Column: 2021, The Year With More Ups and Downs Than Ever

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It is almost tradition at the end of the year to reflect on the past year. To look back at everything you are proud of and all the challenges you have overcome. In today’s column, Angelo Vero looks back on this year.

A bad year, is not a bad life!

An emotional start

2021 may have been the year when, more than ever, I felt like I was on a roller coaster. And that’s saying a lot when you consider that barely five years ago my company was declared bankrupt. The end of 2020 already hinted that 2021 would have some serious challenges to face. When I found out in November (on my birthday) that year that my dad had cancer, I never imagined I would be saying goodbye to him just two months later. And so my 2021 started, with the loss of my dad. 

A serious emotional blow that became even heavier thanks to the still present corona pandemic. Because which one of you can say that he attended his dad’s funeral digitally, purely because he couldn’t do it live. It was not allowed! My dad had been living in Hungary for a number of years. When I came back to Belgium after a month of caring for him, cancer defeated him after two months of fighting. Another return trip to Hungary was out of the question. So I wasn’t allowed to see my dad at all and there was nothing to do but watch the funeral via a live stream with all of my siblings. As if we were strangers watching a broadcast on TV, while all the other people could be there for him. 

More difficult months followed in which I tried to give the loss a place, only to realize that the feeling of loss never stops. There is always something that makes you think: he would have liked this, or I would have wanted to share this with him. And that is no longer possible. 

New plans

Meanwhile in February I launched another project together with my best friend Cindy. In recent years we’d already set up quite a few successful projects, including this magazine, Blogzine. The new project was to be called Blogzine Academy, with the aim of offering Belgian entrepreneurs a platform on which they could shape their own business and learn about successful entrepreneurship, how to do marketing themselves with any budget, and more. The first members signed up and every month more and more joined. Our project had successfully launched.

Fast forward a bit and we arrive at the month of May. After a vacation in the Dominican Republic, where Cindy and I had been before, we realized that for us there was little motivation for us to go back and live in Belgium. Our hearts had always been in exploring the world and experiencing adventure. To our own great surprise, that need was so strong that we decided during our trip that we had to make a choice. Once we arrived back in Belgium, that choice became even easier. The loss to the Dominican Republic was too great. And we had to go back.

I should probably also mention that in the meantime I had met someone and that may have influenced the choice. After a month of trying online to keep the connection going. Now I say try, but actually there was little trying. Everything happened smoothly and naturally. As if I had known him for years. And then the moment arrived: at the end of June I would leave for the Dominican Republic again. Without concrete plans, but with great enthusiasm, I took the plane. 

Omg, I did it

And then I was here. A very weird feeling. I had wanted to live abroad for years and now it was here. The realization was not yet present at all. Not even when a week later Cindy also arrived, because yes, I would not have embarked on this adventure without her. 

Admittedly, a number of times I seriously asked myself if it was the right choice. We moved from Air Bnb maybe 4 times in two months. And then enough was enough. A choice had to be made again. We could not keep going back and forth. One day, I found an ad through Facebook of a beautiful penthouse just outside the center, but still close enough to the areas we love.

A first visit to the penthouse apartment was promising. We were totally convinced and could already see ourselves living with the two of us in a permanent place. The joy was unfortunately short-lived, because in the evening we received the news that it had already been rented. But there was also good news. Another penthouse in the same residence, only the block next door, became available. It was more expensive though, so we wondered: should we do it?

The visit to the new penthouse apartment went like this: door opened, we took 10 steps and looked at each other. “This is it!”. And it was. We had our own place! 

Time to decorate

A gigantic empty surface for both of us. A real dream! Because we could furnish everything according to our own taste. But we forgot that we live in the Dominican Republic and not in Belgium. I can already tell you, that was not as nice as we initially hoped. Stores here are either not our taste at all, poor quality or super expensive. 

I decided to be even more adventureous and have my own design made at a furniture maker. I had gone into ikea before and the seat I wanted was no longer there. Oh yes, Ikea they do have that here. But it’s a lot more expensive than at home. Ikea is luxury here. But so, a custom-made seat. After my first visit to a furniture store it was already clear that it would not be easy again. Twice I went back only to realize that they either didn’t understand me or were too stubborn to make an effort. I wanted a specific fabric and would not let production start until I had seen the fabric, they would not give in. So I didn’t either.

As if by “miracle” (I thought at the time) I found a furniture maker who could do it all for me. He had the right fabric, could realize the model and gave me confidence that it would be all right. But I did have a tight deadline, because I didn’t want to go months without a seat. And then the day came that I would receive my seat: no news! I contacted them and was told that production had not even started yet. And probably would not happen.

What about my money?

Because yes, I had to pay an advance to get production started. He said I would get the advance payment back, I just had to go get it. And what did I get when I got there? No money of course!

The following days, the same scenario repeated itself several times: I would go and visit the store, was again given an excuse and was sent back home. Until I decided that enough was enough and I arranged for police intervention. I took him with a friend to the police (yes it really happened) and there a document was signed that I would get my money back in the next few days. I can already tell you the end of the story: I have already received 50% of the amount that I should get back and the rest after months still not! But with all the costs of going there every time, I would end up spending even more, so I decided to leave it like that.

After a short business trip to Belgium for clients, Cindy and I arrived home in Santo Domingo. Yes I call it here “home” now. While on a visit to Ikea for other things, I noticed that the seat I originally wanted was finally in, hallelujah! A week later, after all this time, I was finally able to enjoy an evening of me-time in my own comfortable living room. 

The (harsh) reality

Meanwhile, I had been living abroad for almost six months. Only then did the realization really set in. Because in the beginning, everything still feels like you’re on vacation somewhere. After a while, that feeling goes away. Then it becomes serious. 

And it got very serious. Meanwhile, the corona situation in Belgium was getting worse and worse. And that had some direct consequences for us. Our finely worked out business plan, with its great future prospects, was wrecked. We help companies to grow, but in order to grow, there must of course be customer potential. And with all the ever changing measures and the ever-decreasing purchasing power of customers, investment in order to pursue growth is not always obvious to them. 

In other words, many companies want to grow, but are afraid to make investments. They are afraid of throwing away money that they will not be able to earn back in the near future. And so they prefer to keep that money as a buffer. This also means that they were not waiting for companies to help them out, no matter how good the support is. Because they simply didn’t want to spend  extra money.

This harsh reality comes in. Because if you know yourself that what you offer really helps people, but that message does not come across. Then you start to doubt. And doubt leads to uncertainty and uncertainty leads to loss of motivation. And loss of motivation leads to personal negative thoughts, etc… One thing leads to another. 

The power of manifesting

Fortunately, manifesting is the word of Cindy and I this year. We continued to believe in our project and just followed our new plan and kept innovating where we could. I really turned the click at one point and gave myself constant pep talks. I even found original ways to motivate myself to get little things done that I first thought would “not accomplish anything anyway.” Because whether we coach companies ourselves or not, we too sometimes suffer from an internal saboteur. And sometimes you just have to be able to overcome that. Luckily, I finally managed to do that. 

That has now ensured that we have been able to turn the tide. As a result, we can end 2021 with a fantastic feeling and a nice turnover. 

So I look back on an eventful 2021. A year that pushed me in many directions. A year in which I made huge strides. I’m proud that Cindy and I took the step to work from abroad. And I’m even more proud that despite the challenging course, we ended the year on a positive note. I am ready for 2022! 

I wish you only Happy Holidays and a sparkling End of Year!

This article has been written by @ANGELO VERO

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