Out of the darkness, we find the light
In April, we shared a message of hope and unity as the global pandemic unfolded before our eyes. And with that final message on our blog, we went dark here and on social media.
We all adapted to sudden isolation and social distancing. Some of us transitioned to working from home; others took on the burden of serving as essential employees on the front lines and navigated the new world of work-related PPE (personal protective equipment).
For me? I found myself alongside over 30 million Americans, collecting unemployment as a result of my new furlough status.
It Is Always Darkest Before the Dawn
Over my four months away from work, life was strange to say the least. Time has somehow figured out how to move in slow motion and fast-forward simultaneously.
During my first week on furlough, I binge watched “Tiger King” on Netflix. (Yes, “Tiger King” happened earlier this year, not what-feels-like-five-years-ago.) I read three books. I scrolled through social media way too much. And I did lots – I mean lots – of cleaning.
As time passed, I had to learn to adapt to life at home, without my career, and have faith that my return to work would eventually come. And to be honest – I struggled.
I just came back from maternity leave in mid-March. I was emotionally prepared to send my daughter to daycare and get back to work; I was not ready to be a full-time, stay at home mom. Without work, my identity revolved around nursing my newborn, changing diapers, cleaning the house, grocery shopping, laundry, and making sure a hot meal was on the table every night at 7 pm for my husband. I tried to channel my inner Betty Crocker, and sadly was probably a little more Betty Draper.
On top of my personal identity crisis, there was the disappointment and social isolation to deal with. My daughter’s christening, originally scheduled for mid-April, was cancelled. She missed her first, potentially tortured, visit to the Easter Bunny at our local mall. She tasted her first bites of food. All major milestones shared with my friends and family via FaceTime and social media instead of in-person.
Life was lackluster. Instead of going to live concerts and the theater, my husband and I tuned in to Jimmy Buffett’s “Cabin Fever: Virtual Tour” via YouTube on Saturday nights and binged “Hamilton” more than once on Disney+. Traditional summer gatherings of friends and family over Memorial Day and Independence Day were derailed and replaced with small, socially distant barbecues.
And when it felt like the world was returning to a bit of normalcy in the age of COVID-19, racism reared its ugly head in a very public and painful way that plunged society back into darkness. By June 2, my social feeds didn’t just turn dark, they turned black.
The resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement was impossible to ignore. It dominated the news cycle, was splashed everywhere on social media, and was at the crux of every conversation I had with friends, family, and colleagues. For many it was a time of reflection and for others it was a rude awakening.
I rode the emotional rollercoaster alone as I processed the death of George Floyd, the subsequent protests, and the state of unrest in the world. I was mad…and then I was sad…and then I was afraid…and then I was enraged…and then I was hopeless, and now I fall somewhere between all those emotions at once.
As a person of color, I thought about my own brushes with racism. I thought about how many times I’ve held my tongue when someone asked where I’m from from or told me how exotic I look. I thought about every time I was asked to join a meeting throughout my career, not for the value I bring, but because there was a “need for more diversity in the room.”
And then, I thought about how I would explain these microagressions to my daughter someday and how she should handle them when they inevitably come her way. I cannot imagine the weight Black women and mothers carry every day.
I watched the outrage of my friends on social media – and, more importantly, what friends stayed silent. I stood on the sidelines and vowed I would never be quiet. I have been itching to get back to work and make big, bold efforts with my team to make change.
Let In the Light
Our senior leadership had to make a number of difficult decisions that made the most sense to keep our doors open throughout this unprecedented time. Everything in our business was effected, from our revenue streams to our staffing, and everything in between. It could not have been easy to decide who was furloughed and what budgets needed to be cut.
For me, it was critical to reset my frame of mind and cling onto any glimpse of positivity I could find. The silver lining of being on furlough has meant that I’ve had an extra 14-weeks of unplanned for (but very welcome) pseudo-maternity leave, and I’m eternally grateful for the time I’ve had to spend with my family.
I recognized how lucky I am to be back at work when others at FLIK have been on furlough even longer than I was, and some will remain on furlough for a while longer until the economy begins to stabilize and businesses decide how to safely open.
In April we said our company will likely look different when this pandemic is over. That we will be a stronger company on the other side of this pandemic. While we’re not quite on the ‘other side’ yet, I do believe we’re coming back stronger than ever.
Shining a Spotlight
While you may not be breaking bread with friends in FLIK cafes, my colleagues and I will be working hard to ensure that this platform remains a robust source of information for you. We have put together a strategy that will continue to share wellness tips and offer insight on industry trends, but will also meet you where you are.
We’re inviting you into our homes to meet our families and catch a glimpse of our pantries while we cook together. Expect more real-life, at home content including videos from our associates. We will additionally amplify the voices of BIPOC associates, farmers, and businesses, highlighting their struggles and their triumphs in our industry. We want to have hard, but necessary, conversations that change the industry as we know it.
We cannot change history, but we can influence the future for the better.
Elie Wiesel said, “Even in the darkness it is possible to create light and encourage compassion. That it is possible to feel free inside a prison. That even in exile, friendship exists and can become an anchor.”
As FLIK slowly begins to emerge from the darkness, I hope we not only embrace the light, but to use our position as hospitality leaders to shine an incredibly bright spotlight on what comes next.
By Jenna Carpenter, Director of Brand Strategy, FLIK Hospitality Group
What We Were Talking About in 2019: Chocolate Angel Food Cake with Berries
What We Were Talking About in 2018: Harissa Salmon Burger, Dill Cucumber Relish
At FLIK Hospitality Group we believe in great food, great service, and great people. Our wellness first approach ensures our food supports healthy and delicious choices, specially curated by our team of culinary experts and registered dietitians. At FLIK, we believe in seasonality in sourcing our ingredients and providing a customized approach to the culinary and hospitality needs of each client. Our dedication to providing quality hospitality service is unparalleled in the industry.
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