My six months pandemic journey.

My six months pandemic journey.

March 11th 2020 was the day that I was supposed to be heading back to Canada after a three-month winter break in the Caribbean. Instead, that was the day that the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic as a result of Covid-19.

Because of the all warnings and news reports, I had decided to cut my trip short and head back home to Canada.  It was at that point that I realized Trinidad and Tobago was no longer home for me. Home was where my husband was. Home was where my life was to be lived. Home was Ottawa.

By March 17th, Canada was in lockdown, and soon after Prime Minister Trudeau advised us to “go home and stay home” and we did. We listened, and for the most part, we followed the instructions that we were given, because we didn’t want to go down the same path as Italy. At the time, Italy was the epicenter of the corona virus outbreak in Europe.

It’s a little over six months since that fateful day that changed our lives and our world forever. We now talk in terms of “before Covid” and “since Covid” and “the new normal”. I wasn’t ready to give up my “old normal”. I loved my life as it was, and I fought to hold on to what was.

During the first few months of the pandemic, in a futile attempt to hold on to what was, I danced between feelings of depression and despair (including a complete meltdown), to feelings of positivity and hope, in the new normal.

These emotions came in waves. Actually, more like tidal waves and it was exhausting. After a while, I got to the point where I said, “enough is enough”. I had to take control of the situation, since not doing so was sending me down a dark hole. A dark hole that I was all too familiar with, and I refused to be a willing participant on that journey.

Like so many people, I was trying to find ways to survive this pandemic. I asked myself many questions over the past six months. Some questions were silly, such as ” Is it possible to not gain weight if I get my 1,800 calories a day, from just ice cream only? Just so you know, it doesn’t work like that, and I have my covid-20lbs to prove it.

There were other questions too, such as, “I wonder what will happen if I stopped coloring my hair?” This question came out of a desire to show up in a more authentic way. Well I did stop coloring my hair, and I think I am rocking my new silver strands.

But the most profound question of them all was:

“What kind of woman do I need to forge myself into, in order to not only survive, but thrive in this pandemic?”. The answer came easily. I was going to be the kind of woman who helped other women get out of this mess. This wasn’t far from what I was already doing, but now I would be more pandemic-focused, more intentional, more serving.

Forging myself into a woman whose mission would be to help other women get out of this pandemic, better than they went in meant, I first had to first look after myself. Much like the analogy of the oxygen mask on the airplane “please secure your oxygen mask first, before assisting others in your care“, I had to take care of me. And that is what I spent the past few months doing. Taking care of myself and my business, so I can then care for my clients. This journey was by no means linear, and it certainly was not easy. In fact, some days I wondered if I was even on the journey at all. But I persevered.

I am happy to say that while both myself and my business (PGFL), are still a work in progress, we are in a much better place to serve and be of service. I have forged myself into the woman I need to be in order to thrive. And I have forged my business into the business it needs to be, in order to support me in my work.

So what is this work you ask?

I am helping employers to help their employees to better cope with the pandemic, by offering online financial literacy webinars.

Employers are recognizing that financial stress is wreaking havoc on their employees’ productivity and satisfaction in life. Even prior to the pandemic, many workers spent hours every week worrying about personal financial concerns such as debt, retirement, and saving for their children’s education.

As an employer, it might be easy to think that because your employees are still employed, or still on full time salary, that they are not struggling. After all, one can argue that it could be so much worse.

But, even before Covid, employees were struggling. Poor financial well-being has been a growing problem for years. In fact, according to a survey by Willis Towers Watson, employees who are financially struggling are 32% less productive when compared with peers without financial worries.

My online financial literacy webinar series is geared directly to solving this issue by educating employees and giving them the tools they need to succeed with managing their finances.

I am also helping individuals and couples by continuing to offer a complete budgeting and money management program that will help to protect them from the current unstable financial environment.

To do this, I redesigned my six months Financial Breakthrough program. During those six months, I work with my clients to empower them to take control of their money. We cover topics such as balancing their budget; living within their means; building a healthy relationship with money and we also create a plan for them to pay down their debt WITHOUT damaging their credit.

By the end of this program my clients feel in control, empowered and confident about managing their money in these uncertain Covid times.

Another way that I’m forging myself and my business for this new era, is to be more conscious of, and attentive to, my social responsibility as a business.

  1. I am addressing (in my own little way) the racial and gender inequalities and injustices that  have existed for way too long. As a woman of colour, I have my own stories to tell, but that is a topic for another time.  I have decided to create a bursary specifically for women belonging to the Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) community. The value will be $2,500 and it will be available, starting January 2021. I have collaborated with Algonquin College who will administer the bursary as well as choose the recipient.
  2. I’m  also making a monthly donation to the Tungasuvvingat Inuit Centre in Ottawa, to help, specifically, Inuit women exit prostitution and sex work.
  3. I’ve  committed to hosting a symposium for Financial Literacy Month, where 100%  of the proceeds will go to the Ottawa Food Bank to help the local community. The cost to attend this symposium will also be nominal, as I don’t want lack of money to be a barrier for someone wanting to attend.

2020 has certainly been a challenge, and we have all suffered one way or another. As you have read, my journey had its ups and downs, and my hope is that my renewed vision for my life and my business, will help to alleviate some of the pain that exists in the world.

And, maybe, just maybe, my story might actually inspire others to “forge themselves into what they need to be, in order to thrive” and help others in this new Covid world.

Don’t underestimate the ripple effect of what you do” – Leila Janah