First things first, we’re all healthy and I hope you are, too. I’ve had many loved ones and acquaintances diagnosed with COVID, but everyone has recovered pretty quickly, thank God.
After many consecutive months at home – many more than I’ve ever spent before! – I was beyond ready for my two quick, driving-distance trips out of town. The shocking turn of events this year has made me more aware of how short life is and how we should appreciate every moment, every trip and every friend. Not always easy in an election year, especially this one, where decency is out the window and empathy seems to be a thing of the past. But I’m trying to stay mindful about the good stuff, because it’s still there!
In August, I celebrated my 14th year as a blogger. Well, I didn’t really celebrate it… in the midst of all this upheaval, I actually forgot. As I live and breathe, I did not see this future for me when I created BigAppleAngie.Blogspot.com in 2006 to keep my family updated on my life in New York City. And now here I am, God-willing on the cusp of my first book deal, doing my best to keep the lights on amid a worldwide pandemic and planning for a better 2021. Much has changed this year in my professional world, but this post I wrote last year on 13 Changes I’ve Seen in 13 Years of Blogging still rings true.
Let’s get down to business and peep the highs and lows of the past 90 days!
RAE’S BEACH BACH IN KEY WEST
Up until Labor Day weekend, I’d stayed at exactly zero hotels since March. No flights, either. I haven’t been stationary this long since maybe high school. Did not see 2020 coming, I’ll tell ya what. I was excited – and a bit nervous, tbh – to venture out for the first time since COVID arrived.
Rae has been so chill about the many cancellations and reschedulings, but the fact is, everyone getting married in 2020 has gotten the short end of the stick. Sure, as long as you end up with your person, that’s a win… but there’s plenty of disappointment to go around even so.
We originally had grand ideas for a week in the Greek Isles or a snazzy Caribbean cruise, but like everything else this year, COVID stomped all over the plans. Still, Key West is one of the world’s top destinations for a bachelorette party so it was hardly a sacrifice for us. We went on a dolphin safari, ate incredible food and stayed at The Perry Hotel, my new Key West favorite.
It was such a fun trip with Rae’s besties from middle/high school. I’ll never forget the last time I was in the car with those two (maybe 2012?), yelling “I will turn this car around!”
Good news addendum: we got our first COVID tests done after the trip just to be extra safe, and we were negative. Very good news!
FIRST DRAFT DONE
Patience when it comes to work is not my strong suit. When I’m working on a project, I’m usually laser-focused and quick. I like to finish things. I am an Enneagram 3 for better or worse. So traditional book publishing is the opposite of speedy. Things just take time… sometimes lots of time. I’m basically in a glass case of emotion as I await news from my literary agent. She’s awesome and having amazing conversations behind the scenes, but I’m so used to making things happen, it’s weeeeird just waiting for things to happen.
While I wait though, I did finish something. The book! Well, the first draft. It’s not ready for any beta readers yet, but soon.
I’m going to contradict that last paragraph and make a liar of myself now and remind y’all that I’ve been writing this book in drips and drabs for 9 years… so, ok, there’s a project I haven’t been so quick about. But I accepted a writer’s residency at Air Serenbe just south of Atlanta, and once I was away from the million things I have to get done at home, I just focused on the task and got.it.done. Can you believe I wrote 40% of it in a week?!
I can’t wait to put this story in your hands!
JOREL’S ZOOM WEDDING
Rick and I attended our first Zoom wedding in September! Jorel is one of my oldest and dearest friends (we met at 13, attended UF at the same time and ended up as roomies in NYC) and I’m so happy he found his match in Angela. I know it’s not the wedding they had in mind, but it was beautiful nonetheless. Have you attended a Zoom wedding yet?
Hamilton came out on Disney+ and even though I ugly cry every.single.time, I’m just so grateful that it exists! Have you seen my Alexander Hamilton travel guide? If you’re as wild about this period of American history as I am, it’s a must read.
IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT
Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. It sure feels like we’re in a more precarious place than we’ve ever been with fires, hurricanes, explosions, disease, earthquakes, tornadoes, shootings, riots… it’s a lot.
I think some of my pessimism can be attributed to the fact that billions of people now have megaphones by way of social media and they’re all virtually shouting conflicting, often un-researched, information, hate and conspiracies at each other all the time. (Um, also, the men running for president are literally shouting at each other, so that’s fun.)
We have more access to news from far away than we ever have, so I take some solace in knowing that. (And plan accordingly by trying to doomscroll a bit less every day.)
For me, it’s not the bad news that’s the worst of it even. There have always been worldwide crises, disasters and trauma… it’s just that now, it feels a bit like the veneer has been scratched off and underneath it, maybe people don’t care all that much about the plights of others. Even the people who are supposed to be the most caring, the most empathetic and the most loving. It feels defeatist to write that and maybe I’ll come back and delete it when I have a jolt of optimism, but for now I’m disappointed in humans.
I can’t tell you how hard it’s been not having consistent work or knowing if/when tourism is going to bounce back enough to get us back to where we were in February. Yes, many domestic destinations are opening back up, but logistically it’s all still too uncertain for a full episode shoot. So many tours and attractions are still closed or operating on a reservation-only basis, it’s just not feasible to get back to our normal work schedule yet. And roughly 50% of my contacts at tourism boards and travel companies have been laid off.
I’m not sure things are ever going back to “normal” in my world. That might be a good thing on one hand – the freebie influencers might disappear back into the shadows, and we’ll all be better for it.
But the vultures are out in full force, too, taking advantage of the pandemic. Today, after sharing my rates for a content project, a marketer offered me 10% of my usual rate “due to COVID.” I politely declined, reminding him my company of two has experienced catastrophic loss of income during the pandemic, and he replied:
“Yes, I understand that everyone suffered. Therefore, I propose a cooperation. I can pay you 10% and you can improve your situation. Or you reject our deal and get nothing.“
First of all, enjoy the spam folder, pal.
Second of all, this is now a daily occurrence in my inbox. From an email yesterday: “Well, COVID shrunk our budget so we can’t pay your rate.” I’ve written about working for free ad nauseam, so I won’t rehash, but I’ll tell you that I haven’t been doing this for 14 years to start from the bottom again. A reckoning is at hand and everything may be different on the other side.
Rest assured, I’m not panicking! God will provide for us, of that I’m sure.
EVERYTHING IS CANCELLED
We had three group trips planned this year and if things had gone to plan, we would’ve just wrapped our adventure to the Jane Austen Festival in Bath, UK. As the dates for each of our trips approached, I confess it was hard not to be a bit sulky. If not for COVID, we would’ve filmed multiple episodes of The Jet Sisters this quarter and would’ve spoken at a couple conferences around the country. I’m constantly reminding myself that it’s ok to be bummed out. Life is upside down and that’s a normal, correct, healthy response.
Work-life balance is a rabbit I’ve been chasing since I quit my job almost 10 years ago. I’ve been trying, through sheer willpower and determination, to make rest and slowing down a part of my life. Here’s the thing: I’m absolutely terrible at resting. Every edition of Reflections from the Road since the beginning has had some iteration of “I have to chill out, relax, stop stressing, get healthy,” etc.
I was finally getting somewhere early this year when COVID hit and — boom. I had no other choice but to stay put. And not just in Florida or in Jacksonville. IN MY HOUSE. Just a few months of that has been an unexpected way to settle down all my overloaded systems. Without social obligations and family get-togethers and networking and conferences and video shoots, I’ve just been doing all the things behind the scenes I never get to do. Like breathing, taking naps, waking up and drinking coffee on the porch, getting dressed before sitting at the computer, going on long walks in the neighborhood, tending my garden of tomatoes, limes, figs, peppers, sweet potatoes and herbs, and being a friendly Airbnb host.
There’s newfound space to listen to my body and to set boundaries that work for me that I may never have discovered if not for this forced rest. I hate what COVID has done to the world, but if I can find any personal silver lining, this is it.
FOOD IS GOOD
In my multi-year journey of figuring out why everything hurts, here’s a new discovery: I’ve been starving myself for 30+ years. I’ve never been anorexic or bulimic, but dangerously disordered eating goes well beyond those parameters. This is all news to me so I’m still figuring out how to heal my metabolism, but I credit the book, the F*ck It Diet, by Caroline Dooner, with opening my eyes.
I’ve got a lengthy posts about health revelations coming at some point, but I’m not rushing it.
Other super helpful books I’ve read in the past 90 days:
- I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, Austin Channing Brown
- Atomic Habits, James Clear
- The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel Van Der Kolk
FLORIDA IS SO FLORIDA
Did you know that here in Florida, we are on Phase 3 of reopening? Our governor, lovingly referred to by many as Ron DeathSantis, has decided COVID is over. Kids are back in school, restaurants are open at full capacity and counties are individually ending their mask mandates. I haven’t been anywhere else in the country (aside from my residency in Georgia, in a cabin in the woods), so I’m not sure how it’s going down in other places, but this feels premature.
You know what though, as long as the stock market is good, it’ll probably all be fine. COVID is only for other people. Right?
We can make our plans but God determines our steps. Proverbs 16:9
I can’t believe it but Rick and I are celebrating five years of marriage in October. Doesn’t it seem like just yesterday we were showing up to our wedding venue only to find it under construction? Unforgettable doesn’t begin to describe our wedding week at Bahama Beach Club.
Everyone said a disastrous wedding meant we’d have a great marriage, and that has been the case by and large. I’m going to share some of the photos and videos that got lost in the post-wedding fallout / stalking / harassment / threats from the venue, so get ready. You’ll be sick of hearing about our looooove by the end of October – ha!
More importantly… what the heck am I supposed to get Rick? If you say “boat,” I know he’s put you up to it.
HERE COMES THE ELECTION
It’s no secret: ever since I cast my first vote on Election Day 2000, I have dreaded the arrival of election season. As a matter of fact, I’ve fled to Kauai, my happy place, every four years since then, out of sheer desperation and need to escape the madness.
And here we are again. Today marks the start of October, so you can set your watch: the October surprise, or surprises, are coming. If I wasn’t living through this reality show knowing how dire the situation is, it would be super entertaining to watch. But you know… the free world hangs in the balance so I’m not exactly breaking out the popcorn.
It doesn’t look like I’m going to be able to make Kauai happen this year due to COVID, so I’ll be home riding it out. I hope and pray it’s an unquestionable landslide. If it’s not… if there’s any discrepancy or tiny margin, I believe we are in for more 2020-style drama before it’s all said and done.
THE BIG 3-9
Also coming in the next 90 days, my 39th birthday! Ten years ago, I was days away from leaving NYC and prepping to embark on my round-the-world trip. Now… well, you know the story.
Whatever happens, I plan to spend the last year of my 30s just like the last year of my 20s – living life on my terms. More to come on that.
RAE GETS MARRIED
I almost forgot the biggest next step of all – baby RaeRae is getting married in December! Can you even believe it? She’s grown up before your very eyes here on the blog so I know y’all feel the same way I do… she’s only a kid! How can she be old enough to get married?!
But she is plenty old enough and we love, love, love Ben, her future hubby. As with all our friends who’ve gotten married this year, it hasn’t been an easy road, but those two have really taken the obstacles in stride. Whether their December wedding happens as planned or everything ends up on Zoom, they’ll be the two happiest nerds you’ve ever seen.
What will Q4 hold for us all? I know for sure there’s a root canal in my near future, surgery in Rick’s and a contentious zoning hearing with our neighbor, but as for the rest of the world, I’d be a fool to guess. It’s odd to talk about the future and getting back to work when the truth is, 2020 has felt like a lifetime of crisis and it’s not over yet. Do you feel that way, too?
The next edition of Reflections from the Road will be here on Jan. 1, 2021. I’m praying we all make it there safe, sound, healthy and as happy as we can be. In the meantime, tell me something good in the comments!