The view from my desk

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This post, from Merry Go Rounds' CEO and co-owner, Melissa, is more personal than what we normally share on our blog. We hope it's useful to get an inside look into how one small business owner is responding to, and reflecting on, this crisis.
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On Thursday, I had my last class of grad school. I'm not completely done yet; I still have some assignments to finish, and the classes I'm TAing still meet for a few more sessions. But I have officially completed the classes in which I'm a student. It feels momentous, a good time for reflection. And what better place to reflect than your company's blog?

My final class was Conservation in Practice: An International Perspective. It's a small class, 11 students total. My team gave a presentation on our group project, an assessment of the proposed road bisecting the Serengeti (which, of course, would be an environmental disaster). I had two presentations the week before; I had done my makeup for them, tried to make myself presentable. This time, I couldn't be bothered. My hair was soaking wet; I had just showered after forcing myself to go for a run for the first time in weeks. My desk, invisible to everyone but me, was in complete disarray. On it were two empty tea mugs, three water glasses, a hairbrush, a hair elastic, a regular elastic, papers, coins, dental floss, clothing tags, pens, two sets of headphones, lipstick, Chapstick, Vaseline, hand cream, nail clippers, a charger, and my running armband. It's a small desk. I barely had a place to rest my forearms. But at least the scene behind me, visible to my Zoom audience, was clear: a bookcase and a dresser, tastefully decorated with a select few knickknacks and candles. 

The contrast feels a lot like life right now. On the surface, in front of the camera, I'm holding it together. Behind the scenes, it's messier. I'm trying to balance a full-time academic program with what I need to be doing for this business. Merry Go Rounds is my top priority, and I want to spend all of my time on it, but there are so many other things that need to get done. There's the worry and sadness and uncertainty and fear permeating pretty much everything. And on top of it all, I'm mourning the loss of a "normal" final semester. There will be no commencement, no formal, no class trip, no congratulatory hugs to the friends I've made over the past three years. Instead, grad school -- that all-consuming thing for so long -- kind of just ended. Not with a bang, but a whimper.

I know things will be ok. Change is a part of life, and there is so much that we can't control. Accepting and making peace with that is a necessary part of adapting to this new normal. And, most importantly, very soon my time will free up so I can go all-in on running this business. There is so much to do!

With the physical stores temporarily closed, we're launching an online store. There are hundreds of items to steam, photograph, upload, and list. There are orders to fulfill and customer inquiries to answer. There are marketing and advertising campaigns, which are still quite new for us. There are back-end systems to improve: inventory management, expense tracking, payroll. There are grants and loans to apply for. There are partnerships to develop. There are projects, like our B Corp certification, to complete. And there's a reopening strategy to create and implement. Hopefully soon.

So, despite everything, I'm feeling optimistic and motivated. Since Thursday, I've cleaned off my desk. I already feel like I have more time, and the over-scheduled frenzy is starting to lift. I even went on a nature walk with my sister on Saturday. It was the nicest day of spring so far. 

The other thing I should mention about my desk is the view. My desk faces the window, so I now gaze outside for hours every day. I see blue jays, cardinals, and robins all the time. Sometimes there are deer. I notice the mail carrier making his daily delivery, neighbors walking their dogs, runners turning around at the dead end. I know if it's raining by looking out the window, not by checking my phone. This view, these people, have always been here. I just now have the time to notice. This presence and groundedness has been forced upon many of us during this time, but I'm embracing it. I want to keep it with me.

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