2020. The year I made a backseat toilet out of an old mixing bowl and duct tape. The year I got adult braces. The year I started doing yoga every day, only to still not be able to touch my toes.
I haven’t written a post on here in a long time. I know that some of what I’m about to write is getting a bit personal, but it’s unprecedented times and great writing is always personal.
I look back on that first week of quarantine, filled with zoom moon circles, panic buying toilet paper, and learning the workflows of working from home. It feels like years ago. At the time I was scared to even step outside my apartment. I’d open my door to get some “fresh air,” then shut it after 5 seconds, in fear that I’d catch corona. I’m a very paranoid person. There were some days where I would be so glad I lived alone with no kids. I’d dance about my apartment, trying new recipes, watching Tiger King, and calling up old friends. Then there were other days, where it would get so lonely and even the tiniest inconvenience would lead to a day of depression, anxiety, and eating cereal for every meal.
With all this in mind, I’m extremely lucky to still have an apartment, a job, and a support system of family and friends. During this pandemic, it’s important to remember we are all in the same storm, but not in the same boat. While some are struggling to steer their yacht, others are barely keeping their piece of driftwood afloat. Regardless of the boat you’re on, there is a storm, a giant storm outside. As the commercials keep reminding us, it’s unprecedented times. Yes, you can get a car with 0% APR financing and no down payment right now, but also there is a freaking pandemic! There is a monumental election. There are murder hornets. There are protests worldwide. If you find yourself crying and eating cereal all day, unable to work. It’s okay. There’s a lot going on. You’re not working during a pandemic, you are trying to work during a pandemic.
I finally hit the point of loneliness about a month into quarantine and decided it was necessary to travel back home to Philly for a bit. At the time we had no idea how long the quarantine would last. I was working from home every day and knew I would have to drive 14 hours straight from Birmingham to Philly with few stops to make it work. There were no masks available in stores at the time. I had no idea if gas stations or rest areas would be open. I did what any logical person would do and spent an hour creating a backseat toilet just in case everything was closed and I had a bit too much coffee. I even took extra toilet paper and something for the smells. If you don’t know me, I’m an over-prepared, neurotic, A-type person, who always goes above and beyond. Yes, you probably hated me in group projects. I also crafted masks from coffee filters, a headband, and string. Looking back, the masks were probably not effective at all. Speaking of toilets, I wrote a whole post dedicated to them, which you can read here: Lost in Translation and Toilets
The day of the drive, I woke up at 3am, chugged coffee, and went on my way. I hate driving at night and the earlier I could arrive back in Philly the better. To my surprise gas stations and rest areas were all open and not too crowded. For the entire 14 hours I only stopped 3 times. Each stop was perfectly calculated for bathroom and gas. I actually didn’t eat the entire 14 hours. Before you gawk at me, please realize I have Invisalign trays and eating requires removing them, flossing, brushing my teeth and the trays, and putting them back in with rubber bands. Driving alone and being afraid of bathrooms, meant that it was just easier to not eat. The second time I did this drive, I realized I was being ridiculous and that it was perfectly acceptable to pull over, eat and brush my teeth, while spitting up on the side of the road. It was not my shining moment, but it was better than passing out from starvation.
What I thought would be a couple weeks home, turned into 3+ months. It was the first time in years I spent that much time living at home. My mom and I started doing daily morning yoga. I got to go on social distance hikes with my extended family. I even got to social distance visit my grandparents. As strange of a time it was, I am so thankful I got to spend all that time with family.
Also, my dad found his panini-press/waffle maker grill combo from the 60s and decided we needed to use it every day. We may have made an Instagram account dedicated to the grill. You can follow @mydadsgrill for the wholesome content we all need right now.
I also went through a 2-week phase of learning wood working. We got a table saw and I made 3 blanket ladders. I struggle with the idea that I have to be constantly productive. Especially at times when I am alone. I could blame it on our capitalist society, the fact that I’m a millennial stuck in the storm that is 2020, or just my anxiety in general. I felt like I needed to be doing something, whether it be personal writing, fitness, cooking, networking, zoom social life, or cleaning every minute of every day. It’s exhausting. All the things that used to distract my normal tendencies were suddenly stripped away. I have to come to terms that spending an entire day watching reality TV and ordering food is completely acceptable right now.
In July I got word that we were going to be back on set (or course with safety protocols in place) and made plans to get back to Birmingham. Now that we understood more about COVID, I decided I was going to stop halfway and take my time. For some reason I still have the make-shift toilet in my back seat. I just know if I throw it out, I’ll get stuck in a crappy situation on the road (literally). I drove back, stopping in Bristol to stand in both Tennessee and Virginia at the same time (like the Geico commercial). I have driven through Virginia on I-81 so many times, that I can tell you exactly how far in you are based off the giant cross you are seeing. It’s truly my superpower now.
With my new knowledge of road tripping during COVID, I even took a trip to Orlando to visit Chad and family. It was about 8 hours straight and somehow, I ended up in bumper to bumper traffic for an hour, even during a pandemic.
I think the hardest part of 2020 for myself is feeling so out of control. As a person who loves order and color-coded schedules, not being able to plan has been the most frustrating part. You can’t predict work, social activities, travel, or really anything. Finally, you must live in the moment and be alone with your thoughts. It’s the most terrifying place. My thoughts.
Then I downloaded TikTok, learned to make honey cake, and bought several candles from Target. I had become the meme of the dog sipping coffee in a burning room while muttering “I’m fine. This is fine.” Like I mentioned earlier, some days you are a crying hot mess and others you are cracking up over a zoom happy hour. Still my thoughts were there. They would never escape. It was the moments of silence that got me. Just the other day my power went out for an hour and suddenly I had no internet, TV, or cooking to distract me. I panicked. Was this seriously the thing to make me break down? I did what anyone would do. Light candles, created a TikTok video and made a to-do list for when the power came back.
Things are starting to feel more “normal.” As the months go on, we learn how to just live with this “new normal.” We are able to be on set, but just wear masks and keep crews/casts small and socially distant when possible. I safely social distance hang with friends in town. I take walks and keep up with me at-home yoga. I even started up #52thingstodoinbham again. To learn more about 52 things, you can read my post All by Myself (in Birmingham). It’s definitely way more challenging during a pandemic, but I started something and I want to finish it. If anyone knows any COVID friendly things to do in Birmingham, please message me with ideas!
I also finished writing a feature length screenplay during quarantine. I re-worked my TV pilot, “Lady Parts,” into a 100-page script based off my time getting vaginal surgery and moving back home. You can read my previous blog posts, Bonnie’s Bed Post, The Circle of Lady Parts, as well as the TV pilot table read, for more information on that. Obviously, it’s not 100% accurate to my life and I changed quite a few things, but regardless I’m really happy to have it all written out. We even did a live zoom table read. It was probably the most nervous I’d been in a long time. Something so personal that I wrote while isolated was being read aloud for the first time.
The part that was so cool to me was seeing so many people from so many different phases of my life all together on one zoom call, reading aloud a script I wrote. I have lived in over 5 different cities in the past 7 years and traveled to over 25 countries. I went to undergrad at Alabama, interned in both NY and LA, lived abroad in Ireland, moved back to Philly for a bit, moved to LA and went to UCLA, and now I’m living in Birmingham. Over that time, I’ve met so many people and done so many things. To see people from each of these parts of my life all together as a Brandy Brunch looking zoom call was the coolest thing. As much as 2020 has completely sucked, the way technology has evolved to connect us is worth noting. A good friend once told me that people are the most important things in your life. This was one of those moments where I truly felt that coming into fruition.
I have a habit of moving place to place, traveling about, and never living long enough in a location to have roots. It’s a mix of fear and my constant need for change. The pandemic has put a lot into perspective. Mainly that I did have roots in every location I touched. Whether I noticed them growing or not, they were there. The people I had met in each move. The skills I had picked up with each change. I was a forest, unable to appreciate the seeds I had planted until now.
2020. The year I proved to myself I can drive 14 hours in one day alone, while learning more than I ever needed to know about the Taylor Swift discography. The year where having face masks to cover up my braces actually was a blessing in disguise. The year that I’ve gotten closer than ever before to touching my toes.
Until next time, please enjoy these photos of Stella (my sister’s dog) celebrating birthdays with my family members. Over the course of my time home, I got to help celebrate quite a few quarantined, social distant birthdays, including Stella’s birthday!
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