This year started out with a flu-like experience, a pay raise and news that would change everything. But nearly crippled by circumstance, I learned how to shift my power to attain success during a worldwide crisis.
It all started on January 5, 2020 after returning back to L.A. from visiting my relatives in the Appalachians for the holidays. I became ill with flu-like symptoms. Body aches, sore throat and inability to sleep morphed into fever, laborious coughing all night and day, no sense of taste, and a respiratory system that felt like crispy leaves inside my chest.
The coughing went on for two months and by mid March I had lost the $10,000 pay raise that I had been waiting on for 5 years, a year's worth of commissions, and my social life. Sadly, billions of people worldwide were in similar positions due to the COVID pandemic.
Like so many others around the world I was lost. I had no job security, too much debt, and I had no idea how to survive this mess. Chaos ensued. Civil unrest. Protests. Riots. Day drinking was the new norm. Noon-time solo dance parties helped me check out of life. Calls from a desperate ex seeking to suck the last ounce of hope brought me to my knees. Isolation was a constant black empty hole.
We moved into a new COVID surge in July and I realized I was stuck.
I could now only fit into pants with stretch waists and I was just polishing off my second Jack Daniels on a warm Monday morning. I didn't know what to do, or how I was going to make it. Maybe it was the depression, or maybe it was the Jack, but at that moment I heard the voice of my elementary basketball coach, Mr. Miller in my head.
"Remember to always pivot if you get stuck. Keep one foot grounded and pivot!"
A pivot plan quickly began to reveal itself. I deferred my car payment and one credit card for 3 months and refocused that money to pay off a loan which sucked $300 out of my monthly budget. If I played my cards right, used the deferment law, and focused my finances then I'd have less of a monthly budget deficit. My plan took root.
For the next year while the pandemic raged I would commit myself 100% to the pursuit of financial freedom. Work would be my lover, and I would be the most loyal and committed partner. I vowed to take almost any job offered, within reason, that I could do. After all, what else was there to do during a global pandemic? Work would be a happy distraction from the nothingness.
Upon making that commitment the jobs began to pour in.
By August I had paid off a loan and 1 of my 3 credit cards, freeing up $450 worth of my monthly budget. I then deferred another bill for 3 months, and set my sights on credit card number two.
At that time I was running a ranch in Malibu while doing bookkeeping for a CPA, remotely doing my work at the music agency, beefing up my stock trading skills, building websites, reselling furniture that I found on the side of the street, building a new holistic business with my friend, and doing some photography work...all at the same time. Eat, work, feed the chickens, take the photos, build the website, work, eat, sleep, feed the goats, balance the ledger...full on high-efficiency mode.
It was so fascinating to me how much I could actually accomplish when I had a clear goal and no other distractions. I refocused all of the energy I had previously exhausted on self validation through fancy job titles, partners or social activities towards work and financial freedom. I felt more like a grown ass man than I ever had in my entire life.
Yes, there were moments that I felt fear and sadness creeping in. Memories of past times with exes, or adventures with friends brought me down. At times it was lonely.
Sometimes I cried. Sometimes I pitched fits. I even deleted a few people from my life completely because they could not understand my commitment. And yet I persisted.
In the Fall my main source of income, the live music booking agency, informed me that I would have to take yet another 20% pay cut. All of our booked shows had cancelled for 2020 due to COVID and our PPP loan had run out. I worried for approximately 20 minutes and then pivoted again by taking on an additional part time personal assistant position and beefing up work efforts with a friend to build a small business.
I paid off credit card after credit card. Bill after bill. I worked day in and day out. I learned to refocus anger and loss into fuel that would power my financial endeavor. I cooked most meals at home and I stretched dollars like rubber-bands. Alone time could be used for work. Isolation, once a liability, was now an asset.
Nothing could stop my success train. Or so I thought.
Then the November 2020 election cycle bitch-slapped me back into reality. Unrest erupted in streets and minds of civil society once again, and I clashed with close family and friends on political and social perspectives. Life and work was momentarily thrown askew once more as the country erupted into an online civil war.
In the past, as a gay man I have always failed at shifting my family's traditionalist conversation to be more inclusive and equitable. That failure continued into 2020. Although my family love me and I consider a few members advocates, I have zero immediate family members that have ever actually advocated on behalf of my rights. Not one. Not ever.
I'm not saying that my family and conservative friends are bad, far from it. They are some of the best people I know and whom I love dearly. But they do not understand what it is like for someone like me, and it's not really my job to force them to understand it either.
The reality is that I can't expect or depend on others to advocate for me. No one will ever fight for me better than...well, me. Realizing that and reclaiming energy lost was so empowering that I felt a brand new rush of hope.
My own marginalization, by the majority of my fellow Americans, including family, had pushed me to better understand the marginalization of others and truly embrace them as brethren and team members.
Black, brown, yellow, female, trans, gay, immigrant, refugee, mentally ill. I would unite with them and fight for us.
A few days later an opportunity came calling. My friend, Suzanne, a fellow bleeding heart and creative, posted that she was assembling a group of people to create an organization called, When We All Help (WWAH). WWAH works to support everyday people across the country who want to run for progressive local offices by providing services for website design, confidence coaching, marketing, infrastructure training, social media setup, flyers and more.
Six weeks later and we now have 15 progressive and diverse candidates from across the country that we are working with. Our mission is simple: Empower those who seek to empower their communities. This is just the beginning.
I now fight for myself by empowering people to rise up into progressive leadership positions.
So how does this 2020 story end? Well, now it's the first day of January 2021 and I can say with absolute certainty that no success has ever come without failure and no failure has ever come without success. In spite of having setbacks, breakdowns, roadblocks and conflicts this past year, I'm quite nearly debt free, have a possibly blossoming new career that I enjoy, and I'm making a difference on a much grander social scale. If nothing else, 2020 has taught me the power of being able to pivot out of tight spots, and that has been the biggest key to my success.
Millions of people have lost their lives worldwide. Millions more have lost their jobs. There are masses of people that do not have food security or that are now homeless. Relationships have been forever fractured. And yet many people, myself included, have been fortunate enough to be spared and blessed. And that is not something that I, nor others should take lightly. It is our job to remember those affected most during this time and to seek to help in any way that we can moving forward. Financially or emotionally. Volunteer in any way that you can. Donate to a local food pantry. Check on your neighbors. Buy someone who you know is struggling a bag of groceries. When we all help a little, it's a lot.
I stand in solidarity with all those who suffered through this year. To those who were beat down or hurt I send you hope. To those who celebrated births I send congratulations. To those who lost loved ones I send out condolences. To those who overcame I send congratulations. And to everyone I send a happy new year.