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2020: The Emotional Rollercoaster of Rollin’ Solo Amid a Pandemic

December 30, 2020

Each December, I reflect on where I was 12 months ago—and over the last few years I feel like I continue progressing. To presently add to my self-growth? I’ve been living alone during a pandemic. Much more on the novel coronavirus below, but first let me set the scene for what led up to it.

Quick Flashback to 2019 for Context

2019 was a really important year for me. Nothing big happened, necessarily, but there were a slew of little things that added up in a very big way. It was the first time since I can remember that I took care of my mind, body and soul, collectively and consistently, and I felt like I was finally growing into the person I wanted to be.

Each new year, we always say with great hope, Oh, I just know 20– is gonna be the best year ever! And while some years have certainly been rewarding in their own right, it’s been quite some time since I’ve had one of those remarkable best years ever. That is… until 2020, or so I presumptuously thought. And theoretically speaking, it was supposed to be—for everyone. There was the whole 20/20 vision outlook, all the major holidays fell on weekends, it was a new decade, potentially a new president… all that good stuff.

But for me, personally, I spent all of 2019 laying the groundwork for truly a well-deserved best year ever in 2020. Last year was spent in grueling workout classes, eating remarkably well, limiting my alcohol, emanating positive energy and truly being the best version of myself—inside and out. To top it off, on New Year’s Eve day, I announced my plan to launch a T-shirt brand following a fresh trademark for the line.

In the past, I thought time naturally created blessings and opportunities for us. I sat around just waiting for things to happen. In recent years, however (namely 2019), I realized you really did have to work for what you want, and I was putting in the time.

2020 Kicks Off

As I envisioned, 2020 was off to an amazing start. Traditionally speaking, January has been a really strong month for me, regardless of the year. I don’t know if it’s the fresh air or the start to a new year, but I do find my energy more heightened, with opportunities more aptly infiltrating my life during this month. And 2020 was no exception.

Everything was so right up until mid-February, when Joyce, a longtime friend, colleague and mentor to many passed away. While the cause of death was unknown at the time, it was a serious wakeup call to everyone. The partying among myself and everyone I knew went on a massive decline—and for me, personally, I took it as a sign to keep putting in the work and being my best self because we’re not here forever. Losing Joyce left an immense hole in my heart, and in that of so many who she touched throughout years of being such a prominent figure in the media world I’ve been a part of. She was the first person I met when I started working in entertainment reporting.

Her passing in her late ’40s was a reminder that life is short. In the past, I found myself living for other peoples’ approval and caring way too much about what they think. Now, I was finally developing the confidence to just live my life. I stopped focusing on past mistakes, and instead put my efforts into plowing ahead with gratitude, worth and drive.

Little did I know, one month later, everything would change—in a way no one in my lifetime could have predicted. I’ll never forget the day before coronavirus sent everyone into lockdown. I was fresh from visiting my parents in Orange County—at a now-long-gone Souplantation, for that matter. I raced back to L.A. to sneak in one more Hot Pilates class with a friend of mine, oddly looking forward to being forced inside our living spaces later that day. Working from home was a dream for years—who knew it would take a pandemic for my then-employer to understand people can function away from their cubicle (more on that in a bit)!

Quarantine Life Kicks In, as Does My Personal Empowerment Journey

Closing my apartment door behind me for what would go on to be days before even stepping outside for air, I felt amazing. Like, the best I’ve ever felt in my life. I was certainly not at ease with the way of the world and the businesses being affected so abruptly and unexpectedly. But internally, I was incredibly stable. And as the days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into cold, gloomy months, living alone during a pandemic continued to be a positive experience for me. I cooked all of my meals; spent my days working out and writing, as opposed to wasting away with a bottle of wine; I thought about the future and how much promise it held. I was so optimistic and really enjoyed my own company. I never felt bored—I had everything I needed.

I physically didn’t see anyone for a month and a half. I also kept my social Zoom activity to a minimum (so glad I never hopped on that trend), so the virtual hangs were also few and far between. I continued working on myself, working out or walking up my strenuous hill regularly. The lack of regular drinking also helped me maintain a clear head, and I kept myself busy with my full-time job, freelance job and revival of this blog. I became so comfortable with quarantine life that there were points when I firmly said I never need to hang out with anyone again. People asked me time and time again, are you ok? Would the single, social butterfly survive a pandemic, holed-up solo in her one-bedroom apartment? Oh, I was better than ok.

While people lamented over their weight-gain, gluttony and binge-drinking, I just kept my eyes on the prize, assuring myself and others that by the time quarantine were to end (during what was initially predicted to be summertime), I’d come out of this cocoon a butterfly. Heck, even my homemade manis were on point.

Losing Steam

While filled with so much hope, confidence and motivation, I began to notice things around me that perhaps weren’t as vivid before. These things were always present, but they never fazed me because I was always fortunately occupied with work and an active social life. Now, however, no matter how content I was in this totally alone predicament, I couldn’t help but think about the couples in my friend group who were able to sneak away on road trips together, or cozy-up on stormy days. During these locked-away months, so many people I knew were getting pregnant, having babies, launching businesses, strengthening their relationships. All the while, I was taking cute mirror selfies and posting my home-cooked meals.

The pandemic has been a strong reminder that I’m single—with no near end in sight. It’s not even to say that I mind being single. But my goodness, it would be nice to have the option otherwise. I went on a few nice dates amid the pandemic (that didn’t lead to anything), but I miss hitting the local spots and letting the vodka-sodas coax me into talking to, like, the literal tree outside. No, but seriously, it was fun getting dolled-up and socializing out and about. Especially right before lockdown, there was a magical energy in the air. Life felt particularly exciting in all aspects, and then—.

What started out empowering, motivating and life-changing slowly spiraled into time that felt wasted in retrospect. Now, by no means was this my fault—it’s just how timing decided to play out. I still maintained a relatively positive disposition, but it was growing tiring.

The motivation to work out from home was lessening by the day. I really miss ClassPass and the structure provided by doing in-person workouts. Cooking all my meals? Ha, forget it! Only drinking on Sundays? Nah, once outdoor dining was reinstated, all bets were off! I previously put so much effort into my life—and while I enjoyed it internally, it would have been nice to experience it with someone else (friend, romantic partner, whoever!).

While I still had a good chunk of the initial confidence left in me, I will say the 24/7 happy-go-lucky mindset of March/April/May/June was dwindling. Happiness dwindling, workouts lessening, sleeping—well, that may as well not even exist.

As the year continued—and especially from the end of August, on—I felt myself growing further and further away from that bright light I associate with who I was earlier in the year. I promised I wouldn’t compare myself to others, but boy was I ever. It was unstoppable. It seemed like everyone I know did something remarkable amid the pandemic. I really thought this would be my time, too. Instead, I could feel my vibrations lowering. I’m really big on vibrations and energy, and when they’re low, they’re low. It can take days to heighten. And it was visible (without being visible) via social media. People can seriously feel your energy behind the screen. My posts lacked the vibrance and excitable engagement that transpired months ago. And I’m not a fake, so I couldn’t just make things seem perfect.

(no, I didn’t actually post this on social media – but it was in my camera roll)

I know I’ve grown as a person through this whole experience. I mean, I was able to enjoy my own company for at least six weeks without seeing a soul, and then plenty of alone time thereafter. I honed in on my cooking skills. I took some cute Instagram pics (priorities, priorities). I stopped standing for toxic behavior in other people. I have a strong head on my shoulders and I know what I want in life and from others. I just wish I could get myself back to the same mindset of months past.

My new lackluster reality was ever-present once fall found its way to the calendar. Traditionally three months of internal butterflies and unconditional bliss was in fact three months of scorching hot weather, sleepless nights and lonely days. There was plenty we were banned from doing this year, thanks to the pandemic—but nothing hit like not gearing up for my 8th annual fall party, not hitting the bars the night before/after Thanksgiving, and not getting dolled-up for holiday parties. The last three months blurred together. Even fall scents gave me a headache this year. I’ve never said that.

Blessing in Disguise

In an unexpected turn of events, I got laid-off from my job in September after more than 4.5 years with the company. Before you feel sorry for me, know that it was a blessing in disguise. Our salaries were already cut by 40% at the very beginning of the pandemic, and I was totally stagnant at this company. Of course you want to leave on your own terms, but screw my pride—I received the news and never looked back. In fact, most of the brands and publicists I worked with prior continued their professional relationships with me immediately as I pivoted over to my blog and freelance job. I felt appreciated, and it made the transition that much easier.

While not the happiest news in financial terms, energetically, this freed up so much space: space to look for a fulfilling new job that makes me feel valued and respected; space to put serious effort into my blog; space to finally launch the T-shirt line I put into existence exactly a year ago. I gave away so much of my energy at this job and got minimal amounts back in return, so when I received the news, that was the instance amid the pandemic when the timing felt so right.

Looking for a new job, however, is a huge challenge. I’m not gonna lie. For all the experience you have, there are 100 people younger than you with far more skills. It’s not easy getting back into the grind of writing cover letters—cover letters! I know, right? Filling out just one job application can sometimes take up to an hour. Having a professional update my resume cost more than $100. But this is part of life, obviously. And I was far too comfortable in my position anyway. This has definitely given me a much-needed rattle.

2020 Reflection, and Transitioning Into the New Year Ahead

Moving forward, I will say this: I’m extremely blessed not to have contracted the virus up to this point. I’m blessed that none of my close friends or family have been severely affected by the virus in any way up to this point. I’m blessed to have a roof over my head (with a beautiful view of the city that helps keep me sane); to have close friends I’ve kept in contact with consistently over the course of the past year; to have a new laptop that’s seriously my go-to and best friend; to have a family who supports my future and believes in endless possibilities for me; to be alone with my own thoughts (and be ok with them); to have launched a small business at the tail-end of the year, with the drive to make it take off in 2021.

I do have many blessings and I don’t take them for granted. That said, it’s only normal to think what if?. I’m sure that’s a thought on a lot of peoples’ minds this year. But there are many things that did happen because of what held me back. My mindset improved tremendously not having to commute to and from work each day. Being home gave me the extra time and energy to focus on more important things than driving. And being let go from my job was the unconventional gift from the universe that I needed. I can only continue doing my best and giving myself the life I deserve, being the person I want to be. I gave this year my all, and I truly have no regrets outside of things that weren’t in my control.

Now, as we embark on a new year, I find myself in a focused headspace. I’m embracing lockdown restrictions and staying in my apartment. I’m back to cooking most of my meals. I can’t remember the last time I stopped in the alcohol aisle at a grocery store. I’m doing daily face masks and lighting winter candles that are putting me in the best mood. I’m doing the best I can. While I’m nowhere near where I was in the heightened month of June, I’m realizing that this year wasn’t a waste, and that everything I took away from it will go into something bigger in time to come.

I think the challenge lies in what’s next. As noted above, January has always been a strong month. It’s full of new energy and opportunity. There are always fun events and a ton of birthday parties. I honestly don’t know what to anticipate this time around, since much of that will be nonexistent. I’m trying to stay positive—ebbs and flows are a part of life—but I’m pretty sure I’ll be watching the ball drop in my head live and direct from my couch this year. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t spend NYE with people who are important to me. It’s always been a really special date for me personally, even though a lot of people hate the holiday.

Ultimately, when I look back on it all, I’m fond of my experience living alone during a pandemic. I feel strengthened from it, and I’m proud of the positive outlook I maintained amid the vast majority of this experience. I kept myself busy and focused. I loved having the time to explore whatever I wanted (whether that be in the kitchen, with makeup, with my writing, with TikTok, with whatever). And while I initially dressed up, oversized sweatshirts and leggings are where I’m at now—and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I can’t say I know where my life is headed next, but energetically speaking, I’m welcoming positivity with open arms.

2021 will be my year. I’m putting that out into the universe!

If you want continue on this path of reflection, click HERE for skyelyfe’s definitive ranking of the 20 best songs of the 2010s.

Angelenos

The Happy Place Just Launched as an Immersive Drive-Thru Experience in L.A.—Here’s What You Can Expect

November 20, 2020

With COVID-19 cases rising as we near the end of 2020, our activities are becoming more limited than ever. With all of the madness in mind, The Happy Place drive-thru launched as a way to temporarily distract us. In doing so, the pop-up provides a safe, interactive, family-friendly L.A. experience at the beloved outdoor Westfield Century City mall.

I was invited for a sneak peak of the attraction just before today’s official launch (Nov. 20). I invited Identify LA‘s Meagan Sargent to join me—we grabbed our masks and hit the road!

Keep reading for everything you can expect at The Happy Place drive-thru.

1. Getting Situated on Site Is a Seamless Process

As mentioned above, THP is located in Westfield Century City’s parking structure (on the third level, to be exact). Before arrival, you’re instructed to proceed through the Avenue of the Stars entrance. From there, you’ll see easy-to-follow signs that eventually lead you to the exact start of the attraction.

Prior to arrival, you purchase tickets on the website for $49.50 per car. Yes, you can have as many (fitting) attendees for just one fee. When you go to purchase your ticket, you’ll also see a calendar that lists open slots to attend. Your ticket includes two hours of free parking at the mall, encouraging you to shop and dine before or after if you want to make a full day of it. The experience is currently listed through Jan. 10, 2021.

2. The Experience Is 100% COVID-Compliant

Despite the multitude of stationary attractions that make for perfect photo opps, no one is allowed outside of their vehicle. Masks must be worn at all times, and any photos must be taken from inside the car. While this part is a bit of a bummer (the decor is just begging to be photographed with you in front of it), we appreciate the extreme safety precautions taken to ensure this lives up to its worry-free-zone message.

3. Kids Will Especially Love It

While my friend and I are definitely drawn to every Instagram photo opp, kids will be more than satisfied just cruising through each of the 18 (!) attractions (50,000 sq. ft.), which include everything from a simulated car wash, to a candy row and “Christmas tree” line. Additionally, upon arrival, we received a box with goodies that coincided with some of the stops. Kids will without question dig the freshly baked cookie, bag of Hershey’s kisses and other sweet treats packed to perfection.

4. It Won’t Take Much Time Out of Your Day

While I can’t speak for how the experience will go on a busy day, our drive-thru lasted all of 20 minutes. Granted, it was just us two, so perhaps if other people had been with us, it may have taken longer. But not being able to get out of the car certainly cut the time down a bit.

5. A Lot of Effort Went Into This Production

From the way we saw it, no expense was spared for this experience. From the lights to the intricate detail, to the variety of attractions, there really is something for everyone here—and it doesn’t appear cheap. You’re basically taken on a simulated road trip, hitting various points that include a beach, a camping area, the super bloom, San Francisco and plenty more.

The experience was conceptualized by Jared Paul, a live entertainment veteran, who has managed the careers of New Kids on the Block, Sabrina Carpenter and Lea Michele. He’s also responsible for America’s Got Talent Live! and GLEE! Live.

Curious about what else is going on in the City of Angels amid the pandemic? Click HERE for the best L.A. lifestyle newsletters to keep you afloat!

Food Featured

I Completed Whole 30 (and Lived to Tell About It)—Here’s Everything You Need to Know

November 7, 2018

(via Pixabay)

Much like our home electronics, sometimes our body is in need of pressing the reset button.

This was the first year in the last six that I didn’t do “Sober March,” my annual designated month of sobriety. By completing “SM,” I’m not only abstaining from alcohol, but am therefore way more mindful of my eating habits, too. It’s a nice way to break things up during the year. Despite not following through with my usual plan, I had no intentions of doing a replacement month. But by the time July rolled around, I noticed my overindulgence across the board was getting the best of me.

Rarely in my life have I had a significantly positive relationship with food, and here I was finding myself back in the place of dread. Come early August, I knew I needed to change things. I knew I needed a break from eating crap, consuming alcohol and going out a lot. Not only that, but with fall approaching, I really wanted a clear head. I wanted to feel good, and I knew I wasn’t doing things to get me to that place.

So there it was. I decided I was going to embark on Whole 30—and there was no way I was cheating. I’m funny like that. Pretty extreme. Like I’m either all in or all out. In addition to no alcohol for 30 days, Whole 30 also requires the elimination of dairy, gluten, soy, chickpeas, peanut products, artificial sugar, added sugar, baking and more. We’re required to read every single label. Like you can’t even have a dash of soy sauce.

Believe it or not, I found every single part of the process enjoyable. In fact, I’m getting a little sentimental writing this. While it was nice to finally be a little more social again, the feeling I had on the program was unlike any other, and I look forward to taking on the experience again.

Are you considering the program? Or are you simply just curious about my experience? Keep reading for eight things you need to know about Whole 30—from someone who completed it and lived to tell. And for a bunch of the recipes I made on the plan, check out my Whole 30 Pinterest board!

1. It’s a Lot of Commitment

While posting all of my recipes on Insta Story, I had several friends become inspired and eager to give the program a try. Well, none of the ones I talked to made it past a week. And quite frankly, I get it. I made it through because I’d been mentally preparing myself for a month leading up to it. It’s not something you decide to do on a whim. It also requires cooking most of your meals from scratch. For people who have around-the-clock jobs and/or kids or roommates/partners, it’s not ideal. I’m single, I live alone and I am gratefully done with work once I leave the office. Therefore, I had time to mosey on over to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods after work and get down and dirty in the kitchen each night. It was a lot of fun for me, but I can see it being too time-consuming and restricting for the average person.

2. It’s Not Cheap

While you’re definitely saving money by not drinking and going out to eat, being on the plan requires you to cook most of your meals from scratch, and with not just any old ingredients. So I was definitely grocery shopping more frequently and buying the cleanest of items. While you can get a lot of Whole 30 staples at Trader Joe’s (coconut products, cauliflower and chicken were my main go-tos), there’s some stuff that can only be purchased at Whole Foods ($$$).

3. If You Follow the Plan Correctly, You’ll Have Skyrocket Energy

No joke, every single day of Whole 30, I woke up at 6:30 a.m. It was wild how my body was up and at ’em. I couldn’t fall back asleep if I tried. I usually did a full face of makeup and felt pretty good about my outfit choices before heading off to work. My level of confidence and excitement while on the program was unlike any other. My head was so clear. The glass was consistently half full. It felt really good. And it lasted all throughout the day. I do miss that empowering feeling around the clock.

via Pixabay

4. The Second You End the Plan, Your Energy Dissipates

It’s pretty crazy that as quickly as your body suddenly develops energy on the plan is as quickly as it can fade. Even just one day off the program (I think I ate a light dressing that had a dash of sweetener in it), I was back to wanting to sleep in.

5. Moving on to Paleo Is the Most Sensible Post-Program Transition

You don’t plan on doing Whole 30 longer than 30 days, and you don’t want to dive right back in to bad habits, so what do you do? Paleo (at least for as long as you can maintain it) is the most sensible option. It was crazy because I was invited to a tasting at Harriet’s in West Hollywood a couple days after I finished the program. While I knew I couldn’t dive back into eating and drinking anything in sight, I did think that a sip here and a nibble there would be ok. Whoa, I was wrong. The food was absolutely delicious (no complaints there!), but my body wasn’t used to eating the dairy, sugar and wheat that I was served, and I could definitely feel it. Since that day, I’ve stuck primarily to a Paleo plan.

6. Whole 30 Isn’t Made to Be Sustainable Longer Than 30 Days

I totally thought I’d maintain Whole 30 longer than 30 days, but really, with how strict it is, the creator of the program does not expect people to extend that time. As I mentioned, it requires reading literally every single label, and for the most part, if you can’t pronounce an ingredient, you can’t have the product. While I absolutely plan to do Whole 30 again, right now Paleo feels right.

7. You Learn So Much About Food and Cooking

I’ve never cooked so much/eaten so healthy in my entire life. Getting my hands dirty in the kitchen and playing with spices and detailed recipes was so much fun for me. Obviously I love food, so getting a chance to put together delicious dishes that were actually good for me was so rewarding. Like you’d seriously be surprised with how creative you can get. It was so cool. Pinterest was my best friend. I kept all of my recipes and I still plan to make them. Obviously some things turned out better than others, but overall, I was proud of my concoctions.

8. Weight Doesn’t Just Melt Off

Like most people, I thought I’d be like three dress sizes lighter once I completed the plan. Welp, not so! I mean, granted I looked a lot less bloated, which makes sense considering I wasn’t drinking or eating bloat-inducing food. But I’d be lying if I said my clothes fit me a lot differently. I probably lost 5-7 pounds overall. I also didn’t work out as much as I could have (I know, I know), so I think I could have had a different outcome had I done so. That said, I felt really good in my skin during the experience, so a ton of weight loss or not, I was in my most confident state.