Something Like Normal

Yesterday I forgot to check the number of new COVID cases in DC until 6pm. And before that, I forgot to check for a whole long weekend.

I go for walks now without putting on a mask, even if it is wadded up in my pocket, or wrapped around my wrist, just in case.

Our son has been back in daycare for 3 weeks, happily making friends and walking straight into our provider’s home without even a wave goodbye, as if he never left, as if the pandemic never happened to him and he didn’t have excessive screen time over the last 14 months. I stand on the porch, masked, waving at the door.

A few weeks ago, we took our (vaccinated) selves out to dinner for my husband’s birthday, and because it was raining, we sat indoors. After I got over my initial panic and realized we were still near multiple open windows, I began to relax. I enjoyed my French bistro meal and even savored a couple ounces of red wine over the course of our evening, letting the dim, quaint interior, a black dress, and the space between patrons shelter my third trimester belly from judgement.

We had friends over for brunch, and I held a baby, who I had attended a virtual baby shower for. I just looked at her with wonder, wonder that a whole new person had been created and birthed and raised by two people I love (but hadn’t seen), all during this strange year.

We’re currently planning out how to take advantage of our parental leave after the new baby is born, plotting out which new restaurants to try while the baby naps on us or in her stroller, figuring out what’s within walking distance in our new neighborhood and in this brave new world of relaxed outdoor seating.

We’re making plans, which in and of itself seems pretty big these days. We’re looking ahead, but I can’t help but glance back, to make sure we’re really, truly in the clear, that the virus, the dread, the uncertainty, the loneliness, the smallness of that life is no longer nipping at our heels.

Things are not normal yet. I don’t know what normal even is anymore. But we’re getting there, or to somewhere close.

On Writing About Not Writing

I haven’t been writing anything lately. My brain is too full and too empty. I have nothing to write about and everything to write about. I’m caught between two thoughts – “I must write” and “How could I possibly write now?” I understand the feeling people have when they say they’re feeling unmoored. I am, as they say, adrift.

There has been so much change and so little time to reflect. And more change is coming, so perhaps it’s time for me to find time to think before I get dragged under by another riptide of upheaval in our lives.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s all good change – we have a baby on the way, we just moved into a new home, we’re vaccinated, our son is going back to daycare. All good things that I still have so many emotions about. That I also feel nothing about – well, not nothing. But more anxiety than I thought I would, so it feels like a big, dark cloud that is covering what should be a brightly shining sun, finally coming into view.

So that’s why I haven’t been writing, because it feels like pulling a thread on a sweater, and if I tug too hard, it will unravel and leave me naked. And after an unimaginable year – for everyone – I’m just not ready to get out of my cozy clothes.

Five Unexpected Things I Did During the Pandemic

These past 11 months have really shaken things up for everyone, huh? Obviously, this has been an incredibly tragic time in the nation’s and the world’s history, but it’s also just been…weird. On top of finding ourselves doing things we never thought we would have to do (homeschool/supervise distance learning, set up makeshift offices, keep face masks on us at all times), I feel like we’ve found ourselves doing things we never thought we would want to do. People across the US became bread bakers, interior designers, amateur mask makers…the list goes on. We found our worlds turned upside down and adjusted and coped as best we could. I know I, for one, did a lot of things I never expected to in a million years.

To start…

  1. I cut my own hair: Full disclosure, I had totally trimmed a split end here or there, but I left the big cuts to the pros. About a month ago, though, I got really desperate as my hair was unintentionally reaching mermaid territory, and not in a cute way. I was looking…is feral the right word here? I’m not sure. But it was taking forever to detangle and dry this mane, so something had to be done. So I found a random video on YouTube, and cut several inches off my hair, and even added layers. Is it a professional cut? No. But does it look pretty good when curled? Actually, yes. 
  2. We got a TP subscription service: Like, toilet paper wasn’t something I really enjoyed shopping for, but it was an afterthought, something I picked up at the store when we were running low. But right before the pandemic started, I decided to get our household on a greener path, and looked into bamboo toilet paper. I signed up for Reel TP, along with Blueland hand soap, in probably late February, and boy, am I glad I did! Knowing TP and soap were going to be delivered to me, and I wouldn’t have to fight someone at Safeway for them was a real relief. Still, I didn’t expect I would ever get literally everything delivered to my door.
  3. I took up a bunch of creative projects (like, more than normal): I’ve always loved to write nonfiction, and always have a million other ideas floating around in my head, but this pandemic, I actually started a novel (then started another after I scrapped the first idea), wrote 100 poems, and even contemplated starting a TikTok (I legit have a video script written out, we’ll see if I work up the courage to do it in the next 5 years). Follow-through rate is not super high, but actually starting some of my more random ideas is new for me.
  4. I went on a podcast: I joined Jenn from the “How Did You End Up There?” podcast to talk about my career in PR and communications, which, funny enough, had just come to a screeching halt. (I laugh to keep from crying at what the pandemic has done to women’s careers over the past 12 months). So we talked about my job, less than a month after I quit, but we also had a great conversation about the sacrifices women have had to make – both with their families and with their careers – during this really strange time.
  5. I quit my job: Speaking of which…I’ve talked about this before, but I had been looking to make a change, to see what else was out there in the field of communications for a while. I did not, however, expect to completely quit my job with nothing lined up because of a global pandemic that left parents the world over scrambling for childcare (or attempting to work while watching kids and overseeing distance learning). It came down to feeling like a good mom or a good employee – and at the time, I felt like neither – so I picked being a good parent, who wasn’t constantly so stressed and anxious that she also started to layer on the worry that she was missing out on so much, not only because of work, but because her stress was messing with her actual long-term memory. Permanent SAHP life (or even part-time freelance like I’m doing now) is probably not for me, but I am really glad I made this decision. 

What have you done this pandemic, whether you wanted to or not, that you never expected to in this lifetime?

How Did I Get Here?

Photo by Leah Kelley from Pexels

You know the Talking Heads song, “Once in a Lifetime?” I’ve been thinking a lot about the lyrics for pretty much the entire last year, because I often ask myself, “well how did I get here?” And logically, like stepwise, I know exactly how I got here. But when I zoom out, I am still stunned, and a little confused, at where I am. A little over six years ago, I was a single grad student who was a year from turning 30, cobbling together an income so I could live in a rowhouse in Columbia Heights with 3 other people, trying to date and find my person among a lot of self-important consultants and Hill staffers, and figuring out what exactly I wanted to do next. Would I stay in DC? Would I work for a big company? A nonprofit? Would I settle down with someone? Become the cool aunt? Should I meet friends for drinks or actually work out after my 8pm class ends?

Fast forward to now, and my life looks very different. I’m a married homeowner, I’m a freelancer for a large PR agency (formerly a Director, but…COVID made me re-evaluate a few things), and I HAVE A CHILD. I’m not going to pick up and move, I’m with my person for the long-haul, clearly I already committed to the kid thing, and if something starts after 8pm, there’s no way I’m going. Those big questions I ask myself are fewer and farther between. But once again, I am trying to figure out what I really, truly want to do for a living, how I want to spend my time and energy outside of my family.

So while I barely know how I got here, I also don’t know where I’m going. 

But here’s the thing – as much as I want to feel like I have a unique perspective, I know that this feeling, this sudden rocketing forward into adulthood and then standing still, bewildered about how you got here and what comes next is really common. Many millennials spent most of our 20s trying to make the best of a bad situation, taking the jobs we could get in a not-so-great economy and trying to find love (or whatever) on dating apps. We worked hard, paid our dues (and the minimum payments on our student loans and credit cards), and laughed when anyone we knew talked seriously about buying a house. All while hearing how much society hated us and how self-involved we were in pretty much every major media outlet. People talk about millennials and our delayed adolescence, our earnestness, and our eternal quest for comfort and coziness, but we also have lived through our share of not-so-great historical events (and now two recessions, cool), so can you blame us? 

That’s all we see and hear about, though. The flaws of millennials and how we can’t just grow up – even though there are a lot of us who are very grown up (some of us are almost 40!). We don’t hear about or see in popular culture the millennials who struggled hard in our 20s, and remember it keenly, but suddenly (at least it feels sudden to me) find themselves thrust forward into what looks like legit adulthood, all the while panicking that they are about to be found out. The ones, like me, thinking, “wait wait wait, what is this place? Do I belong here? Where did my entry-level job, my crappy apartment, and my questionable dating choices go? Is this my real life?” The ones who are incredibly fortunate and happy with where they ended up, but still feel a little lost. 

I’ve struggled to find a perspective like my own, in what I read and watch – I don’t identify with the messy 20-something love stories involving either angsty artists or people about to make partner at a law firm at 25 (how? in what universe?) or the GenX 40-somethings going through mid-life crises. Where are the 35-year-olds who seemingly have their shit together, but are internally screaming because time is moving so fast and they want to make a decent living so they can pay down student loan debt but are also inundated with “follow your passion!” messages on a daily basis? Or if they do appear, why are they so often the annoying side characters, who are written to contrast the main character whose life looks a little messier from the outside? Where are the main characters who have finally passed the “just getting by” phase of their lives, who then start having existential crises about it? Look, this isn’t me starting a crusade to see representation of the millennials who made it after having a weird time in their 20s. I get that that might not always make for riveting story lines. But sometimes, I just wish I would see someone like me, who was the messy friend a few years before but now finds herself blinking in disbelief at the life she finds herself in now, the life with fewer material struggles than in her 20s, and more nebulous ones. I just wouldn’t hate having a guide is all I’m saying.

Like I said, I don’t know how I got here. I don’t know how I became a fairly successful corporate person with a happy, stable marriage, a child, a mortgage, and a financial planner today. It feels like I went in fast forward, like I got on a speeding train without knowing its destination. And then when I got off, no one would tell me how long we’d been traveling or where we’d landed. I like it here, but also…how did I pick this line, and when did I buy a ticket? This metaphor is getting pretty strained, but… I think you get it. How did I get here? How did any of us?

Lately: A Few Favorite Recent Reads

Photo by Leah Kelley from Pexels

Whew. What a week, huh? Now that we’re all taking a collective breath and a short hiatus from panic donating to various candidates and rage posting on social media, I thought I might share a few things I have actually taken pleasure in reading recently. Partly because I like sharing, and partly because my brain is still mush. Enjoy! 

  1. The vicious cycle of never-ending laundry”: as someone who actually likes doing laundry (yes, I actually fold it the same day it’s washed!), learning the history of it and the lack of advancement over the last 50 years or so was fascinating. Laundry is still an endless chore that we haven’t really turned into a luxurious experience. But my favorite line?  “I always think about the change that came with the advent of electricity,” says Jessamyn Neuhaus […]. “Electricity could ease the burden of women keeping house, but also when they turned on those electric lights, a lot of people were like, ‘Shit, my house is so dirty.’” 
  2. For now“: I love Nora and everything she writes, but I really felt this. Doing less, or at least not doing more, in the middle of a pandemic isn’t exactly a new thought during this time, but the way she lays it out is lovely. I’m ok doing less right now and not adding anything to my to-do list. 
  3. 22 Ways to Make Thanksgiving Into Your Own Weird, Perfect Holiday”: after a lot of weighing the pros and cons (and now, surging COVID numbers!), we have decided to stay home and celebrate Thanksgiving as a family of three. So I love so many of these ideas, especially those related to giving back and learning about who lived where we live before it was “discovered.” And though we’re probably ordering in for the meal itself (pulling together a full spread in a tiny house with a very tall toddler who can reach literally everything on counters and the stovetop sounds like a nightmare), I’m definitely going to make a few pies so we can do a little dessert competition.
  4. Tenisha Yancey Is a Michigan House Rep With a Felony Record—and It’s Helping Her Design Legislation“: I loved this interview, partly because I’m from Michigan and partly because I think everyone deserves a second chance, and this shows the power of doing just that. 
  5. The One Dish: Thanksgiving 2020 and How to Deal”: Another Thanksgiving article. I loved reading what various food folks and entertainers consider their must-have Thanksgiving dish, the one that makes them feel some semblance of home or normal, even when times are as weird as they are now.

Have you read anything you’ve really enjoyed lately? Share with me so I can read something other than the rollercoaster ride that is political news in the US!