I’m 33 years old, and I’m starting to appreciate the little decisions each of us makes in life.
I’ll take you back to March. I had a busy spring lined up: I’d be traveling to nine cities in 12 weeks. Berlin, Sao Paulo, St. Louis — it was all happening. I’d been following the news about the novel coronavirus fairly closely, but I wasn’t too worried. The World Health Organization kept saying this wasn’t a pandemic (really, this happened!), and only a handful of people had tested positive in the United States. I flew to Boston for work (the first cases there would be reported hours after I left), and then to Austin, where I gave my first-ever remote talk. (I didn’t know it’d be the first of 20+ digital events I’d speak at this year.) I visited friends, and even attended a concert. (Indoors! At a crowded Austin bar! No masks!)
And then on March 11, I took off on a flight from Austin, and landed in a world I didn’t recognize.
It’s 2 hours and 10 minutes from Austin to Atlanta, but that’s the longest flight I’ll ever take. I watched on the in-flight TVs as the NBA postponed its season, the President shut down travel to Europe, and Tom Hanks announced that he’d been diagnosed with COVID-19. I landed in Atlanta and knew that everything had changed.
So I flew home.
Well, not right away. I actually — and I cannot believe I did this — first flew to a conference, in South Carolina. I stayed about three hours at the event, never sat down, and spent most of it on the phone with friends trying to figure out if New York was about to close the airports.
Then I flew home.
Sally and I spent the weekend trying to figure out what to do next. At that point, it was pretty clear to us that:
1.) Things were very bad in Europe.
2.) Things were likely to get very bad in New York.
3.) We were both about to start working fully remotely, indefinitely, from a one-bedroom apartment. (So much for all that travel I’d planned!)
4.) If we had a chance to leave New York, we had to leave as soon as possible.
We started texting and calling friends, looking for advice. Some told us to stay, many suggested that we go. We leaned towards “go” — we just weren’t sure where.
I called Ryan, one of my best friends for more than 15 years. The week before, he’d texted me a photo of himself on an empty flight — he was wearing a surgical mask over his nose and mouth, and I teased him for looking like a doomsday prepper. But Ryan usually knows the right thing to do, and in this case, he’d already done it: He’d flown back from California, where he lives, to his home state of North Carolina. His family owns a house along the beach, and he’d be riding out COVID-19 from there.
He asked: Would you guys want to come down here for a few weeks? I’ve got space.
Eight hours later, we were in a rental car, headed south.
We didn’t know just how bad it would get in New York. We didn’t know that Sally would graduate from nursing school in that house — not at Yankee Stadium, with the rest of her NYU class, but on YouTube. We didn’t know that we’d spend 10 weeks with Ryan living in North Carolina.
What I do know is this: If you’re lucky, you get to have people in your life who are there for you when you absolutely need it the most. We didn’t know how much we’d need your help when you invited us down, Ryan. But we’ll always be grateful for that kindness — and for you.
Over the past year, there are certain things I’ve come to believe hold true. I know that my beliefs will continue to change. I know that I will change.
But here, at 33, is what I believe:
Fifty years ago, Mel Brooks coined this line: Hope for the best, expect the worst. That’s 2020.
We’re never going to be able to fully explain this year to our children. Our kids will look at us and say: ”So they asked people to cover their faces and stay home, whenever possible, and people just… refused?”
Part of the reason this year has been so challenging, I think, is that you can’t see where this battle is being fought. Anderson Cooper isn’t broadcasting from inside an ICU. If people could’ve seen, from the earliest days, what nurses and doctors saw inside our hospitals, I think things might have been different.
There are days when I wish I didn’t have to spend so much time on Zoom. But the truth is: Zoom allowed me to not just stay in business, but to grow it this year. To the team at Zoom: Thank you.
At the time, it seemed absurd to pack up and leave for North Carolina on just eight hours notice. Looking back, I’m surprised we even waited that long.
I remember Memorial Day in North Carolina, seeing people partying on boats, acting like COVID-19 was over, and knowing: Yeah, it’s time for us to go home.
I love my wife. But a little alone time is probably a good thing for a marriage.
Corporate jobs bring frustration. Running your own business brings stress. Every job has pressure — it’s just about the type you choose.
No one is supposed to spend this much time staring at a computer. This year reminded me of what I want, whenever life gets back to some sort of normal: A few coffees or lunches per week. A little time in the office with my clients. And maybe once a month, a work trip somewhere. That’d be more than enough.
Had ESPN made a 10-part documentary about Michael Jordan getting food poisoning in Utah, I probably would’ve watched.
Publix makes some of the best subs in America. I’m a believer.
New York City says it’s going to allow outdoor dining to continue in 2021 and beyond. Now the city should bring back the other bright spot of 2020: To-go drinks. Make it a once-a-year thing, just for the week of 4th of July. I’m not saying New York should become New Orleans — but I wouldn’t mind it for one week a year.
Your vote matters.
Sally, you were right. The Peloton was a good investment.
In retrospect, getting airline status for 2020 wasn’t quite the game-changer I thought it’d be.
I remember this moment from the summer. Sally and I had rented a car and gone to New England for a quiet weekend away. On the drive home, we decided to pick up a pizza at Frank Pepe’s in New Haven. They didn’t have outdoor seating, so we took our pie, drove to a nearby strip mall, pulled out the camping chairs, and tailgated. It was a Monday afternoon, a beautiful, sunny day, and for a few minutes, we forgot about the fact that we were eating pizza in a Palm Beach Tan parking lot. I’ll remember 2020 a lot like that: Surreal, strange, but occasionally kind of beautiful.
Of course, five minutes later, a guy in a RAV-4 pulled up next to us and started projectile vomiting out the window. I’ll probably remember 2020 a lot more like that.
And finally, whenever we make it through this pandemic, remember: Be good to each other. Enjoy every moment. And whatever you really want to do, do it now. You never know when you’re going to get the chance to do it again.