Becoming A Brand In 2020

Working from home

From the very beginning of my life, I’ve always done things in my own time. On a family trip to Chicago before I turned a year old, my mother packed a walker because I hadn’t started walking yet. My mother forever tells the story of how, when I got to Chicago, I decided to walk, and she packed that walker for nothing. I have always done things in my own time. It is the one trait that my husband is not fond of but I’m working on it.

At the end of 2019, around my birthday in October, I decided to move forward with Alizah’s Story after I had sat on it since 2017. Over the next few months, I went full speed ahead. I had my friend, Julia DiLaura, do my initial edits, had a conversation with my former co-worker Paul and his partner Derrick who are in the communications and publishing field, I found an illustrator in Arielle Matthews, got a branding team, The Llegaci Agency and I was ready to go. Then boom — COVID-19 decided to take over the world.

OMG! What in the world was happening? I live in New York City and in a matter of days, I went from traveling to work on the subway and going out whenever I wanted to, to being totally quarantined, unable to just be. A COVID testing site was set up near where I live so on top of what I was feeling, I was scared to go outside. There was a sign posted at the site that said, “Keep Your Windows Closed”. Was that supposed to make me feel better? Well, it didn’t. I did not leave the house for the first five weeks. I was so afraid. First, of getting the virus and second, of being a carrier and possibly infecting my family.  The upside during that time came from my job. They allowed us to work from home and assured us that our jobs were secure, so that was truly a relief. Not having a job did weigh heavily on my mind in those first few weeks.

Otherwise, I was pretty much okay in the beginning of the lockdown. I’m a homebody so being home every day was cool. The news was nonstop COVID coverage. Then, after two months of being at home, the murder of George Floyd happened, leading to protests against police brutality and Black Lives Matter became the lead topic of conversation on social media, news outlets and households all over the world. While all of this was happening, I had not seen my mother, sister and nephews in weeks. I’ve never gone that long without seeing them but with my mom being over the age of 65 and my sister being immunocompromised, I made the decision to stay away. Let me tell you, that was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. My family brings me joy, so my happiness was on a steady decline without them.

Now with the pandemic, race issues and 45 in office, how could anyone focus on building and becoming a brand? For me, working on releasing Alizah’s Story was my therapy. It gave me an outlet to think of something other than what was going on in the world around me. Don’t get me wrong, I had moments when I thought I was going to lose my mind. How could you not? The world was literally falling apart right in front of our eyes. Taking care of my mental health was important so I went to Atlanta for a week to see family.

It’s amazing how just seeing a different set of walls makes you feel better. It was mid-June; in NYC I’d been quarantined since March and I was two seconds away from feeling as if I was about to have a nervous breakdown. That week in Atlanta was everything I needed. I went for walks and shopping and was able to eat outside at a couple of restaurants. I came back home refreshed and feeling so much better. It was the perfect week and divine timing to be away because this was a couple of weeks before NY started monitoring traveling and before Georgia closed down again.

Once I was back in New York City, the COVID numbers started to go down and I was finally able to go see my mom, sister, brother-in-law and nephews. Happy cannot begin to describe how I felt. What could make you happier than your mother making you her famous banana pancakes and you and your nephew watching movies together? That weekend gave me another boost to help get me through the next few weeks.

My sister Chaya has her business “The Maven Movement”, a platform to uplift women and share “herstory”. She decided to start doing interviews and posting them on her YouTube channel. She asked me to be her first interview. It’s my sister and there’s nothing she could ask me that I wouldn’t do and support. Wait, that’s not true. There was the time when she was planning her wedding and she wanted us to wear heels on the beach — I argued that one down. I refused to do that. Other than that, I’m her ride or die.  I was honored that she asked me. It got me out of my comfort zone, and I knew that it would help prepare me for when I had to start doing interviews to help promote Alizah’s Story. The more I did it, the more I would find myself getting comfortable. She has a sister’s panel that we do with my two sisters-in-love and it’s something I look forward to doing. I’m glad Chaya pushed me. Only she could get me to do something like that.

I still had all the business things to do but it’s so hard to concentrate when the world around you seems to be falling apart every other day. I constantly had to push myself to do anything. There were some days I did not want to get out of bed, but I was still working. Although it was working from home, I still had to be present and look cute for Zoom meetings. Looking back, I wish I had taken some more days off than I did these last few months. I thought that I was okay working from home, but I realize now that I wasn’t as okay as I thought I was. I see now that I had some depression going on and when I acknowledged it to myself first, I was able to work through it.

How do you post positivity on social media when you feel as if your life isn’t positive? Derrick told me that it’s easier to sell a book to people who know who you are and know that it’s coming, so I had to be active on social media. I had to gain followers because in a time of COVID or as I’ve been referring to it, “Rona”, online was the way to stay connected. I was happy that my team at the Llegaci Agency had given me a starting point with thirty days of posts. (Thanks Will!)

I’m thankful for my family, friends and counselors who lent their ear when I just needed to talk, laugh or even cry. Sajia, Elisa, Meredith, Alicia, Kareem, and Dara, I appreciate you guys so very much. Thank you for helping me through this. It’s nice to have co-workers who you can also call friends.

At the end of the day, I want to be able to say that even with all that has happened, something good came out of this year and I accomplished something by becoming an author and releasing my first children’s book despite everything going on around me.

Thanks for listening,

Shanah

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