A New Season & A New Outlook During Quarantine

May 13th, 2020
Location  •   Connecticut

The Coastal Confidence By Aubrey Yandow

I have to admit – it’s been a while!

In all honestly, I’ve been avoiding writing this post. But, as New England starts to welcome spring weather I find myself – like the new spring leaves – ready to open up.

Before we dive into a new season and a new outlook, I want to stress that I know these are challenging times for everyone. My goal is to shed some light on where I’ve been and my hopes for what’s to come.

In the past, I’ve shared a mid-year recap on my birthday in early June. But since the start of 2020 I’ve felt off-kilter. And now, I feel like I have to get my feelings about the first half of this year off my chest in order to make room for the future.

Generally, I look at a year in financial quarters or by each of New England’s four seasons. I see 2020 differently: pre, present, reopening, and post quarantine.

So before we look forward, I want to rewind a bit to before Covid-19 and the whirlwind of a mess I was in.

Pre-Quarantine:

If I’m being candid with you all – I was not in a good place before the quarantine. I was feeling drained like never before. Mentally, I felt out of control due to a lack of balance between my two jobs and my overall health. I wasn’t sleeping well. I found myself uncomfortable in my skin. And I felt like I was ultimately failing in my career. At any moment, I felt like I could fall over or explode into tears.

For what felt like all of February and the beginning of March I was in survival mode. Here’s why:

I WAS OVERCOMMITTED: too much work, not enough sleep.

With long to-do lists and lack of sleep from dreaming of my to-do lists I was ready to kick anything off my plate including my blog even though it brings me true happiness!

My blog and love for New England are what brings me so much joy and community connection. Not only is my blog my career and my only method of income (even now with Mr. Trophy), it’s also a piece of who I am. Whether I’m connecting with you or other creatives in the area – this small space is something I get excited to share with you all each and every day.

I get asked a lot about whether I think the blogging industry will be around when I’m older and whether I’ll continue my blog while co-owning Mr. Trophy. My honest answer: I want to blog whether or note it’s a source of income.

I plan to continue to share my love for New England while capturing the quintessential moments of Matt and I galavanting around. I get excited about the idea of my children having so many photos of Matt and I. Plus, I love the idea of having everything documented for my own sake too!

While in survival mode these past few months, the idea of capturing the charms and traditions of New England living became anxiety-inducing. I was for the first time in a long time extremely self-conscious to take photos in front of strangers. I became paralyzed with the pressure of having photoshoots with limited clothes that fit that I hid my camera from my sight unless a post was essential. To put it into perspective – I once wrote on average 5 posts a week – but, I’ve published only 9 posts this entire year!

A Coding Catastrophy: happiness turns haphazard

In November, my dad and I purchased Mr. Trophy in Hartford, Connecticut together. It was the happiest day of 2019 for me!

It was that college graduation or Matt and I closing on our first home kind of happiness. To imagine a few months later I’d be so out of sorts was unthinkable.

I defiantly have a fear of letting others down, which is likely due to my ego. Feeling like I’ve fallen short of a promise or duty causes me great distress. So when I was building out the Mr. Trophy website design and coding with two coding teams (one in London and one in Russia) I projected the site would launch without a hitch in just a few short months.

At first, we projected January – but then February came and quickly turned into March.

You may be wondering why there was a pressure to launch in such a short amount of time. The truth is Mr. Trophy was heading into its busy season! We were gearing up for dance recitals, high school, college, and middle school graduations, and the seasonal end of all spring sports (soccer, t-ball, baseball, softball, track, hockey, etc.)

During a short three-month span we anticipated to make about 50% of our yearly revenue. I knew in order to give our company the best shot – we had to be available to customers on the Internet and have the capacity to fill all online orders.

The month of March hit me like a boulder when the entire site’s coding crashed. It was then when the coders predicted a launch date closer to June.

The drastic launch timeframe change threw me over the edge – especially since I told our Mr. Trophy employees, my co-owner, my family, my friends, and even you all that the website would go live in January. So I did what I do best – I went all in – but at the expense of my happiness. I stopped taking care of my nutrition and was running on no sleep. I completely gave up downtime. And I stopped giving my blog attention. Instead, I gave 100% of my energy to the Mr. Trophy site. I gave blood, sweat, and tears – LITERALLY.

My life was reaching a point of madness that my parents asked my two younger sisters, Tessa and Sarah, to abandon their Spring Break plans and come home to help me enter data onto the site.

So on March 4th, with a broken website and launch date no longer in reach – my sisters arrived in Connecticut, each with just a duffle bag and plans of spending one week home to help me out. Together we worked 10-hour stints entering price variations, figurine options, and SKU-numbers.

Little did anyone know, my sisters wouldn’t be heading back to college, and the months spent planning the launch of the Mr. Trophy website in anticipation of our first busy season of financial success would become obsolete.

Looking back, the coders’ projection was fairly accurate. The site launched on April 27th, but the entire month of May will be used to work out any and all bugs – which we’ve had plenty of.

Currently In Quarantine:

I’ll never forget the day my dad and I purchased Mr. Trophy. And I’ll never forget just five months later – on March 23rd – when my dad and I non-essentially closed Mr. Trophy. Both days started the same, my dad picked me up at my home and we drove into work together – stopping for Dunkin Donut along the way.

Now rewind a tad to March 14th, the day when COVID-19 started to shift from something we were watching on the news to something we were living through. At first, all it meant was that my sisters’ Spring Break was extended a week. Selfishly, I was excited to continue to have extra hands importing data. But within a few days, both Tessa and Sarah were forced to evacuate their college campuses and the true severity of the Pandemic came to light. Soon after, we had to follow suit with small business owners across the nation and temporarily shut the doors at Mr. Trophy.

Suddenly we were all walking through a pandemic. We were all uncomfortable and we were all simultaneously living through a trying time.

Sarah was unsure if she’d have the college graduation she’d worked so hard for. Tessa was missing time spent learning and with friends at college. Matt’s cousin was forced to postpone her wedding. Some of my friends were losing their jobs.

The panic, the fear, the anxiety, the loneliness, the failure, and the unknown I felt about work before the pandemic began to dissolve. This challenge was bigger than me, bigger than Mr. Trophy – it was a global crisis.

My brain immediately switched from being unhinged and closed off to being an open ear – a new survival mode.

I began to focus on tech support, became an ear to teachers wanting to debrief the quick pivot endured to tackle teaching from home, started showing support to our nurses – like my Aunt Nancy – by sharing Dunkin’s give a coffee break to our heroes program. You too can visit DunkinCoffeeBreak.com to give a small token of appreciation to the hero in your life.

I found a new sense of mental stillness which may sound strange or unreasonable during such chaos but my attention was now outside of myself and my jobs.

I no longer had the ‘biggest’ issue. Any immediate deadline for launching Mr. Trophy due to our busy season was on standby because the unthinkable had happened.

All spring sports were gone, a huge chunk of our business was gone, and our store remains closed.

All of March and the first half of April was spent doing a lot of logistic work. A lot of time was spent with my dad who is the co-owner of Mr. Trophy and our general manager Roger, as we like many small business owners navigate the PPP paperwork. Even thou we had to shut down our storefront, I still have plenty of Mr. Trophy website work to do! With a soft launch of the site at the end of April, we’re still working from home to continuously improve!

Overall, for the first time in what feels like a long time, I’m starting to feel like myself. With the extra time spent at home, I’ve been able to really think about where I was and where I want to be when we do reopen. I’m exploring where I need to be mentally, physically, and emotionally to ensure success.

During this time in quarantine, I’ve read two books – which is two more than I read all last year. I finished my Luigi’s Mansion Game on Nintendo Switch, planted not one but two gardens, cooked meals in my home kitchen, and began practicing yoga again.

I’m still wading through a life-changing experience – one that has promoted a lot of self-growth and boundary building. Every day I wake up more grateful and determined to not slide back into what was a very unmanageable lifestyle. Instead, I look forward to a new season in New England and a new outlook for myself and the world we live in.

As We Start To Reopen…

Calling this section post-quarantine doesn’t seem right – as the road to how it used to be will be filled with small victories that will take time. Earlier this month Governor Ned Lamont announced May 20th as the anticipated date to reopen small Connecticut businesses.

The announcement – while exciting – brought a mixed bag of emotions.

I feel like three months have disappeared in the blink of an eye. At times, I find myself being critical of how exactly I spent each waking moment of quarantine. Was I productive enough? Did I take this time at home with my loved ones and Eloise for granted? Did I do enough organization? Why didn’t I batch write more blog posts? The list goes on.

One thing I do know that come out of this: perspective.

The perspective that friendships and who you surround yourself with is important. Working, talking about work, fixating on work, or living a work-focused life isn’t much living at all. It was OKAY to step away from the blog for the first half of 2020 because I had nothing left to give.

Along the way I’ve found new exciting and creative ways to share New England with you all in the future.

Finally, I hope to keep this feeling of stillness – even as we start the reopening process. I know the road forward will not be a straight one. It will be confusing and uncomfortable. But, the pandemic was a life-altering experience for me.

We’ve all been working hard to bring new content your way for May and June. There’s lots of new content that I can’t wait to share – but most importantly, I’m so happy I got to reconnect with you all and I hope you’re staying safe and healthy!

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One thought on “A New Season & A New Outlook During Quarantine

  1. Catherine Raum

    This is such an HONEST post. You are so incredible taking the high road. I wish I could tell the world how hard working, loyal to a fault, and how gentle and kind you are.
    You are blessed and we are to . This Covid event has stripped us of everything… except what truly matters. That would be our family’s and loved ones. Be kinder and more generous with yourself, you deserve it! So much love, Auntie Cack

    Reply

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