How divorce made me resilient and prepared me for the COVID crisis
By Natalie (Spain)
We all think that 2020 has been the most disruptive year of our lives. But maybe, if we review our brief personal history, we would find that we have experienced more difficult years. The death of a parent or a close family member, a divorce … in my case, 2013 was the earthquake year. It was the year that I signed my divorce. After 20 years of marriage, the changes were brutal. Not just emotionally, but also financially. I always say that I never really recovered from that financial crisis.
My name is Natalie, and I am a freelancer. Like any good freelancer, I lived with extreme variation in my income. Months with lots of work and money were followed by quieter months where I had to buckle down. Having a partner had given stability to my rollercoaster checking account. Deciding in 2013 that I was better off without a partner resulted in me learning to be like a reed. You think you have reached rock bottom but then you are able to straighten up. Always recovering, adapting, looking for new customers, getting organized, estimating expenses, and saving. I believe that the learning during this period of time was key for me in being able to manage what we had to experience in 2020.
On the 13th of March I had numerous projects in the making, as well as an idea to transform part of my home in order to monetize it somehow. When the world stopped, I had to stop all activity, I had to wrack my brain in order to figure out how to survive. The months of confinement were long and difficult for everyone.
In my case, they allowed me to reflect about the business model that I wanted to develop for the part of my home that I was going to rent. Everything was new. The AirBnB had closed suddenly, and foreigners stopped coming to Spain. I remembered situations that I had seen in the past during my stay in the United States. Shared apartments … but with an additional parameter: COVID. I had to implement very quickly some new bedroom set-ups. I quickly figured out that in order to rent a shared apartment, each room had to have its own bathroom, and every room had to be its own microcosm. It was risky. I was requesting a loan, I was beginning construction, and I wasn´t sure if I was going to be able to get my return on investment. After months of much effort and persistence, I was able to advertise my new small apartment in the market on the 1st of September of 2020.
At the same time, so many businesses were closing, friends were getting laid off, and I believed that since many companies had not done the digital transformation required for them to reach their customers online, they would now be doing so urgently. Raging rivers always bring opportunities. During the months that I was carrying out the reformation work, I contacted a customer of mine that was trying to figure out how to transform digitally. He needed to urgently make changes. His company, thank God, was strong financially. So, on the 1st of September I began to work as an employee of a Spanish company that worked internationally and had customers all over the world. After 6 very tough months lacking money and also lacking good health (I had COVID the first month of the confinement), now I feel very grateful to have numerous streams of income: my salary and my income from my small social experiment, which is working very well so far. I am still plugging some financial holes and paying my loan. My balance is fragile, but this rising phoenix experience has helped me always maintain an entrepreneurial spirit, instead of allowing myself to be driven by desperation.
Interestingly enough, I have always worked from home. I had my office area with a computer, and a small studio to take photos. Now that everyone is working from home, I am doing the opposite by going into an office. It seems I am meant to swim upstream. I can only say that in these moments, I go against the grain with a huge smile on my face and a deep feeling of gratitude.