One Year In...
A little more than a year ago, I sat in a Trader Joe's parking lot, where I bought three weeks of groceries, just in case. No one knew what was happening, no shelter-in-place orders had been issued yet, but as I started my car, I knew that no amount of hand sanitizer was going to keep my business open. I realized it was over. My heart fluttered and my whole body went cold. How would I make it? I had been building my business for eleven years at that point. It was my life's work. We had only ever closed for a few Christmas days and a couple of times for repairs. I didn't have the deep reserves that could weather being out of business for more than a week or two. But I also knew that staying open wasn't an option, and I had to make a move.
It was March 15, 2020. I know because it was a Sunday. I thought then that we would be able to reopen in April. April came and went, and then I thought for sure June. But then it was summer, and for a few days in the Fall, I was very close to reopening, but the minute I had everything ready, we were shut down again. If I had known sitting in the Trader Joe's parking lot that day that it would be more than a year before we could reopen, I don't know what I would have done. I probably would have curled up and cried for six months, something inside of me would have died.
But my optimism, as misguided as it was, kept me going from one day to the next, one task to the next. There was always something. The rush to go online. Figuring out the new economics of my business, applying for grants and loans, learning about cameras and mics and on-demand video.
Finally, next month I really do think we will reopen, but will anyone be back? It's possible that I have learned the hard way that I am so often wrong. I want to believe that there will be pent-up demand, that people will be dying to get back into the studio and practice in a real, live community. But it's going to feel weird for awhile. We will all have masks on. The teachers won't be making adjustments or walking around the room. The props will sit against the wall, unused.
Maybe it will just be a trickle at first. Maybe some people will never return to the studio. Maybe it will be an entirely different business with in-studio classes being a special treat instead of a weekly or even daily habit. How do we put a price on that? How do we pay teachers, whose pathway to a comfortable living has always been building large classes?
Here's what I'm committed to: community, the belief that human beings need connections, not just with close family, but with good-hearted, well-meaning strangers and acquaintances. We need the conversations that pop up unplanned, the restaurant recommendations from the person who just did down dog with us, the realization that that person lives across the street, or that you both have kids in the same school. We need the casual hellos and smiles and warmth. We are starved for it.
We need each other. We have been shut out and shut down for an unbelievably long amount of time. It will be weird to come back, and it will take time to feel comfortable doing it. But my unreasonable optimism tells me it's happening. It's inevitable. I've always been wrong about the time lines, and everything so far has taken way longer than I thought. But I don't think I'm wrong about the what happens in the end. We will see each other again, more than just a two-inch square peek into each other's lives. Our eyes will meet and our humanity will return.
I'll see you in the studio soon.