^^ Turning 30 in Prospect Park with these little loves and the handsome man behind the camera. ^^
In mid-March I went to my first socially distanced birthday party just days before New York City went into lockdown. We all met at the park, and sitting in a circle we wondered aloud about the the virus. We ate dessert and laughed and went home, not yet realizing it would be close to two months before we saw each other in person again.
In April, I attended my first Zoom birthday party. It was for my childhood best friend Imali and at the time, crowded amongst the squares of 40 other friends also in self isolation, I still couldn’t fathom this situation extending all the way until my birthday at the end of May. Yes, it was getting worse everyday but the idea of it continuing six weeks from then seemed impossible (*laughs heartily at past self*). Yet a week later, I went from thinking “this will be over soon” to quickly Googling how to make a funfetti birthday cake for one.
At the beginning of lockdown, I found myself having a lot of those “how long could this really last?” thoughts. I couldn’t quite comprehend the longevity of what this pandemic would look like or what it would ask of us all, something that I still struggle with as we creep inch by inch through the stages of reopening and closing. But as the months pass, I find myself less focused on when it will be over, and more present in learning how I can help now, how I can keep adapting.
(A quick PSA: Wear your mask. Just wear it. Wear it to save others, wear it to protect yourself and your loved ones. Wear it as a show of respect for the people sacrificing their lives to keep us safe and healthy and fed and our economy from completely tanking. My worry is not that you’ll get sick, it’s that your mask-less face will infect everyone else, and if you do that because you refused to cover your face, you’re a dick and no one likes you. Finally, if women can give birth in their masks, frontline workers can wear their masks for 10+ hours, you can wear yours for 45 minutes to do your one errand for the day. PSA now done, though it will probably return in future posts.)
Not only has the pandemic suddenly left me adapting every aspect of my life to be confined mostly into my apartment, but it has also left me trying to figure out where joy and happiness still fit in. Where amongst the daily anxiety and stress that comes from watching the world burn so brightly do I still celebrate? How, as I watch communities of color be hit so hard by this virus, watch the death toll and unemployment rates rapidly rise, do I still look for joy? Is it selfish and privileged to balance both during this time?
This birthday proved to be one that carried both a weight and a lightness to it, the start of a new decade as well as a goodbye to the things that no longer served me from my 20s. To be honest, this birthday was one of my absolute favorites and I think a big part of that was the fact that this birthday was compromised of simple, intentional joy. Leading up to the day, even with the uncertainty of if I’d actually be able to see friends distanced in the park, I was inundated with love from people near and far. Cards, texts, thoughtful gifts, calls, FaceTimes, well wishes — this birthday was a culmination of what I was been hoping to take into my 30s and that was a commitment to living with intention — with my actions, my words, where I focus my energy and time, my relationships, advocacy, and learnings.
This birthday was a reminder that we are always holding two things at once; that we hold the weight of the world, and the joy of living all in the same space.
That Sunday in the park, emerging from our apartments like bears in spring, I was so happy to see my friends for the first time in two months. Sitting in a circle the same way we had done in March — amongst pie pieces and homemade drinks — I felt an immense amount of gratefulness for being within my community; for our health, our jobs, for the ways we have been able to show up for each other even from afar. Everything was so personal — the plant gifts, the buffet of eight different flavors of to try, the delicious tea, the crepe breakfast from Victor the next morning — everyone had brought big love in small intentional ways to our picnic and it meant the world to me. Like everyone else this year, it will forever be one of my most memorable birthdays.
As our time living in a pandemic continues onward and begins to encroach on more and more holidays and celebrations, I hope I remember this balance. I hope I remember to not dwell on what these moments are missing, but to instead focus on what is there right in front of me — my community, the sun, nature, laughter, and lots of love. Because after months of living in self isolation, I’ve found it isn’t the big things I miss, it’s the little things. The freedom of the subway, the glee of meeting friends at a beer garden to watch the sunset. Walking through the city, popping into bookstores and tea shops without a set destination in mind. I miss my family and our dinners on the patio, nature, and the beach. Going to a yoga class, seeing a Broadway show on a school night, having friends over for dinner.
At the beginning of the year, I set a motto for myself: There is no perfect time to start.
It’s a motto that has become even more important as the year has gone on because it’s been the compass pointing me onward as I keep adapting to the world around me. It’s been my reminder to show up, as I am, right now. My reminder that there is no perfect time to start that project or send that pitch letter or to start running again. And this May, it was my ultimate reminder that there is no perfect time to turn 30 — sometimes all you can do is show up and find joy in the situation presented to you. Like this bang trim below, sometimes it turns out a little differently than expected and unlike this bang trim below, my birthday turned out more perfect and more full of love than I could have ever expected.