside myself. I spent the whole weekend trying to fix the issue – which was a hosting issue and malware, something out of my control essentially. It was also the weekend that many major websites around the world were hacked and went down through hosting issues – so it wasn’t an isolated incident or any fault of mine.

I could have handled this one of two ways. I could have hung up straight away and said you call me when you’ve calmed down. I could have then enacted the contractual agreement where abuse voids the contract and ended it then and there. Or I could have stuck it out and helped her (mainly out of fear of retribution) and a dedication to my customers and see out the month x month contract. I chose the latter. In hindsight, I should have fixed the issue and then walked away because I ended up over $1000 out of pocket in time and money (yes, silly me paid to fix the infection out of my own pocket) and she walked away with invoices outstanding and one final abusive email to seal the deal.

What I learnt?

  • Write emails with the view of them being read out in court – keep it professional even if the other person is not.
  • Honour your agreements – this is your business and your reputation, so put your anger, fears and frustrations aside and see it through.
  • It’s not personal, it’s business – I used to hate this line because like Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail says, it should always start by being personal. And that is true. But their treatment toward you isn’t personal, it’s all about them. Remember it’s business and you need to keep it business professional at all times – especially when they are not.
  • Make sure your T&C’s and business terms are tight – I thought mine were tight, but I’d never been abused before or had any reason to really enforce them, so I took them for granted. They are now tighter than a duck’s bum as the saying goes.
  • Read customer reviews before taking on a client – I would have seen the red flags then and there. If you’re rude and abusive to your customers, then you’re not going to be any better to service providers!

The business.

My business has suffered this year. I won’t sugarcoat it. It’s been the toughest year I’ve ever had – personally and professionally.

I was close to pulling the plug. I was broken.

Or so I thought.

I stood back and looked at all I had achieved and all I had built the past 8 years. It’s been pretty epic for someone who’s never had any business experience.

I looked at all my lovely, loyal clients and their businesses and how much they make me happy seeing them grow.

How could I just let all that go?

The time away from my son and the personal and financial investment would have been for nothing.

I had another choice to make. Stay or go?

I withdrew a little and reflected on what I had and my why for creating this business in the first place.

Of course, one of my why’s is my son. I wanted the flexibility to be there for his special school days and to pick him up from school every afternoon. That’s our special time to chat in the car about his day. No distractions, just us.

If I was to return to 9-5, I would lose all that.

So I collected myself and my thoughts and put my victimhood (for want of a better word) on the shelf and regained focus.

In the last 3 months I’ve undergone a business rebrand – for both Belinda Owen Web Designs and Navigating WordPress – I’ve launched Navigating WordPress eCourse and my new website for BOWD is in the making.

The business rebrand was to realign my brand with my audience (you!) and make it more relatable. The pale pink flowers just wasn’t me and wasn’t inspiring me. I’m a visual person (hence the designer career lol) and I can’t bear looking at something that just isn’t right design-wise. I loved it when it was done 6 years ago, but things have changed.

I’ve changed.

My business has changed.

So we adapt.

You can read all about my rebrand and the story behind it here – making Shiny Object Syndrome work.

The rebrand gave me inspiration and motivation again and now I’m looking to 2022 to be the best year ever! Will you join me?

What I learnt?

  • Everything happens for a reason – good or bad. We just need to see that reason for what it is and go with it.
  • Don’t give up – take a step back and look at what you’ve achieved.
  • Your business is important, but it’s not your whole life – balance is everything.
  • If you don’t love what you do, it will be so much harder to stick with it in the tough times.
  • Get up, dress up, show up.
My “why”

Mindset.

Mindset plays a big part in our lives. It’s the catalyst for achievements or failures, trying or not trying, learning or giving up.

My mindset has been shaky at best and the little lights of hope have kept me going. My family, my son, my lovely clients who I chat to a little too much at times (but grateful for the chat in these lonely times!) and the hope that this is temporary. That it will pass… soon.

I found talking to a counsellor helped. I also found solace and support in three awesome business ladies in their own rights. You know who you are! 😉

Having a support network, no matter how small, is important and it will be what keeps you going through the tough times.

Don’t go it alone.

What I learnt?

  • Don’t go it alone – Support is key and having a support network will keep you going.
  • Speak to someone if you need to – don’t keep it bottled up because you just explode at some point.
  • You can’t give from an empty cup – If your cup is empty, how can you give to others? Take time out for yourself because you are just as important.
Why am I writing all this?

Because I want you to know that you’re not alone. As business owners, we have an obligation to keep it together.

To stay strong.

To keep fronting up every day even though the next day is harder than the last.

And we do it because we have to.

Because no one else can or will.

Because it’s who we are.

But just know you are not alone.

You can do this.

You are stronger than you think.

Trust me.

I’ve come to learn from all this that we’re all in the same storm, but we’re not all in the same boat.

Please feel free to share your story with me or email me for a chat. I’m open to chat at any time – business or #mumlife – I’m an ear to help.

Merry Christmas and here’s to a better 2022 for all x

 

My why…

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