This was not a good week for me and small-business owners. After 6 weeks of being closed, losing 70% of my business, and the hopes of getting a government loan almost shattered, I feel like I am on a sinking ship.
But somehow I have the feeling like I’ve been on this ship before.
Because I have.
Since I was a kid, I knew I never wanted to sit behind a desk all day. I was cursed with the desire to become a creative person. Sitting at an office job day after day did not seem like a life worth living. For years, my parents watched in agony as their daughter, a hardworking straight-A student, always chose the path of most resistance.
My parents sent me to New York University with hopes of me becoming a lawyer like my father (I was great at making an argument, they said), a school teacher like my mother (who wouldn’t want summers off and a steady paycheck?), or some other respectable professional, like a doctor, physical therapist or accountant. Instead I put all my effort into becoming a dancer, a performer and a writer, and lived in a world where there are no guarantees.
After college, I lived on an emotional roller coaster. When things were going well, I paid my bills working as a performer and freelance writer on the side. But jobs like those are often short-lived, and when I didn’t have one, I would worry about money. I took odd jobs to pay my rent moonlighting from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. as a cocktail waitress, nightclub dancer, cigarette girl, hair model and other unconventional things that I would rather not mention. When I discovered I could get a well-paying survival job teaching Pilates — something I loved and connected with — I felt I found my calling.
“I am going to learn to teach Pilates,“ I told my parents. They shook their heads. After all, there were still no guarantees, still no job security, no health insurance, crazy hours, difficult customers. Wouldn’t I rather go back to college to become a school teacher?
They were right. It was not an easy path. Before I opened my own Pilates studio, I spent about 10 years as a Pilates gypsy, teaching everywhere, anywhere and anyone. To prove that I could sustain myself, I traveled from Pilates studios to gyms to client homes to dance studios every day and took jobs wherever I could get them. It was not easy, but better than the alternative of sitting in an office.
Living without a steady paycheck has made me resourceful, innovative, and a hustler and fighter out of necessity.
To achieve any success, I know that I always have to bring something to the table, be prepared and put the work in. I also have to remember that I am providing a service to help others and that has to be my number one goal.
In my adult life as a performer and a pilates Gypsy, I have lived through several catastrophes: 9/11, Superstorm Sandy, the Great Recession, and my own personal crisis — being let go from my job at a Pilates studio while 6 months pregnant with twins after my doctor put me on bedrest.
COVID-19 is my latest challenge, my worst nightmare coming true, one that scares me the most because there are no answers.
But I have hope that something good will come from this and that it will have happened for a reason. Think about it. Because of 9/11, we learned that as bad as things are, they can always turn around. The 2008 economic crisis taught us not to take anything for granted. Sandy showed us that we can only control our own actions. And if I hadn’t got fired from my job on bedrest, I would have never opened The Pilates Project. I am waiting to see what the light at the end of the tunnel will be but I will not give up and neither should you.