^^ 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.
It all started over a dinner conversation. One of my best friends mentioned she’d heard of this event called Daybreaker. Originally held in a warehouse in Brooklyn, Daybreaker is a sunrise dance party that travels around the tip of Manhattan on a boat from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. The goal of the event, which is held across the U.S., is to inspire community and wellness through a giant dance party and for the earliest of early birds, a 5 a.m. yoga sessions to really get the good vibes flowing.
The more she described it, the more I felt the event’s siren song calling to me for no other reason that I needed to understand why this existed. And not only existed, but why hundreds of thousands of people around the country were voluntarily getting up before the sun to dance with a bunch of sweaty strangers before heading off to their 9 to 5pm.
And one year later, with my bathing suit pinned into my skirt, I found myself waiting in line to board this party boat about to break the dawn to the best of my abilities.
I had originally planned to write this blog last night, along with filing my taxes, spring cleaning my closets, building a blog business plan, calling 127 people, and baking a pumpkin loaf. Not to spoil anything, but what I actually accomplished was finishing Tenements, Towers and Trash by Julia Wurtz and the Netflix original series Alta Mar — two things that hold zero productivity points on paper but in reality, gave me a much needed respite from the constant intake of pandemic news.
The first day of self-isolation, when we were asked to officially work from home, I found myself hyperaware of my sudden need to lean into productivity and almost guiltily, have something to show for my time at home. “Uncertain about a situation? Make a list about it!” my brain yelled at me while playing a carnival organ. “There is no anxiety to see here behind this curtain! Just focus on these good ole’ fashion, unrealistic to do lists that will eventually bring you anxiety but until then, will distract you from the anxiety already brewing over the pandemic!” My brain is very theatrical in times of crisis. Bless it, it’s like an ever running production of The Cursed Child and Moulin Rouge combined.
Productivity, for better or worse, has always been my coping mechanism through uncertain times, giving me a fake sense of control in times when I really had very little. It should work wonderfully in theory, but then again so should MC Hammer pants. What my productivity coping mechanism almost always fails to take into account is that sometimes what my body actually needs is to slow down, acknowledge the uncertainty, and just be.
Going into week two of self-isolation, as cases of coronavirus ramp up by the thousands in New York City, I’ve been trying to avoid as best I can the social media posts displaying all the things one can accomplish during their time at home. Work out everyday and get a six pack, learn a new hobby, learn a language, clean out your entire house, write a novel — this is your time to make all your dreams come true! At times it has felt like every voice is yelling to be a part of the conversation that we all need to be making the most of our time at home.
And this conversation is driving me absolutely crazy.
I originally sat down to write a piece about the time one of my best friends and I went to a 6 a.m. sober rave on a boat that circled lower Manhattan for two hours. But then the past week happened and with it, a sudden shift into feeling like the U.S. was crawling towards the beginning chapters of “Station Eleven.” By now, you’ve received probably hundreds of emails from friends, family, organizations, your own workplace, companies, and brands talking about the coronavirus. In New York, it was at first hard to believe that a pandemic was happening when the spring sunshine was burning deliciously bright overhead, but then the streets began to empty out and almost all NYC institutions temporarily closed — the most personally alarming being the NYPL. When the NYPL (and later, Disneyland!) closes, you know it’s the real deal here.
On Friday morning, I thought I would do a last minute Trader Joe’s run before leaning completely into my new socially distanced life. Hundreds of other people must have had the same idea as I spent 45 minutes waiting in line to get into the store where employees ran around trying to restock as quickly as possible. When I finally left at 11:30am, having waited in line to check out for over an hour as we snaked through every single aisle (which on the plus side, meant a second round of grocery shopping), the store had already been depleted to bare bones. I felt grateful to how calm and kind everyone was throughout the process, all of us stuffed together like sardines trying to fill our tote bags with food as the store quickly ran out of carts, but in that moment it was an alarming reality of what was to come.
Precautions around the coronavirus went into overdrive last week in New York and on Wednesday, we were officially asked to work from home for the month in order to help slow the spread of the virus. It takes a major incident to slow down the city that never sleeps, but practically overnight it has all but come to a halt. And perhaps the hardest part, it’s all still a bit unknown with all of us just waiting in the wings to see what happens.
Walking to dinner at a friend’s house the other night, I came to the realization that New York City is full of a lot of umbrella judgement. Unless it’s raining so hard that Noah’s Arc sent you a text telling you they’re three minutes away, DO NOT open your umbrella. It is like everyone else made a secret pact to muscle through the downpour and give sideways looks to anyone (me) who dares to show up to a social event not looking like they’d just jumped in a pool.
Look New York, life here is already challenging enough. I carry my laundry on my back every couple weeks hoping I don’t drop a sock (or, God forbid, an actual piece of clothing) on the sidewalk because once it’s down, I can never touch it again. So lighten up about the umbrella judgment please.
What a tangent but no, this post isn’t actually about umbrellas or sometimes judgmental New Yorkers or laundry. It is about (believe it or not) the life lessons I’m taking away from Freestyle Love Supreme and having an out-of-the-blue, one-for-the-books, totally-magic New York City night.
Ever since moving here, I’m frequently asked the top things that shouldn’t be missed when someone visits the city. And to be honest, that list is infinite because anything that makes your heart beat wild with anticipation can be found on this island at the highest level. Musicals, soup dumplings, pizza, bookstores, exhibits, concerts — you name it, it’s here and it’s dope.
You could say yes to something every night of the week (or numerous things a night, if you are a super extroverted and not me) and still never do or see everything you want in this city. Which at times can be intimidating and makes me feel guilty for setting up a routine that often keeps me in Brooklyn most weekends. But what I’ve learned in the last four years of living in New York is that there is no one right way to fall in love with this city. In fact, my way involved hundreds of miles of pavement, my Nikes, and a couple of ice tea pit stops.