By Daniel Dunaief
Jill has been cutting hair for 38 years. She has owned a few salons, but these days she has been scheduling hair cutting appointments at people’s homes.
She wears a mask, asks her customers to do the same and does her work outside or in the shelter of a garage, where the wind isn’t as strong.
An immigrant from Lebanon, Jill is completely professional, asking for extension cords through the garage, setting up a chair for her customers, and carrying her sterilized scissors, electronic clippers and comb.
Reflecting on the decades she’s spent chatting with customers while she works, she has an easy, purposeful manner about her efforts, while she rolls her “r’s,” sharing linguistic hints on her life.
These days, she lives with her daughter, son-in-law and her three grandchildren. She has her own space in the house, but is hoping, before too long, to rent or buy a small place where she can call the shots.
She shared a story with me that offers some perspective about life and our reactions in the moment to our wins and losses.
Back in February, Jill had decided it was time to own a salon again. She pooled all her savings and placed a bid on a property. She was excited about the prospect of serving more customers, hiring staff and growing a business that would help her make money and increase her savings towards retirement.
She knew she was close to winning the bidding and had started imagining how she’d reinvent the space and the people she’d hire. But, then, the people selling the property informed her that they had chosen another bidder, who had deeper pockets and was a part of a larger chain. She was incredibly disappointed and felt as if she’d lost out on a business she knew she could run. She spent several weeks irritated by the situation.
A month after she lost the property, she joined the rest of the world in the pandemic-triggered lockdown. Initially, she couldn’t get out much.
As the days stretched into weeks and the weeks into months, she realized how lucky her loss on that property had been. She would have had to carry a $4,000 monthly mortgage for a location that was producing no revenue for months.
She considers herself an incredibly lucky loser. Back in February, of course, a mere month before the virus changed the United States, she had no way of knowing that her loss would save her from a mountain of unmanageable debt.
She feels as if a force from up high was looking out for her, protecting her from a financial burden and responsibility that would have been hard to manage, even with whatever government program she might have turned to for help.
Down the road, when the world returns to something resembling the experiences of 2019, she may, once again, consider buying a salon. Until then, however, she’s perfectly happy without the debt and the uncertainty of managing through a difficult small business and economic environment.
In the meantime, she will continue to show up at people’s homes, brushes, clippers and scissors in hand, ready to provide on-site haircuts to people who prefer, or can’t, leave their properties.
The challenges and obstacles that disappoint also sometimes protect us, even if we can’t see that in the moment, particularly when we know how much we want something.
Many of us will confront those frustrations in the future over which we have no control. Sometimes, we may gain perspective on what, at first, appears to be an unfortunate outcome.