I have struggled to write down my feelings over the past year. I start and never finish. At the start of all the craziness, I was going to write a quarantine diary and post updates. It never happened. We thought this was going to last a few weeks, maybe a few months. A whole year feels like one big blur. It feels so strange and so surreal a year later.
This past weekend, it was mentioned by someone that it has been a year since we had the last “normal” weekend before lockdown began. It hit me and I couldn’t hold back the tears.
At the start of 2020, I had two ski trips planned. I had never been skiing and I thought 2020 would be the year I would learn to ski. I had my first trips to Colorado and Utah and while it was a challenge, learning to ski was also a lot of fun. I saw my brother-in-law in Utah, his trip happened to overlap mine. We had talked about a family ski vacation with the kids in March/early April.
I hadn’t booked any trips to Paris for 2020 but was talking about possibly going in February. That trip got pushed out and it never happened. I had been working on a concierge series with different hotels in Paris. One for every month featuring insider tips from concierges around the city of Paris. I was writing the posts in advance to them ready to go and I was really enjoying connecting with the hotels, their staff, and learning about new places in my favorite city.
When I watched the news about the virus and lockdown in China, I never thought that could be us. I stocked up on groceries at Costco, frozen foods, toilet paper, and meats. We heard two weeks, maybe four? Not a year…
My sister celebrated her birthday out at a restaurant with my family in Florida, that weekend her party with friends was canceled. Restaurants and schools started to close with no date of reopening.
My grandmother passed away in March, she was 94. We have had our struggles in our relationship over the years but we reconnected about 10 years ago. I am grateful that we were able to talk before she passed and Emma has memories of meeting her a few years ago.
A month later my birthday was celebrated away from my family as the whole world was locked down. One of my friends called me who had a birthday the following month. She mentioned how upset she would be if the world was still locked down on her birthday. Not much changed in that month. I think it is safe to say that we all had a quarantine birthday and some of us (my sister and I both) will have two! It has only been a year but I feel like 2020 has aged me more than any other year.
The stress of the unknown and the health and safety of loved ones have always been on my mind. I watched the news pretty regularly with Lester Holt. The news of the virus and the death rates triggered sleepless nights and anxiety I skipped out of the nightly news for months.
It feels strange being a travel photographer without a year of travel. I have photographed Paris since 2010 and I know the city better than Chicago. Just a year before, I traveled to Paris four times. I feel lucky to have an inventory of photographs from all the years of my travels and my business has survived another year in these uncertain times. I always had pride when sharing my profession when people asked. I went from being laid off to creating my own dream job. Now when I tell people I am a travel photographer, they always ask how I am managing without going anywhere.
This past year has been the hardest in my business when it comes to being creative and motivated. Paris has been my inspiration and foundation of my business for ten years. There are days when I sort through photos for a project and my heart aches for Paris. I cannot wait to return. It is probably what keeps me pushing through this hard time knowing that I will return at some point and not take any moment for granted.
Along with being a full-time travel photographer, I write this blog titled Every Day Parisian. The blog was centered around the city of Paris, tips on where to eat, where to stay, and what to do, and what to pack. If no one was traveling to Paris… what would I write about? I learned to pivot quickly as I know so many of us have in 2020. This is where The Frenchify Series began last March. I am so happy it was a hit with readers. What I thought was a series that may last a few weeks, has lasted a year. Readers have even requested that I turn the Frenchify series into a book. One of the bright spots this year was the extra time I had to write and get to know my readers on a more personal level. I feel more connected with readers this year than ever before.
There are three more bright spots of this past year.
Being away from my family has been one of the most challenging parts. In a way, I feel this year has brought us closer together. We have a family text chain that is filled with photos, stories, and messages of love. We have spent birthdays, celebrations, and cocktail hours over Facetime. I have started the Cookie Club where I send my family boxes of cookies so we can all feel a way to connect from far away. Auntie Cookies and biscotti are the favorites. Emma loves to call just to say hi and she enjoys just talking about what she is learning or reading. I cannot wait to hug my niece and nephew in person. I think about our reunion often and what that will be like. We have a year of birthdays to celebrate so I know there will be a lot of cake and ice cream and so many snuggles.
Quarantine Cooking. This past year has challenged me in the kitchen. While I have always had a love of cooking/baking. I continue to learn new recipes and new cuisines I never would have thought I could make at home. I added a Recipe Master List to the blog for all my favorite recipes. I have also learned to kitchen prep and become BFFs with leftovers.
HENRI! I never thought I would be a dog mom or how much joy a dog could bring. He is napping next to me as I write this. He has brought me so much love and comfort in the past few months. I needed him more than I thought I did. I am so happy to hear from readers on how much you enjoy watching him grown and about our adventures.
I don’t have a crystal ball to tell you the future of 2021. The start of the year has felt much like 2020. I can’t wait to travel again, to be inspired, to photograph and make new memories. I have started to book and plan travel for 2021. There is a trip to see my family that has been moved too many times to count but it is still the first trip I will take. Italy is planned for the Summer of 2021 (fingers and toes crossed as this will be my first vacation). Paris will happen as soon as it is safe. ❤️
If you are struggling, please know that you are not alone. I am sending you lots of love and Henri kisses from the two of us. There are a lot of outlets to help you cope with your feelings and therapy is always a good one. You. can see someone virtually from home. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a friend, loved one, or stranger for help processing or dealing with your feelings.