How Helpful Is Our Secure The Bag Mentality In The Age Of Coronavirus?

We live in the era of the side hustle: a way to make more money, or expand your skills outside of your regular 9-5 job. Your side hustle is the potential game changer, to take you from just doing just “OK” to earning more coins and being able to work every day doing something you love. 

Black women in particular are proven experts in this level of entrepreneurship and opportunism – often because we have to be. The recent Netflix documentary “She Did That”, a film that explores the often overlooked narratives of black female entrepreneurship, demonstrates that in America alone there are approximately 1.9 million Black women-owned firms that employ over 376,500 people and generate $51.4 billion in revenues. There’s also a new Netflix four part series covering the first female self-made millionaire Madam C.J Walker- who also happened to be black. We may face barriers, but we’re definitely doing more than the “broke black woman” stereotype that’s often painted.  

So, in short you’re expected to always be doing the most to “secure the bag”, making sure you get the most financially out of yourself and your skills – that means no freebies. But with much of the world now housebound under the grip of the Coronavirus pandemic, the normal way we conduct our lives has drastically changed for at least the next few months and will most likely impact our economy for the long-term. So, how will all this change the “secure the bag” mentality? 

Most of us pursue securing the bag for completely genuine reasons, if not out of necessity. Ari, a 23 year old working as a public healthcare consultant and student, thinks it’s an essential mentality for black women. “As a black woman you figure out a different way to do things. We have to navigate so many issues to do with our hair, colourism, texturism, and being in environments not welcoming to us”. But there’s no doubt that the social media bubble makes it difficult for us to not crave instant results – and now that being online is the only connection we still have to anyone outside our household, the reliance on social media to validate our side hustles and material gains is even bigger. 

Long-term success is difficult to achieve and takes a long-term grind. Vanessa, a 24 year old copywriter agrees and told me “the pressure for all of us to suddenly start up a new successful blog, or video channel on the side is huge now that we have all this ‘extra time’. Being so reliant on social media also means there’s heightened pressure to show off what you’re doing and to get positive reinforcement from other people in the form of likes or comments. The concept of securing the bag in a long-term, sustainable way feels really distorted”. 

Ari broadly agrees. “I think there’s always been pressure to be doing more pre-Coronavirus, especially for black women but right now there’s even more. I keep getting different online offers like “learn to build a website in a month”; this pressure is flooding our feeds. The mentality seems to be that we have so much time on our hands, so if you don’t stay productive it’s a waste”. When everyone around you online looks like they’re thriving it’s easy to reflect on yourself and think you’re a failure. 

“Long-term” as a concept seemed to be even pre-Coronavirus, something we were already losing. A loss of physical connections with people has the potential to make us turn to even more materialistic means to feel fulfilled and satisfied with daily life. Securing the bag often represents us fulfilling our career dreams, but let’s face it: it’s also about securing those extra coins. Vanessa says “it’s easy to gravitate towards earning extra money for a greater sense of stability, so you’ve got something to show for all this time we’ve been in lockdown. There’s more pressure now than ever not to ‘fumble the bag’” (i.e lose money or make bad business decisions). 

Despite this, we can definitely still learn to appreciate the simpler things in life that we were taking for granted and that no amount of cash can replace. Ari says “I value freedom of movement massively now. I’m in the UK at the moment but was meant to be studying in Germany.” Similarly, Vanessa adds “I feel like I am able to have more time to speak and connect with friends and family now that I’m not working like a mad person anymore. Despite the pressure to double down on my productivity, I’ve chosen to cut myself some slack and work sensible hours so I can still achieve positive things but in a manageable, more sustainable way”. 

Realistically, I think that balance is key. Our side hustles and passions have the capacity to give us a sense of grounding in a world that is fast-changing- whether we’re getting coins from those activities or not. Anyone that knows me will know I’m just as guilty as anyone of overworking myself, especially now that I have a much more limited social life. If you want to have that freelancing career or build a business during this time then do it, but make sure you plan your work sensibly and don’t feel like you need to do it all, all the time. 

Similarly if you’re the kind of person who’s just not going to thrive in this environment then give yourself a break and be kind. Everyone’s different and some people really need the physical presence of others to feel fully motivated. It’s just not your time right now and that’s OK. Ultimately, securing yourself and your happiness should always come before securing the bag. 

Written by Banseka Kayembe

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