Earlier this week in my “Journaling with Brahmin” post, I talked about how writing is a therapeutic exercise for me and how much I like to go back and read old journal entries from years ago. It’s a cathartic release; it helps me realize how far I’ve come and how tough some of the things I’ve walked through really were. Which leads me to imagine “what will I think reading this in April 2021?” Just last month, our lives changed drastically when my fiancé, along with the rest of the country, was asked to work from home. At first, I said “Au Revoir…Ciao...Sayonara” to semi-long distance (he lives in Miami, I live in West Palm Beach), welcomed home cooked meals, routine walks and a slower pace of life with wide open arms. Three weeks later + one major meltdown (I blame it on PMS) along with a few new books + pairs of sweatpants, I’m realizing just how much I miss life before the pandemic. Of course, I’m grateful to spend more time with my fiancé and know things will change once this is over, but I miss my friends, intimate gatherings, traveling and the beach. Rather than reminisce, because I know we’re all in the same boat, I wanted to shed light on how I’m really doing…what my new realities are…and three valuable lessons I’ve learned thus far. Privacy is perfectly fine While listening to the podcast, “Fashion No Filter,” the hosts talked about influencers and authenticity and how muddled the word has become over the years. What started as a way of connecting with others turned into a competition for oversharing in some instances (you know what I mean) for the sake of more likes. Over the past few weeks, I’ve asked myself many times “at what point is it too much?” as well as question whether or not I should jump on social media and do the same because everyone else is? I mean it’s my job, right? The older I get, the more I realize just how precious my privacy is and how refreshing a little intrigue can be in an economy where oversharing (“more is more”) is an industry standard. Yes, my fiancé and I have argued over what movie to watch at night. Sure, I’ve had bouts of insecurity about the future of my job and its impact on the fashion industry. Of course, I’ve worn pajamas way too much. And oh yeah, I too have consumed wine every night (I’m sure many of us can relate). But I haven’t felt the desire to open up my iPhone and share that publically with the world because…well, I don’t have a good answer other than I’ve learned lately that it’s perfectly fine to keep these details (and more) to yourself during times like these when emotions are high and we’re all collectively experiencing something so life-altering. Trust me, being open and vulnerable can be a freeing act, and even change your life, but only if it’s done in an “authentic” way…you know, a way that’s true (sometimes scary) and impactful for you…as the lovely ladies from FNF mentioned. “It’s a quarantine, not a productivity contest” DAY 1: Workout more, eat better, read more books, learn something new, grow out eyebrows. DAY 45: Eat another bowl of pasta, take three naps, eyebrows look crazy. Which brings me to my next point. I went into this chapter ready to es-slay (as my fiancé says in Spanish) quarantine! I told myself, “Stephanie, now is the time to get back in shape, eat better, read the books you’ve wanted to read…and grow out your eyebrows.” (The latter because I recently saw an aesthetician who went a little too heavy with the wax and now my eyebrows look like a mix between Brook Shields meets Eugene Levy meets Jennifer Lopez circa 1998. It’s not pretty.) Admittedly, the opposite has happened. My jeans are completely tight and bursting at the seams since becoming a sommelier as well as an Italian chef who specializes in the yummiest mushroom pasta. I’ve ordered Thai food, vegan cookies and ice cream a handful of times on Uber Eats (at least I’m supporting my local economy, no?). Stared at the walls for a few hours because my attention was all over the place that day. Made a mess in my closet trying to find the “perfect” quarantine outfit. Ridiculous, right? And just last night while reading in bed, my fiancé pulled me in closer…I puckered up fully expecting a kiss goodnight…only to hear him tell me my eyebrows were out of control. “I think you have a unibrow.” We’ve also made banana pancakes. Read a couple books. Watched way too much Curb Your Enthusiasm. Danced to salsa music while clapping pots and pans together post-two glasses of wine to thank healthcare workers from our balcony. Cuddled on the sofa. Oh, and averaged 10k steps everyday last week (balance, right?). These facts are intended to highlight one thing: we’ve had good and bad days. Maybe you’ve felt pressure on social media to do more. I know I have, but then I have to remind myself that “it’s a quarantine, not a productivity contest.” Chances are we’ll never get this much time off in our adult lives again so whether you learn a new language on Duolingo, a frivolous hobby like doing your own nails (which is NOT the case for me right now) or master cooking banana bread, just do your best and accept that this chapter is not normal and we should all remove this weight off our shoulders of having “to do it all” all the time. And please do not punish yourself for not being perfect or doing more. You can go back to hustling when this is over. Chill and retreat to comfort A few days ago we re-watched Something’s Gotta Give directed by Nancy Myers (known for her “aesthetically delightful classics”). I also watched Contempt starring Bridget Bardot. I’ve watched plenty of Project Runway as well as read one of my favorite books again (How to Win Friends and Influence People, a book I’ve read at least once a year for the past twelve years) and listened to lots of classical music. (Click here to listen to my Spotify playlists.) My fiancé is re-reading The Intelligent Investor for the umpteenth time. Why? He said it’s familiar and comforting. Before the pandemic, “chilling out” meant taking one day off over the weekend to do nothing. But the pressure of Sunday and everything I had left to do before the week began always loomed over me so I never really excelled at truly relaxing. It felt more like procrastinating. But last weekend, my fiancé and I did absolutely nothing work or wedding related and it was SO nice. I can’t remember the last time I’ve done that? I’ve been working from home for nearly four years at this point (and am eternally grateful that I am still able to work), but staying home for 3-4 consecutive weeks is something new and has varying effects on all of us. It may sound silly, but I’ve had to re-accept what “rest” looks like from all the noise and distractions spurred up by the pandemic. And sometimes that’s being fine with “less [really] is more.” If sleeping in means I wake up feeling rested in the morning, great. If familiar movies like The Notebook, Sleepless in Seattle and It’s Complicated help me worry less, even better. When I think of everyone who’s been impacted around the world, our community and those who have lost their jobs and/or small businesses my heart aches… The other day, I drove past a long line of cars with laid-off hospitality workers and others sidelined by the pandemic waiting to pick up free meals. This was (and continues to be) led by Rodney Mayo, a local restaurateur who recently laid off 650 workers. I was immediately reminded of the pandemic’s sobering effects and everyone who’s trying to survive difficult times right now. But efforts like these do not go overlooked, in fact it provides hope and hope is essential. It creates an urgency and inspires us to do our part as best as we can during this time. That is why I truly believe we can collectively get out of it together. Of course I have struggled to adjust -- similar to many others I could imagine -- like when I thought I had this under control (circa Life As I Know It, March 2020), I found myself fearful that our parents might get sick or that my friends will lose their jobs. I’ve had to remind myself many times this month that I’m not failing by doing less and that no matter what happens, we’ll get through it and eventually things will return to an appropriate normal (workouts IRL at the gym and not virtually from the balcony, dining at our local favorites vs. only cooking in or doing takeout or traveling to see my family and not just on Zoom calls until 2AM). There’s no blueprint to life as I know it right now and listen, that’s perfectly OK (no need to es-slay it)... Xo, Stephanie PS: If you would like to contribute towards Hospitality Helping Hands, a West Palm Beach nonprofit ensuring families impacted by the pandemic get at least one meal a day, please click here for more information.