This is typically the time of year when I sift through the memories and experiences of the previous 12 months, recap the number of flights we’ve taken (ha), look back at all our glorious travels (uh…) and talk about what! a! great! year! it’s been (*crickets*). I’m not going to do that this year. While, sure, there were some great highlights of 2020, it was also an incredibly hard, taxing and painful year for millions.
The truth is, our business is fine. We’ve always been great at pivoting—while we haven’t stepped foot on a plane in 308 days, this is hardly the first recession or tough time for our industry that we’ve survived—and we figured out plenty of ways to sustain our income and support our clients that didn’t require being on the road during a period when it was best we all stayed home. At some point soon, I’ll write about these things.
But for now, let’s look at what this year taught us, because it had to all be for something, right?
It was an uncomfortable year
The first half of the year was plagued with hardships for so many POCs trying to be heard as our nation was numbed by death after death after death. There was Ahmaud Arbery. Then Breonna Taylor. And then George Floyd. Those were the most recognizable names we heard about all year, but hardly the only ones.
Rayshard Brooks. Daniel Prude. Jacob Blake. Jonathan Price. Andre Hill. The list is just too frighteningly long to recap, let alone comprehend.
It’s incredibly alarming that it took the brutal killing of George Floyd for us as a nation to come to terms with the fact that while slavery was abolished 155 years ago, the treatment of our Black community has not really improved all that much since Jim Crow laws.
Examining “white privilege,” a term that brings on a knee-jerk reaction for some who don’t understand the nuance, has been a big touchstone for 2020. To fully comprehend why the Black Lives Matter movement has been so important for so many is to understand that term equates to addressing the advantages one has by being born into a certain skin color or socioeconomic class or zip code or neighborhood. No one is saying you didn’t experience hardships, but rather certain circumstances gave you an immediate advantage over others (like not being targeted by cops simply based on skin color alone).
Walls for Women mural by Cymone Wilder and Sarah Painter in honor of the Black communities of Nashville
For the past few years, SVV and I have been diving into the brutal history of racism the South was built on, and it’s forced me to unravel things I was taught (or rather, not taught) as a kid growing up in the South and also realize how this brand of hate continues today, just in other forms. Prior to this year, I “stayed out of politics,” and I realize now how wrong that was; politics drives everything we do, including travel, and by choosing to stay silent, I was complicit in the South not changing.
It was a year of learning and listening
Had we all gotten complacent? Were (are) we all complicit? Is that what 2020 really meant to teach us? If we don’t start with ourselves, examine first how we treat each other and our planet, will we all cease to exist in 10, 20 years or even five?
Was the word of this year actually meant to be “vision,” implying that we need to sharpen our focus and start to examine what’s happening all around us, that we need to teach the next generation to love all people regardless of skin tone or class or political affiliation?
The leadership of this country (and if you’re in Tennessee, this state) brought on even more division, drove a deeper wedge between those clinging to white supremacy like a badge of honor and those who want to finally see unity in this country. The future is uncertain, but this I know: There’s an administration taking office soon that will attempt to do everything in its power to continue and bridge the ravines created, and for that I am incredibly hopeful about our future as a nation.
I hope, if nothing else this year, you also learned how to be an ally for all marginalized communities and the underdogs—or at least are on the right path to educating yourself on why it’s going to take all of us to undo the harm caused by the past couple hundred years.
It was a year of grief and sorrow
I have so many friends who lost loved ones due to COVID-19. Our own community is reeling from the deaths we’ve experienced as one of the hotbeds of the virus (and yet people still refuse to wear their damn masks; it’s infuriating). I watched other friends lose jobs, lose babies, lose dear pets (we did, too). It’s like every time you open up your Facebook app, another sorrow materializes on your screen. It’s enough to make us all give up social media, right? (And yet, I continue to doom-scroll.)
Tennessee, my beloved state, itself lost so much. There was the March tornado that ripped through our division of the state, leaving devastation in its wake, along with taking the lives of 26 people. The first reported case of COVID-19 came two days later.
Late spring brought with it a spike in cases, as well as a derecho that caused even more damage and a major power outage. The virus raged through the fall, bringing attention to our state as the worst place in the country for active cases by population; then, this past weekend, an explosion, an act of terrorism. Tennessee has been through a lot in my time on Earth, but no one expected this; not a bombing, not here, not on Christmas Day.
It was a year of immense gratitude
As I write this, one in 17 Americans has COVID-19, a frightening thought, and yet, my feed is filled with hope by way of so many friends far and near getting vaccinated. There’s change—a glimmer of hope—on the horizon; I feel it, and I hope you do, too.
I was already grateful for a life of abundance: one with a home we own, a business we built ourselves, a nonprofit that’s done a lot of good in our community, and an amazing family just down the street who we are incredibly fortunate to see often. And this year only amplified those feelings.
Also, do I have the cutest niece and nephew on the planet or what?
I’m grateful for so many things, small and material, that 2020 inadvertently brought: the time and mental bandwidth to read more for leisure. Financial stability in the hardest of years. The opportunity to step away from being glued to my computer 24/7 and pursue hobbies and this elusive thing called rest. The coziness of the Cedar House. Clients, new and old, who took a chance and let us help them navigate these “unprecedented times.” Naps with Ella.
Subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and Disney+ that allowed us to temporarily escape into other worlds (our favorite shows we streamed this year were Hanna, Yellowstone, Aquarius, The Boys, The Queen’s Gambit and Schitt’s Creek). Zoom and the ability to catch up with friends from all over the world on the regular (is it just me or have I actually spoken with more people “face-to-face” virtually than ever before?). A spacious garage and studio that allowed me to paint just for fun. Our well-stocked bourbon collection. The health of my family when so many haven’t been as lucky.
If you are someone for whom 2020 was extremely tough, my heart goes out to you. And while I can’t assure you 2021 will be any better—but real talk, it has to be, right?—just remember that we’re all in this together. From Scott and me, from the bottom of our hearts, we appreciate you being here, we love hearing from you, be it emails or comments here or messages on social media, and we hope to see your faces offline one of these days.
And we sure as Hell hope that you are first in line for the vaccine when it comes available to you. I know, for my family and I, getting our groups called cannot come soon enough. I can’t wait to travel again, and I can’t wait to cheers you all over a beer or seven.