The calendar in our office still marks our last day in the office, before the great pause. Since Friday, March 13th our hearts have been broken in so many different ways. A global pandemic and the struggle of so many in their final breaths. Loved ones being separated during that time. Parents trying to do their day job while educating and parenting and sharing their devices and “office space,” and maybe finding a moment of peace. Physical and social distancing. Divisiveness on social media and in our country. And then Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, dear Lord not again… struggling in their final breaths. Racism is also pandemic. We’ve made a mess of things. It’s difficult. It’s uncomfortable. We have gotten so much wrong.
To go on with business as usual isn’t really possible. I question those who say it is. This should be a time of great pause.
After 15 weeks of working remotely, physically distancing, I had the great joy to meet with my team in person. We were six feet apart, we were outside. We had masks, we washed our hands, we had hand sanitizer. We had planned to catch up and strategize about our 20th year in business and how we would acknowledge the milestone. After picking up lunch from our favorites — sandwiches from Little Market Café and chips, salsa and guac from La Palapa next door — we talked.
Not a lot of 20th anniversary planning took place. Instead we talked and shared about the last 15 weeks. We shared what we felt comfortable doing (or not doing) as things started to open back up. Even though it’s been tough, we have been lucky. We are a business that can, and often did already, work remotely. And yet, we talked about how really difficult it’s been and also how it’s given us opportunities to show up in different ways for each other — on our team, for our clients, with our families, and our communities.
We talked about Black Lives Matter and our own privilege, and how this pandemic — as difficult as it has been, has been much more risky, discriminating and devastating to our black and brown friends and neighbors. We shared resources for learning and unlearning, connecting, listening, and nurturing. God knows we don’t have the answers, and we know that change is up to all of us. Not knowing and being uncomfortable and staying in the conversation. Doing the work. Showing up. Amplifying the voices of others. We’re in.
And that brings us to the silver lining of this great pause, a sacred pause, perhaps. The #blacklivesmatter conversation is by no means over. It’s finally, I hope and pray, beginning to get the traction to truly see some change. Why now? Oddly, the pandemic made us pause. Between stress and worry, or boredom, or recognition that we’re not caring well for ourselves or others, this sacred pause and spending more time with “ourselves” has exposed some cracks. And perhaps those cracks have made us more vulnerable and allowed us to be more empathetic.
I believe this great pause has provided us with opportunities to quiet, to examine, to listen. To connect more mindfully and intentionally. It’s provided us with the opportunity to be more patient and kind and empathetic. To be our higher selves.
There is a lot of uncertainty and confusion out there. There’s so much to process. And while all of this is going on, we’re still trying to not just survive, but to thrive in business. We can’t just abandon our work, and yet somehow, I don’t want to just go back to business as usual. We are listening more, we are connecting on a deeper level to our clients and colleagues, we are diving into the work that we love more, and living into our purpose.
The second half of our very extended lunch turned to just that. Our purpose and who we wanted to “be” as a firm. God, I love my team. I am so fortunate to have an incredibly talented, honest, caring, fun group of people that brings a diverse set of strengths to the table. We talked about that, and about where our strengths, talents, and purpose overlap. We’re working on a manifesto of sorts. If nothing else, 2020 so far has afforded us this opportunity to reflect and focus on those things that bring us joy: loving the work we do, delighting our clients, finding beauty everywhere, listening well and taking more risks, amplifying worthy voices, creating smart and effective communications and design solutions, treating our clients with respect and love and always telling them the truth, helping clients clarify and elevate their visions for their businesses, therefore having a greater impact on the world. Purpose-driven and conscious. Balance. Harmony. Meaning. Love. More love, please.
It’s been 20 years of doing great work—for which we are so grateful—and it feels like we’re just getting started.