Is this thing on? Should I dust off this keyboard? Are any of you....still here? Still listening? Still occasionally poking your head in the doorway to see if anything has changed? Or is it just as I feared? An empty room where my lone voice is now echoing? Or perhaps I wanted an empty room all along? A place where I could feel less pressure and fewer eyeballs on me? Whew, there I go again. Asking a million questions before I even start.
So let's do it. Let's just...start.
To be honest, I've thought about drafting this post many times, months ago. And like most things that make me anxious, nervous or just plain scared, I put it off. The longer I put it off, the more I kept telling myself, "Surely, you have other things that need to be done." Which, to be entirely fair to myself in a moment of indulgent self defense, isn't necessarily untrue. I've been busy. Or maybe a better way to describe it is a hybrid of busy and distracted — a frantic dance of staying busy to keep up with the distractions of...oh, where is that elephant in the room...ah yes, there she is hiding in the corner: social media.
Before we continue, I know what you're thinking. "Another content creator complaining about social media?" Trust me, I'm rolling my eyes at myself right now, too. I've written about my problematic relationship with social media many times so I'll spare you the tiny violin solo, but for anyone who also struggles with social anxiety to the extent I do, perhaps today's post might hit home for you. Or at least make you feel a tiny bit less alone in the never ending scrolling of 7 second videos that convince us we need to be everything and everyone, all the time.
It hit me hardest when we were in Italy this past summer. Somehow, surrounded by olive groves in the morning, Renaissance masterpieces in the afternoon and all the pasta and gelato I could muster each night, I couldn't shake a sense of mourning. A mourning for a parallel version of my life that looked and felt and smelled and tasted like mine, but one that wasn't beholden to social media in the same way. One that didn't look at a beautiful village corner and immediately think of a video idea. One that didn't automatically pull out a phone or a camera to capture the moment before the moment even happened. One that didn't obsess over how to overshare a vacation while simultaneously making it look effortless and inspiring. And one that definitely didn't spend inordinate amounts of time worrying about an opaque algorithm's effect on my self-worth as a creative.
In a very "Everything Everywhere All At Once" multiverse kind of way, I kept seeing glimpses of this other Krystal actually experiencing her vacation first hand, while my Krystal was only experiencing it second hand, afraid to let moments go without capturing them somehow to share on the internet later.
This feeling wasn't new for me. This feeling has been growing for quite some time now. I suppose that trip was the first time I saw that other Krystal very clearly and instead of indifference or curiosity, I was envious of her.
Now, I realize in the scheme of things, how obnoxious this all sounds. There are bigger problems in the world. Much bigger. And my inability to separate work and personal life is low on the totem pole of things that truly matter. So I tried to do what any sane, rational person might do when they need perspective. I decided I needed to lighten my load. Take a break in the ways that I could.
Hence, my silence here on the blog.
Perhaps that seems counterintuitive, especially when you consider how active I've been elsewhere on the internet. But as someone who loves to spend time on her writing in an age where we give less and less of our time to reading in general, it felt like the biggest weight to offload in a sense. I focused my energy on the platforms that pay my bills and I tried to disconnect beyond that. I set out to free up as much headspace as I could to try to figure out what I actually wanted to fill my headspace with. (Spoiler: the jury is still out on that one but it fluctuates wildly between moving upstate to renovate an old barn and moving to Tuscany and opening a flower/book and antique shop.)
The point is perhaps best summed up in this Austin Kleon quote I stumbled across some months ago: "Creative people need time to just sit around and do nothing. I get some of my best ideas when I'm bored, which is why I never take my shirts to the cleaners. I love ironing my shirts-it's so boring, I almost always get good ideas. If you're out of ideas, wash the dishes. Take really long walk. Stare at a spot on the wall for as long as you can. As the artist Maira Kalman says, 'Avoiding work is the way to focus my mind.'"
For over the past decade, I've been very good at filling all my waking hours with productivity. Hustle culture: the calling card of any millennial, right? And with the advent of social media necessitating so much of our attention spans to remain relevant and highly ranked in an algorithm, I needed to release some of the mounting pressure I was putting on myself to keep everything running all the time. And this space, as much as I loved it, was a strain I just couldn't juggle anymore.
I needed time back so I could be bored again. Boredom! Sweet boredom!
The only tricky thing about seeking boredom as a recovering workaholic? It doesn't come naturally. And it takes a great deal of unlearning. Many months in and I'm still unlearning. But the point isn't to demand progress. It's to encourage small habits.
Case in point: A few weeks ago, Ty and I stayed at our friends' Courtney and Eric's house in upstate New York, while they were out of the country. It was the first time since our trip to Italy where we had been in a house with lots of open space to just relax, read, make meals in a kitchen larger than ours (for the record, that's not hard to beat) and play with our puppy Etta in the backyard. A previous version of Krystal may have jumped at the chance to create a ton of content in her new environment and I'd be lying if I didn't give in to her once or twice. But for the most part? We leaned into our boredom. We watched the snow fall. We talked about life plans. We slept in. We made coffee and instead of sipping it while looking at phones, I watched out the windows for groups of deer and the occasional bunny to pass by. And generally, lost track of time. As you can imagine, it was wonderfully not productive and I felt amazing afterward.
Tap, tap, tap...is this thing on?
Well if it is and you're still here reading this rambling, poorly written update — this is my very long winded way of saying, I've been reflecting and reveling in my own boredom lately and wanted to check in to say: I miss you. I miss writing out my longwinded thoughts, even if they don't really make sense sometimes. I miss flexing this part of my brain. I miss finding solace in long form content. I miss connecting over shared Stories. I miss planning photoshoots. I miss the pace of this community. I miss this space.
I won't pretend to have a slew of prepared blog posts ready to go in the days to come because I don't. I may even drop off the grid again — who knows? But for the first time in a long time, I'm finally seeing this space not as another thing on my never ending to-do list but as a way to channel my boredom creatively again. Much like I did all those years ago when I first started This Time Tomorrow as an outlet from a day job I felt listless in. A place I took comfort in. A place where I didn't worry about perfection or performance or likes or comments. Just a place to be and explore my own boredom to see where it might lead me.
If you're here still, thank you. And if you're not, I hope you're busy being bored and loving every delicious minute of it.
There’s a post by Anastasia Pagonas that has been making the rounds the past few days (many of you sent it directly to me) and I think it warrants a lot of good questions, reflections and even self-culpability when it comes to how and what we share on social media, namely Instagram. It's no secret around here that I've had my fair share of complaints about the behemoth owned by Facebook, er Meta, and I realize you likely don't follow me to hear my daily frustrations with it. But I believe, whether you make a living off this app like I do or not is actually besides the larger point here, and it's a contention point I feel quite passionate about — like it or not, apps like Instagram control more of our lives than we'd like to admit.
In an age where speed, immediacy and ease of consumption is often prioritized above all else usually in the pursuit of going viral, what does that leave us with at the end of the day? How does that move us forward? I can’t help but picture a conveyer belt as the best analogy here — an automated factory line of the same songs, the same video concepts, the same ideas rolling past us at a frantic pace. Seven to eight second micro doses of content to funnel you to an “add to cart” button or until you simply scroll to the next, hook-able, shiny thing. These companies will tell you it’s because we’re time poor and we need them to think for us. But I have to wonder if they’re the source of our time bankruptcy and perhaps subsequently, the source of our inability to think for ourselves.
I say all this as someone who loves exploring videography. And cinema. And storytelling in all forms. But I also love photography. And the power of what a single image can convey. And the importance of sitting with it, to reflect, to feel, to understand. I’m of the belief the two don’t need to be at odds with each other, and yet, here we are: for many of us who rely on this app for our livelihoods, businesses or simply just to connect with friends, family and kindred spirits, we have to choose. It’s a classic conform or get left behind.
I’m a slow person by nature — I like taking my time to observe, to learn and to process. To be still with something is innate to who I am. And while I may run and sprint at times to keep up, mainly due to unavoidable, capitalistic necessity — I have to wonder out loud (even if no one is reading this far into the post) “at what cost?"
Tap, tap, tap. Is this thing on? I sure hope so. Ciao ragazzi! I'm back. Back in New York — physically anyway — after a two month holiday in Europe, with about a month spent in Tuscany specifically. To say it was the break and disconnection I didn't realize I was craving would be an understatement. And while I felt terribly guilty for taking such a long hiatus from sharing my thoughts here with you all, I knew it was the separation I needed. I was feeling creatively tapped, dry even like an old well, and no amount of throwing myself back into work (my go-to fix) seemed to help the problem. Much like a lot of things in life, I needed to be unplugged (and left to sit for a while, undisturbed with a Negroni in hand) before being plugged back in again. The result? I've come to realize I've outgrown my outlet! But more on that later, perhaps a story for another day.
Today, I wanted to compile all the beautiful memories you shared with me about people you think about, who likely don't think about you (a writing prompt inspired by Kathleen Donahoe). Perhaps it's an old friend you lost touch with. Or someone you met in passing while traveling. Characters whose roles in our lives might be seemingly small in the context of things but they punctuate our memories still years later. Like mile markers on a road, perhaps without realizing it, we’d be lost without them.
I'll share my list first, followed by your submissions.
A list of people I think about regularly, who do not think about me:
My first grade teacher, Mrs. Webb, and the ice cream trips she took us on for reading a certain number of books each month. Ted, our middle school bus driver, and the high fives he gave us when we got on the bus. My old soccer coach, whose daughter died at 16 in a car crash.
My friend’s parents who let us watch Dirty Dancing obnoxiously on repeat for sleepovers.The school librarian who saved certain books for me she thought I’d like. My social studies teacher who cried with us on 9/11. The man I always saw walking around town, waving at each car as they’d pass. The gas station attendant who shared his favorite Beatles songs with my dad and I, after he heard “Across the Universe” playing in our car. The sweet old woman who worked in my mom’s favorite antique shop and the way she smiled at my sister and I when we tagged along. A woman and her son I drove to a nearby hospital. She never gave me her reasoning or her story, but I could see in her eyes, she needed to get away from someone. Old friends from college, where the relationship fell apart and I was devastated but can now see the beauty in it, because it's a wonderful reminder to allow people to come in and out of our loves when they're meant to. The vet who let me cry and say goodbye to Elvis for as long as I needed. I can still feel her hand on my back when I think about her.
And now, here are your submissions:
The man who made udon noddles at a little spot in Tokyo and looked so committed to his craft.
My first and second grade teachers from over 30 years ago. Great teachers.
The brief love affair I had in Thailand when I was 18.
Barbara Cheatley who owned an eponymous shop that my grandmother and I loved.
The violist who played a Vieuxtemps piece.
My high school Spanish teacher and her continual joyful energy.
The kind Czech woman working in the Prague bookstore I visited during a rainstorm.
Ms. Paul-Abrams, my 4th grade teacher, who taught me to question everything.
The cashier who complimented an outfit I was unsure of and now, because of them, I give out one compliment every day.
The man who offered to help lift a stroller down the stairs even though he already had a bag.
My high school boyfriend who taught me tomorrow is spelled "tom-or-row."
The man at the laundromat who knew exactly what I needed to hear at that time in my life.
A girl I was best friends with for one year in seventh grade — she has beautiful kids now.
The migrant mom for Dorothea Lange's Great Depression photo.
The person inside a Donald Duck costume at Disneyland who gave me a much needed hug.
High school photography teacher, Mazen and a guy who I had a crush on long ago, but still admire.
All the retired folks and families I met while leading walking tours in New York City. Especially during 2020.
My first love.
Constantly thinking about people as I see them drive past me. Who they are, what their story is...
An ex-friend (female) who I had an online friendship but also romantic relationship with.
All the friendships I've lost over the past 2+ years.
I'd like to say...you.
Sam. In my 20s, my parking attendant who was 70+. We spoke every day about life.
Sophomore year's English 102 teacher who said I wrote like a "bat out of hell."
My 5th grade teacher and my old best friend.
My AirBnB hosts in Tel Aviv, who took me to a festival and let their four kittens sleep in my bed.
The gas station attendant I visited every few days in grad school who calmed my nerves.
Audrey (@frassyaudrey) — she changed my views of myself/women so positively and so profoundly.
My host family in Segovia, Spain during my language immersion study abroad.
My high school math teacher who subtly gave me confidence in myself and my abilities.
I always think about old people and the homeless.
Sister Mary Joseph who played guitar and let us play with the rainbow parachute.
A couple ex-boyfriends, old teachers, high school bullies, random people I've met on public transit.
My second grade teacher — Miss Reese who became a Mrs. I still sit the way she did — double X legs!
The kind man in Sri Lanka who gave me crystals and stones to look after me on my solo travels.
I think about my customers all the time. Some come in looking happy; others miserable. I wonder about their lives all of the time.
My ex who broke up since he was too scared to come out. Hope he loves himself now.
I think about my high school English teacher all the time. Wish I had his contact information!
My friends as we walked home from primary school, as we jumped over the stream instead of using the bridge. // The French boy who hid in my + 3 friends room when we were on a school trip to France. The teacher came and checked we were asleep. When she left I spent ages talking to the boy on the stairs me in French, he in English! // The man in the sweet shop I went in every morning for a Crunchie on my way to work at my first job. // The other new mums in the maternity ward when I had my twins, wondering how I would cope with 2 babies. Turns out, I did cope very well actually.
I always find myself thinking of an old neighbor. She would sharpen her knives, almost daily on a concrete wall located in her backyard. One day she said, "Nothing works well, if it's not sharpened daily." Cheers to the individuals who in some way, shape, or form, made an everlasting impression on our lives.
When I went to Lido in Venice with mv husband, we kept on meeting the same old lady. The first time we met her, she seemed very annoyed with the tourists and their manners. We then ran into her two more times. The last time she smiled. I don't know why, but I kept thinking about that old lady when Covid was so bad in Italy. I sometimes wonder if she's still alive, if she was alone, if she had someone to take care of her. Life…
I think about the couple who lived next door to me when I was in college. They had kids off at college too and they liked to look out for me the way protective parents do. I also fell in love with their dog and often dog walked/sat for them. I think of them at times and hope they're healthy and happy.
A French woman I met a few weeks before the 2016 election at Musee d'Orsay. She was reading the paper and in broken French and English we discussed Trump and how awful he was/is. I expressed my fear about results and we both said "he cannot win." More of a shared hope than a statement. I arrived home the day the Access Hollywood tapes came out and felt relief. Surely, this was the nail in the coffin? Wrong.
I often think about my grade 7 English teacher and how she cultivated my love for literature. I think about the way she used to speak and how her mannerisms bled into mine because I looked up to her so much. I remember the poem she wrote to me about the kind of love that exists between friends. It was from that moment on that I realized she wasn't only my teacher, she was also my friend. She always had her hair tied up in a bun, and during my final price giving ceremony in primary school, she had it loose for the first time. I asked her why she didn't have her hair loose during school, and she said to me, "Then it wouldn't be as special." I think about her a lot. I think about how I owe a huge part of myself to her. I don't think she knows this, and funny enough I'm only realizing this now too: She saved my life.
My sixth grade English teacher who told me confidently that I would be a writer one day after a creative writing assignment. I think of her when I worry that trying to write a novel is ridiculously unattainable. // The bride early in my career (I'm a wedding planner) who sent me flowers after her wedding, along with the kindest handwritten note thanking me. // My middle school friend who told me that I didn't owe him an explanation, he trusted me. (I had always needed to prove myself at home, so this was revolutionary to me.) // My high school art teacher who saw me fading and asked if everything was okay at home. She was the first person to question it and tell me that my normal wasn't normal. // My first therapist who told me that not being able to help a sick family member is not a failure. // My high school best friend who hugged me the last night of summer before we left for our respective colleges, and cried into each others' shoulders. We knew that season of our lives was over; we haven't seen each other since that night.
My brother and I crossed a short bridge in Venice in 2017 and I looked up to see an old lady looking at us. I smiled at her and she smiled back so big. I think about her often and wish we had taken a photo of her. She was so precious. Reminded me of my grandmother.
I definitely think of my father from time to time. It saddens me what was, but I've grown into a stronger woman for it. My father the vodka breathing dragon. I wrote this about him: "Inside the faded blue and white trailer with morning glories sprawling up the aluminum siding was a father who lived off of vodka and cigarettes. He belittles his children and screams at their mother. On really bad nights, he would leave purple reminders of his rage across their mother's face. He had been to Vietnam, and the images of war plagued him daily as his kids tried to ignore the despair in their mother's eyes. Mama had once loved that handsome man who dazzled her with stories of his childhood and charmed her with his Army uniform and beret. She now hated the monster who drank poison for breakfast and breathed fiery words across the dinner table. Carolina never cried the tears she had longed for. There was no release of the anger and hurt, as her father had sucked the emotions out of her like a vacuum. She wrote words of hatred in her Lisa Frank diary for the man she wished would disappear. She created scenarios of his departure and how life would be without the vodka breathing dragon who unleashed his frustrations every day..."
As much as I loved my 20s and am certainly enjoying my 30s, a big part of me is also looking forward to my 40s, my 50s, my 60s and beyond. Truthfully, I can already picture it. Summers spent visiting my friends in their different cities around the world, driving around in a classic convertible that I've maintained by hand myself, living in a remote (but modest) villa somewhere tucked away under the Tuscan sun. I'll be the eccentric former New Yorker, scarf thrown over my windblown hair with a corgi or two at my side and my love in the passenger seat. We'll make art, write stories and maybe even try our hand at wine making. I'd work to live intentionally, but I won't live to work irrationally. Maybe I'll own a little bookstore in the nearby village. Maybe I'll close early on Mondays and walk over to the piazza, where I'll sit with a bottle of something local. Maybe a dear friend from a previous chapter of my life will sit down with me and we'll chat for hours about what once was. And maybe in that moment in the sunshine with my old friend, I'll smile, thinking about all the wonderful things yet to come.
Don't get me wrong, by no means am I in a hurry to get to these future chapters of my life, but I do think it's high time we start romanticizing the art of aging and seeing it for the gift that it truly is. After all, dreams are wonderful, necessary even, in our youth. But please, whatever you do, don't let them stop there.
I think a lot of us would agree, it’s easy to identify (and swiftly ignore at our own expense) the red flags in others — the traits we find to be harmful or toxic to be around. But today, very much inspired by Molly Burford’s list on the same subject, I wanted to jot down a few green flags. Traits and qualities I personally love to celebrate in others.
Lovers of big dreams and small details. Students of empathy. Teachers of grace. Disciples of humility. People who celebrate your weirdness. And, in turn, allow you to celebrate theirs. The belly-laughers. The long story-tellers. The curiosity-seekers. People who take photos of obscure things that remind them of your interests and send them to you with a simple “thinking of you.” The ones who remember to take photos for memory sake, not just for social media sake. The ones who always take the long way home. The ones who never take you for granted.
The person whose head is in the clouds. Their heart is on their sleeve. And their feet are ready to run alongside yours. The homebodies who punctuate their lives with adventure. Quiet revelers, loud dreamers. They’re quick to dance, slow to judge. Rich in kindness and never frugal with it. They have a hint of madness but so do you. Those who remind you of your favorite heroes and heroines from literature. Those who push you to keep writing your chapters. Those who want to write chapters with you.
Now, when I opened the floor the other day for your green flags, here's a sampling of what you shared with me...
Embracing our own space and love the silent moments without having to explain it or fill it with noise.
Those who pause and reflect before speaking.
Shares the last piece of food with you.
Empathy when you are not at your best.
The selfless ones who give voice to those who cannot speak or advocate for themselves.
Not needing to be loudest in the room but whose absence would undoubtedly be felt.
One who reads. One who dares to dream and works hard to make them come true.
My boyfriend calls his grandmother every night! His best green flag.
Eyes that do no lie and speak alongside their words.
Those who share meaningful silences and conversations.
The people who genuinely ask deep questions about you and your likes to get to know you.
People who actually recognize inner beauty in another and give them a chance. Very rare.
A little weird.
Confident in themselves.
Open minded to new things, goods, ways of life, ideas.
You know what makes me sad? We don't practice patience anymore. Everything is immediate, expected in the here and now. And in a lot of ways, I don't bemoan that. All in the name of progress, right? But if it's not delivered in under an hour, if we're not experts at something right away, if it can't be consumed/read/enjoyed in the first 2 seconds without a great deal of critical thought, we move on. Scroll to the next shiny thing, in hopes it hooks our fleeting, ever darting attention.
I don't say any of this without blame myself. I know I'm caught up in it, as well. Which is why I'm making an effort to practice more patience these days. Taking long walks without my phone. Learning and enjoying how to be a beginner again. Snapping more moments on film. Daily routines that help remind me, just because things can be instantaneous, doesn't mean they always should be.
All that said, I suppose I should also add, breaking the cycle of impatience doesn't come easy for me. Quite the opposite, really. I spend a disproportionate amount of time every day berating myself for not doing all the things that I think are expected of me. That I expect of myself. Even this blog hiatus of mine gives me anxiety. But I suppose, at some point last year, after my sweet dog Elvis passed and I tried picking up the pieces of a hustle mentality to stay relevant on the platforms that pay the bills, I knew something had to give.
Unfortunately, that something ended up being the one constant in my life that always soothes me — writing. And the longer I stayed away, the harder it became to face. And the harder it became to face, the more I convinced myself, perhaps it's for the best. Who reads long format content anymore, anyway? If something isn't packaged as a pithy 7 second video, will anyone out there care? Or notice?
Now, I realize I'm sounding quite defeated at this point. I assure you (if anyone is reading still), that I'm not. I spent a great deal of time the past few weeks weighing out what makes me feel whole. Both in the professional and the personal sense. And while I've accepted there are inevitable truths about how my industry has changed over the years (some for the better, some not), I realize I need to maintain a balance of content creation that keeps me centered. Platforms and trends will come and go and I'll try my best to interpret them in a way that feels authentic to me. But it's my writing. The practice of writing. The connection of writing. The cathartic act of writing. Even if another living soul never reads my words here on the internet — that's the pursuit I'd like to chase my whole life.
And that's something worth being patient for, don't you think?
My unsolicited advice for the new year? A few thoughts...Be soft with yourself. Similarly, don't be afraid to be soft with others. But learn when hard stops are necessary. Embrace your curiosity — let it be the balm to your soul. Throw out the timelines. Trust your timing instead. Don't fear endings. They're just new beginnings in disguise. You don't need to have everything figured out today, tomorrow, or hell, even 5 years from now. Some of the most interesting people you'll meet (and have yet to meet) still don't have it figured out and I like to think, that's what makes life so damn interesting. It's the predictability you have to be wary of...
First things first, happy new year, my friends! I hope your celebrations, whether you stayed home or went out with friends, were filled with love and gratitude. I know mine certainly was.
Secondly, I suppose I might be coming out of my blogging hibernation. Or rather, I'd really like to wake up from this slumber but I'm now debating if I'm ready. Either way, I know I've missed you all terribly and appreciate the kind comments and messages you've sent in my absence. If I haven't underscored it lately, I'm so very blown away by this community of strong, intelligent, curious women who decide to visit me here.
So...here we are on the first Monday of the new year. The first full "work day" for many, myself included, after the holiday break. In previous years, I'd have a prepared resolutions blog post, likely waxing poetically about my intentions for the year, perhaps even throwing in a focus word or two. While that is admirable and entirely well and good, I paused when I sat down to write this blog post today and really asked myself what I hope to ask myself each time I write and share anything with you all — what is the why behind this? If the answer ever resembles "because I feel obligated to" then I know my heart isn't in it.
That said, I have no plans to share and no sweeping resolutions and if you don't either, then cheers to you. The thing that we often forget is that every day is an opportunity for a new start. You don't need the calendar to reflect January to do so. Today, I felt compelled to share the full list of lessons you all graciously shared with me a few weeks ago — a compilation of your triumphs, joys and sorrows from 2021 that bore a teaching moment. If you're still getting your footing here in 2022 like I am, I think reflecting on the past year (the good and bad) is a wonderful place to start.
Let's kick this off, shall we? Here's what you all learned in 2021...
"That there is strength in weakness."
"Tomorrow might never come. Enjoy today. No regrets."
"I'm good at alone time. Always avoided it before."
"I can be alone. Like 5 states away from friends alone and still thrive and kick some ass."
"My job doesn't define my worth."
"Being kind and caring is a superpower, not a weakness."
"To be bold, audacious and to trust myself."
"To depend on myself for my own happiness and that I am enough."
"Resilience. I wish I didn't have to learn this lesson."
"To separate external expectations from my own values and interests."
"That I am running my own race and that I really miss living in the same city as my family."
"Clothes can be comfy and chic."
"Buy all the shoes, take all the trips (when it's safe) and spend time with loved ones."
"To shift my priorities. Love as much and as best as I can."
"My puppy scout has reminded me what it's like to have pure love. I'm so grateful."
"I am an entrepreneur."
"I am not in control."
"To say no to things that don't nourish me or help me grow."
"How to heal from trauma responses/patience/empathy."
"That life can change in the blink of an eye."
"To remove the guilt from other's people disappointments."
"Imperfect and real is so much better than some dumb picture perfect idea I had."
"To live period."
"To ask for help when I need it. It's not a sign of weakness."
"Never settle. Something better always comes along."
"Waiting for the love you deserve you will be more than worth it."
"There is absolutely no point in settling for a person or a job."
"Not to shortchange myself and ask for that raise...and persist until I get it."
"Every moment is fleeting, find something I enjoy about each moment."
"That despite overwhelming grief (at times), I can have good days."
"Nothing is permanent or black and white. And also, there aren't any rules."
"That being around people you love is the best treasure the world can offer."
"To always be grateful for the life I have..."
"Spending time with family is very important, live your life with no excuses. Do everything."
"How others view me doesn't define me. Kindness always wins. Creative minds are magic."
I often feel homesick for many things. People, places I've never been, memories, moments in books I've read. You might think that sounds heavy or sad but I assure you it's not. It's actually a wonderful reminder of what it means to care for something or someone. A testament to what it means to hold things near and dear to your heart...
Not that anyone has truly asked me to explain myself or my blogging absence lately (although I appreciate those of you who have checked in with me in recent weeks), I do feel a certain responsibility, perhaps to myself, to understand why I needed this break. Or better yet, why I still need this break.
If you happened to read this blog post from a few weeks ago, you know we recently lost my sweet dog, Elvis, to lymphoma after a year or so of chemotherapy treatments. Personally, I'm still reeling from this loss, as anyone who has lost a beloved pet will understand. It's a pain that, no matter how much I tried to mentally prepare for, I still felt blindsided by and quite honestly, may feel for quite some time.
What punched me in the stomach even further after losing Elvis was the cold realization of how much of our attention, time and energy is necessitated on social media, specifically Instagram. Speaking as someone who makes her living solely online, largely on the aforementioned app, I quickly realized that my week-long social media break to grieve the loss of my dog resulted in severe account reach limitations, making it next to impossible to reach even a small portion of my audience, let alone prove to my current and potential brand partners that our collaboration was a worthwhile investment.
In short, my mental health break was damaging to my "social" presence and earning capability, because Instagram rewards the accounts who are the most active, the most consistently engaged and the most willing to forgo personal boundaries 24/7, and punishes those that are not. If you're willing to burn out on this app and dedicate all your time to it, you might get ahead. If you value some sort of offline life, you'll have an increasingly harder time marketing anything very successfully online, unless you can afford a team of people to run it in your absence, which yours truly, like many other small businesses, cannot.
I won't bore you with my long-winded complaints. Again, you likely already read them here. Let's talk about the aftermath of it all.
In the weeks that followed, I found myself spiraling in a lot of self-doubt, a lot of negative self-talk, a lot of imposter syndrome. Suddenly, I felt all my time being sucked back into this app that I fully knew didn't have mine or yours or anyones's best interests at heart, and yet, I was beholden to it. My livelihood depended on how well I could "suck it up" so speak to try to "stay relevant" in the ways I could stay relevant online (whatever that means). And when you have thousands of dollars to pay off in chemotherapy bills, work isn't exactly optional.
I felt stuck, and perhaps still feel stuck, in a cycle of diminishing returns. That's not a fun place to be for anyone, but especially a creative who's constantly being told to create content that fits an "algorithmic mold." I understand these spaces evolve quickly and rapidly — it is the internet after all, that's the name of the game — but I've been feeling particularly drained more than I ever have in my 12 or so years of doing this. That's certainly enough reason to give me pause to re-evaluate.
I suppose you could say, in some ways, I've been feeling homesick for a version of our internet lives that didn't need to be 100% online, all the time, 24/7, 365 days a year, regardless if your mental health was feeling up to it or not. I feel homesick for a time when you could maintain an online community sharing the part of yourself that you felt comfortable sharing, without having to share every other bit as a marketable commodity.
As such, I took a somewhat conscious step back from a lot of the content I typically create, including the longer format content here for the blog. I felt exhausted. And largely still do.
Now, I don't share any of this looking for sympathy or pity. A lot has happened in the past two years of this pandemic to give anyone reason enough to re-evaluate what's truly important in their life — my problems are not unique or even newsworthy in the scheme of things. But they're my problems just the same, and since I started this space over a decade ago to largely share just that — my thoughts — I figured you all, those who still visit me here, deserved an update of some kind.
Thankfully, December is typically a busy time of year for work and this time around, it's proving to look up compared to December of 2020. And with my mom now in town for a visit, I'm trying to be extremely mindful of how much of my energy I spend online and for what reasons. Not just from a creator standpoint but also a consumer standpoint. My hope for you all, is that you can do the same, in the ways that make sense to you.
Over the next few weeks, I may be somewhat present here. I may not. I'm trying to take it day by day, week by week, and whether or not I have something worthwhile to say/share. Please know, my lack of posting here should not be a reflection of how much I value this community. You've seen me through a lot of changes, good and bad, and selflessly supported me through it all. Hell, you all afford me the ability to do this as my full-time job for the better part of the past six years. I owe you a great deal for that. I just want to make sure what I'm sharing here is coming from a place of unforced honesty and lately, I've been dry on that. I hope with a little further reflection and self-internalizing, I'll be able to change that to figure out a new path that makes sense for me. One that hopefully doesn't feel as beholden to the trappings of social media whims.
I consider myself a pretty positive person. And I'll usually go to great lengths to make the best of a situation, if I can. But would you all mind if I complained for a moment? Specifically about Instagram and my relationship with it, particularly as someone who relies on it for part of her income? I promise if you get bored or want to roll your eyes (I get it, I really do!), you won't hurt my feelings if you stop reading now. Feel free to exit.
A while back, I gave up trying to "crack" the code with Instagram. I realized it was a losing battle, where my mental health usually took the biggest hit. Algorithms change. Facebook's business initiatives don't have me, a sole content creator, at the forefront. And attention spans are getting shorter by the second, meaning content has to be reverse engineered to accommodate. Personally, I think we're on a very slippery slope.
And while I usually refrain from queuing my sad, tiny violin to gripe about any of the above-mentioned "issues," I think it's gotten harder and harder to ignore in recent weeks, ever since I took time off from social media to grieve a personal family loss — the death of my dog. As I mentioned at the time and as I'll mention now, I've never been good at sharing my thoughts, feelings, emotions in real-time, in a "talking to camera" fashion. It's just not me. And as many of my managers have reminded me over the years, I realize I'd likely spike my engagement if I did it that way and perhaps queue a few tears. But you know what? It's not how I process things. I need time, space and freedom to write it out. Not a front-facing camera.
I know PTO for grievance time is a luxury a lot of people don't have so I want to underscore how fortunate I feel to be in a position to be able to step back in the way that I did. I know I needed that time to cry, to feel deeply and to reflect. So I took it, all the while knowing that returning back to a regular posting schedule would come with some setbacks, namely profile reach limitations after not being active on the app 24/7 the previous week. (Before we move on, let that sink in for a moment. I think most of us, if we're really honest with ourselves, usually think twice or at least feel guilty for taking social media breaks. That's pretty telling.)
What I didn't anticipate when I took that break was just how much my profile would be limited for weeks after the break. My typical post reach has been cut by more than half. And I seem to be getting an increasing amount of DMs from a small handful of my active readers who mention my content just doesn't show up for them anymore, despite their best efforts to "teach the algorithm otherwise."
I know what you might be thinking at this point: Does any of this really matter?
I'll pause here to say something that Shelcy and Christy of NYC x Clothes mentioned the other day that really stuck with me: numbers don't matter. And philosophically, they don't. But in a very real-world application sense, they do. Like any other business owner in any other industry, I have to focus on metrics to some degree. It would be foolish and shortsighted not to — especially when those same numbers are tracked, measured and evaluated by current and potential future brand partners. In short, numbers are tied to my livelihood, and if they're severely stunted, I think anyone would agree, it's gets harder and harder to dust yourself off in those moments to create more, to create better, to create anything at all.
Granted, nothing about the freelance work that I do is guaranteed. After working years at a corporate job, I'm very aware of the security tradeoffs. And normally, I thrive with creative challenges or constraints — it's part of the reason why I was drawn to this industry years ago well before it was a profitable venture.
But what I do take issue with is when the playbook isn't transparent. When the rules are always changing. When the tips and tricks for success seem to be a constant game of copycatting between social media platforms. And when I or you, as human beings do, experience something personally profound and decide to take time off from social media and dare to live OFFLINE for a few days, we can't seem to regain any of the footing we had before (which mind you, wavered day to day as it is).
Well, that's when you start to wonder, who is this relationship serving here? And who is it ultimately harming? Even if you don't happen to be a content creator who relies on Instagram for your income, I think we've all been meticulously trained at this point to desire, crave even, social currency.
Don't get me wrong, in a lot of ways, that social currency is a beautiful thing. It builds communities. It creates connections. It brings awareness to topics, ideas and people that otherwise may have a hard time being seen or heard. But when those platforms, almost in the same breath, are gamifying the system in a way that makes it impossible to step back from their services for fear of losing reach to said community, well, that feels terribly abusive. I'm pretty sure it's textbook gaslighting if a company says they care about their members' mental health, only to turn around and write code that diametrically opposes any personal boundaries those members could set for themselves with their app.
OK, I know what you're thinking here again: Why bother with this? Why take on the Goliath of Facebook? Facebook isn't going to change because it wouldn't serve their bottom line to change. End of story.
To which I have zero good answers and a lot of hard questions, namely for myself. The thing is, I really enjoy creating content. I don't necessarily think my creations are revolutionary or groundbreaking by any means, but I do think I can weave a story together, one that hopefully transports you all in some way, however small. It's the creative director role I always admired while reading Vogue magazine growing up, that through a lot of hard work and resourcefulness, I was able to manifest for myself on a smaller, more personal scale. I didn't get into this space to become a "celebrity personality" or a "performer" and yet increasingly, with every platform update, it seems that's the direction I have to take if I want to succeed.
And still, I rise to the challenges. If you followed me at all during the height of quarantine, I think you might agree. When new waves of Facebook business initiatives come through, I really do try my best to authentically interpret it for me and my brand. For in-feed photos. For Stories. For Reel videos. But at a certain point, I have to wonder, why am I allowing this app to make me feel so inadequate, when I'm definitely not lacking in effort, ingenuity or scrappiness? To be clear, I don't need thousands upon thousands of new followers. I'm very happy and content with the beautiful community I do have — I just want to be able to meaningfully reach them. Right now, that's very hard to do. And if I take time off? It's next to impossible.
Perhaps all of this begs a larger question about how much we value our work/life balance, especially in this country. But I think I've exhausted myself thus far (and likely some of you), so I'll stop here to end on: If anyone who is still reading this feels like they're trapped in a similar cycle of feeling owned and controlled by their work, I see you. I understand you. And I hope you find a way to break from it soon. I wish I had better answers or guidance for you. I don't. But sometimes, as my painfully positive inner voice is reminding me, just knowing that we're not alone in something, is comfort enough.
Do you look for signs? Signals and coincidences from the universe, that perhaps guide you, warn you, congratulate you or maybe comfort you? I blame my overly sentimental side (I am a Pisces after all), but I like looking for signs. I find comfort in symbolism that helps me make sense of the things that I can't make sense of myself.
On our last full day in Martha's Vineyard, Ty and I drove all over the island, visiting beaches, scenic overlooks and antique shops, all the while sharing our favorite memories of Elvis. At one particular scenic overlook, we couldn't help but notice an unusual amount of butterflies crossing our path at several points, like they were dancing for just us. Of course, upon looking into the symbolism of butterflies when it comes to after death communication signs, I wasn't entirely surprised to learn that they're often the messengers of hope and re-birth.
And as of today now back in the city, I've had two special encounters with butterflies. One at the gate of a garden I love to spend time in, which was coincidentally closed when I visited yesterday, but that didn't stop a large monarch butterfly from greeting me right at the entrance, before floating down the street in the direction of one of Elvis's favorite parks. So I followed him. And upon picking a bench to rest at in the park, I glanced down at my lap just in time to see a small, white butterfly perch next to my hands. It was fleeting, but it was just the hello I was looking for from Elvis.
My smart boy knew how much his mama loves visiting gardens so he picked the perfect way to grab my attention just when I needed it most. So I whispered "I love you," and almost as quickly as it had arrived, the butterfly flew off above me into the September air.
It is with a very shattered heart that I share with you all Elvis passed away in my arms a week ago. He was surrounded by unending love, from myself, my boyfriend, Ty, and from all of you, who sent so many kind messages of healing and strength over the past few weeks. I’m eternally grateful for how you all loved him so fiercely from afar. It meant more to us than you may have realized.
As many of you already know, his passing wasn't necessarily unexpected. We received his lymphoma diagnosis a little over a year ago — in May of 2020 — and we forged ahead with multiple rounds of chemo treatments thanks to some wonderful doctors in NYC, fully aware that we would be lucky to buy ourselves at least a year more for him. And ever the stubborn trooper, Elvis tackled it head on, usually with a big smile on his face. Thankfully, there wasn't a single day over the course of his treatments that his spirits or his energy waned (and certainly not his appetite!), and in a silver lining twist of fate, the pandemic afforded us a lot of undivided quality time at home with him. I'll always be grateful for that.
Elvis came into my life 8 years ago and like so many of the fur companions that grace our lives, he was my rock through a lot of changes. He joined me daily at my job at Google, he encouraged me to chase my dreams and move across the country to New York, he was my sounding board when I debated quitting my corporate job, he soothed my broken hearts, he championed my goals and perhaps most importantly, he reminded me to laugh (I have an album on my phone dedicated to his many booty shaking videos that is both heartwarming and heartbreaking to watch).
Truth is, I had so much more life planned with Elvis. Eight years seems terribly unfair for such a bright spirit, but that's truly the one flaw of dogs, isn't it? They don't live nearly as long as they should. Or perhaps, we just don't deserve them for much longer than that — their ability to unconditionally love is just too good, too pure. Either way, I know I was certainly lucky to be Elvis's mom for the seemingly short amount of time I was given.
Elvis, I love you deeply and dearly. Forever and always.
On a very general housekeeping note, I may be a bit sporadic here on the blog, which is likely a redundant comment as I've already been pretty sporadic here in the past few weeks, given work projects and looking after Elvis. If there's anything I've come to realize in the past few days, it's that what I thought was going to be a very hard and gut-wrenching experience, has only proven to be ten times more brutal and painful that I could have ever imagined. I'm trying to be kind to myself right now to feel the waves of grief as they come and hopefully, with time and some space for reflection, I'll be able to write out and express my feelings in the weeks to come. Until then, thank you for your kindness and your grace. It means so very much to me.
The other day, I came across the Japanese phrase “koi no yokan” which is used to describe the feeling upon first meeting someone who you will inevitably fall in love with. It literally translates to “the premonition of love.” Isn’t it lovely there are words, sometimes in other languages, that capture a feeling, no matter how rare or obscure, absolutely perfectly? And when you stumble upon them and their meaning, something clicks into place — a puzzle piece wiggled into just the right corner with just the right touch — and you realize, “I know that feeling.”
So I’m curious — how many of you know this feeling of “koi no yokan?” Of the romantic and platonic kind alike — because I’m absolutely certain we encounter friends in the same way we embrace our lovers. Sometimes, when you meet someone who’s meant to be in your life for a long time well, in a far less poetic English variation…when you know, you know.
And since I always love learning new words, in the language I natively speak, and others — I asked you all to share obscure and deeply felt feelings and concepts in languages other than English. Here's what you all shared with me! Hope you enjoy!
Jeong (Korean): Feeling, love, sentiment, passion, human nature, sympathy, heart. Although it is complicated to introduce a clear definition of jeong, it seems to include all of the above as well as more basic feelings, such as attachment, bond and affection.
Weltschmerz (German): A feeling of melancholy and world-weariness.
Glückseligkeit (German): Extreme bliss, happiness
Fernweh (German): A longing for distance, far off places, usually ones you've yet to visit
Estremercer (Spanish): When something is so beautiful, it causes you to tremble
Gezellig (Dutch): Meaning a number of things, including cozy and snug. Its definition goes beyond that, though, encompassing more social concepts such as sociable, convivial and companionable
Coup de foudre (French): Love at first sight, literally translating to lightning strike
Mimar (Spanish): To pamper; to spoil (to treat with excessive care, to indulge
Kilig (Tagalog): refers to the feeling of excitement due to various love circumstances such as making first eye contact with one's crush or watching another person propose to someone
Eunoia (Greek): well mind; beautiful thinking') is the goodwill a speaker cultivates between themselves and their audience
Wabi-sabi (Japanese): A world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of appreciating beauty that is "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete" in nature. It is a concept derived from the Buddhist teaching of the three marks of existence (三法印, sanbōin), specifically impermanence (無常, mujō), suffering (苦, ku) and emptiness or absence of self-nature (空, kū).
Ya'aburnee (Arabic): Literally translates to "You bury me" meaning that the speaker hopes to die before someone else does as they realize how difficult it would be to live without that person
Hiraeth (Welsh): The feeling of homesickness combined with grief and sadness for your homeland or a romanticized past.
Dal misk (Berber, Kabylian dialect): Meaning sumptuous, literally translating to "that's silk"
Toska (Russian): A mixture of pining, restlessness, yearning, nostalgia, melancholy, and depression
Jaysus (Indonesian): A not so funny joke that’s told so badly that you actually laugh
Tartle (Scottish): The hesitation before introducing someone when you’ve forgotten their name
L’appel du vide (French): Literally ‘the call of the void’ or the sudden desire to jump when you’re standing high up
Flâner (French): Aimlessly wandering without any destination, just to enjoy the views
L’abbioccio (Italian): The groggy, sleepy, happy feeling after a large meal
Merak (Serbian): The feeling you get from simple pleasures that adds up to a sense of happiness and fulfillment
Gluggaveður (Icelandic): Weather that looks beautiful but is unpleasant to be in
Saudade (Portuguese): Much like hiraeth, this is the longing for something beautiful that’s now gone
L’esprit d’escalier (French): Literally ‘the spirit of the stairs’ this is when you think of the perfect come back or retort after the conversation has happened
Gökotta (Swedish): Waking up early to hear the first birds sing
Komorebi (Japanese): Sunlight that filters between the leaves on a tree
Pochemuchka (Russian): A person who asks too many questions
One of you dear readers asked me the other day what was my favorite memory from July and without hesitating, I thought how lovely it’s been forging new friendships in person, especially after the past year we’ve all had in isolation. As a reserved and somewhat introverted person myself, nothing makes me happier than finding like-minded, kindred spirits who I connect with instantly and I’m so very thankful to call this group of ladies my new-found friends and creative muses (intros below) — all wearing the dreamiest silk dresses by Kes NYC.
Léanne Ansar: If you've been following along over on Instagram lately, you've likely seen a lot of my adventures with Leanne lately and that's because she's positively delightful to be around! A French-American New Yorker and a fellow content creator, Léanne has such a beautifully old world perspective on things. A breath of fresh air in what can be stale atmosphere on Instagram.
Alissa Morabito: I met Alissa earlier this summer through Léanne and now, I can't imagine photoshoots without her! She's an artist living in the most idyllic pocket of Connecticut with the most incredible imagination I've encountered in a long time.
Ashley Bernadette is the founder of L'Appartement 4F, a chic French bakery in heart of Brooklyn, and I blame my overconsumption of the yummiest croissants all on her!
Lucie is the founder of From Lucie, another bakery here in New York, crafting the most beautiful cakes that are too akin to art to eat! (But you should eat them still, because, well, they're divine.)
Like many other children of the 90s and early aughts, I'd look forward to weekend afternoons cutting pages out of fashion magazines. Vogue, Harper's Bazaar and Vanity Fair lay scattered across the floor, as I'd sit admiring elaborate photoshoots created by a whole industry of creatives I couldn't quite yet articulate to myself. Arthur Elgort, Peter Lindbergh, Annie Leibovitz. I'd tape their work to my wall, sometimes floor to ceiling, only to start over the next month, surrounded by fashion yes, but bigger than that, surrounded by stories. Much like the books I read at the time, I loved the escapism of it all. The dream, the narrative, the simple notion of asking, "what if?" and immortalizing that idea with the click of a shutter button. A world encapsulated in a single photo that dares you to dream about something. That's what I love about photos. It starts the story. It's up to the viewer to finish it.
In a lot of ways, I pinch myself quite often that this career path I stumbled upon years ago affords me to do what I used to only daydream about in my childhood bedroom. Sure, it may not grace a page where Vogue sits atop the masthead but it's still a little dream world of my making. And the fact that I get to share it with other fellow old souls like you all, well, that's more than 17-year-old Krystal could have ever imagined.
Photography has been my voice for so long. A means of writing those extra thousand words that I just couldn't utter myself. So now that Instagram has officially shifted to focus more on video content, I won't lie, it makes me feel a bit disheartened. Like I have to change my voice to appease something.
Of course, there's a whole argument to be made that the trend of creativity always following algorithmic whims may not be a positive one, but that's another discussion for another day. For now, what I'm trying to understand is how 17-year-old Krystal might envision her dream worlds in video form. What does that look like? What does it feel like? In a lot of ways, it's as if I'm sitting on the floor again in my bedroom, ideas sprawled at my feet and whispering, "What if...?" to the walls around me, searching for an answer.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter...how are you feeling about Instagram's recent doubling down on video content?
The other day, I watched a documentary about American author and cultural critic Susan Sontag, whose writing style and unique perspective on the world I've long admired. Naturally, I started digging through a few of her most notable quotes (of which, there are many), when I stumbled across this particular one that came from part of an address she was giving to a graduating college class. It felt too fitting for today's compilation post not to share:
“Do stuff. Be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager.”
Pay attention. Stay eager. Don't wait. What wonderful advice that's so easy to forget at times, right? In case you've found yourself "waiting" for permission lately, I hope today's post is the reminder you need that the only person granting permission for your life, is YOU. With that in mind, here's what you all shared with me when I asked you to complete this sentence:
"It's never too late to..."
1. Work towards a new or different ending.
2. Start something new.
3. Pursue wonder.
4. Live authentically.
5. Start a new career.
6. Take charge.
7. Forgive. First yourself, then others.
8. Love yourself!
9. Become a better version of yourself.
10. Make that album.
11. Fall asleep on a blanket in the park.
12. Go home.
13. Make money in a different way.
14. Halting search for a relationship long enough to realize you're a damn interesting person.
15. Go back to school.
16. Pursue your dreams.
17. Find true love.
18. Move to NYC.
19. Ask for help.
20. Realize your worth.
21. Re-think your purpose in life and change directions.
22. Start over.
23. Be kind to yourself.
24. Start that photography project.
25. Just start.
27. Do better.
28. Bake a cookie.
29. Take life in a different direction.
30. Go to a music festival.
31. Love yourself.
32. Finish college. I am 29 and just completed my associate's degree and ready to continue!
33. Ask for what you want.
34. Embrace childish wonder.
35. Learn a new language! It may be harder to pick up but it's worth the challenge.
36. Get your education for the career you always wanted.
37. Reinvent yourself.
38. Change your destination.
39. Say I love you.
40. Change your mind.
41. Get a new job and start at the beginning.
42. Dream a new dream.
43. Start over...do all the things that will make you happy.
44. Start focusing on what you want and need rather than focusing on everyone else's needs.
45. Start living your life again.
46. Try again.
48. Find a new love or cause to be passionate about.
49. Send a thank you note.
51. Remove yourself from toxic relationships, heal from childhood trauma and put yourself first for once.
52. Find love in your life.
53. Be a beginner at something, such as a new hobby, fitness activity or language. To be a student in life.
54. Master dance! I won't make it my career but it's never too late to fall in love with it and start dancing.
55. Discover a new passion.
55. Find your soulmate.
56. Learn how to dance.
57. Start all over in life. In both — career and relationships at the same time.
58. Conquer a life shift.
59. Be yourself.
60. Still be searching for your passion.
61. Reach out.
62. Do the things that bring you joy!
63. Fall in love.
64. Make a new friend.
65. Learn how to horseback ride.
66. Start piano lessons.
67. Move to Italy and live the life you want.
68. Pursue graduate school!
69. Fall in love with a new dream...as you release a tired one.
Six months in. Six months into a chapter after the hardest year in recent memory. How are you feeling? How are your nerves? Are they in shock? Numb still? Or perhaps you're just reveling in the simple joy of grabbing a meal at your favorite restaurant? Maybe with a few (vaccinated) friends in tow, nervously laughing off the frantic energy of last year? Personally, I'm a bit of everything at the moment. Relief, joy, exhaustion and my fair share of anxiety. As someone who loves working toward goals each year (personal and professional), I think my anxiety has doubled down here in 2021, because I have this extra pressure on myself to make up for last year, to make up for the lost time as the world stopped spinning. The rational side of my brain keeps telling me that this expectation is simply not fair or vaguely realistic. But the emotional side of me begs to differ. And hence, the two have a stand off, which is largely why I think I failed at writing down any goals at the beginning of 2021. It felt altogether too daunting to commit to anything.
Now, six months have gone by relatively quickly and I don't feel nearly as confronted by verbalizing my goals. Moreover, I don't feel nearly the same pressure to do and be everything to make up for last year. I'm embracing a slower pace when it comes to "picking up where we left off" so to speak and I fully intend to show myself that grace when it comes to personal expectations and projects. I guess what I'm trying to say, 2020 made me realize how much I don't need the "hustle and grind" attitude that my 20s and early 30s thrived on. Instead, I'd much rather prioritize living intentionally at a pace that feels enriching, not draining. I want to breath deeply. Not constantly feel out of breath.
But let's cut my rambling here — there are just too many great goals you all shared with me that I want to get to, so I'll briefly kick us off here with mine: an assortment of big and small to-dos I'd love to see myself accomplish or start before the end of the year.
Maintain a consistent running regimen (possibly for half marathon next year)
Drink a gallon of water every day
Find a new dermatologist here in the city to address my melasma/hyperpigmentation concerns
Help my mom sell her house and explore a few new cities she'd like to move to (through encouragement and providing resources)
Finally wrap my head around the idea of writing a book (!!!!)
Define myself outside of the scope of social media (this is likely a blog post topic for another day)
Be kinder to myself
And now, without further adieu, here are your goals you shared with me...
1. "Declutter our home now that we are part-time empty nesters! Kids went back to college in January but they are now home for summer. It's a slow progress but progress nonetheless!
Also signed up for a half and full marathon this fall. First races since the pandemic hit. A little scared! But I've got this and I have friends to train with!"
2. "I'm a 61-year-old recent retiree, who wants to finish the college degree program that I left 41 years ago. I suffered from depression/anxiety, but of course at the time, I didn't know where to get help so I quit the thing that I thought would solve the issue. Little did I know that I'd suffer from anxiety to this day. So my goal is to start small, i.e. reach out to an advisor at the University of Texas at Austin to see what my options are, process for enrolling, etc."
3. "Save $5,000."
4. "Finish my post grad program at the University of Texas. I think I may have mentioned being in school (again). I started at the community college but I felt my academic pedigree was not going to make sense with an associates when I have a masters. Plus I wasn't learning anything. The program is brand new and needs more work resources poured into it to make it viable. I moved to IT and certificate program is in Artificial Intelligence — Machine Learning. I had to learn to code and still in that process. I had to level up to get the money I need to make."
5. "I want to start working out. I miss the gym!"
6. "It's been almost a year I've been single, probably the longest in my adult life, and I've experienced a lot of personal growth during this time. I'm starting to become interested in dating again, as things open up and my goal is to not settle for less than I am worth. I want to be loved so badly. I tend to become codependent, or chase the first person who shows interest in me. I've heard it phrased, "I do not chase, I attract," and I'm working on slowing myself down. I am in the thick of a major crush right now, and the person I'm developing feelings for has been busy and overwhelmed and not spending as much time with me. We haven't had a phone call in almost three weeks And while we text all the time, I have to hold myself back from continuing to message and message just to grab their attention. I'm worthy of someone who makes time for me. So that's my goal. To be comfortable enough in myself and my value not to compromise myself and my value."
7. "I'm trying to do a '100 Days of Exercise' challenge right now. I started it two weeks ago and hope to successfully finish it before my birthday in October. This is an extremely new thing for me. I have never been an active person my entire life, never working out regularly and I feel like I don't have enough discipline to go through life, so I decided to do this challenge to introduce myself to both. I haven't told a lot of people about this but it feels good to share."
8. "I would like to meet some new people so that I can find and create some friendships. Like many others, my partner and I moved overseas during Covid and meeting new people had been almost impossible with restrictions. Yes, we've kept up with people from Australia, but it would be naive to suggest these can sustain our lives in Luxembourg."
"I'm a 61-year-old recent retiree, who wants to finish the college degree program that I left 41 years ago. I suffered from depression/anxiety, but of course at the time, I didn't know where to get help so I quit the thing that I thought would solve the issue. Little did I know that I'd suffer from anxiety to this day. So my goal is to start small, i.e. reach out to an advisor at the University of Texas at Austin to see what my options are, process for enrolling, etc.'"
9. "For me, it's finally setting up a fold up table with my poster board sign asking people in Washington Square Park a question. A question about childhood and if they stop, having the ability to then ask follow up questions and interview them. To research for no other reason than I'm so curious how some people end up so, so free to be as an adult and others don't. I don't know what I'll do with all that's collected but I know I have to at some point this year, go set up my table and not be afraid to ask. And also, coincidentally I would like to finally bring a boom box to Washington Square Park on my birthday this year and have a dance party by the fountain."
10. "Dog! I want a dog."
11. "Find a Rabbi so I can continue my conversion to Judaism."
12. "I look around me at all the 'stuff' I've accumulated as an adult. I'm determined, each week, to clear out/downsize areas of my home. I'll donate, offer to family members, use consumables. The past year has made me realize I don't need anymore stuff. I need less."
13. "My goal is to write down my dreams and say them out loud to someone I trust. It's to sit comfortably with the good things that are happening and not dismiss them as ordinary. It's to recognize that I can work toward opportunities and not simply be grateful for the goodness that falls into my path."
14. "I'm working on...sharing my work. I started learning calligraphy during quarantine and I love it so much. But whenever I get to the 'sharing' part of projects, I freeze! Trying to move past that this year.'"
15. "I just graduated from USC with my doctorate in Policy, Planning and Development. My big goal is to network to find the path where I can deliver value in the field of Global Health Diplomacy and US Foreign Policy. I've started looking for an Entrepreneur-in-Residence. My small goals are: to use time efficiently, to pause and engage with nature/outdoors, to improve my cooking skills. Most importantly, family and extended family are front and center."
16. "My goal is to sink into this new era of New York. It's quite easy for me to romanticize the old New York, so much so that I can miss what's happening right in front of me. This year, I'm committing to reveling in what we have right now and what we can all create together."
17. "My main goal for this year was to get my first apartment as I have been living with family. To be honest, the idea felt a little outlandish considering what this year has been like for me. But here I am, one Google search and a few formalities later, set to move into my very first apartment by July! Terrified but hopeful and grateful for new beginnings."
18. "Quit smoking."
19. "I always shoot for more than I can chew. My professional goal is to finally launch my product (pandemic has delayed it since forever). My physical goal is to lose the last 5 pounds and get my front splits. Other goal is to practice my violin more regularly and to work more on my Korean lessons. Permanent goal is to be kinder to myself and offload the guilt I've been carrying for no reason for years."
20. "More curiosity! Get back to seeing this world (even if we can't travel far)."
21. "To start exercising. I just can't get motivated."
22. "To have confidence to start my ow project instead of being behind the scenes, helping other people with theirs."
23. "Finishing my manuscript for the book I am writing on structural racism and criminal justice reform."
24. "Meditate every day."
25. "To find a job I love. I did love my last job but I had to quit last October because my visa didn't come in time (thanks Covid and previous administration). Anyway, I got it a couple of weeks ago, took only 9 months but it's only valid for 10 months (imagine explaining this during a job interview). I don't want to compromise this time where or with whom I work with despite everything. Being assertive and listen to my inner voice is my goal. Oh also, I want my green card to come this year but I can't control that. So the right job with that right feeling inside will do."
26. "Keep up with my fitness routine! I've been working out consistently and love the way I've been feeling!"
"My goal is to sink into this new era of New York. It's quite easy for me to romanticize the old New York, so much so that I can miss what's happening right in front of me. This year, I'm committing to reveling in what we have right now and what we can all create together."
27. "My goal is to be kinder to myself."
28. "My goal is to get into therapy. I've struggled really hard with PPD and it's time to not only admit that I need help, but actually seek out and engage in the help. I owe it to myself, my partner and my son. This project of yours is weirdly the kick I probably needed to just start."
29. "By the end of the year, I want to be more comfortable with who I am, what I've been through and into the unknown (cue the song from Frozen II of where I am going.)"
Whenever I walk through Central Park, I think about all the serendipitous meetings that have happened there over the years. Of friends and lovers, alike. Especially on that glorious first day of spring — where the world spills into the park, searching for sunshine and love. I think about the side glances that happen here, followed by a coy smile. The flipping of pages through a book that you're no longer paying attention to because "they" walked by. The sweet promise of a stranger catching your eye, a meet-cute in the making, as you both happen to read the same park bench plaque. Admittedly, I'm not single, but that doesn't mean I don't love being around the promise of love for others. If this is their opening scene in a movie that isn't actually being filmed, I do adore the idea of being an extra in it. Perhaps my ending credit will be "Woman in park with dramatic hat # 3" and my one line will be directed at our heroine, asking "Excuse me, but do you happen to know how to get to Strawberry Fields from here?" But she won't hear me. She'll have locked eyes with him well before I uttered the word "strawberry."
Call me crazy, but for as much as we love praising and bemoaning dating apps, I have this sneaky suspicion that meet cutes might be on the rise this summer as we slowly re-enter the world.
For the indoctrinated, let's define a meet-cute shall we? Ahem...
Meet-cute: noun; a cute, charming, or amusing first encounter between romantic partners as in a movie (but for the sake of today's post, let's assume platonic meet cutes are fair game too!). Notable cinematic moments include Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant in his travel book store in Notting Hill. Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the elevator in 500 Days of Summer. Eva Mendes and Will Smith in a failed pickup attempt at the bar in Hitch.
While they're usually among the most contrived moments in movies, they typically never fail in cueing the warm and fuzzies. And judging by the stories below, I think they also prove that sometimes, the best first encounters, are far better than scripted fiction. Without further adieu, here are your meet cutes you so graciously shared with me...
1. "We were both at the same party and the house we were in only had one bathroom. There was definitely some drinking involved in this story. Anyway, I noticed the guy since I first got to the party and we exchanged a few glances. I went to use the bathroom at one point, as one does. So I'm in there, I hear someone knock but I locked the door so I say, "Just a minute!" Before I can do anything else, the guy I was exchanging glances with earlier BARGES INTO THE BATHROOM, breaking the lock and part of the door itself. He notices me, says "Sorry, I really gotta go!" and then proceeds to relieve himself in the bathtub across from me. Turned away from me, thankfully.
He then introduces himself while I'm washing my hands, laughing my butt off. I introduce myself as well and then I left. We didn't hang out again for maybe five years, but now we live together and have been going strong for almost 2.5 years and he still makes me laugh every day."
2. "Back in 2012, I was working in a brew pub behind the bar. At lunch time, this guy sat at the bar and ordered a beer. He drank up, took his jacket and left without paying. I ran after him, demanding he must pay. He looked at me surprised and explained that he was the new kitchen chef. That meant, he was allowed to have a drink on the house after work. I waved him off and told him in a stern voice, "You may leave then." Rounding up a couple of years later, in 2017, we were married and last year during our first lockdown, our sweet Baby Benjamin was born. To top it off, at our wedding, we had four couples attending (partially married and with kids) who had also met at the same bar. I guess some places give off extra love vibes."
3. "I was working and studying in Florence, Italy at the time (so we got the setting), it was FIFA summer and I was sat out at a sports bar drinking 5 Euro beer waiting for some friends. Sat at the next table was a woman on vacation from NYC. We started a conversation and hit it off right away! She's like THE person I want to be when I grow up. Fast forward a couple of days, it was my birthday and she suggested drinks at one of the fancy lounge bars in town. It was the most beautiful bar in an old palazzo. While we were drinking the rosé, one of the managerrs came and asked us how we were doing, then lingered to chat. He was so charming and the whole situation just seemed so scripted I was totally enchanted. We exchanged numbers and dated for a while ... but it turns out it wasn't meant to be. However, my cool, hip NYC friend who started multiple businesses by herself and I are still going strong."
4. "I was attending my dear friend's wedding. College housemates. Not traditional students. The wedding was in a beach house. August. Hotter than the hinges of Hell. There was an attractive man who helped hold the houpa. Later at her reception, she told me she had planned to 'match' him with either me or another mutual friend at her wedding. (What in the world?!) Well, we never did meet during her reception. But at the end of the after party, he was returning from an ocean swim, came in the house, and I noticed how spotless, devoid of sand, his feet were. We said hello. I know I kept looking at his feet. There might have been some champagne on my part along the way. I went home. Four months later, we made a date for the PMA, a Saturday afternoon. Two years later we were married. And he still comes off the beach with no sand on his toes."
5. "I left my marriage last year after being unhappy for quite sometime. We shared nine years together but more bad outweighed the good. It was a loveless marriage. I was denying myself love because I felt like I didn't deserve it so I thought it was OK to stay unhappily married. Finally left after having the courage to do so. Started dating, hated it. Hated it. Took a break and started again at the end of February at the urging of a friend. Met someone, Tyler. We hit it off right away. The connected was so deep and strong, it blew me away. Both of us. Feelings were developed right away. And that scared me. It scared me how much he wanted to be with me and how much he could care for me. I kept pushing him away and breaking up with him. But he wasn't leaving. I was dealing with so much at the moment. And to be honest, I felt like I didn't deserve love. Who would want to love me after I failed at keeping my marriage together. He broke up with me finally. Last week.
I have never experienced heartbreak. I am 37. I am dying inside. I know this man is meant for me and I pushed him away. I've apologized repeatedly and I know this is my fault. I have never felt a love like this or felt this way about anyone ever. I'm just afraid that something good that could have been great, came to an end without anyone of us knowing what great memories we could have created together. He is my person. He was my heart. I fucked up and don't know what to do. I've consulted a couple of psychics and most of them said he feels the same way, he loves me and wants to be with me but he's afraid I'll break his heart again. And I know I hurt him.
They say give him time, he'll come around. But not sure how long this will last. I've lost 15 pounds in two weeks and my insides are broken. I broke my own heart and it hurts more than you'll ever know."
6. "My husband and I met while working on a production of Spring Awakening. He was a lighting design assitant and I was an intern for a college class. We got along but when the summer was over, I went back to school half a state away. A few months later on New Year's Eve, he asked for my email to send me a few pictures I needed. I sent him my email and he then asked for my number and it was okay to call me sometime. A few days later while I was in still in town, I reached out and he suggested we go get a drink. I was a friend's nearby so I agreed. Here's where the meet cute really happens...I thought we were just grabbing a drink and catching up but instead, I walked into a fancy wine bar in yoga pants and my college sweatshirt (having just been in the area). He's wearing a nice outfit, has a bottle of wine and a cheese plate. My favorite! Embarrassingly, I sit down and he acknowledges that my football team should win the big game in a few days and immediately made me feel more comfortable. We hit it off right away, had another date that Valentine's Day and the rest is history. We finally eloped this past Christmas (during the pandemic) on the day we'd gotten engaged in London a few years prior. We have a real wedding/party planned for next year once everyone is vaxed. He still loves that sweatshirt."
7. "Met my husband at a play mutual friends brought him to. He was fresh out of recovery and totally wrong on paper but I knew he was going to be my husband the first time I laid eyes on him."
8. "My boyfriend is from Michigan, I'm from Rhode Island and we met at a bar in Boston.
I was there for a friend's 21st birthday and he was visiting his brother for the weekend. I approached him at the bar knowing I had seen him somewhere but couldn't place it at first...It turned out that we both went to the same university, had taken a class together and had many mutual friends (even found him in the background of a photo from a party a few years back).
We like to think fate had a little bit to do with it as we had both been spending a lot of time working on ourselves and our goals right before we met. Just felt like we weren't ready to meet until that point but two years later and we are still as cheesy and romantic as when we first started dating."
"I met my boyfriend in our office parking lot. He would manage to come in a half hour before I arrived, we would exchange awkward smiles while getting out of the car. Walk in silence to the elevator and every day his question to me would be 'Floor 7?' Until he finally mustered the courage to ask me, 'Coffee?'"
9. "I'm from Southern California, B is from NYC. In 2008, we were both on Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited, riding overnight from NYC to Chicago.
B went to the cafe car to work for a few minutes. I came in with some people seated next to me to play cards and we asked to share the table with him. Soon, we were all playing cards. After a while. the others left and B and I talked for 9 hours, until the sun rose over the horizon. We exchanged info and got married seven years later, with a model train atop our wedding cake.
We still take the Lake Shore Limited every year and celebrated our anniversary there in 2018. Some of the conductors know us! We're excited that Biden is in office for many reason — including more funding and an expansion for Amtrak!"
10. "We lived on opposite sides of the country — he in Delaware and I was in California. We met drunkenly in a hotel hallway in Reno, Nevada. Both of us were at a convention and walking back to our respective rooms, which happened to be right next to each other. He had to walk past mine and I had to walk past him and we literally walked into each other. I mean, I stepped into his path to walk away from someone hitting on me and he was just trying to get some sleep. He laughed and introduced himself. We both were dating other people at the time, but we became best friends for a few years. We both became single three years later after we met. He was making a trip to come out to California for a work trip and I picked him up at the airport, where he met met at the gate, dropped his bags and kissed me like I had never been kissed. Seven months later, I moved across the country to be with him and it's been adventure ever since."
11. "I met my husband at a London nightclub. It was a case of third time lucky on the night. The first time we were on the dance floor with our respective friends and we said hello and small talk. Then we became separated. I met him again about an hour later, he coming down the stairs I was about to go up. He asked me if I'd like a drink so I'd said I see him back at the bottom of the stairs in 10 minutes. Unfortunately, we missed each other. Fast forward another hour or so to the last dances of the night, always slow ones! We were searching for each other at the edge of the dance floor and finally reunited, danced and exchanged phone numbers (no mobiles then!) and found we lived only a couple of miles from each other in the suburbs. Married within two years, and three and half decades later, here we are with three young adult children. My late father frequented the same club in his youth and said young men only went there to meet young ladies. Well, he was right on that one!"
12. "My husband moved to NC from Buffalo for a job. My parents and a family friend happened to work at the same place. He was hired in August, and the family friend immediately tried to set us up. He wanted me to come for a chance encounter to introduce us. I kept saying no. In February, I was having a drink with a friend and she mentioned that a friend of hers from work was going to meet up with us. I wasn't super thrilled with that notion and was starting to plot my exit when her friend joined us with his friend in tow.
After being rather standoffish, the unexpected friend came over and began chatting with me. He mentioned where he worked, and I sort of perked up. I told him that I knew people there...and as he explained his story a bit more, I said, 'Oh my gosh. I know who you are. Your boss has been trying to set us up for a while now.' David said, 'I didn't know anything about that.' To which I replied, 'Yeah, well I wasn't interested.' And he said, 'Well, are you now?'
Turns out...I was. We've been together for 10 years now."
13. "I worked in the same building as a Wawa (convenience store chain). One day, I saw him standing outside on a break and I panic-froze. So I avoided him for a month, which was hard, because I needed Wawa every day for my coffee and Twix. So I purposely never got in his line, I always tried to hide my face. It's embarrassing.
One day (Obama's Inauguration Day!) he was the only person at the registers. So I sucked it up. He was painfully adorable. We chatted awkwardly about what day it was, and I went back to work.
My coworker saw this happen and followed me in, asked me to write my number down. She went back to the Wawa and slapped it down on the counter in front of him and told him to call me after 6. And he did. A 6:15. We moved in together nine months later. We've been together ever since."
14. "I met my boyfriend in our office parking lot. He would manage to come in a half hour before I arrived, we would exchange awkward smiles while getting out of the car. Walk in silence to the elevator and every day his question to me would be 'Floor 7?' Until he finally mustered the courage to ask me, 'Coffee?'"
15. "My partner and I met at an away camp in Maine the summer before the last year of high school. He lived in Nova Scotia and I lived in Massachusetts, but we instantly clicked. We started writing illustrated letters to each other (nerds, haha) for the next two years, dated long distance for four years after that while in university (I in Boston and he in Halifax) and eventually I moved to Canada. We've been happily married for a few years now and have one cat."
16. "I lost my first husband on 9/11. Five years later, I'm having lunch with my sister and a friend. The friend gets a call. Heard him say, 'Come meet us. We're at Peter Lugers.' Next thing I know, this guy walks in. So handsome. It's his friend. Lost his wife a few months ago. Sits down with us. We spend the whole lunch talking and crying about our losses. He calls me the next evening. We speak for two hours. First date, next night. Never ever apart after that. Married a year later. He came along and saved me when I didn't even know I needed saving. He protected me and took care of me. He knew how rough 9/11 was on me with two young boys. I lost him seven months ago after 14 years. I am beyond heartbroken.
For my Lonny, my lost I lost on 9/11. Twenty years fast approaching...mind boggling. I want people to remember was really lost on 9/11. All those beautiful souls had lives and families and need to be spoken of and remembered. "
And my Berky...who was like my knight who came to save me from all the horrors of 9/11. Life can be so unfair.
I'm trying to wrap my head around how I lost both of the loves in my life. And neither one of them were able to have a funeral after passing. Life is temporary. Love the shit out of those who love you."
17. "My best friend was obsessed with the barista who worked at the coffee shop across the street from both of our respective office buildings. At the peak of my 'wing manning,' I had developed a two latte a day habit purely so I could see if he was in (or at their sister location a few blocks away). She finally got the guts to ask him to hang out. And then invited him to her housewarming party a few days later. At said party, her cousin accidentally found them making out in the coat closet. They've been married now for four years or so, and are expecting their first baby this summer. I guess my caffeine addiction was well worth it."
18. "I met my (now) husband when I was wildly tipsy with my BFF in Bushwick one night, 10 years. ago. I had a crush on him before I saw him that night. He worked at Beacon's Closet and I would always go in looking for him. The cute part was the fact that he texted me the next day and we went back to the same bar...the not-so-cute pat was that fateful night my BFF knocked half her tooth off on my toilet. What a hot mess."
19. "Didn't end happily ever after but hilarious nonetheless. I was at my favorite Italian spot in the West Village and didn't realize Jake Gyllenhaal was essentially spooning my chair and in my Italian/Colombia over-usage of hands and limbs, I got up from my chair and tried to smoothly throw on or squeeze my hands into my winter parka. As my right hand extended through the sleeve, I accidentally caressed his stomach and chest with the back of my hands or tips of my fingers (it all happened very fast and my brain momentarily stopped intake of oxygen). Anyway, it took all my training as an attorney and all the courage in the world to keep it together and not turn red (I was purple and red on the inside for sure), looking him in the eye (I'm sure he was awkwardly swallowing dry and in shock) and even though I most definitely wanted to bolt, calmly walked out of the building until I could scream outside in my native tongue — 'tragama tierra' meaning 'earth swallow me' (don't we all revert to childhood language in these situations?). I shrugged it off thinking I would never see him again but hysterically (and to my utter embarrassment and dismay) I've run into him way too many times to count, including one time at an IFC showing, and every time I think to myself, if we make eye contact (osmosis or telepathic acknowledgement) — yes, yes, that was me. I know, I know."
20. "My husband and I went to the same international school in Taiwan — we met in 7th grade on the school bus and he asked me to the winter formal. We kept in touch after high school but didn't actually start dating until after college. Our first movie 'date' (it was unclear because we've been friends for so long!), I wanted Indian food without knowing he has a sensitive stomach so he literally left the movie three or four times and had no idea what the movie was about. We got married 4.5 years ago. So we've known each other for more than half of our lives!"
21. "I met my husband under my desk at work. He was setting up my computer upgrades for me while I was out of the office in a meeting. The meeting got out early and found him there. I started talking to him. Five minutes of me just talking away, he pops his head out, realizes I'm there, and takes his headphones out."
22. "I went on a Tinder date and met my date on the corner of his block. When I walked up to him, he was talking with his neighbor. The three of us briefly chatted before our date and the neighbor invited us to our rooftop for drinks later that night. The date was enjoyable and I decided to stay for drinks on the neighbor's roof...at that point, my date became a creep and ended up making out with a friend of the neighbor. The neighbor and I ended up talking all night and he told me he saw me crossing the street earlier and thought, 'This is the girl for me,' and was surprised when I approached him thinking he had manifested it. Finding out I was his neighbor's date was a bit of a let down, but here we are, almost three years later still in love and very grateful my original date wanted to kiss other women that night."
23. "I went to a sports bar with some friends to watch a playoff basketball game. When I walked into the bar, I immediately spotted him — the tallest man in the room. His head was towering over the crowd. After an hour or two, I mustered up the confidence to approach him and offer him a shot (this seemed cool to me at 23). He said yes, we took a shot and talked the whole rest of the night. On June 16th, we celebrate our eight year anniversary of me offering him that shot!"
24. "I met my boyfriend when he was bartended at a bar in Brooklyn! My friend and I had just gone to the Brooklyn Museum and there was a neighborhood bar a couple of blocks away that we stopped in for what was supposed to be a single drink. As we were closing out our tabs several drinks later, my friend left my number for him on the receipt, and he texted me later that night. We've now been together for almost seven years! Although sadly, the bar has since been closed."
25. "My husband and I met as friends at a church Christmas party and didn't end up dating until August of that year. I admitted to him that when he walked in the door (he was with a guy who always got a lot of attention from the ladies) I immediately thought, that's my type, that's the guy I want to be with (I was dating someone else at the time). He later told me he thought the same exact thing about me and never thought I would ever go out with him. I stalked him on Facebook and asked him out! We'll be married for 10 years in November."
26. "I studied abroad my freshman year in Florence, Italy. While there, one night, I met an American stationed nearby. I remember thinking he was cute. We exchanged numbers, chatted for a bit, nothing more, nothing less. Fast forward three years, I visit an ex uptown by Columbia University. He (the American from Italy) sees me in the crosswalk — says my name — I don't see him (I remember hearing 'Tina' and wondering who had said my name). Fast forward another three years, I'm studying for the bar exam, swipe on Bumble and recognize a familiar face. It's him. Sorry to all the romantics out there, but we tried to date — it didn't work. We were more in love with the story than one another. But a DAMN good meet cute had it worked out."
"My boyfriend and I met all thanks to a collapsed building in Brooklyn. Last summer, while I was running errands in my neighborhood, a brownstone fully collapsed moments after I walked past it. Not injured but in a state of shock, I only recall a tall firefighter asking if I was hurt. He quickly ushered me away from the rubble, sat with me on the back of the firetruck, gave me water, a blanket and started a conversation. We talked for an hour before EMS took. over but not before we exchanged numbers. Today, he says it is the best call he's ever responded to and I call him my favorite first responded.
27. "I was home visiting my family in Chicago for a friends' wedding and then was flying back to NYC. My parents dropped me off at the airport and I was kind of hungover. I got on the plane was sitting next to this cute guy. We were delayed getting on the plane and I just knew I was going to fall asleep and was like well, he looks normal enough if I end up falling asleep on his shoulder. And well, I did. For the whole flight until we were landing and I woke up and then apologized and thought that was that. But then we were delayed almost two hours trying to get into a gate at the airport so we started talking and chatted the whole time. I learned he was coming to the city for the first time for a medical rotation and he didn't know anyone here. We were both really hungry since we were on a plane for almost the whole date because of all the delays so he asked if I wanted to get dinner once we got into the city. We got off the plane and both had to charge our phones so we sat there charging them on the ground and figuring out where his AirBnB was located. We then got a taxi and our driver was actually nice? He asked us where we were from and if we lived here etc. I told him I lived here but I didn't know about this guy because I just met him. He was like, 'You guys just met??' He told me I should take a picture of his license so I know he is normal and was so shocked that we. had just met each other and were now hanging out. We checked him into his AirBnB and then got dinner and walked through little Italy. Then he came back to my apartment and watched movies with me and my roommate and her boyfriend.
We went on a few more dates over the next week or so after that and then I went on a trip and then when I got back, he was going to be done with his program already and would be leaving. We talked about what we were doing and he wanted to try out dating even though we had only known each other barely a couple of weeks. I didn't think trying to date in different cities was the right choice since we still barely knew each other, especially while he was in a very busy medical program. I had just moved here and wasn't wanting to consider that with a person I barely knew so it was the right choice. It was so fun though and my friend I still joke about it."
28. "Back in 2015, I was living in Seattle, producing events. A girl volunteered to help and worked with me the day of the event. We hit it off so well! Instant friendship. We laughed and bonded over Drake's new song 'Hotline Bling' (it was new then at the least!) and spent the evening trying to photobomb the celeb guest at the event (which was Macklemore). The thing is...the next day I moved across the country to New York! We managed to stay virtual pen pals and a year later, I attended her wedding. Then three years later, she attended mine (in France). We're still in touch to this day (from afar)."
29. "I met my husband when my sister was dating his brother. It always seems very movie like to me, because when I met him, I didn't like him. I thought he was arrogant and rude. Turns out, he was just shy and lonely and we soon got together — so for a time, two sisters were dating two brothers. My sister and his brother split up a few months later, but we are now happily married, and have been together for 19 years this year. He is my soulmate, and I didn't know it was possible to be so very in love with someone. Oh — and because people always ask — my sister and his brother do still see each other occasionally. and it's not awkward or weird. My sister and his wife get along brilliantly!"
30. "My husband and I were college sweethearts. He lived five doors down the hall from me my freshman year. I was rooming with the most amazing person (actually my maid of honor) and she was on the volleyball team. My husband was on the football team. One day, she says come hang with me, I'm going down the hall to hang out with the football guys. So I went and eight years later (six dating, two married), we still very thankful we were randomly chosen to live five doors down from each other."
31. "One of my closest friends decided they wanted to go camping for their birthday. One the way there, she said she was going to invite a new guy she was dating and he was going to bring his cousin. Well that night didn't turn out so well as it rained all night long and we didn't have the rain protectors on our tents. So I got completely soaked and looked my absolute worst. I never saw that my friend's date had arrived that night with his cousin. That was until I saw him swim out of the water (we were by the ocean) and I was like, 'Who is that?' He came out and introduced himself. I was mortified because I looked horrible, but I thought, oh well. We all decided to go to have breakfast and end the trip. He confessed that he told his cousin on the car ride to breakfast that day that he was going to marry me. We have now been together for 15 years, married for five and are expecting our first baby in July."
32. "My now husband and I met at a singles event hosted by a local NPR station. I always used to joke with friends, 'I just want to meet a nice guy who enjoys listening to public radio.' So this event really spoke to me but I was skeptical, having never been to an event billed as a 'singles event' before. My now husband was maybe the second person I talked to at the event and the rest is history. We were lucky to have one of the hosts of the event (who had a show on the radio station at the time) deliver a pre-recorded toast to us at our wedding."
33. "We met at a chemical engineering conference, specifically at a luncheon for a student group that neither of us were officially a part of, but we both attended to get free food. We sat across from each other, ordered the exact same thing, and then got up the nerve to ask for his number after lunch. We texted for a few months, then he came to visit me (we lived across the county from each other) then decided to move in together after just a few months when I got a post-doc position in a different state. And ow we are awaiting our postponded-due-to-Covid wedding, nine years later!"
34. "I met my boyfriend in high school. We always had a class together but never really cared to socialize. He was a football player and I was a volleyball player for all four years — you know how that goes. Our mutual friend decided to have his birthday at my boyfriends house. I don't remember much about the party. But I sure do remember not being able to stop talking to him or hours — we just clicked! And have been together ever since then. Though the ebbs and flows of life, I wouldn't want anyone else to do life with than him, even after eight whole years!"
35. "My boyfriend and I met all thanks to a collapsed building in Brooklyn. Last summer, while I was running errands in my neighborhood, a brownstone fully collapsed moments after I walked past it. Not injured but in a state of shock, I only recall a tall firefighter asking if I was hurt. He quickly ushered me away from the rubble, sat with me on the back of the firetruck, gave me water, a blanket and started a conversation. We talked for an hour before EMS took. over but not before we exchanged numbers. Today, he says it is the best call he's ever responded to and I call him my favorite first responded."
The other day, as I was waiting outside the vet clinic to pick up Elvis, a woman caught my eye. She was standing nearby, impeccably dressed and presumably waiting for her fur bundle as well, at the same clinic. And something struck me. You ever get the feeling that someone is looking at you well before they realize you know that they're looking at you? A moment of serendipitous stolen glances? Obviously, in New York, sometimes these moments can be far less than ideal (and come with their own fair share of inappropriate comments, but that's another story, for another day), but other times, they're just glorious! Like kismet in the making. Of friends and lovers, alike.
Back to this woman though. I noticed a look in her eyes as she glanced over my dress. "Tell me everything about your outfit!" she said. I smiled and replied with the universal olive branch response: "Thank you! It has pockets!"
We eventually got to chatting about the dress, about the city, about why our dogs were at the clinic that day and before I knew it, I was 30 minutes into a lovely conversation with a woman whose name I didn't know! (I know, I know, where were my manners?!).
Her dog was discharged first, so our neighborly chat ended there, but before leaving with her pooch, she turned to me and said, "I know this is going to sound strange, but would you want to grab a drink sometime? It's been so hard making new friends in the city lately."
In that moment, it dawned on me how often we put ourselves out there for dating, but we don't offer ourselves in the same way when it comes to forging new friendships, especially as we get older, busier and perhaps more set in our ways.
All of this is to say, I think you'll love the friendship stories compiled here — all of them a beautiful reminder to not fear vulnerability when it comes to nurturing those nearest and dearest to us — the family of our own choosing.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to text my new friend back and arrange happy hour drinks.
1. "My cousin, who's more like a sister as I'm only eight days older, and I had dwindled in connection. It'd be over a year and a half since communication and visits ceased, and for no specific reason.
After losing relatives in 2020, I wrote a letter (because, letter writing) about reconnecting.
A dinner in February, which we both admittedly felt oddly like a job interview, allowed us to repair an unoriginal case of miscommunication. Now, we're thick as thieves once again and she'll be my Maid of Honor next October.
Pushing pride, or whatever, aside was well worth it!"
2. "I have a group of girlfriends (four of them) that I met through work. We no longer work together or at the company, but our connection stayed intact.
We immediately clicked and had so much in common...from personality similarities, to fashion, beauty, politics, likes, dislikes and more. They're definitely sisters and a squad for sure. We have a group chat on Messenger and communicate daily about anything and everything. We lean on one another and are there for one another. They inspire and motivate me daily and are positive energy and light in my life.
When I lost my dad at the end of 2019 and my best friend at the beginning of 2020, they were there for me and still are.
I'm so thankful for these humans and the sisterhood we have."
3. "For strengthening current friendships: My husband and I are 10 years apart. Incidentally, he was the last of his friends to get married and have a kid while I was the first of my friends to get married and have a kid. We both found it important to always be excited for our friends no matter what life stages they're in — single, dating, married with kids, married without kids — and to always create an inclusive space so that our friends don't ever feel like outsiders. It's awesome having friends in so many different life stages and getting to celebrate where they are in life."
4. "The old saying of "quality over quantity" is so on point the older you get. After your 20s, everyone's schedule gets busier and busier. I cherish my quality time with my quality friends that push me to grow, be better and take risks, support me when I fall, make me belly laugh and make me feel so whole. They're limited, but the few I have are so golden."
5. "Five months before Covid hit, I moved from NYC to LA. I had amazing friendships in NYC. And I never felt like I had a problem connecting with folks or meeting them. Alas, I got offered a dream gig and moved to LA where I frequented but only would call one or two people, friends that live here. The thought of making new friends was daunting. And LA is very different from NYC. My normal way of making friends just was plausible in this work and car environment. People started introducing me to their friends that they knew lived here. And while in person meet ups were nonexistent this year, we started to connect via email, text and Zoom. And now I have a little crew that I connect with so well. I would have never leaned into tech if it weren't for the pandemic as a way to meet folks. But alas, I'm coming out of this with some solid friendships!"
6. "I went on a year long solo travel trip after college graduation. The European leg of my trip had to be delayed so I headed over to Canada instead even though it wasn't on my list. Did a one-month workaway in Toronto. The dude who I helped renovate his Victorian had a stepdaughter who was visiting him my first day. You know how in movies people make eye contact and you just swoon? That's how I felt with her. We made eye contact in this gorgeous kitchen and I knew immediately she was going to be in my life forever. And the rest is history. She has consistently celebrated me and been there and we show up for each other. We had plans to see each other at her graduation but Covid changed that. As for how to strengthen your friendships — show up. That's really it — be willing to learn your friend and show the heck up for the good and the bad in the best way you can. It's so freaking easy to get lazy or get distracted but friends are such blessings. Don't sleep on them. One of my college buddies and I exchange videos from the camera in the iPhone and just message them to each other. A bootleg Marco Polo but we have gotten closer. Another — we have foodie adventures where we eat one thing at five different places in one day (each adventure has a theme)."
7. "As an adult, most of my friendships began at a workplace. They either grew from there or were just casual grab a drink after the end of the day. A lasting friendship is one with my former grade partner. From the first day she knew I was interested in being the 'other kindergarten teacher' she hand wrote a name sign and placed it on my door before the principal made the decision. Through 13 years of teaching together, we led the Halloween parade in matching costumes. We were clowns, Raggedy Ann and Andy, Dorothy and the Scarecrow, Thing 1 and Thing 2 and very convincing witches. So convincing that when we made our playground entrance, children ran away! One year from Christmas, she gave me a Christmas cactus for a gift. I still have it. It's 18 years old. Even though we see each other often, we send cards to each other. We sign them YFP. Meaning Your Forever Partner. We are both great Phillies baseball fans. Our dream has been to be on the Jumbotron at a game. One September Sunday afternoon game, we did it. We made it three times that Sunday afternoon. And when the game was over and we were walking out, people said hello and were remarking about our Jumbotron success!"
8. "My childhood best friend and I have never gone to school together (we met running track) so we've always been pretty good at making time for each other — it was never a friendship of convenience. As kids, we would talk on the phone for hours and write six page letters to each other. Fast forward several years, she went away to a military college and I went to a small liberal school four hours away. Our letter writing skills really came in handy when she was going through the school's version of basic (break you) training! Ten years later, I moved to New York and she stayed in Charleston. A couple years after that, the pandemic hit. We started working out together every day over Zoom. Then it evolved to working out and cooking dinner and eating together. We definitely wouldn't have gotten through the lockdown as easily as we did without each other."
"I think it's a great lesson in holding onto those relationships and chasing them, helping one another find a way back to the people who matter most in your life. We normalize doing so for significant others or family; why not our closest friends, too?"
9. "New York City has been the place to reconnect with old friends and I'm so thankful for that. During my first week in NYC, I realized some old friends were also in the city. On my second week, I was on a rooftop looking at Brooklyn Bridge and sharing an amazing night with old friends from two different stages in my life. They made NYC feel like home right away. And without even asking, one of them became my guarantor (when he found out I was about to pay six months deposit up front because I was moving to the US with no credit history) and the other friend added me to her family phone plan! I mean, who does that?! Friends that become family.
Three weeks later, I was moving in to my apartment in the Upper East Side and I ran into a friend (at Starbucks). Last time I saw her, we were 17. Turns out, she was also moving to the UES and we were neighbors. We are best friends now and became each other's support system during the pandemic.
Last one: Summer of 2019 — on my way to be reunited with my Torino (Italy) roommates, American Airlines canceled my flight. Little did I know, but thanks to that, I ended up meeting one of my future good friends in New York City. We were both stuck and frustrated at LaGuardia — ended up sharing an Uber back to the city and having paella at Boqueria. We connected immediately and we started making plans for concerts, dinners, hikes. Thanks to American Airlines, I was late to my reunion but I also gained a great friendship that I'm sure will last forever."
10. "When I started my last job, I was nervous to meet the other manager. She and I would be working closely together, and we were about the same age. I was nervous because I'd worked with other women who were competitive and would throw me under a bus if it could advance their career. To make matters worse, Kristi was this gorgeous blonde girl who just seemed so cool. Great style, a great sense of humor and steely eyes that made me think right away that she'd seen some shit.
Our friendship started slowly. It was founded on a mutual respect for one another's work. I was in awe of her pragmatic approach to tackling big projects. She was a whiz at creating strategic plans and seeing the big picture. She admired my ability to connect with clients and our employees on a personal level. She came to me for writing advice and editing. We complemented one another on the working level and soon began hanging out socially.
First it was working lunches where the conversation veered into our married lives. Then it was walks at the dog park with our doggos. We began texting about anything and everything — to the point where my partner Todd assumes that if I'm texting, it's to Kristi.
She and I joke that if our husbands both die before we do, we are going to become Golden Girls in a villa in Italy somewhere. Kristi may have entered my life when I was 39 years old but I have no doubt that she will be an important person in my story for the rest of my life. I never thought I would find a kindred spirit so far into my life, but I'm grateful that I was open to that possibility."
11. "I moved to Geneva temporarily in the middle of the pandemic and found it really difficult. I didn't know anyone and making friends was difficult (because of the pandemic). Had never used Bumble BFF before but I used it for the first time and met a few girls who were in a similar situation. Truly made a huge difference in my mental health and even though I left, we're still in touch today!"
12. "My closest friend is 73 and I'm 41. She's young at heart and I have a bit of an old soul. It just works."
13. "Just be yourself."
14. "My now husband and I moved to a new area nine months pre-pandemic, and I've struggled to find a space where I fit in. We're in a midwestern university town, but I feel like, in our late 20s, we're in an anti-sweet spot between nowhere ready to join the 'parent crowd' but well beyond the 'young party crowd' that seems to surround us. I'd cultivated deep friendships at university and then law school, where I (a fellow old soul) connected with ambitious, fun, intellectual, well-rounded peers. While I've been keeping up these long distance friendships, I've spent the last few years mourning the day-to-day of the way things were — apero-dinners, drop-ins, our casually ritualistic nights together. One upside of the new ways of working coming through the pandemic has been so much more freedom in where to live and work. Now, as it happens, a close friend and another mutual-friend couple, through a series of perfect opportunities, are moving here this summer. I'm eternally grateful. I think it's a great lesson in holding onto those relationships and chasing them, helping one another find a way back to the people who matter most in your life. We normalize doing so for significant others or family; why not our closest friends, too?"
15. "I made good meaningful friendships through TikTok, Discord and Instagram. Finding ways in Covid is rough but can be done if you are open to it.
Regarding tips, I guess just making sure you are genuine when engaging in a conversation. Not just spamming the comments with meaningless word blobs.
There are definitely different levels of online friendship. I don't know how to describe it, it's just a vibe. But you'll know, if you really know yourself. You'll know when you've made a friend online.
And yeah, it's scary, you'll think of all the people who catfish and scam online but I've been lucky to have met great friends who won't stop FaceTiming just for quality time. Some just want to hang out while drawing/reading/cleaning/whatever mundane tasks that needs to be done. Which has created a strong bond where we've shared intimate stories about our lives and plan on meeting up once it's safe to travel between countries.
We're all somewhat deprived of human interactions due to lockdown and Covid around the world, but because of how humans are quite the social beings, life finds a way. We. just need to be open to the possibility."
16. "Leading with heart and not being afraid to be vulnerable has expanded my capacity to be a friend."
17. "I had just relocated to Wilmington, DE from LA for work and I was seeing a man who also worked for the same company. I didn't know anyone really; I'm friendly and I would go out after work for drinks or happy hours or activities, what have you. Then, one evening, about maybe 6-7 months in, I was working late and so was another coworker who I really liked, but we hadn't really hung out ourselves. We were friendly, you know? Got along real well, but never took that "next step." I swear, it's like I'm writing a romance story. But a 'frie-mance!' So we're both closing that evening and I pinged her via Office Communicator and just asked, 'Do you want to have dinner/drinks one night?' And she responded immediately with 'YES.' So a few nights later, we had sushi together and she brought me Dunkin Donuts that snowy Saturday morning when I had an opening shift.
Up until September last year when I moved back west for family, we were almost inseparable. Eight plus years and counting. It was part of my wedding thank you speech: 'Jesse — oh my god, Jess, who knew a sushi date and a Dunkin' Donuts Saturday delivery would turn into this? The ying to my yang, as the Great Hair Debacle of Mexico unfolded showed. Thank you for your support, because without you, I would've had half the vision.'
Just like dating — I took a chance and put myself out there to her for her to accept or decline my invite. And here we are!"
During the summer between my junior and senior year of college, I read the book Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez. As sometimes is the case with pivotal pieces of literature in my life, certain books really stick with me well after I read them, usually deeply intertwined with whatever was happening to me personally while I was reading the book. What's left when I reflect back on it — is usually an assortment of visceral memories of how I was feeling, what I was thinking, what was important to me at that time and how the characters accompanied me during a very specific chapter of my life. And Love in the Time of Cholera — she's a big one for me.
If you're unfamiliar with the storyline, it spans the late 19th, early 20th century love story of Florentino and Fermina — two star-crossed lovers in Colombia who fall for each other early in their youth. Over the course of the next five or six decades of their lives, you follow Florentino and Fermina weave in and out of each other's stories — first banned from marrying by their families, then separated by their own choosing opting instead to marry other partners — all while cholera rages on as an ever present, ever looming threat. Eventually, after spending much of their lives apart, they're reunited almost inexplicably — a testament to love in all the strange ways it finds us, leaves us, comes back to us and sometimes leaves us again.
When I first read the book, I was on the brink of a lot of changes — graduating from college, ending a long-term relationship and generally, trying to figure out what trajectory I wanted my life to take next. I suppose the narrative of this novel unnerved me at the time, because I couldn't quite see the beauty of a non-linear love story yet. Or even a love story that felt largely unresolved as theirs did at many moments. But if the past year has taught me anything, it's that the paths we navigate for our nearest and most intimate relationships with others (and ourselves) are rarely ever straight and narrow. They're filled with detours. Dead ends. Wild U-turns. One-way streets. Riddled with tragedy and joy alike. You may walk them alone. Or you may walk with a partner. And sometimes, you might walk them alone again. But the important thing is — you keep walking them.
All of this is to say — I really enjoyed reading through all your love stories in the time of Corona and I'm so incredibly honored that you decided to share them with me. Each one is a beautiful insight into a time in all our lives that will largely shape us, hopefully for the better, for years to come. As noted, all stories here are anonymous and will take about 20 minutes to read from start to finish. So I'd definitely refill that cup of coffee now, if I were you.
1. "For the first few months of the pandemic, we slept in two different rooms. My husband is a fire fighter/EMT and back then there was so much uncertainty and we were trying to just stay alive. Even after we figured out the risk and how to be smart about it, due to quarantines and long shifts, he was still working so many days away from home. But this February, almost a year later, we both got assigned to work at the local vaccination clinic. The 10 hour days together, him vaccinating, me registering and filling out cards, felt like a miracle. Every time we sit at that table is a moment to be grateful and see how blessed we are to still be here, together."
2. "I connected with someone during a mutual friend's virtual birthday party. We acknowledged our mutual attraction for each other but, as we're on opposite ends of the country, agreed to continue getting to know each other platonically. It's been wonderful so far, especially since we're both emotionally mature and available enough to healthily maintain that boundary. We may meet in-person by the end of the year, which is exciting, and I'm at a place in life where I'm content with either remaining as good friends or becoming something more. The past year taught me that life is really unpredictable and enjoying things as they are in the present moment is the best outlook and mindset. Including in love (and I mean all forms of it)!"
3. "Not only did I move across country to a new city, where naturally meeting anyone is tough but to do so in a pandemic where human interaction is actually dangerous, was a problem. So where does one turn to? Of course, dating apps. Yet, I'm the type who shines in person rather than over dating apps. They just don't work for guys like me. Alas, I tried a couple COVID dates, super cute movie nights on my roof with takeout since we couldn't go anywhere but, it was all forced and. just confirming my doubts with dating apps. Therefore, as a hopeful/hopeless romantic, I'll wait patiently for human interaction to exist again and maybe I'll meet her at a coffee shop, the grocery store or even the dog park. The story is to be continued..."
4. "Celebrated our first full year of dating and ended up engaged at the curtain close of 2020. He surprised me with an in apartment chef and musician and my parents (our quarantine pod). It was the most wonderful evening and gives me an exciting task to focus on whilst navigating 2021!"
5. "At home 24/7 with my husband. We found a routine, we missed going out for dates, we made each other laugh and only occasionally drove each other crazy. I realized through all this togetherness that I am so grateful that he's the one I. have chosen to spend my life with."
6. "Me and an acquaintance both went through tough and unexpected break ups during COVID and he reached out to me (we weren't close, originally) offering support when I mentioned mine. I think he said something like, 'I'm sure you have a lot of people to talk to' and I don't know why I felt like brutal honesty was the best policy but I responded with something like, 'No, actually I really don't' and without expecting anything in return, he just started texting me. Asking if I wanted to make plans and then actually following through with them. He's also far away, geographically, and I don't know where things will end up but having someone who actually offers support and then follows through with that support? An easy, no-expectations friendship, full of humor, good movies and bad TikToks — it's been wonderful."
7. "I think COVID brought us closer and make us deal with topics we wouldn't have dealt with. Was it all rainbows and roses? Heavens, no! It's been rough, but overall, helpful. And I've learned we need a bigger place if we are going to live together."
8. "My boyfriend and I met in August of the pandemic on a dating app. I was moving to Chelsea and was looking forward to the dating scene downtown. I thought it was going to be a couple of awkward dates and then we'd move on. But I was wrong. We had an instant connection. I was badly sunburnt on our first date and was already so comfortable, I picked at my flaking skin! I was mortified when I realized what I was doing but apparently that didn't scare him away. We started seeing each other 4-5 nights a week. A month into our relationship, we broke his leg playing soccer and things escalated pretty quickly. I became his emergency contact for the surgery and helped take care of him the first couple of weeks post-operation. Fast forward 7 months, we're still together and planning to move in together this summer.
Prior to dating him, I've had a very strict 'no boys allowed' rule in my space. A week or so after my move, I had a chair delivered that I couldn't push up the stairs of my four story walk up by myself. He offered to help me move it and I had to tell him about my rule of not allowing non-serious relationships hangout. He just said okay and asked what time he should come by. The man not only walked across town in the rain to help me, he showed up with a bottle of champagne for me to celebrate my first solo apartment. After moving the chair, he didn't question me or try to overstay his welcome, and I packed my things for our night at his place. On the walk back to his, he offered to carry one of my bags. I told him no, I let him help me once today and it was a big ask, so we're good for the month.
We got stopped at a light and he squeezed my arm, kissed my head and said, 'I know it's hard to ask for help. And I know you can do it, I know you can do anything. I just want to make the walk a little more comfortable for you, so can I please carry one of your bags?'
And that was the night I knew I wanted to keep him around for a long time."
9. "My boyfriend and I moved in together after two months of dating. Four months later, the pandemic began and we spent the majority of it in a studio apartment. There were a lot of ups and downs and I learned a lot about myself, including that I love living alone. I asked him to move out after living together for over a year. We. are still dating but I learned that I want a relationship without co-habitating."
10. "What about if I decided to date myself this past year and see how self-kindness and goal-setting and quietude has literally changed my life in every single aspect I could have ever fathomed?!"
11. "After being married for six years, I had a wake up call that we grew as partners, working/studying/building homes everywhere we moved and raising kids — but we were never US. At least, my side of the story...I realized that most of the time, I felt alone. When when he was gone, I didn't miss him. When he was around, I became negative and toxic. I didn't recognize myself anymore. I tried so hard over the years (I am a romantic person and suppose he is not) setting up dates, dressing up but I felt like I was hitting walls or unheard. Then it all died and it all just became mundane routine. I hate routine. I lost myself and so we have been on a break since then. What will come, I don't know but I finally stepped up to do something for myself, my first time being selfish and it hurts, but otherwise, it wouldn't be me anymore."
12. "Shortly prior to the pandemic, I had retired after 40 years in ECE (Educational Credential Evaluators). I was enjoying substituting and volunteering at my former school. Then lockdown. Lockdown with my husband of 27 years who had been at home with a comfortable routine which did not include me! We learned to walk together, outside every day. We dressed for the weather. It's the simplest thing to do. When one of us didn't want to go, the other lent encouragement. We've actually become healthier. We've also shared a newfound enjoyment of British mystery series. Most evenings we will watch an episode, only one, so as to make it last. Such very simple things but they've brought us closer. Sometimes we say that we're grateful to have each other to spend the pandemic together."
13. "A couple great dates:
We rode electric scooters from Fort Mason to Crissy Field in San Francisco. We had amazing chemistry right off the bat (7 hours on the phone chemistry) so we both had the idea to do something kitschy for our first date. He picked me up after work on Saturday and we did it.
Walked our dogs together."
14. "I was a serial dater and during the pandemic I was still dating someone but I wasn't being fulfilled in a way that I dream to be with a partner — emotionally, intellectually, culturally etc. — and so instead of trying to just 'stick it out' for either a subconscious fear of being lonely, I decided to just stop and really be kind to myself like a partner would: spoiling myself, accepting myself, pushing myself and learning to love myself. And this has catapulted my success in my career, my emotional and mental well-being and through a profound sustainable connection with family and friends continents over. If I hadn't been single/'alone' (in quotes because I never truly felt alone) during the pandemic, I would not have become the person I am today. And the gratitude I have for others who have changed my life thus far, is the same gratitude I have to myself for giving me a freedom I never thought I would feel."
15. "I had the sweetest COVID romance. A friend set us up (long distance, SF - LA) late August and we had FaceTime dates until we decided to fly and work out of Oahu. It was supposed to be 12 days but ended up being 51. We event got a 1-month lease together. I thought he was the one. But then a big religious difference couldn't be overcome (I'm not religious, he is, and he needed me to convert). So at the end of Hawaii, we broke up.
That's the super reader's digest version but there were so many sweet moments in there. Our first FaceTime date, he asked if I wanted to have a 'happy hour' date. I assumed it was BYOB but he took the time to Google three local places close to me that delivered cocktails and asked me to pick. It's such a shame we couldn't compromise on religion because he was a sweetheart. But boundaries are boundaries and his church (arguably a cult) was way too intense for me."
16. "As doctors aren't sure what effects there will be if you have had COVID and decide to have children, my best friend (who is a midwife, as well as certified OBGYN and therapist) and I decided to have a child before getting vaccinated. We both went to facilities and if everything is fine/a good match, they'll make embryos in June, freeze them and my friend will use them in the winter of 2022.
Why? Well, I'm single, one of my last girlfriends died horrifically, the break up with the girlfriend after that was so hard, it took me more than a year to get over.
During quarantine and general life, I've grown so much and defined so many things for myself. One of those revelations is being OK if I don't have another partner. However, I do want children.
I've already sacrificed so much in my life, I'm not willing to make many more compromises. I also have a multitude of goals I still want to achieve. Through online and in-person COVID dating, nothing has clicked."
17. "Been with my partner for 5 years now and we've had wild adventures. From moving countries, food poisoning, living in a van together, long distance, traveling and so many dates around the world. Corona was our hardest time yet! I worked from home, but my partner is an essential worker for the trains. My favorite memories together in 2020 is our themed (at home) date nights. A cocktail and dinner themed to a country, sometimes a movie to match, sometimes a Marvel movie. Came out of lockdown (Australia) is COVID free now!) a little wounded but still bonded and full of love for each other and a few precious memories during a really tough time."
18. "In September, we had our second son. Normally, my husband is a stay at home dad, and I go into the office every day. But since March of last year, I've felt so lucky to be home. There have been hard times, mentally and emotionally, but I still have my job, I still have my family. I've spent the first 7 months of my baby's life at home with him. We were unscathed from all this. Sometimes I feel a sense of survivor's guilt, because I know the rest of the world is hurting so deeply."
19. "I ended an abusive relationship at the beginning of COVID with no job, no home and no money. It was the hardest and scariest thing I've done as a single mom." (This reader also shared two blog posts she wrote on the subject, which she has given me permission to share with you all, in hopes it helps someone else! You can read her first post here and second post here.)
20. "A missed connection in NYC turned into a long distance correspondence. Our talks soon spanned 13 hours. From morning to night, from evening to sunrise in the three time zones between us, we confessed our inner most fears and desires and admitted our growing feelings for each other. 2020 was riddled with so many uncertainties in many different ways, but I'd never thought I would experience it in romance. Spring turned into summer and life has a funny way of evolving in other ways, too. Our 13 hour Zoom conversations whittled down to 30 minute phone calls and then finally down to absolute silence. My last few words to him were left unanswered. A ghost of a pandemic romance."
"I decided to just stop and really be kind to myself like a partner would: spoiling myself, accepting myself, pushing myself and learning to love myself."
21. "I learned that my partner is who I want by my side when shit hits the fan. We navigated graduating college in a horrible economy, a pandemic, starting new jobs (thankfully), death, social injustice etc. and they made it bearable and were able to find happiness even in those dark moments. Those goes for my friends as well. This past year made me realize who really is there for you even if it's over an awkward Zoom happy hour."
22. "My partner and I have no seen each other since March 18, 2020. We were on vacation in Mexico when COVID was declared a pandemic and we flew home to our separate destinations. Prior to the pandemic, we didn't mind being long distance because we traveled around the world together. Now, separated by closed borders for 13 months and counting, we're rethinking distance. I try not to think about the situation because I always end up sobbing. I even miss the mundane moments, like discussing how to flush the toilet. Now I'm looking for a job overseas so that we can be together."
23. "Moved in with my boyfriend and a year later, I can actually call him my partner.
I went through a period of mourning that I didn't realize I needed until I was in the midst of it. Truly mourning my single life, I spent so much time working to get to a place of pure bliss as a single person the years before meeting my boyfriend that when it came time to giving up my last bit of 'just me' which was my studio apartment that was with me through the whole time, it was really hard. I didn't realize I felt that way until we moved into together. Plus, not just moving in together but working on the same sofa. The first few months were hard but once I came out of my mourning and let myself have that time, I truly felt like a fully bloomed flower. And now I know the true meaning of partner."
24. "Man, COVID shattered it all for me. From reshaping my view of myself to reminding me why I married my husband. COVID was hard but it only brought us closer. We have been tested many times during our decade together and without fail we have always grown closer during hard times.
When we had our daughter three months early and had to navigate stress like I have never felt, we grew closer. He loved me through months/years of self distraction so COVID was not going to fuck with out bond. We compromised a lot and learned to truly coexist in a world that was put on pause. There was no hiding from each other anymore and allowing life to help us hide our issues. Like every time before we took the task of making COVID our bitch on together and here we are. I love him so much and I hope to god Coco (our mini human) feels the love every day. Lord knows Pupic (their dog) sure does."
25. "I have two vastly different experience over the last year dating digitally/trying to make a connection when we're so isolated. The first was six months of confusion and excitement but ultimately no emotional intimacy. I think it really dragged out because we were exclusive for safety's sake but it turned out we wanted different things. I think some of the difficulty was not seeing each other in a normal environment meant it was more difficult to understand where the other person was coming from. If we had met in a bar on a night out, it would have been very clear from the beginning.
Now, I have been seeing someone for two months and it's fun and secure and easy. Which makes me feel that at this point, when we're used to all the complications and precautions of dating in a pandemic, it goes back to the basics. If you're feeling that connection and feeling good about it, then that's all you need. A rollercoaster relationship might be good for TV but in real life, it shouldn't be a headache or a heartache."
26. "I broke up with my boyfriend of 10 years and fell back in love with myself."
27. "We had big travel plans for April 2020 and we weren't going to start planning a wedding until after that. COVID cancelled our travel plans and after a few months in our apartment, we really wanted to buy a house sooner rather than later. I've always said I would need to be married before buying property with a partner. We were talking about it in like May/June, and we were like, well...why don't we get married? It escalated from the backyard elopement we initially envisioned, but we still had a very small (and affordable) wedding in September. It was just our six immediate family members in person and our friends and extended family got to watch the ceremony on Zoom. It was really wonderful. Super happy about how it turned out. Without COVID, we wouldn't had a bigger wedding and I really, really loved having a tiny one instead. We asked our family to prepare some remarks (a poem, advice, a memory, whatever) over the meal afterwards and it was one of my favorite parts of our wedding. Definitely wouldn't have been able to do that if had something bigger."
28. "Mine isn't a new love story, but an old one reignited. I never needed a reason to reignite my love for my husband, but being with him 24/7 was one of the loveliest and invigorating experiences for us and something we didn't know we so desperately needed. I was always in love with my husband, but being in quarantine last year with him made me fall even more madly and irrevocably in love with my husband."
29. "My boyfriend and I have been in a long distance relationship for five years now and when news of the virus broke out, I was shattered for many reasons and one was that I didn't know when we would be seeing each other again safely. I remember crying and feeling overwhelmed, but through the days, we both learned as the world had stopped or felt that way that now we weren't rushing through our days, as we both were in school and working from home at the time. We realized now we had more time to connect, not just at nights but throughout the day, we would call, FaceTime or Zoom call each other, sometimes we would just keep doing our thing and it felt nice to know the other person was there even through a video. We learned to communicate better, we cherished that we grew closer, although the pandemic was horrible and sad, we tried to hold onto the good and see some light on the very dark days.
After 10 months of not seeing each other, we finally reunited in November 2020 and because we were studying from home, we got to spend six months together, as before when we traveled to see one another, it would just be four weeks the most we could see each other. So even though all of the pandemic had been sad, worrying and scary, we both tried to hold onto the good and light and the opportunity that we we got to spend together and with our families. It's hard to see the good at times especially in hard moments we dealt with this as it was all new to everyone but my take on it when I feel sad is to remember we got an opportunity to stop rushing and pay attention to small details we didn't before and cherish and not take for granted moments with our loved ones and each other."
30. "My boyfriend and I had lived together for a year before lockdown here in England but I can say with absolute certainty that we are better communicators than we ever were before and have become even closer. The lockdowns also made us value every moment that we've been able to spend going for meals or dates or days out more than we did before. Some of our best dates have been in the gaps between lockdowns over the last year. We didn't actually want to go back to work (out of the house) because we realized how much we really enjoy each others company. Of course, we had moments of tension and challenges like anyone but they were so far outweighed by all the positives and I'm incredibly grateful for the year that we were able to spend together, both on furlough and working from home. There will probably (hopefully!) never be a time that we can spend an entire year together and while so many things have happened, I will always be happy that we had the time together and continue to."
31. "My fiancé proposed to me on March 2nd of last year, which I'd been waiting for, for so long! It was so exciting for us as high school sweethearts who have been long distance for years since I left for college, he enlisted in the Air Force, then I moved again for law school. Unfortunately, within about a week of the proposal, COVID was declared a pandemic and I realized that we'd have to wait a little longer to be married. While that was a huge disappointment, distance learning for my last semester of law school meant I could quarantine with him in Oklahoma, where he is based. Those extra months of time together were so amazing — we usually only see each other for weekends or a week here a few times a year. But now, I'm back in California and waiting fro him to finish his contract with the Air Force and come home so we can safely be married, surrounded by our friends and family next June. I've been bittersweet to have to wait even longer to be married but to also have so much extra time together."
32. "I live in Lawrence, KS and I went on a university trip (not a student anymore, but was invited with some friends who are staff and faculty) to London at the beginning of March 2020. The pandemic started becoming very real when we were over there. Classes started getting cancelled when the students got back etc. I met a guy who was a non-traditional student and he was my age. The friends who I originally went on the trip with went back to the States early, leaving me with a bunch of students I barely knew and an English professor! The guy and I basically had three day date, going to museums, drinking in pubs etc. We realized we lived four blocks from each other and had all the same friends. We flew back to the States and. had to quarantine immediately upon arrival. We essentially quarantined together for two. weeks and have been together ever since."
33. "Our story began in November. Corona didn't change much about dating here in Croatia. We met, we kissed, we fell in love. He works abroad (Germany), travels back and forth every month, so he gets tested a lot. It's hard to be me apart, but that's just a regular long distance relationship thing. Can't wait to see him again. We don't do video calls or stuff like that, keeping it old school."
34. "I was living in Paris in 2020 and my boyfriend (he's French) went to Vietnam in January on a two month work trip. He was supposed to be back in April but when the pandemic hit, he was stuck in Vietnam until September. My French visa ran out in July (I'm American) so I had to go back to New York before he could finally come home to France. Leaving without seeing him and knowing I was going even further away was one of the most heartbreaking things about this year. Since then, we haven't been able to see each other because borders between the US and France are still closed. It's been January 24 of last year (15 months!). I almost cried getting the first shot of my vaccine last week because I hope it means I can travel to see him soon."
35. "Russel and I met and dated briefly in high school. We broke up, as kids do, but we stayed friends. After college, I moved to NYC, he to Oregon. Through the years, we stayed in touch mainly via him sending me postcards from his travels or him stopping by our hometown to say hello to my mom (who would then call me and question why I wasn't with Russel. My answer was always, 'Mom, we're just friends!')" But to him, I was always something more. About three weeks before the pandemic shut everything down I moved to LA for a job. The pandemic hit and Russel and I were trapped on the west coast together, albeit far apart. We reconnected via text and phone and talked often during 2020. There was a spark, something was there; I was dying to know what it was. In January 2021, he got a job in SoCal. I drove up to meet him, to see what would happen. I ended up staying the whole week. We fell in love, we're still together. This is what I like to call a "silver lining of the pandemic."
36. "I was single before the pandemic. I feel like the pandemic helped put things into perspective for me. Work had always made me happy, but the early months of the pandemic helped me recognize that work couldn't be the only thing that made me happy and even as. an introvert, I was really craving social interaction (none of my friends had stayed in the city). Since the first couple of months were super lonely, I had a lot of time for introspection and reflection. I realized the qualities that were actually important to me in a significant other. Also, I would only put in the effort and get tested for someone I felt a genuine connection with.
I did meet someone wonderful (via Bumble) and our first couple. of dates were virtual cooking dates and picnic dates outside which was a nice change from the usual coffee or drinks. The one (extremely tiny) silver lining during this time has been that our relationship has stayed in a bubble and we've been able to focus on just spending quality time together and learning more about each other. Usually, I'd get more distracted with social activities with friends, work travel and other stuff. We were able to have our own mini-Thanksgiving and mini-Christmas celebrations, since in a usual year, we'd both be heading back to our parents' homes, which was quite lovely."
37. "My husband and I got married in August of 2020. Our wedding went from 100 people, to 50 people, to 30 people. Two weeks out, we found out my father (stuck out of the country) and older sister (tested positive for COVID — she's fine now) could not come. To be honest, I strongly considered cancelling everything. At the end of the day, our love story during Corona was not just out love for each other, but the love we felt from our community, both present at our ceremony and via Zoom. We got so many messages of love. In summary, there were many tears and lots of champagne."
38. "I moved into my ex's empty West Village apartment and then packed it up when the lease ended."
39. "Feels really hard to have missed out essentially on the entire year of my 20s when I'm in my prime."
40. "My boyfriend and I started dating at the start of the pandemic. Moved in together after three weeks."
41. "It was nice to have someone to quarantine with at first, then realized he wasn't even close to being the person for me at all But grew a lot during that relationship."
42. "Always wanted to elope, but feared upsetting our family. Pandemic = perfect excuse!"
43. "My girlfriend. and I have been dating for over five years. We had only lived together for about six months when the pandemic shut the city down. In every way, she worked to help me feel comfortable, safe and cared for during one of the scariest periods of our lives. She exemplified love in action this past year. I could not be more grateful for the person she is."
"Our 13 hour Zoom conversations whittled down to 30 minute phone calls and then finally down to absolute silence. My last few words to him were left unanswered. A ghost of a pandemic romance."
44. "It was early October. I was suffering through a bad break up from a toxic, abusive relationship (in addition to all the pandemic loneliness). I was on dating apps because I needed a distraction. I had connected with several guys, had gone on a few dates, but I wasn’t particularly excited about anyone of them. Then one Sunday, I matched with him. He was older, handsome, but still had this cool air about him.
We decided to meet on a rainy Monday morning (Columbus Day to be exact), because neither one of us had work. I was excited but also noncommittal about it because likely, he’d be “just like the rest of them.”
I entered the back room of Blue Stone Lane on Greenwich, the perfect little enclave for this type of tête-à-tête. It was just us two and another couple. We introduced ourselves and quickly got into conversation. But not just any old small talk. It was more like we had known each other for years. It was magical. I felt an instant connection, almost in love (a rare occurrence).
The rain was tapping the tin roof in a rhythmic pattern. It was so romantic. I felt like I was in a movie. We ate breakfast and drank coffee, but that was almost an afterthought. I was lost in him, and it felt like he was in me. Hours passed and we realized we soon had to leave because we both had to get on with our day. I could’ve stayed forever. He offered to walk me home with an umbrella, but I declined - my heart was skipping faster than I could keep up with my thoughts and I just needed to process this chance encounter.
I texted him when I got home to thank him and he responded immediately with “I don’t know what you did, but I can’t stop thinking about you. Can I see you again this week?” I was floating on cloud 9. “I’d love that”, I responded. And so our whirlwind romance began.
I came to find out he was my neighbor, the building next door. That made it easy, convenient, but also dangerous.
We dove head first into it. We went on dates and spent our days flirting. I’d meet him for coffee just before he got his work day started. He’d text me in the middle of the day to tell me he was thinking of me and asked me if I was available for dinner so he could see me. He even asked me to be his girlfriend. I was smitten. It was such a pleasant, unexpected surprise. I almost forgot about the depression I was in.
Things remained this way for about a month. But you know what they say, “the higher you climb, the harder you fall”. And sure enough, he abruptly ended things. No explanation, just a token, “I’m not feeling it”. I was devastated. I hadn’t been vulnerable or been willing to open myself up to anyone for a very long time. I gave him all of me. He broke my heart.
That was the end of November 2020. I felt lost, more loss, again. It was really hard to accept, difficult to understand because I had no answers.
Fast forward, he still lives right next to me, so naturally, I think about him everyday. I’ve run into him a couple of times and I’ve avoided contact, although he’s seen me on those occasions. A piece of me has always secretly been waiting for a text to set in - “how are you?” or “I saw you today”. That hasn’t happened.
I continue to date, but let’s just say, I haven’t let myself be vulnerable ever again."
Earlier last week week, I received my first COVID vaccination shot and quite unsurprisingly, it opened a floodgate of emotions for me. Gratitude. Relief. Shock. Pure unbridled joy. Humility. Unmistakable sadness. And even more gratitude. Since I figured I couldn't be the only person still processing how they feel about their vaccination (and perhaps more importantly, still processing how they feel about all of 2020), I opened up the stage for you all to submit your vaccination story — the idea being so that we could all collectively peek into each other's minds and hearts at what we hope is the bookend to a year that rocked us all to our core. All submissions below are anonymous and many I couldn't help but cry after reading. OK, I'll confess. I cried the entire time while reading these and then again, while compiling them here.
Moreover, there are quite a few even that punched me straight back to March of 2020, and I think we'd all do right to remember how we felt at that time. I don't say that to encourage us to feel controlled by the trauma of it but more so that we honor it to ensure the trauma wasn't in vain. Enough from me though — here are your vaccination stories that you so graciously shared with me. May they be a testament to what we endured, how we carried each other, how a great deal of brave men and women carried us all and just how incredible science can be when we trust in it.
1. "I'm a health care worker in NYC so I got my first dose a few months ago, but cried after it happened. Mostly in disbelief that there was finally a light at the end of a very dark and traumatic tunnel but also because I felt a sense of hope for the first time in over a year. Having to go almost two years without seeing my family, living alone in a studio apartment and watching people die daily and others not taking COVID seriously really took a toll on my mental health. It's so exciting to see everyone getting vaccinated and to watch the city slowly come back to life again. It feels like we are so close to the finish line. I cannot wait to hug people again, my patients included."
2. "The emotions that overcame me were quite surprising. I think we have all tried to be so strong while also trying so hard to stay healthy. I have fallen to my knees countless times praying for all those affected — physically, emotionally, financially — from day one. We are so many days out now and so much in this world has changed. But finally, all the change is headed in one direction, in the right one. We all remain unchanged after this. And we will all come out better and stronger. Still praying for all those we have lost and for all those who have experienced such loss. The lady in line in front of me hugged the person who administered the vaccine. I felt the very same way and wanted to, but was still reluctant to hug anyone. It's a great feeling knowing I can finally hug others. Life is too short not to..."
3. "Like many in 2020, I was praying for a hopeful situation to fight COVID. As the possibility of having a vaccine ready in the same year was increasing, I admittedly was one of the naysayers about getting it when it would be made available.
Call it culture caution knowing Blacks and other POC haven't had the best historical experience when it comes to new medical practices and having things injected into our bodies. But after doing some research and hearing from friends who are doctors, I felt more at ease to get vaccinated.
Though I had been uncertain, I have a precondition and have been lucky enough to not get COVID, but knew I needed to ensure my best health. So I finally decided that I would get vaccinated and I'm proud to say that I'm one shot in with one more to go.
I surprisingly got emotional and teared up after my first dose because I felt that my small act for myself, is also for the greater safety of everyone else and I'd be on the road to connect with friends, family and my godfather who I haven't seen in over a year. Shot number two is on deck for Friday and I'm very much ready!"
4. "In 2020, my husband and I planned to have a baby but once COVID hit, we decided to put that on hold. When we both got out first dose of the vaccine last week, I got emotional because I've been missing my parents a lot but also because this means we can resume family planning with a bit more confidence knowing that we have a layer of protection. Once we are both vaccinated, we are going to start trying again!"
5. "I work in marketing/communications for a hospital. We held a media event when the first shots were given to frontline healthcare workers back in December. I got to witness the first wave of doctors and other care team members who had spent the last several months caring for those in our COVID-19 units. It was humbling, inspiring and uplifting. After watching dozens of doctors line up to receive their shots, I had no doubt in my mind that I would accept the first opportunity to receive a vaccine."
6. "I'm not yet eligible in California. But the other week, my boyfriend got an email at 12:55 about a pop-up clinic run by the county one town over doing walk ups with extra shots. I had just finished a 30 minute spin bike ride, dripping sweat and gross. Ran out the door and got to the site by 1:23pm. We waited in line for two hours not knowing how many shots they had if we'd get one. We both did. I started crying in the parking lot from relief. Seeing family in three weeks for the first time in almost two years."
7. "We flew to Oklahoma (where both my husband and I are from) because my husband is Cherokee and the Cherokee Nation had vaccine availability very early on. We got vaccinated on March 18th and shortly after, they opened up availability to all Oklahomans. I felt really emotional for many reasons, mostly because we have actually stayed home this entire time. But there was also a layer of history that made me feel emotional, grateful and a little guilty. I, a white woman, was vaccinated by a group of people who had every right to withhold their resources or charge for shots and they didn't. It was a really beautiful thing."
8. "I got mine last week at the same hospital, my father-in-law passed away at last year due to COVID. It was almost a year to the date of his death. He got sick in the very beginning of the pandemic and it was so unexpected because we didn't know anything about the virus. It was something positive to think about a year after his death, that in that time a vaccine that could keep us safe was developed and we got to get it. So, so grateful for the vaccine."
9. "I was actually able to get my first shop in January and second in early February. My boyfriend is a teacher and made his appointment at the Javits Center as soon as he was eligible. At the suggestion of a friend, I went to his appointment with him and asked if there was any way I could get one too and they said yes! At first, I didn't tell anyone because I felt like I cheated or somehow took a shot away from others. But after talking to some friends in healthcare, they all reassured me that the goal is to get as many people vaccinated as possible and I didn't need to worry. So I've come around now to just feeling very grateful that I had that opportunity a couple of months ago. I feel fortunate that I haven't had to deal with the stress of finding an appointment and proud of the scientists that made it happen. I didn't think I'd be vaccinated until end of summer at the earliest so I'm feeling all the hope and joy that 30% of New Yorkers have had their first shot and that we'll be back to some semblance of normal perhaps sooner than originally expected."
10. "I received my first vaccination in Chicago at Northwestern Hospital. As a pregnant woman with asthma, I have been extremely nervous about the last year. As I was high risk before and now even at a higher risk with my baby. I was having a difficult time deciding if this was the right choice to get vaccinated while pregnant. I've received lots of unsolicited advice, but after my own research and consulting with my doctors, I'm happy I moved forward with my decision. As I sat down to receive my first vaccine, the nurse asked me how I felt to which I replied, "Excited, but nervous because I'm pregnant!" She said she was pregnant and already had both shots. I completely felt my body relax and knew I was making the right choice for me and my family."
11. "Mostly, I was very excited to get the vaccine. As I arrived at the site, I got a bit more nervous. —the only reason being I was hoping I wouldn't have adverse reaction [...] My most memorable moment with the staff was probably when I was talking to the practitioner administering the shot. She asked which arm I preferred and in turn, I asked her which was more popular, if any. She suggested my non-dominant arm because soreness at the injection site is one of the most common side effects. [...] Ever since things shut down, I haven't been able to see my grandmother. Speaking through the phone and email is great, she isn't super into social media and even refuses to get a Facebook but nothing beats giving her a hug and telling her I love her. I can't wait to be fully vaccinated so I can do that again."
12. "I've been struggling with agoraphobia and OCD during this pandemic to the point where it was hard to leave my house. It's a tough position to know you're being mentally "irrational" being afraid to leave the house while simultaneously told to stay at home. This illness got me a vaccine recommendation, outside at a hospital full of people. Two masks, a face shield, gloves and a panic attack later where I was in line at a mass vaccine site waiting in tears, freaked out to be around more people than I had in a year. As soon as the needle was in my arm, it was relief. I literally pictured the sirens that had been on loop in my mind, turning off. Overwhelming gratitude doesn't even begin to describe it."
13. "My grandfather received a life-saving kidney transplant in 2017 and COVID was especially scary for him because of how immunocompromised from he was. My husband is also immunocompromised from his medication for Crohn's disease. We didn't get to see my grandparents at all really in 2020 because of COVID — they live on the other side of the country and were really hunkered down. Well, we had to fly out last month because my grandfather ended up contracting COVID from a home healthcare worker and he ended up passing away. Not even two weeks later, my husband had his first vaccine appointment. I cried so much on the drive because it meant I'd never again have to worry about losing him to COVID the way I lost my grandfather. I prayed every day for this kind of safety and I ended up getting my own first shot on Monday. Every single day I wake up and say something to my grandpa in my head, just a little, "I love you" to fight the survivor's guilt. I am incredibly thankful to be alive and that my husband is safe. This pandemic has finally taken something truly meaningful from me (whatever about social plans or unemployment — I care about our lives more) and losing my grandfather has been the worst thing to ever happen to me. I am so thankful to modern medicine that I will never, ever have to experience that kind of pain of watching him or anyone else I know die of COVID ever again."
14. "I work for a vaccine site, so I see a lot of emotional responses and general faith in humanity kind of thing. Specially during the first few weeks and months, when it was only for seniors and those with underlying conditions. Every day we went to the site, we were thanked for everything we do, you could see people really getting teary eyed while waiting during observation. There was a sense of community and family, too. The craziest and most proof that people want the vaccine and are happy to get it was during one of the snowstorms and icy conditions the next day...we didn't close but we expected a lot of people to cancel. Turns out, out of the 2,000 scheduled, about 1,700 still came! I kind of have mixed feelings about that though because I feel like that also shows desperation. It's been a roller coaster for so many of our county's seniors. I'm a social worker, that's why I work for the vaccine site and the work is not done for making the vaccines more accessible to the most vulnerable people."
15. "My 16 year old, who made her own decision to be vaccinated, had her first dose of Pfizer the other day. I felt such joyful, expansive tears in my heart. Such awe in and gratitude for the scientists, doctors, nurses, volunteers and politicians who made it possible in such a relatively short period of time. I definitely felt the awesome weight of participating in a significant moment in human history. I felt so proud of my "maturing before my eyes" 16 year-old daughter. I felt such warmth and gratitude for the woman who gave my daughter her shot, how clearly and completely she explained the possible side effects and what to do if she experienced them. She was so calm and kind. It was a completely joy-filled experience."
16. "The day I got my first dose felt miraculous. I couldn't believe my family and I had gotten through this — though separately — unscathed. After all of our sacrifice and quiet moments, it felt like a gift and a reward to receive the vaccine. "It's a miracle!" I would shout to everyone; the receptionist, my colleagues and the doctor administering the dose. The feeling I feel now that my loved ones are fully vaccinated is indescribable. I am so grateful to our essential workers, the scientists and those who, like us, sacrificed so much to bring us to this opportunity."
17. "I had an appointment for 11:15pm on a Saturday when the Javits Center was doing Johnson & Johnson overnight. It was the most exciting Saturday night I'd had in a year! I was in sweats but changed into *real pants* and picked a top with easy arm access, washed my hair and put on makeup so the vaccination site staff would see me at my best. I cried more when I made the appointment, but teared up on the way there thinking of how this moment was a culmination of so much hard work by our healthcare and science heroes."
18. "Like a ton of bricks had been lifted off my shoulders. Also, felt like a celebrity who just won an award. The nurses/workers at the Long Island City vaccine center were all smiles and some even congratulated me as I exited the site. Overall, grateful."
19. "I've been taking care of my 92 year-old grandmother over the past year while working a full time job. Trying to explain to her what is happening and why we must do certain things but can't do others is a relationship with her I never thought I'd have. It also made me extra careful because I didn't want to get her sick, so I gave up a lot of time with friends (safely), exercising, any sort of personal time because she needed to go for drives. We're both vaccinated and I teared up getting my shot because for the first time, it felt like there would be hope."
20. "I've been struggling career-wise since I graduated college and had absolutely no passion for my job and was (still am) almost every day at work. Having a degree in biology, I've always considered going back to school to be a nurse but never acted on it because it would take too long. After another soul crushing week at work, I got my first vaccine on Friday afternoon and the vibes in the room were so uplifting I could've cried from happiness. The nurse that gave me my vaccine was the same age as me and was incredibly kind and excited to give me my shot. I knew in that moment I had to do what she was doing, not in a lab (I work in pharma) but in real life, helping people. A few weeks ago, when I got my second shot, it was given by the same nurse and I told her how much she inspired me and she started to tear up and I did, too. We've all been through so much the past year and I finally can see the light at the end of the tunnel! I enrolled in summer school for pre-requisites!"
"It's a great feeling knowing I can finally hug others. Life is too short not to..."
21. "I was able to make appointments for my parents, a few of their coworkers, then eventually my partner and myself! We were lucky enough to have appointments within 15 minutes of each other so we got to the wait together before and after. As we start there in the CVS after our first shot, I swear I could've cried. We just stared at each other in disbelief and pure joy. It really was a life changing moment. There's so much hope now that I have it! Also, I get my second shot tomorrow, a day before my birthday! Best present ever."
22. "I live in Poland where the pandemic hit hard. On top of that, I was pregnant and went to the hospital to give birth during the "hardest" lockdown in my country. So when I heart that they were going to vaccinate teachers (yep, my profession) I was thrilled. However, only working ones and I was on maternity leave...Fortunately, they have changed it and I could take Astrazeneca, maybe not my choice of vaccine but still better than nothing. Currently, I'm 9 weeks after the first shot and it's OK. Waiting for the second dose."
23. "My vaccine experience was pretty boring honestly. I waited in the Walgreens line, got the shot and left. I didn't have side effects outside of a sore arm for a day which I'm grateful for but I was definitely expecting to burst into tears and just...didn't. I think it'll hit me at another time but right now, I almost feel too close for comfort, like someone's going to pull the rug out from under me. Like it's not quite real yet. Don't get me wrong, I'm so grateful and know how lucky I am, but it's more of a quiet appreciation than a big, dramatic feeling."
24. "I volunteer at a local rural vaccination center in the UK and the overwhelming majority feel the same way you and others do — amazement at the efficiency and simplicity of the process, gratitude for being called up to receive theirs and hope for the future. At our center, patients are vaccinated in groups and that makes it feel even more of a shared experience with everyone moving forward together. I feel fortunate to be able to help people take a step closer to their future and to be in a position to contribute towards making sure as many people as possible come out of this alive and healthy."
25. "I'm a city employee (not in healthcare). I did multiple shifts at a city-run vaccination site downtown and got my first shot at the end of my first shift. It was incredibly emotion and rewarding to be vaccinated and also to play a small role in helping a few thousand people get theirs!"
26. "It hit me near the midtown tunnel on my drive home. I saw the NYC skyline and cried."
27. "Drove two hours for the first one. Did it for my mom who didn't make it to see 2021."
28. "It was so surreal!I had to drive 65 miles round trip and I got it in my car. (I live in Georgia.)"
29. "I showed up bra-less and with a thankful heart! I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel."
30. "I'm a teacher and when I got my first one, the pharmacist said it had been a fun day because all day she'd only given shots to teachers and everyone was so happy. She celebrated with each of us!"
31. "I screamed to the doctor, "THIS IS A MIRACLE!" and I cried."
32. "As soon as I received the final shot, I started tearing up. I knew the sacrifices, the stress, the death of others and the sorrow in their families. But I didn't realize how much I was grinning until the last shot was done. Over a year of bated breath — an exhale of emotional release."
33. "I teared up when I was waiting in line and then during my 15 minutes waiting time. Hope!"
34. "I didn't want to do it until I decided to fly to visit my sister in the United States so I had do."
35. "It was the best, most reassuring feeling. It felt like progress and one step closer to normalcy."
36. "Shock and giddiness that I finally actually got one!"
37. "A kind volunteer saw that I was pregnant and let me skip the line at my second appointment."
38. "Relieved I will have some freedom during maternity leave since I had zero while I was pregnant."
39. "Surreal, happy, but also kept waiting for the orchestral score or a sunbeam to shine through."
40. "I felt so lucky and grateful in that moment, to make any contribution towards ending this awful pandemic. So many people cannot yet access the vaccine and we are so lucky in America to be able to get it now. I only wish everyone who was eligible would get the shot!"
41. "As a teacher, I felt relief, happiness and a bit of moral superiority."
42. "I cried on the Uber ride to get my first shot. Looking out the window and silently reflecting on everything I'd (we'd) been through this past year. A culmination of everything an overwhelming sense of gratitude and hope! Also, teared up after the nurse was done and put the bandage on. We made eye contact and shared a moment — it felt like a shared victory. So thankful for the work of so many who carried us on their backs through this thing."
43. "At Moscone Center in San Francisco, volunteers were smiling and happy. At the exits, they played pop music and people were dancing and giving socially distanced high fives and elbow hellos. And they said "Congratulations on your vaccination" or "It's a big day." and it felt like a big, happy day indeed. It was a very emotional and inspiring experience (made me want to volunteer but alas, everyone had the same idea and there were no volunteer slots available)."
"Drove two hours for the first one. Did it for my mom who didn't make it to see 2021."
44. "I did not expect to get emotional because I was more excited than anything, but as I was walking up to the Javits Center this morning, I started tearing up. And then when I saw the signs they're scheduled to vaccinate some 9,300 New Yorkers that day, it got me again. I knew returning to NYC was the right thing to do, mainly because I missed it like crazy the last five months, but also because I knew how well they were going to handle the vaccine rollout and today moved like clockwork. In and out in 30 minutes (because of the observation period). I know we will have a long way to go but it feels like there's actually a light at the end of the tunnel now."
45. "I was living in Atlanta and moving to NYC in two days. Alabama opened up eligibility to lawyers and did not have any residency requirements so I found an appointment at a CVS in a very random small town about two hours away for the next day. The nurse and three other people in line were also from Atlanta. I (luckily!) was able to make an appointment for my second dose in NYC at a CVS in Times Square (of all places). It was very surreal. I felt utter excitement getting my first dose but the second felt much more solemn...an eerily quiet Times Square outside but I was surrounded by New Yorkers that lived through an unimaginable year. When the nurse put the bandaid on with a cheerful "Congratulations!" I started to cry. I felt joy, relief, sadness over everyone that didn't make it to this point and such an overwhelming sense of gratitude."
46. "My aunt who heads the general physician department at a state hospital in the suburbs of Chicago worked four weeks straight at one point last year. She finally had a long weekend and the doctor in charge that weekend was diagnosed with COVID and my aunt aunt went back into work for another weekend. Two days off at a stretch was vacation to her. In December, when she got her first shot, I was so relieved for her and her family. Last Tuesday, when I got my first shot, I was excited but so relieved that health care workers have one less person (two including my husband) to worry about. I called my aunt saying I'll visit her this summer and she was so excited, I could hear it her in voice. I can't wait to see this incredible woman."
47. "My parents and I got our vaccines on my dad's birthday — a year later from the day we had our last family celebration together indoors before everything went wrong. I remember we all felt so unsure about things and were trying to get my sister and cousin flights home from London where they were studying. I couldn't believe that exactly a year later we would be getting the vaccine and I definitely didn't realize how much immediate relief it would provide. My parents got their shots before me and as I drove to the clinic, I cried in relief. The past year has been filled with anxiety, especially because I live with my parents right now and never wanted them to get sick, so to know they were safe and protected was the most amazing gift. I am so grateful for everyone who made the vaccines possible and I hope that we can all start living fuller lives again soon!"
48. "I got my vaccination at Javits Center I told the nurse I was nervous and that I get queasy from blood/needles. The doctor came over and suggested laying me down for the shot instead. They changed the conversation while I was getting the shot and were so kind. I lay there for about 10 minutes and the nurse walked me out with a bottle of water and a sticker in my hand! The military was intimidating but the nurses were so kind of another level."
49."I was so grateful to everyone, thanking all the volunteers individually. They were so happy for the gratitude! It was beyond efficient too as everything in Hong Kong is. The gal who gave me my shot complimented me on my perfume and looked it up then and there. Her name is Painsy. I hope I get her again on Monday. She can't get the vaccine because of allergies."
50. "Since January, I've been working a few days a week at several of the NYC-run vaccination sites. My most memorable experience was in the beginning of January when the vaccine was first made available to people 75+. Family after family would carefully and slowly walk their elderly matriarch, patriarch, great aunts and uncles, parents and other loved ones — sometimes with a cane, sometimes locked arm in arm to their vaccine table. Though each family was different, the feeling they emanated after the vaccine was administered was the same — like a thousand pounds of weight was lifted off of each family members shoulders. Their precious and vulnerable loved one was finally protected. We would see hundreds of families in a day and it made the vaccination room (a converted middle school cafeteria) feel overwhelmingly electric with a sense of relief and hope."
51. "I got vaccinated today! It was exciting and I was a little nervous, not about getting it but more about the potential side effects. It was quick, very organized and I definitely was grateful. I also made sure to thank each staff member I came in contact with. And when I sat with my administering nurse, I learned that her name was also Sandy! We chatted about how rate it is to meet other Sandys and before I knew it, I was done."
52. "One memorable moment was that this stab actually bled; the first dose didn't. It was unexpected for both me and the pharmacist who administered the vaccine so we both sort of made the same shocked expression!"
53. "I received an appointment for the Moderna shot in a town about 15 minutes from where I live. I was over the moon while also being nervous — of needles, potential side effects and a feeling of "what if this doesn't work and we continue living this way?" The minute I found out I was getting a Moderna shot (or the Dolly shot), I burst into tears of joy and optimism but also so much gratitude! For those scientists who got us to this point. Those who funded it to this point. The nurses and the staff hosting the vaccine clinics.
For my second dose, I wore sequins. I mean, it only felt appropriate as a tribute to Dolly and a tribute to the hope of a new day ahead. I've never felt more appreciative of modern medicine or universal health care than I did while receiving my second shot."
54. "My vaccine experience was uneventful — Pfizer at JAVax Center — minimum side effects. What was special about the experience were the National Guard personnel stationed there. I thanked each one for their service — they were kind, efficient and thoughtful. I was told there were no stickers left when asked for one. As I was about to leave a young woman — Sargent Giles — came up to me: she had located a sticker since I seemed so disappointed and handed it to me. A small but signifiant act of kindness, which somehow represented "we're all in this together."
Our old handbags are such time capsules, aren't they? Gateways to our past, messengers bearing the odds and ends once upon a time we deemed important enough to carry with us for the day, month, or perhaps, in certain instances, even years. In them, you might find old credit cards you assumed were lost, lipstick shades you once loved, a stray bobby pin or two or, if you're lucky, little hand written notes, reminders for a rainy day that never came (or that guy you never called!). I love cleaning out old bags of mine — they're treasure troves of insights to a yesterday out of reach.
So the other day, as we drove out to Staten Island for our first COVID vaccination shot, I couldn't help but wonder how I might feel on a random Tuesday, in a distant future, when I'm cleaning out a few of the bags I toted around with me during 2020. What might the clues look like? Would I find a spare mask? Perhaps some hand sanitizer? An "I Voted" sticker? Or maybe, just maybe, tucked away as a bookmark in an old poetry book, I'll find my vaccination card — the harbinger of light at the end of a very long and dark year, in which the heroism of brave men and women answered the call to selflessly carry us all on their backs. Of course, we have a long way to go from here, as my future self likely knows all too well, but I like to think as she’s sitting there in this distant daydream future of mine with old bags all around her and 2020 well behind her, she’ll vividly remember exactly how she felt after her first shot — so terribly grateful she could burst.
For all my fellow New Yorkers, be sure to check out the CVS website between midnight and 1am each evening, as they tend to add new appointment slots around this time. Just be patient and keep refreshing! And starting tomorrow, everyone over the age of 16 is eligible — so let's go New York, let's do this!
"Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack, a crack in everything / That's how the light gets in."
~ Leonard Cohen
I remember listening to this Leonard Cohen song — "Anthem"— the day after the 2016 Presidential election, and just a few days after Cohen's passing. There's an introspectiveness and melancholy to Cohen's storytelling through song that always seems to find me when I need it most, in the most unexplained, but welcome ways. Sadly, I've needed Cohen more and more often the past several years. For many reasons, really. And for one reason mainly.
Cohen wasn't known to explain his music often but he did give a rare insight to "Anthem" in a radio interview segment from 1992. Given the horrific crimes we've witnessed this week in Atlanta against our Asian American Pacific Islander community— and in the previous months as well, largely thanks to inflammatory and racist rhetoric from a former United States President, I thought Cohen's words here could help us find our purpose and our courage to keep fighting for the humanity of others. To keep working to let the light in.
"The future is no excuse for an abdication of your own personal responsibilities towards yourself and your job and your love. “Ring the bells that still can ring” they’re few and far between but you can find them.
This situation does not admit of solution of perfection. This is not the place where you make things perfect, neither in your marriage, nor in your work, nor anything, nor your love of God, nor your love of family or country. The thing is imperfect.
And worse, there is a crack in everything that you can put together: Physical objects, mental objects, constructions of any kind. But that’s where the light gets in, and that’s where the resurrection is and that’s where the return, that’s where the repentance is. It is with the confrontation, with the brokenness of things."
Like many of you, I am heartbroken, gutted and devastated by the proliferation of hate crimes against our minority communities in this country. And this week's mass shooting, that resulted in the murder of 8 people, 6 of whom, were Asian women is another horrific punch to the stomach. Make no mistake, this was a racially motivated hate crime, no matter how the shooter might explain his "bad day" defense. Which means, I can't even begin to imagine the pain and fear my AAPI friends are going through— to feel unwelcome and unsafe in America, their home.
Sadly, the older I get, the more I realize, there isn't much that surprises me anymore, particularly when it comes to racism in this country. And I hate that it's currently 2021, and that previous sentence is largely true for all of you reading this, too. Racism is an insidious, heinous disease that can yes, explode in the ways we've seen it splashed across headlines, particularly this last year alone. But the even more dangerous thing about racism is that it largely courses through a seedy underbelly, oftentimes undetected or at least, unchecked. Our own history books are a prime example of this, with omissions of important figures, alterations of events or complete falsifying of the truth. All in effort to perpetuate a narrative that supports and upholds systems of white supremacy.
To circle this back with Cohen, I know I may not have the perfect words at all times, but I am committed to standing with those who need me. Because we all need each other. To listen. To learn. To understand. To empathize. To champion. To defend. To love. Until we all receive those basic human rights, until we ALL feel safe, none of us are safe.
If you'd like to dive into ways to get involved or perhaps better understand how we can all take action against hate crimes, particularly in regards to our AAPI communities, I've put together a brief and by no means comprehensive resource list of stats, organizations and charities working to stop Asian hate. Please join me in helping to let the light in.
40% of U.S. adults believe "it has become more common for people to express racist views toward Asians since the pandemic began" (Source: Pew Research)
More than 1,800 racist incidents against Asian Americans were reported between March and May of 2020, according to a United Nations Report (Source: CBS News)
By late April, a coalition of Asian-American groups that had created a reporting center called Stop AAPI Hate, said it had received almost 1,500 reports of incidents of racism, hate speech, discrimination, and physical attacks against Asians and Asian-Americans. (Source: Human Rights Watch)
Create to Stop Hate: If you are or know anyone who is an AAPI artist, brand, creative or maker, this organization is currently looking for submissions to be auctioned off as a means of raising funds for Stop AAIP Hate, the organization I listed above. For questions regarding submissions, head to the @createtostophate Instagram profile for more details.
And as always, if you have any resources you'd like to add to the above list, please do let me know!
I'm not an overly fussy person when it comes to birthdays. In fact, perhaps it's the Pisces in me, but a big celebration in my honor stresses me out just to think about — let alone, plan. Which is why I'll always tend to favor small and intimate gatherings — the unavoidable theme of this past year perhaps for us all, whether we liked it or not.
A few weeks ago, on a cold February Friday, I turned 35. It was a quiet day of heads down work and creative tasks for campaigns I had in flight, followed by dinner and a movie at home with my two favorite guys. It snowed for most of the day, which was the perfect extra excuse I needed to sit at my window as dusk settled, waiting for the glow of the apartment windows around us to pepper the palpably cold darkness outside.
You see, birthdays always bring a heavy dose of introspection for me. That might sound overly despondent, and perhaps it is, but I don't mind it much. The truth is — the further I move along into my 30s, the more comfortable I feel actually sitting with things, reflecting on them, understanding what it is about them that makes me happy and similarly, what it is about them that makes me sad. And this past year, this past trip around the sun? There was plenty to be thankful for, to celebrate, to cherish, to learn from, and yes, there was plenty to mourn as well — each one no more valuable than the other, each one deserving of headspace, especially as I closed out yet another proverbial chapter, in preparation for the next.
In the past, I might have written a pithy collection of 35 things I've learned in 35 years but I have a feeling that's been done many times before. So instead, I'd rather leave you with one particular truth I've come to underscore time and time again and that's a certain Maya Angelou quote that I think applies so beautifully to practically everything: "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
As for these photos? Well, let's just say, while I may turn down a big fancy, soirée in my honor, that doesn't mean I'll skip out on dressing up for any and all other occasions, formal or not.
"We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were." ~ Joan Didion
I've been thinking about this Joan Didion quote a lot lately. Particularly in regards to this past year. A year that many of us, I'm sure, would resoundingly say, we will likely never forget. A year that brought deafening silence to our streets. A year that left so much pain and devastation and loss in its wake. A year that, despite our best efforts to stay connected, left us feeling more and more alone by the day. Sometimes by the minute. A year seared into our memories — our lives turned upside down seemingly overnight. To forget it at this point, seems almost impossible. Unthinkable perhaps.
And yet, that's the thing about hard memories, isn't it? They're the first thing you try to block out. To run away from. To avoid. At this stage, I'm not sure where we'll net out when we all reflect back on the year 2020, especially as it becomes a more distant, bad nightmare in the years to come. As someone who is incredibly thankful for the fact she emerged relatively unscathed (for the most part) from the pandemic, with the health of her close friends and family in good standing, it's been a year that's made me vow to myself over and over again the same realization: "I can't ever forget how fortunate I am."
But the same creeping fear returns to whisper back, "You will forget." Maybe that's self-preservation talking. Perhaps it's just lazy convenience. Or maybe it's faulty nerve connections in our brains — age taking its toll as it inevitably does one way or another.
Whatever the reason, everything that follows past this point is a means of reminding myself (and perhaps some of you) for an idle Tuesday down the road, let's say in 2052. A recording of my chapter in New York City at the brink of the strangest year where I witnessed, first hand, the world almost instantly, stop spinning.
March of 2020 for me started off on a hectic note. Fashion week had concluded just a few weeks prior and I had two back to back work trips almost immediately afterward — the first to St. Lucia and the second was a press tour around California. It was a blur of flights, rental cars, taxis and Ubers, early call times and late night dinners, waiting in TSA lines, lugging around overly packed luggage and trying to document it all the while. I vividly remember feeling exhausted in a visceral way, vowing to myself, "I need to take a break from traveling for awhile" not realizing just how ironic that statement would feel over the coming weeks.
Of course, COVID was a very real news story at this point developing around the world, but the murmurings of it potentially locking down the United States didn't feel concrete enough to worry about. Surely, that wouldn't happen here. That couldn't happen here, could it? It wasn't until we were sitting at LAX on March 8, waiting for our final red eye flight home to JFK that it hit me just how deserted the airport was. No crowds. No long check in lines. TSA was a breeze. We sat in the lounge area for Delta, sipping coffee and reviewing headlines. Our flight was eerily empty. Even the crew carried themselves in a way that felt like they knew something we didn't. Something palpable felt looming in the air. I closed my eyes at takeoff and reminded myself, "You'll be home soon."
That week back in New York felt oddly calm at first, now that I think about it. I fell back into work, prepping for projects, editing photos for brand review, riding a packed subway around the city for meetings. Life was still beating along as it always does, as it always had. I was scheduled to host a brand event here in the city on March 12, a little soirée uptown on Madison Avenue. In a flurry of text messages, I was reminding my friends of the details for the event, letting them know how much I was looking forward to seeing them. We joked back and forth about picking up extra toilet paper and hand sanitizer, not truly seeing the tsunami wave that was about to hit us all.
On Wednesday March 11th a day before my event, the NBA announced their cancellation of the 2020 season until further notice. Around that time, NYC had over 700 confirmed cases of COVID, rising each day and schools were slated to close, with NYC restaurants, bars and businesses to follow soon after. I distinctly remember sitting in Fairfax, one of my favorite restaurants in the village where I often work, texting my manager, "We need to cancel tomorrow's event, right?"
Looking up and around at the restaurant I was working from, I started to wonder, "Should I even be here? Is this safe? How can I tell if I'm actually 6 feet from the patrons next to me?" If I'm being completely honest, had I known that would have been my last time in a restaurant for many, many months, I think I'd relish it a bit more. Perhaps order that indulgent burger on the menu as opposed to the salad. Maybe ask for that cocktail, instead of the green tea. I suppose a part of me still believed, as I'm sure we all did in those initial weeks, this will pass. Give it some time and things will be back to normal soon.
I sent out a mass text to everyone I had invited to my party, letting them know the event was canceled and that I wanted them all to stay safe and stay at home. The tone was very much "This is crazy but I'll see you soon."
I packed up my laptop, settled my bill with the waiter and walked home. It was an usually warm March day and I had a craving to sit out on my fire escape. So I did, blissfully unaware that same fire escape would largely become my window to the world for the better part of the next 365 days to follow. That night, my boyfriend and I placed an online grocery delivery order, somewhat encouraged by the idea of trying to cook more at home — a goal we typically failed at thanks to Seamless — and settled in for the night. Two homebodies not necessarily upset at the prospect of a now very clear social calendar.
Of course, the weeks, and subsequent months that followed were unlike anything this homebody anticipated. How could I? How could any of us? Those initial weeks in March and April were hardest for me. I'd wake up each day, tune in for Gov. Cuomo's daily Coronavirus briefings and try to make some sense of our new reality. The numbers were staggering. PPE was scarce. Hospital beds were limited. And here I was, living in the U.S. epicenter of it all. Miles away from my family. Scared to go outside. Or be near anyone. With work contracts indefinitely pushed back, some altogether canceled, I wasn't sure how my business would ultimately fare through this storm.
Outside, the city hibernated, streets and avenues where life usually bustled, now lay dormant, except for the constant echoing of an ambulance siren piercing the March sky. I know I'm not alone when I say it was a living nightmare. None of us knew what each day would bring, in big and small ways. And that anxiety was downright crippling at times.
To cope, I threw myself into creative outlets — photography, writing, editing — but when the weight of the world forces you into a bubble of your own making, it's only a matter of time before those outlets don't fuel you in the same way they used to. But then again, what option did we have? The stakes were too high. So we persisted on.
I'd like to pause here and remind my future self in 2052, that 2020 held a lot of promise, as well. Some silver linings that showed us our true strength, our connections, our resilience. Some unexpected outcomes of solidarity and commitment. Some big and small blessings and yes, some hard, long overdue reckonings that showed us just how broken and fractured our society really is. In a lot of ways, 2020 opened our eyes and hearts to insidious social injustices that had been persisting for far too long. I can't definitively say 2020 was the catalyst, but I do think it played a pivotal role in helping us truly see and recognize our own humanities and those of others.
I never want to forget that. Moreover, we can't forget that.
I titled this post "memories of your last normal day" for a reason — not so much for us to yearn for a time before this all happened, but more so as a reminder as to what's at stake if we forget about the 365 days that followed that last normal day. In order for us to return to some semblance of life as knew it, we have to honor the price we paid over the course of 2020. And my friends, that price was high. Extremely high.
"We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were."
Perhaps Didion is right. She often is. Perhaps to forget is just a part of human nature. And maybe that's the inevitable thing we have to fight here, with every ounce of our being. We have to remind ourselves of who and what we used to be, what we went through, what we overcame, whether we liked it or not, or we're predestined, doomed even, to wrestle with it at 4am maybe in the year 2052, when our mind goes wandering.
So in the spirit of remembering, here's a sampling of your last "normal day" memories that you shared with me on Instagram. May their recounting be a harbinger for brighter days ahead. For brighter days for us all.
I went to the pub. We hung out all afternoon in the sun.
I went to a department store that was closing that day to buy things for my daughter's 21st birthday in June! I never thought we'd still be in lockdown then three months later.
I was in Cozumel, checking the news before snorkeling and realized we would return to a lockdown.
We had a family game night.
I ate tacos while overlooking the city with my best friend of 25 years. It was damn near perfect.
I saw my five day old niece and then didn't see her for three months even though I only lived 5 miles away.
Unfortunately, I can't remember.
I went out with friends in the Mission (in San Francisco) thinking we'd see each other in two weeks.
I went to dinner with a girlfriend at Hillstone (in NYC) because we joked it might be our last meal out.
It was actually my birthday! I went out for a dinner at a crowded restaurant with family.
Peeking through my curtains to see if there was a free seat at my favorite spot across the street.
I remember standing on the train platform and thinking how gorgeous the weather was!
I went out with a friend for some sushi at a Japanese food center in London and then for a glass of wine.
Family style dinner with 8 girlfriends sharing dishes and drinks and laughs.
My daily 200 mile commute for work, 100 miles each way.
My husband and I used to go to the movies a lot, our last one was March 10th. We saw Emma.
Celebrated my birthday and met strangers while out dancing at a crowded bar.
A packed Trader Joe's with my mom, mask-less. Received an email recommending we work from home.
I went on a date for the first time in two years -- we then virtually dated all quarantine.
Happy hour with coworkers and a venue tour for my 12/21 wedding. I thought I was planning ahead.
Spent hours wandering through the National Art Gallery in DC.
I was at school. The last day with the kids.
I remember my students being very excited that school was going to be canceled. How naive we were.
I saw Yo-Yo Ma at Carnegie Hall.
Now tell me, what memories do you have of your last "normal" day?
It's a conscious and deliberate decision to wake up each day and seize the beautiful. To sing the beautiful. To craft the beautiful. To narrate, to shape, to mold, to speak truth to the beautiful. Not so much in expensive things or grand buildings or what your hair looks like on a given day, although those things are wonderful in their own right, but it's in the quiet in between moments, too. Perhaps even more so. The imperfect moments. The humbling moments. The no-one-is-looking-and-perhaps-no-one-is-noticing moments. The moments that don’t garner a social currency online. Seize those. And run with them. Run and don't look back, until your appetite for them becomes so second nature it's like breathing or reaching for your morning coffee or better yet, a Friday night glass of wine.
For the better part of the past 11 years or so of running This Time Tomorrow, I've always wanted this idea to be the forefront of my content, that being the pursuit of beauty. And certainly not in the conventional way we're trained to think of beauty. To me, beauty is so much more than how you put yourself together or how expensive your wardrobe totals out to be — and it's not a blessing only bestowed on the young and seemingly wrinkle-free. And I freely admit that as someone who has had to spend years retraining herself to see beauty through a different lens. Through a multi-faceted lens. Through a wider lens.
And that's what I hope to do for you here on This Time Tomorrow. To encourage you to see, to craft, to seek out the beautiful in your every day, no matter what it looks like. To appreciate a beautiful dress just as much as a beautiful, historic building. To appreciate the craftsmanship of an investment bag just as much as the craftsmanship of a captivating documentary, memoir or photograph. To appreciate the beautiful bodies we're all given as well the minds we have the privilege of cultivating. Both need attention and care and in my opinion, celebration.
Simply put — beauty is in the everyday details, if we just take the time to slow down, stop scrolling and truly notice.
I've felt pretty strongly the past few years that I want this site to be about far more than just a conversion rate. Personally, I don't want my "internet legacy" to depend solely on how much I encouraged you to buy at my recommendation. In fact, to be perfectly honest, I would much prefer I played a role in encouraging you to take that disposable income and invest it wisely — stocks, real estate, education instead. It'll serve you far better and far longer, I promise.
So when it came down to writing a succinct manifesto for this new chapter, this new look that you now see for This Time Tomorrow, I kept coming back to this notion of substance. These days, I feel empty if there isn't an emotional substance to what I'm consuming or creating and my sincere hope is that you feel nourished in some way after visiting my site. Whether that's through an outfit you'd like to emulate with items in your own closet, a beautiful location with an equally arresting story behind it, a trip that inspires a cultural curiosity in you or perhaps, it's in the storytelling itself — getting lost in the words and visuals. Whatever the reason, I hope there's something that grabs you here, shakes you gently by the shoulders and whispers, "Let's get lost in the details together."
With that — I just want to say, welcome (or welcome back) to This Time Tomorrow — the discerning soul's destination for all things style and substance. I'm so honored to have you here. I hope you stay a while.