I was finishing up two tournaments for the National Collegiate Dodgeball Association (NCDA) back in March 2020 and I just got the approval from my business tax attorney that my business Ready to Stream, LLC was an official business in the state of Virginia. I was ready to go; NCDA Nationals 2020 was going to take place at Ohio State University (OSU) and I was using every tournament as an opportunity to really show off my skills in many different areas of live-streaming:
I was so eager and excited to be given an opportunity to put my company on the map on a national stage and to give the different stakeholders of the NCDA (current players/alumni/parents of current players/friends and families of current players at their respective universities) a top level video production show like we saw the previous year at Nationals 2019 at Grand Valley State University. However a few weeks after The War Tournament was over, I received some news that would changed the outlook on my life both as a person and a business owner: COVID-19 cancelled all tournaments for the foreseeable future.
The Beginning of the Stay-At-Home Order
In the beginning, I was fine with not traveling anywhere outside of the Richmond, VA region for the first few weeks. Don't get me wrong; I love traveling to different regions, building relationships with the college players, and improving on my skillsets in the realm of live-streaming. I was having the time of my life. However, the long hours on the road meant that I wasn't getting quality sleep, I was gaining weight due to bad eating habits, my bank account was taking a beating, and my relationship with my fiancé (now my wife) had some unique challenges. Keep in mind my wife and I always have a great relationship despite these challenges.
At the time my wife was a special education teacher at a well-known private school within the Richmond area and she was working long hours. She would get up around 6:00 a.m. to head to work and wouldn't come home until around the times of 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. during the weekdays. The times that she would come home would vary from day to day. Now for those of you who is in a committed relationship with a teacher knows exactly what I'm talking about. Teachers are some of the most dedicated, selfless individuals that I know and they pour everything they can for their students and school. As a result, they would come home tired, exhausted, and fatigued beyond measures only to repeat the process again the next day. They need time to recharge themselves physically, emotionally, mentally, and yes even financially from the demands that are placed on them on a daily basis at school. They can find this time during the weekend with their friends and loved ones.
Here's the problem though: I was gone on the weekend to do live-streaming events and she was at home by herself not having a lot of friends within the Richmond area. So I always felt this pressure of spending time with her throughout the week so I wouldn't feel guilty trying to run a business during the weekend so I could create an extra stream of income for us. She was and still is very understanding of that idea and concept but it was extremely difficult before COVID-19 hit. It's one thing to understand what you need to do but it's another thing to put it into practice day in and day out. I understood that she needed to recharge herself because she couldn't be the best version of herself for her students if she was exhausted so I allowed her to rest and I continue to work long hours.
This was the mindset that I had BEFORE COVID-19 and I didn't think anything of it; I was looking at things from a logical perspective and I thought that was the best decision to make at the time. Of course, that changed OVERNIGHT once both of us found out that we were working from home full-time.
My 9 to 5 job I work from home 3 out of 5 days of the week so it was an easy transition for me. The internet wasn't the best but it got the job done when I was working alone. My wife's transition was a difficult one because normally teachers teach in the classroom not online. On top of that, teachers had to make the adjustments from in-person instruction to online virtually overnight with no guidance and assistance from their administrations. She was required to make videos on her topics and her students via zoom and upload those videos in google classroom to verify that she was working her full hours and deserve her full salary from her job. To say that my work environment changed overnight was an understatement; it was a learning curve that took several months to adapt to and it was brutal. But it was also humbling at the same time.
I was always able to separate my work life from my personal life to my business life without any issues; now it was all mixed into one life that was confined to my living room and my bedroom. We didn't have good lighting in the office room or any natural light so it would be very taxing on the mind to do all of your work in that room. Only the living room had natural light with decent lighting but it was mixed with the kitchen area as well. When you're living and working with an individual full-time in an apartment with less than 760 square feet; you begin to understand the importance of having more space.
I understood early on that my wife would be stressed out and overwhelm with the different changes that were taking places so it would be my responsibility to help her out as much as I can as often as I can with this new transition even if it meant that I would put myself in a situation that my work performance would dropped significantly within the first two months. I knew that I could take the hit and recover without any issues; I didn't want to find out if my wife could do the same. Throughout the process I became her video editor giving her tips on how to edit her videos from zoom and make them more professionally while reducing the overall editing time from 4 hours to 30 minutes per video. Through this experience, she began to understand the importance of live-streaming, video editing, and the reason why I dedicated so many hours working on the different skillsets of live-streaming. It made it much easier for her to be support of my business because she knew it was helping her with her new line of work as a virtual teacher.
I didn't really begin to feel the effects of the Stay-At-Home Orders until the VCU Library on both campuses were closed for everyone. That was both a personal and professional blow for several reasons:
The normal cost of these equipments and services on a monthly basis is easily over $2,000 and we are not getting into the technical support of the staff at the Library, the staff at the Workshop, and the fact that the library was open 24/7 Sunday to Friday before COVID-19. Those are precious resources and opportunities that can't be taken for granted by anyone. I didn't understand how much I appreciate the VCU Libraries both as a safe haven and as a place of growth until I couldn't go into the library until August 2020. It is something that I don't take lightly or for granted; it's a rare opportunity that has been allocated to the VCU community as a whole.
Protests and Police Brutality within the City of Richmond
As a law bidding citizen that holds an important position for the personal well-being of others, I was not able allow to be out in the streets protesting in the streets of Richmond in response to Police Brutality that occurred not only within the city of Richmond but in other areas throughout the United States. There were many things that were running through my mind during this stressful time period in the middle of the pandemic but the main thoughts were the following every single day multiple times per hour from the moment I woke up until the time I went to bed:
The first three bullet points were easy to me. They were second nature to me due to the fact that I'm a black male living in the United States. It's just a way of life to me. The last two became more of a challenge for me for different reasons.
As a result, I needed to seek therapy to reset my mindset in regain my focus. I knew if I couldn't keep my job now during this crazy time period, I wasn't going to be able to maintain my business when I was ready to handle that responsibility. I had several gigs line up before COVID-19 and now with no gigs, I knew I had to take care of my household both as a person and as a leader. So my business was on hold for the time being.
From May 2020 to August 2020, there were 60+ consecutive days of protesting that occurred within different parts of the city. Some of the protesting occurred in the downtown area; some occurred near some of the Confederate statuses and buildings; others occurred in different neighborhoods late at night. It was something that I have never seen before and it was a peculiar time period within my life. I never seen that many people throughout the city doing protesting in regards to the lives of others. I understood the importance of protesting but I knew it was a small step for the continuous fights of equality for others. The problem was a lot of people were protesting but didn't see anything past the protests and that energy fizzle out in the upcoming months.
Anyone that knows Richmond, VA knows that the city have a very complex history that has been on some of the most volatile moments in America's history. We are not just talking about Virginia being the 1st colony of the original 13 colonies. Or the fact it was the former capital of the Confederacy. Or the fact that it was known as one of the murder capitals on the East Coast with the number of homicides. Or the fact that it is one of the most dangerous places to live in Virginia. It's a battleground city where one minute you see BLM protesting take place and a few months earlier you can send 2nd Amendment protesting take place and it's considered a normal day in RVA.
The Mental Shift Within The Pandemic
I knew that I couldn't be in a continuous state of worry, stress, and anxiety. I knew I had to have a different perspective in order for me to get out of this mental hellhole that I was currently experiencing. It started out with therapy and understand that all of my feelings and emotions were valid. That I had every single right to feel the different swing of emotions that I was experiencing and to accept those feelings for what they were: emotional indicators of my fight or flight response within my body on a more extreme, intense level. Once I was able to accept those different emotions and known the source of it, it became much easier to control those intense emotions instead of being control by them which was the beginning of my breakthrough and evolution as a new person.
I knew this time period and experience was so intense within my mind and body that I wasn't going to be the same and my personality was going to be completely different moving forward. In the beginning I didn't know how I was going to be different than before but now I know what was the end results during this time period.