Event Management was one of the very first casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic and thus my livelihood also went the way of the Dodo.
I had very strong plans for 2020. With my limited resources and experiences, I had made a significant investment into my new business, Tofu Events.
I pulled off one event.
Then Tofu Events turned into a dream that will only have a chance at getting resurrected 2 years from now.
Even that event was a bust. It was a Lunar New Year festival.
Incredibly untimely, given the news that was coming from China at the time, and the recent bushfire catastrophe in Australia.
The number of attendees was depressingly low, but organisation, work and overall vibe was great. It probably did the best out of the myriad of LNY events in Melbourne at that time.
But my dream of using that festival to springboard forward and promote my talents in event management was to remain just that … a dream.
It’s only been recently, I’ve considered how much has gone to waste. The countless hours I spent slaving away at my website, designing everything from scratch. The networking I did to get my name known. The money that I spent on equipment, and gear, now just sitting forlornly in my garage.
All of it, squandered.
I was meant to quit my retail job around this time, mid July. To fully commit myself to marketing my company and skills. I was eager to make my first 20K in a year to prove that my dream was possible, that it had potential. That I wasn’t a fool to start my own company and branch out alone in the cold, unforgiving world.
Instead, here I stand, at a desolate shopping centre, behind a laggy computer, typing my thoughts and feelings whilst Carpenter Brut‘s Trilogy album blasts angry synth in my ears.
The world really is as cold and unforgiving as they say. I didn’t stand a damn chance.
I don’t think I’ve ever really reflected on how much wasted potential was gone in a matter of weeks, because of this virus. It was almost robotic, how I treated the destruction of Tofu Events.
I noted it, bottled up my disappointment and threw it in the Sea of Forsaken, where countless other strange emotions reside.
Sure, I invested nearly 7000 dollars into it, but none of it was perishable, none of it was a significant loss and at the end of the day, there weren’t any major costs I couldn’t control, without my salary in my retail work.
I can still pay the insurance, the costs of managing a website, and my equipment doesn’t have an expiry date.
So I suppose I can’t really get furious, when I escaped relatively unscathed.
Thousands more people in Melbourne’s event sector were devastated by COVID-19, far worse than I ever was.
I was just the little shrimp that was trying to get into the ocean, but retreated back into a comfortable little creek.
I truly feel for all of them. At any event, festival, concert or whatever I attend, I am always appreciative of the work that goes in, because I’ve been there and done that.
I may criticise, and wonder at some decisions, but I will never truly lambast an organiser who I see is out and about, fixing all the small fires that occur during an event. This shit is difficult, it is stressful, it is taxing and it is underappreciated.
Event management and production is a hugely sacrificial job. You don’t have regular hours, you pour heart and soul into everything from decorations to marketing and at the end of the day, it’s not even up to you, whether things go right or wrong.
Events are inherently risky.
Weather can literally destroy months of work in an instant. Contractors can randomly hike up prices year by year. Volunteers can be unreliable and cause undue stress on the big day. People may never hear of your event and will not turn up.
But it’s rewarding, when everything comes together. The pay-off is always huge. Smiles from happy stall-holders keep you going. Laughter from cute couples on a date at your event, encourage you. The wonder on people’s faces at your hard work, will never fade away in your heart.
Now, in 2020 … it will take years for event businesses to recover. In a town like Melbourne, where events happen almost every weekend, there are thousands of people out of a job and completely clueless, unsure of what to do, uncertain of their future. What the hell did these underappreciated souls do, to deserve this, is beyond me.
No one ever thanks the sound technician for amazing audio. No one ever acknowledges the volunteer who guided people around a confusing festival layout. No one ever sees the army of organisers who put everything together, who fixed the program, who tweaked the store layout, who spent countless hours labouring away at an competition description ….
It’s the talent behind the facade that brings an event together.
I got away amazingly lucky if I am honest. I was only just starting. I wasn’t established. So the loss incurred wasn’t great.
Better to be shot in the arm, than the head I suppose.
Cynical approach, I’m aware.
It’s difficult not to be, in these times. Positivity is a well that is fast drying up.
Another dream that failed to materialise, was the F1 2020 Australian Grand Prix, easily my favourite event of any year.
The use of money, organisation, layout, professionalism and atmosphere, rank amongst the very best in the world.
Whilst the racing may not always be exciting, it is genuinely thrilling to see Supercars, GT Supercars, Ferraris, Porsches, and F1 cars push speeds that I can only dream of achieving.
There was even the added bonus, that I was going to be a flag bearer volunteer at the Opening ceremony, so I got a ticket for Sunday race day for free.
Of course, the way how they handled the cancellation was messy. But was that any surprise? COVID-19 was unprecedented. Nearly a whole year of finances and planning was implemented for Albert Park Grand Prix.
Calling it off must have been an agonising decision for the stakeholders and organisers. The fans were disappointed. The drivers confused. The whole thing seemed like an epic mess.
I can’t fault their indecision. I would have stumbled too in such a pressure cooker environment. But at the end of the day, I thought it was handled well.
It also provided a precedent to the rest of the world.
COVID-19 is serious shit. It just canned a global event, at the beginning of its hype train season. Watch out, these disruptions are only just beginning.
Sports got wiped out the next day, bringing all event planners to our knees.
Then the lockdowns came and put us out of our misery.
So, what is next for me?
I’ve been extremely lucky to have access to a job, that is also supplemented by Jobkeeper payments, which ironically has boosted my salary by a significant margin.
So I doubt I will quit this job anytime soon. It’s keeping me afloat, and allowing me to pay off debts and bills quite easily.
I will also probably start looking for another job soon. What it will be, is definitely unknown to me at the moment, because I had planned so much of this year around the idea that I would be running events.
I don’t want to be stuck in this retail job for the foreseeable future though. It fails to scratch the defining purpose I want in my life. But with a true scarcity of jobs for the next few years, I don’t think there will be many options.
So that leaves me with trying to kick-start a career as a writer, which would be genuinely intriguing and nice for me, or seek employment with a profession that the entire world seem to hate at the moment; the police force.
Reflecting on the future, I’m reminded of this maxim I learned when I was much younger and impressionable …
You’re never too young to die.
Edgy stuff from a YA novel about a teenage spy; Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz. But there is a kernel of truth in that.
Just because there is an average lifespan, that you are aware of, doesn’t protect you from reaching that ripe old age.
There’s a humility involved in that maxim. Youth is not an invincible shield, nor is the lack of acknowledgement that something might befall you any time.
I think being aware of how short life is and how quickly things can change, lends a certain clarity to a lot of decisions in life. It allows you to see past yourself and take terrible news like a 2nd lockdown with more ease.
Too often, we buy into a myth that we will reach an ripe old age.
I like to think that my day to day decisions, from what I eat to what I spend my time on, are conscious decisions that help me avoid the emotion of regret. I allow the future to dictate what I do now, but not to the point where I can’t enjoy the present.
Which I suppose is why I decided that instead of wasting my time constantly watching Youtube at work, I would apply my writing skills and get better, even if I don’t have an editor to sharpen things up for me.
Writing on here, is probably one of the best actions I’ve taken this whole pandemic, beyond watching my diet and taking on the B-30 challenge. I’ve really felt like my writing can be improved, that I’m taking my hobby a bit more seriously and that it give me a sense of purpose, something to work on.
Probably the most damaging thing that COVID-19 has done, is taken away people’s work.
Without work, what purpose do we have?
What occupies our idle thoughts?
What keeps us sharp?