This is the Fifth Installment of the Sensory Journal - a series that goes out exclusively to my email newsletter subscribers roughly once a month. With some other events and efforts happening around this time with a focus around community, I decided to share this Journal publicly on the Burke Blog. I hope you'll find it resonates with you. Xx
In August of this year, I had the privilege through the generosity of loved ones to travel to Japan. This was my first ever trip to Asia, and only my third time out of the country. The country itself, the history, the architecture, the fashion, it was all incredibly beautiful and awe inspiring. But it was the collectivism engrained into the capitalist culture there that truly moved me. Everyone moved throughout their day in consideration of everyone else around them, as well as their physical surroundings. I wondered what it might be like to live in one of the cleanest and safest places I have ever been. And it was an interesting experience to feel shocked by all of that, coming from a country that instead prioritizes individualism, and wondering if we have the ability to shift our priorities?
I felt so inspired after my trip, but since my return home to Long Beach, I've encountered heaviness amongst my neighbors and community struggling with the challenges of our economy, our political system, and to many - the soul of our country.
So for the past couple of months, I've been thinking deeply about community, about quality of life, and what that means to me. For me personally, it means being blessed to live a few blocks from my business, and to be able to walk nearly anywhere around town without a car. It means that I feel connected enough to my community that nearly everywhere I go, I see someone I know. It means that I've gotten to build relationships with my neighbors who I otherwise would have never crossed paths with in life. It means that I have a network of people I can depend on that support me and care about Long Beach as much as I do, and I can be that support for many of them also. Community is the greatest gift I've been given and been able to give through having a small business, and it is certainly not something I take for granted.
I remember not feeling so connected to community before being an entrepreneur. Back then I drove an hour or more commute outside of Long Beach to work for a corporation that didn't care about me. I wasted a lot of my earnings by spending them at that company on products made without care. I was always searching for the cheapest and easiest convenience to get what I wanted or needed. I was lonely and none of that left me satisfied or fulfilled. After becoming a business owner myself, I now spend almost all of my money with local and small businesses, and I continue to be filled with connection and gratitude from it. And what I have learned is that community means supporting our neighbors and people we care about even if it's not the most efficient or convenient option. Community means supporting people who share our core values even if it means spending a little more. Community means investing our time, our money, and our energy into the people and spaces around us to protect and preserve the environment of where we live.
Many of our incredible small businesses in Long Beach and beyond are barely surviving right now and it breaks my heart to know we are going to see closures continue to happen over the next 6 months. Much of that is out of our control, but also a lot of it is not. I believe COLLECTIVELY, as a commUNITY, we have the power (and in my opinion, the obligation) to shape the places we live. We can envision and create communities that support everyone if we can shift our mindset and our values from individual conveniences to supporting one another. Below are some things that have recently inspired me on that journey of my own, and I hope they might inspire you too.
In Japan, part of our trip was spent on the island of Okinawa. I recently learned about Blue Zones - places of the world where people live healthily past 100 years old. After my experience in Japan and learning that Okinawa was a Blue Zone, I knew I wanted to watch the documentary about Blue Zones on Netflix. This was really amazing to watch and learn about, as well as building on and expanding upon my existing ideas of community and why they are important. I highly recommend this!
As soon as I saw this headline, I knew I wanted to read this article, haha, especially after just returning from the extremely nice and polite country of Japan. This article actually offered a lot of historical reference which I found super interesting. There are many details we may agree or disagree with here based on our own personal life experiences, but the overarching theme remains. This article gave me a clearer idea on maybe how we got here, and emphasized the idea that it is our responsibility to work together to get us out. It's a lengthy but worthwhile read, but there's also an audio option if preferred.
This particular article brought me to tears. It may not hit as hard for non-entrepreneurs, but it is a raw and important read for anyone who cares about small businesses, and even more particularly - women-owned small businesses. Many of us have shared with our customers (myself included) how hard it has been since the pandemic. And while we may be tired of the sounding alarms, unfortunately it has continued to get more challenging with the difficulty really reaching its peak this summer. When I think of any community I love around the country, it is the special small businesses there that really make it what it is, make me want to spend time there, and make me want to recommend it to others. Our governments & commercial property owners have to make it easier for small businesses to exist and thrive, but until then, I encourage you to discover more of the small businesses in your local community and support them with every dollar and recommendation you can so we don't lose the heartbeat of the places we love, and the safe spaces they create for us to go.
If you've made it this far, thank you!😅 Some of this topic is heavy, but my hope is that this ultimately leaves you inspired and not discouraged. After watching the Blue Zones documentary I thought to myself, is Long Beach actually a Blue Zone?! After doing some research, I found that while we are not producing centenarians, we are actually an area with the top 3 highest life expectancies in the country!
The reason I had this thought is because despite the many challenges I and many small business owners are currently facing, I experience so much love and community every day in Long Beach. I could write a book telling you amazing facts and stories about some of the small business owners in the East Village, as well as the neighbors I've been blessed to have in the places I have lived around town. As someone without family nearby, I've been blessed to build chosen family in this community, and I feel blessed to be able to support them. This community at large is loving and accepting, and if you feel like you haven't experienced that in Long Beach or wherever you are yet, I would recommend spending your time in some of the small businesses near you, and it won't be long until you do!