"The last thing we need is another read about COVID-19. I am so done." - Me.
I tried to talk myself out of writing about anything related to the pandemic. But then I realized, as you'll see, it's inexorably tied to Aluma. From a mental wellness and self-discovery perspective, we need to talk about it. What's important is how we talk about it. Talking about doom and gloom isn't helpful unless you can do something with it.
We built Aluma in 2020, which was...weird. I spent some time before we launched thinking about what happened in the past year and how to make sense of it.
I want to start by acknowledging my privilege here. The things that threw me off a little might have caused others a lot of pain. Many other changes I could avoid, lots of others couldn't. But, I feel it's important to mention.
If you know me, you'd think that being at home all the time wouldn't be a big deal. At Archer and Olive, we all work remotely. But I didn't realize how much being around people sometimes is what I need, even if all I can take is 30 minutes. It helped to bounce things off people for a while. I started getting a lot more "filled up" by a group meeting for small business owners I am a part of. Everyone seemed a lot more vulnerable, maybe for the same reason, and as a result, I think we all grew from that. We had more time to talk because of the efficiency of meeting online, and no one felt rushed. I feel lucky for that extra input I wouldn't have gotten otherwise.
Having a toddler at home (bless all of you that have more than one child!) while my partner and I tried to work was just crazy. The mess and the noise were just super hard for me, and, as you'll hear in my Aluma interview, it's tough for me to adapt to that type of energy. My partner, Kevin, had to spend some time doing what we called "Dada School," and looking back on it, I think that was so enriching for both of them and helpful for me. It was hard at the time, but our son still talks about it, and they wouldn't have had that time.
Kevin left his job a few months after the pandemic was full-blown. We decided he would help Aluma and spend more time on the home part of the life equation. That was a weird change for both of us at a bizarre time. We feel lucky that it could be voluntary. It was a risk. But I learned pretty quickly that despite adjustment, he (we) needed that. It enabled us to be creative together, and now he sees us more and has felt he's been able to make an impact.
There were some dark times with work for everyone; there's no doubt. It felt like we were in a box, and my journal was my best friend. It made me feel even more for mothers who were already struggling, though, and as a result, I think it made Aluma better.
We worked on Aluma with at least ten other people at various times. We never met a single one in person. Maybe lots of people would have told you before COVID that this was "possible, of course!" But it would have only been hypothetical. The craziest thing about this is that I had such meaningful connections with everyone I worked with! And if you try Aluma, you'll see how great it came out! Some people might think distance is a massive limitation in business. I think I had a better working experience here than in any other "office" environment. There were a lot of cats and kids on cameras and keyboards. And with grace and love, everyone put this together with a smile. I am so grateful and inspired by that. Take that, COVID.
In the beginning, things were pretty bleak for everyone. I had my regular routine for making art, and it just wasn't sticking with the new lifestyle. I felt very "compressed"; like the usual ways I could make art didn't fit anymore, and that was frustrating and creation tension I hadn't felt before. Not to mention we had all the change happening, which I'm sure lots of you shared. That didn't help things. Creativity went to a new low. The only place I could go was the backyard, and that's where I found an outlet. Areas outside my home couldn't inspire me, so I looked in the yard. I started doing some illustrations of animals again instead of just florals. I did little crafts with my son. I started making more plans for the house since we had to spend a lot more time there, and by coincidence, doing that let the light in. Being forced into some new creative spaces and working on the Aluma program got me back in touch with things I forgot I liked to make. The pressure was not fun, but what came out was the inspiration for our program and some old love for crafts and illustration.
Reflection and Realization
Only a week ago or so, when we were getting prepared to launch Aluma, did I stop to reflect on the project. And when I did, I began reflecting on our lives during that time, too. They were both kind of the same: messy, disorienting, full of surprises. But here we are. My message is: we've got to walk away from pain or struggle with something useful and do something with it that makes us proud. Whether I realized it or not, Aluma is that for me. I lived the Aluma program while making it. Even if you don't use Aluma, pause this week and make a list of what happened to you in the past year. Find a way to harness that for yourself. You won't be surprised to know there's an exercise like this in the workbook 😉.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for being here and giving time to Aluma. Even if you don't purchase it, thank you for giving it your thought and attention. It's an important topic, and I hope you'll share it with someone else.