This unprecedented period is the ideal moment for an inner reflection and a journey through your own life experiences, to identify how you can learn from them and how it can help you to overcome this crisis.
I believe this is a nice opportunity for our exclusive network to share with you a few important moments I have gone through, and which are now certainly helping me to keep up during the last weeks.
Let’s go back to my school years; I was around 15 years when it all started. This period was very difficult for me as I was harassed by my fellow students, for the simple reason that I have an Italian name. Nowadays everybody is used to being surrounded by people of various origins, but back in the seventies it was not the case and especially not in the countryside of Belgium where I was living. I was constantly nicknamed spaghetti, macaroni, etc.
My days at school were a terrible nightmare; I had no other alternative than spending the breaks locked inside the toilets, where I could hide safely from their nasty actions towards me, like sticking chewing gum in my hair, hiding my clothes during the gym or swimming class. When I went back home crying, my parents and especially my Italian grandfather continuously kept repeating to me that I should be proud of my Italian roots, and they were joking that pizza, pasta and ice cream are amongst a lot of Italian things that so many people like so much. This was my first lesson of life: Be who you are, do not let the negative criticism and jealousy hit you. This is your true personality.
The next important experiences date back from my professional career in the freight forwarding industry. I have learned a lot but also faced difficult moments, especially on an operational point of view. These moments teached me that resilience, team work, networking and creativity can move the world. Despite dramatic events impacting the whole world, such as the 2 Gulf wars and the 9/11 attacks, we were able to continue shipping important material such as medical supplies, food, and construction material to areas which were difficult to reach. It was so impressing and amazing to be part of that effort and it definitely was another lesson: Even if somewhere everything goes wrong, there is always a way to help restoring it back to its right focus.
In my professional life, I continuously kept on growing and learning during 25 years, thanks to the heavy 24/7 challenges in the logistics world, as Personal Assistant to a highly demanding but inspiring CEO, who has constantly pushed me to deliver results and to go the extra mile. Our company has gone through various mergers and acquisitions thanks to our good financial results but also because we were recognized as simply the best. Not one single day was boring and next to the usual administrative tasks, I was given the opportunity to demonstrate my skills in a large variety of areas (Formula 1, etc). My best reward was to read in a letter written to my boss when he went into retirement, that he certainly owned a part of his successful career to the fact that he was seconded by such a hard working PA. Well, this was THE job of my life!
But then one day in August 2014 my whole world collapsed! Due to a reorganization and a Management change, I was fired in the worst possible way you can imagine: In 1 hour, one letter, take your personal belongings, return your laptop and your badge, do not talk to anybody and somebody will escort you to the exit of the building.
This episode brought me to the next step in my life and has learned me more than ever how to dig deep inside my resources. You are hit by this decision and you feel desperate and useless. Especially when on top of this I had just learned I had to undergo a heart surgery. Well, thanks to the friends, the IMA friends and the family, I managed to prioritize. First think of your health, then you are ready to build your career again. All went well and in January 2015 I did create my own company and was back in business, thanks to my network. At that moment you feel proud of what you have achieved. You look at yourself in the mirror and you say “Yes you can”!
Now, this worldwide COVID-19 pandemic strikes…We are all faced with something none of us would have imagined, not even in a bad nightmare. It sometimes looks as if we are the actors in a disaster movie. This is THE example of a moment during which you can test your resilience. Your complete life style is put at risk. You no longer have a social life, you are locked in your apartment or house and the only moments you can go out is to go to the pharmacy or the supermarket to buy food. Zero pleasure time. The only way to show your parents you care about them is by no longer visiting them, you are not allowed to hug the ones you love, … Even the strongest personality can feel destabilized in this kind of climate.
But yes I am convinced that you can find the strength to get over this. I am an optimistic person: Always look at the bright side of life, even if you are not in the driver's seat. I know this is not that easy as this virus influences the whole planet and we have no grip on it. We have to face this adversity, for both our personal and professional future. It impacts and will impact the global economy. Our main fear is not getting sick and protecting our loved ones. But we have to keep our focus, to stay organized as much as possible and to believe that we can take the best out of this present situation to improve our future. I am sure many of you feel helpless, but for sure there will be opportunities after the crisis, that's why we have to be resilient. In a few months from now we will proudly say “Yes! I was part of this sad episode in history and I got through it”.
As a sign of hope and an illustration of the light at the end of the tunnel, I would like to conclude by sharing with you the wonderful story of the “Survivor Tree”:
A Callery pear tree became known as the “Survivor Tree” after enduring the September 11, 2001 terror attacks at the World Trade Center.
In October 2001, a severely damaged tree was discovered at Ground Zero, with snapped roots and burned and broken branches. The tree was removed from the rubble and placed in the care of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. After its recovery and rehabilitation, the tree was returned to the Memorial in 2010. New, smooth limbs extended from the gnarled stumps, creating a visible demarcation between the tree’s past and present. Today, the tree stands as a living reminder of resilience, survival, and rebirth.
Keep safe, keep strong and we’ll see each other soon!
Sabrina Franchini - Executive PR Officer and IMA Member since 2007