Blog. The day everything changed, Evie May's story.

May 7, 2020 | Author: Jeremy Gibson

Over the last few weeks you may have heard about our Emergency Appeal. We've raised nearly half a million pounds and we're on track to help over 2,000 hospitality people and their families with emergency grants to help ends meet at this difficult time. 

We're also working on a longer term strategy to help those impacted by the crisis recover as quickly as possible. Part of this work is developing resources to help you protect your mental health during lockdown.

We want to share stories from across the industry about how people are coming to terms with the situation. The first of which is Evie May's story. I hope you enjoy it. 

April 6th marked the first anniversary of my street food business.

But, like nearly all street food vendors and restaurants across the country, we weren’t trading.

If you had asked me 12 months ago where I would be on April 6th, 2020 I certainly wouldn’t have said, “Quarantined inside my house handling mass cancellations due to a global pandemic.”

And yet here we are.

It’s ridiculous to imply this situation is easy for anyone, it isn’t. There isn’t a sector or individual that won’t be affected by Covid-19 — mentally, physically, emotionally or economically.

From a personal viewpoint, the current global situation and the impact it is having on my life is one of severe disappointment. 2019 was extremely hard work, but it looked like 2020 was the year everything would pay off and my business would be a success. Bookings were flying in and the year was jam packed! 

But then everything started to unravel. I was left with nothing but a calendar full of black crosses.

Having worked in hospitality for more than 10 years and having many loved ones, including my partner, work in the sector I am very passionate about the industry. Too often hospitality is seen as a dead end job, or something that anyone could do.

Hospitality is the cornerstone of this society. It brings you drinks with your friends when you are down, provides escapes and dinners with loved ones to celebrate special occasions. Chefs, cleaners, waiters — they are the backdrop to our daily existence and watching the impact of Covid-19 on the sector is extremely difficult.

The period of time between the pandemic announcement and my boyfriend being furloughed was one of the worst points in my life. The absolute gut-wrenching fear he could come into contact with someone with the virus, that he could lose his job and we would have to leave our home. That we could lose everything. I have never been more scared. 

For those fortunate enough to have been furloughed, rather than laid off, there is still a strong sense of loss. Working in restaurants and hotels is like being surrounded by a large, loud, chaotic family 50 to 70 hours a week, and many in the industry take great pride in what they do. For many people, across all industries, without work they can feel lost and without a sense of purpose. 

I have worked alone for the last year, setting up and running my own business —making my way in the world of self employment. I am used to isolation.

Mental health issues affect 58 percent of self employed people, with most of these being caused by isolation. This number will only increase during this difficult time, for self employed and furloughed workers alike.

As well as mental health concerns there are now fears of getting ill, worries about loved ones we can’t be near and of course, financial problems.

Less than half my income comes from self employment and my business is mobile, and therefore has no business premises. This means there are no government grants or support schemes I am eligible for. Not one. 

The businesses’ survival is reliant entirely upon personal investment. Which of course I will continue to fuel. I have worked too long and hard to see this business go under before it has even had a chance to get off the ground. When this is all over and done with, and the world returns to a shaky new normal, my stand will be at every event, and more if I can — supporting organisers and fellow street food vendors.

It is scary. 

There are days when I bury my head in books, colouring and long walks, and pretend I don’t have to find thousands of pounds to keep my livelihood afloat.  And there are some days when I am strong and I sit and address accounts, send emails and make phone calls.

But I tackle all of these feelings; positive, negative, destructive, productive, by concentrating on one thing at a time.

That’s the best anyone can do.

I have had two breakdowns in my lifetime; my first when I was 19 and the second at 26. Although terrible experiences I am grateful for them as they have equipped me with coping mechanisms for when I am struggling with my mental health. They have proved extremely useful during this time.

I mediate regularly and find peace and comfort in my Buddhist faith. I exercise, eat well, read, talk to friends and family, laugh, lay in, daydream and always try to find some happiness in every day, no matter how difficult it has been.

I am always kind to myself.

Everyone has struggled, is struggling, or will struggle. And that’s really OK.

These are strange times and it’s easy to let the clouds darken everything that is good. Whether it be the business you’ve worked so hard to create looking like it’s slipping away or feeling lost without a role and workplace to make you feel a purpose.

There is no shame in voicing fear, sharing concerns or asking for help.

There is no shame in finding this hard, or feeling lost or being scared.

This time will pass and we must ensure that each one of us is stronger for it.

When the plague swept through London, taking lives and destroying societies, Shakespeare wrote King Lear.

The glory that can come out of times of darkness is a testament to the strength of humans.

Evie-May is the creator and owner of Heart Street. A Norfolk based mobile catering business focused on providing filling and hearty vegan food. All dishes are 100% vegan, gluten free and palm oil free, with all dishes served in compostable packaging. Heart Streets message is one of kindness, care and the importance of making a difference, no matter how small. Heart Street is street food catering with a conscience, proving that Great Food Does Good for you, and the rest of the world.

You can find out more about Heart Street on Evie May's Instagram.

If Evie May's story has struck a chord and you'd like to share your experience please get in touch.

If you'd like to talk to us about any issues you're facing please call us in complete confidence on 0808 802 0282.