There’s a famous quote by Nelson Mandela: “I never lose. I either win or learn.” We stand by that at 2nd Story Goods, calling things that some might see as losses “learnings” instead. I am learning to apply that philosophy to my life here as well.
The past week has been the busiest I’ve had in a while. What’s funny is I’ve been nowhere near as busy as I used to keep myself in college, but I have been exhausted from it nevertheless. I have come to terms with the fact that I simply cannot live the way I used to anymore, stuffing more things than anyone thought was possible into each day, and I am thankful for this post-grad season that has helped slow me down a lot. I now spend a good amount of time outside of work in my house; when I’m not cleaning, cooking, or doing dishes,(all of which does take up a good amount of my time) I’m calling friends, reading, occasionally watching Netflix, trying new recipes, napping, doing yoga on my porch, and journaling. Wow when I put it out there like that, doesn’t that sound nice?! I realize that life will not be like this forever (i.e. if I get married and have kids) but I really am thankful for this time that I get to be selfish. And with all the time for reflection, I am seeing a lot of internal growth, which I trust is preparing me for the unselfish seasons to come. (I’d say this is both a win and a learn right now! It can feel like a loss to have a less flourishing social life than I am used to, but I am learning to be okay with being alone more often, and even to really enjoy it!)
All that being said, this past week included very little time in my house, and that was a wonderful break from my routine, especially because I’m an extreme extrovert. Rebecca, Kathy and Beaver’s daughter, who is also one of the people I work closest with at 2nd Story Goods, came to visit. She is our retail sales manager and also handles all of our social media marketing, so technically I am her manager. But we are close in age, so most of the time it just feels like we’re friends! She works part-time while she is currently in school in California, and this was actually the first time we’ve gotten to work together in person. We worked long days, doing several photoshoots, rewriting some copy on our website, and doing a lot of thinking and talking about where we see our brand going. Outside of work, I joined the Brooks for dinner, we went shopping, went on a bike ride, had a pool day, and hung out with Val and Jude. I knew before Rebecca left that I would be so sad to have her leave, and I was right. Especially because Kathy ended up leaving on the same day to go back to the US for a month and a half. Jude and Val are my closest friends here now, and I love spending time with them; I’ve never had such close guy friends and I am truly so grateful for it. But still, I cannot deny that I have always been a girls’ girl through and through. And all of this made me miss Laura, my best gal pal here who is still on sabbatical in the US, because we used to do all those fun things together. I can’t wait for the day she comes back! And I am already counting the days until Kathy is back at the end of August. And Rebecca and I are already making plans for her next visit! (This whole week was a big win! especially because we got some really great work done)
Like I’ve mentioned before, our sales have been way down this year due to the political unrest in Haiti that has caused a decrease in tourism. Traditionally, 28% of our sales have come from in the country; however, sales in country have been almost non-existent this year compared to years past. Because of this, unfortunately we were forced to lay everyone off here for at least 2 weeks, while those of us who work with the US market try hard to make up the sales there. This isn’t the first time ever that the company has been forced to do lay-offs, and it feels like something that can come with the territory of building a company in a developing country. But it is my first time experiencing something like this, and is definitely challenging, especially when I’m newly in charge of sales and marketing. But I stand by what I’ve said the past few months (because our sales have not been where we know they needed to be for most of the year), and that is that I truly believe everything in our company is moving in the right direction. When I look at how things are constantly being uncovered that need to be done differently, new systems are put in place company-wide, and our brand is being communicated more clearly, I am so encouraged. So, though I feel even more pressure now to increase sales than I did before, I also have had practice these past few months in learning the lesson that I need only to do as much as I can and know that is all I can do. I’m trying to remember that even as I do get a little frantic trying to find new wholesale clients and tweak our retail strategy. (this is obviously a learn. we are learning SO much right now about how to do things better. So so much.)
A few weeks ago, I made yet another mistake that caused some people at work to be upset with me, and rightfully so. I posted something on our instagram story that was less than honoring because it sounded like we were giving hand-outs at work, which wasn’t true. It is a sensitive thing here because nobody likes to be painted as needing hand-outs, but that is often the way foreigners like to present Haitians to the rest of the world. Though like always it was very hard to hear that I did something hurtful, even though it was completely unintentional, it was a huge learning lesson. It ended up leading to some deeper revelations about how much I care about what others think and how I constantly feel misunderstood, and often time just plain disliked, as a foreigner here.
Val explained to them that I was so sorry and added that I was going to keep making mistakes as I continued to learn, so they would need to continue to be patient with me. I wasn’t there for that conversation, so without me even having the chance to apologize directly first, each person who had been upset made a point to either give me an extra long hug the next morning, ask how I was doing, and even invite me to hang out outside of work. The tears of frustration and impatience with myself from the day before turned into tears of gratitude for the undeserving grace I am shown here, for knowing that I am loved and accepted even when I am sometimes misunderstood. (this was a really good and important learn)
Even on the hard days, like making yet another cultural mistake or feeling the pressure of getting enough sales to bring everyone back to work, I am still so thankful to be here. Even on those days, I still cannot imagine myself being anywhere else. Even on those days, I am overwhelmingly grateful that this is my life right now and for -especially on those days- how much it is teaching me, both wins and learns included.