Shifting from Surviving to Thriving
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Shifting from Surviving to Thriving

An events pro finds hope in a challenging year.

Before Covid-19 was even a reality, my department received notice our positions would be eliminated. As of March 30, we would be officially laid off. Unfortunately, our departure from the building was fast-tracked to early March, so we worked from home for the remainder of our time. Among the mixture of feelings came another new experience: job hunting during a global crisis.

While April was an intense adjustment period, it was also the first time in 16 years with so much free time. I began to realize all the positives and tried not focus on what seemed to be a negative time. Prior to Coivd-19, I was Dance Manager for my son Cecil, Sports Mom to my son Justin, an Event Planner with over 100 events annually, and ran my own Event Strategist business. I could hear my Granny’s voice in my head: “It’s OK to work 72 hours in 24-hour day; we’ll sleep when we dead.” Upon reflection, I don’t know how I survived so long doing so much.

I began to think of my newfound freedom in a different way. It was a period of time that I now call “Lockdown Relief.” I was relieved of Mommy Manager duties, sporting events, and all the events canceled or reduced, along with business-related social commitments. Thanks to the pandemic, there was no need to keep up appearances. Lockdown Relief forced me to incorporate more self-love. By focusing more on myself, I was able to prioritize my health and be intentional with my job search.

As I created a timeline on the tedious chore of job applications, I incorporated a list of goals that included professional development classes. I used options with CareerForce MN. I partnered with their advisors and signed up for three University of St. Thomas classes to keep me motivated. In the middle of completing my second class — Certified Professional Project — George Floyd was killed. Now, we were forced to confront the epidemic of police brutality against people of color on top of the pandemic. As my sons say: It is inevitable; we just do not know when. Trauma reigned in the Twin Cities; life was extremely intense.

Through all the difficult times and sleepless nights, I stayed focused. I needed to continue to provide and protect my family. I had to get through these tumultuous times, stick to my timeline, and achieve my goals. I had to continue to enjoy the blessings of Lockdown Relief while finding employment. One of my goals was to find a role with an organization where I could stay for years. I didn’t apply to just any job. I researched the job description, the employer background, read reviews, and asked those in my networks for feedback before applying. Finally, after six weeks of applications and interviews, I secured my current role. I believe if we as people here in the Twin Cities can get through the last ten months, we can accomplish anything. Be resilient, stay focused, and do not lose hope.

About the Author
Merina Neal is the Digital Platform Training Manager at Think Small and has several years of experience as an event manager in nonprofit and corporate events. She also owns her own business that caters to Afro-Caribbean markets in the music and events industries in the Twin Cities and throughout the U.S., as well as in Canada, Jamaica, Trinidad, and other Caribbean countries. Neal has over twenty-five years of experience and has worked in all aspects of the events industry. She lives in St. Paul and volunteers as a radio host at KFAI in her free time.

About ILEA
The International Live Events Association (ILEA) represents and supports more than 5,000 members globally—event professionals who do business together, share knowledge, nurture talent and progress the live events industry. For more information on how an ILEA professional can help you with your event, please contact communications@ilea-msp.org.