The Light at the End of the Tunnel (Surviving COVID-19)
Rachel Miller recounts her personal struggles and realizations
So last night, I felt like I had reached the very end of my rope. I left work and somehow, barely able to see the road through my tears, I made it down to the waterfront and I parked. And sat in my Jeep. And cried for two hours straight.
I watched as one by one cars pulled up and either parked at least four car lengths away from each other, or if there weren't enough empty spaces, continued driving.
I listened as the seagulls' cries were the only noise to fill up the night where once there was laughter and voices and music.
I watched the sun set over the silken-smooth water that normally has waves and eddies from boats gliding over its surface.
I felt as if a canyon had opened up inside of my heart and was threatening to swallow me whole. The loneliness was magnificent and terrifying and I thought, "How can I go on? This will never end ... and even if it does, nothing will ever be the same again." I wanted to end it.
You see, most of my life I was an introvert. Forget large crowds ... even small ones made me feel faint and anxious. When a teacher made us stand in front of the class to read from a book, I would stutter and stumble over the words despite being the fastest and best reader in the class. I was an only child, and I was painfully shy and felt like I didn't fit inside my own skin.
I never had many friends, just a very small group of three to five most times, and we moved around so much that making new friends was near impossible. Even when I went to college, then became an adult and got married, I never felt sure of myself, confident or comfortable speaking up for myself.
Fast forward to last year. Something within me came alive and I stepped out from under the shadows. I walked with my head high and I embraced my fears. I stood up in front of groups of people and spoke from my heart. And I made a difference. I was interviewed in front of news cameras. I opened up my own storefront and hosted events. I held parties, grand openings, gallery nights, DIY classes ... the list goes on. I joined networking groups and actually mingled, met people, made new contacts, and exchanged business cards.
I found my stride, and filled my skin perfectly. I was whole, alive, vibrant, and confident. And I loved every single minute of it.
Then I had to close my store. It broke my heart but I did not give up. I clung to my newfound spirit and I pivoted to another avenue. Another way to be out there, on the front lines, as an entrepreneur and a strong, resilient woman.
I found a local place to hang out and I made more friends. I would walk in and see faces turn and smiles erupt because they knew me. They were happy that I was there.
My circles had circles, and there was always some place to be, someone to visit, conversations to have and laughter to share. I felt as if it was okay to lose my store, because I was still making a positive impact. I was still embracing my fears and living my life so fully that it was almost bursting at the seams with joy and purpose.
Then the COVID-19 Virus hit.
The fear. The doubt and worry and stress of the unknown.
It's as if someone has demanded that I take all of that vibrant, self confidant, outgoing making-strides-and-a-name-for-herself woman and squish her down into this little teeny tiny ball of an introvert that I once was. And then wait. And wait. For an undetermined amount of time. And wait some more. While I wither away into a shadow of myself again.
Quiet. Unremarkable. Alone.
This is where the story ends. For now. I don't have any huge comeback tale, or any real encouraging words for how I managed to dry my tears and drive home and wake up for another day of the same.
But I did it. I'm still here. The words of several trusted advisors and some good friends keep swirling around in my head ...
"Pivot. Re-evaluate. Find what you love the most that you can do where you are, and do that."
"This will end. So suck it up, and push through."
So here I am. Not going quietly. Not letting this shrink me down into a ball of tears and worry and anguish.
And I'm saying to you ... if you feel even the slightest bit as lost and bereft as I have, as I do.. please reach out. I will listen, and I will walk beside you through this darkest of times. There is a light at the end of this mess. I can't see it yet. But I know it's there.
Want to know how I know that?
Because if there isn't a light at the end of this, I will damn well light a match, and with that match, together we'll light a bonfire for everyone else to see.
Hang in there, friends.
You are not alone.
Rachel Miller is a 40 Under 40 honoree and founder of The Zen Fox. See her recent videos at The Zen Fox Community.