Notes from the City: Sick Days, ‘Penny Dreadful,’ and a New President

The other day I realized how few photographs I’ve taken this year. With so much time spent at home, my days can often feel like blurs of each other, differentiated slightly by the daily decisions to do yoga or watch Penny Dreadful after dinner, go for a walk before work or during a lunch break, see friends in the park on Saturday or Sunday morning. It’s been an outrageously eventful year and yet simultaneously so mundane in the same stroke.

This month I made it my goal to take a photo or write a journal entry everyday because as much as this year feels burned into my brain forever I know I’ll look back and wonder about the details that made up my days.

Life lately in Brooklyn has been a lot, and yet very little, change all at once. Are you feeling that too as we head into yet another season living cautiously within the pandemic?

While the inner workings of my daily life continue to tick by the same they have this entire year — with the regular routine of tea first thing in the morning before work, reading during lunch, and an evening wondering how I manage to use so many dishes for a single person household — my small world has also been in real flux with starting a new job and saying goodbye to dear friends leaving the city. I wish I could say with this amount of time I’ve found my groove, but that isn’t true. This year has been one of finding a new home in myself and recentering my life and work around things that inspire and bring me joy, but I still have days where I have little patience for myself or forget to get outside and spend the day working with few breaks. Those days where I want to change all my habits, and get angry for not working out more, not writing more, for being distracted and feeling tired. It’s on those days where it’s most important to take a step back, sign off, talk to loved ones, and choose rest above anything else because in order to survive this time, our brains and hearts need all the care they can get.

These past few months involved a lot of walking to get breakfast burritos and tea in the mornings, masked up as always, and enjoying dining out with friends when possible. It’s involved obsessing over the mystery book series Truly Devious, and welcoming a new TV into my home, and excitedly keeping all my plants alive. It’s been a time of frustration over still chasing the ever elusive dream morning routine I so desperately want to have and learning the power of a quick lunch nap. It’s been holding a lot of breathes and watching life in the U.S. on the brink of burnout as we watched the elections unfold.

It’s been a lot for all of us, hasn’t it? I feel like I’m learning an entirely new definition of rest this year.

As happens, I took a week off between leaving my work with YouTube and starting this new role at 1021 Creative and two days in, got one of the worst colds I’ve ever had. Isn’t that just the way? Fever, headaches, sore throat, unable to sleep, clogged sinuses, mental health tanking — it felt like after months of stress my body was like, “You didn’t listen to our warning signs and now we had no choice. Get the good NyQuil STAT.”

If you haven’t had the recent pleasure of spending five days vertical on your couch eating can after can of soup, let me tell you, it’s a real humbling experience. But amidst the depths of my sick couch (buoyed by the fact that my COVID tests both came back negative) I finally stopped fighting it and just rested. Like rested hard. I watched hours of Penny Dreadful, becoming obsessed once again with Eva Green, and feeling a kinship as we both battled demons from hell (hers more literal in the show than mine from the couch). I began building my island in Animal Crossing, napped for hours during the day, and when I finally had enough energy to go on my first walk, it felt more glorious than anything I had experienced in a long time.

If I can share anything from my stint dancing with this season’s cold, let it be this: Rest not when you’re on the brink of exhaustion, but rest as intentionally and as often as you push yourself to show up and work. Our bodies were not meant to hustle without reprieve and even if in moments you sit and question, “Is this even resting? I feel like I’m actually just avoiding doing dishes and not wearing real pants for 48 hours,” know the importance of this rest — especially right now.

Since the Great Cold of 2020, I have been trying to be better. I even proudly have an alarm set on my phone telling me when it’s time to shut off the lights and wrangle up the cats for bed. I remember being in college and wearing my exhaustion like a badge of honor, diving into the productivity olympics like everyone else, and I’m so glad to be in a different place now. A place where my brain can recognize the cocktail of tiredness and stress and know I need extra sleep that week.

I’ll admit, it’s been a lot easier to rest and just do life in general since the final election results came in. I found out, like many of us in Brooklyn, when I began to hear cheering and shouting out my open windows Saturday morning. Before long the entire city was yelling and crying and playing music out their windows, ushering in a new era of politics with more joy than we had felt in months in the city. A true full circle from the day Trump was elected and the subway felt like a somber march, with all the riders extra quiet and downcast that November morning.

On the streets that Saturday morning, we all greeted each other with tears and hellos and “it’s here, it’s happened” whispered with glee through masked faces. We cheered on every corner and listened to all the musicians who came down to play on their stoops. Cars honked from the streets blasting celebration music, people held signs and cheered, and it felt like you couldn’t walk more than a block without joining another group clapping. It was one of the best days I’ve ever had in New York, and that night, I met Victor for a date and then friends for a drink, and it felt like the city was lit by the joy of every person here.

The hope from that night has felt like a weight lifting, not in the way that things have miraculously been fixed, but in the way that we might have a government in place that wants to fix things with its people. Now it’s time to get back to work, to root out white supremacy, racism, and sexism still so prevalent in our country. It’s provided a big swooping brush stroke of hope this month, and has joined the little bits of hope that cross my path daily — the morning texts from my mum telling me about her day, the ways I watch my friends show up for one another, this Instagram account. There is a lot of good little sparks out there in the world, and it feels like my big mission in life lately is to notice as many as possible.