Just Sherring

Thank Goodness 2022 Wasn’t 2020 Pt. 2

Photo by Cameron Casey on Pexels.com

2022 was a strange year. It wasn’t 2020 Pt. 2 as some had feared because of how it’s pronounced. As expected, there were highs and lows. There were new hair colors, baby showers, babies, birthdays, trips…

Grief paid a visit at the top of the year in late January. I bid a forever farewell to my almost 99-year-old grandmother. There was an extra layer of surrealness knowing that perhaps several months later we’d be celebrating my grandfather’s 100th birthday. Both are the parents of my mother, whom I lost 35 years ago. Granny’s funeral and Grandpa’s birthday party are the only times I’ve ever seen all my mother’s siblings together—further highlighting her absence. They all weren’t even at her funeral. Canada’s restrictions for entering the country made me almost miss Granny’s services. Because of a layover in Philadelphia, my covid test results would technically expire before the second leg of my trip, so I was denied entry. Friday, my test results came in too late to make another flight. Saturday morning, I flew dressed in my funeral attire and landed in time to attend.

Covid-19 pandemic continued to rage on, though you wouldn’t know it based on how many maskless people I encountered. I felt and still feel like a weirdo and rebel wearing my mask at the supermarket, on the subway and other public spaces. The same camaraderie I feel when I spot a fellow Black person in a room full of white people is the same I feel when I spot a fellow KN95-wearer.

I won honorable mention in a flash fiction writing contest sponsored by Indie It Press. Per usual, Imposter Syndrome had me in a vice grip, causing me to almost miss the submission deadline. A persistent feeling forced me to sit down and write a fictionalized account of my joy at finding plantain on sale five for $1. I asked a friend to proof it and help me select from a list of tentative titles. I hit “submit” and next thing I knew, weeks later I was notified that Green Gold had placed.

Doing things last minute was the theme of the year. In March, I booked a flight to Chicago to attend Let’s Just Write! An Uncommon Writers Conference a week before. Because I dragged my feet to register, slots were filled. A closed mouth doesn’t get fed, so I emailed the organizer to inquire about a waiting list. Tickets were non-refundable so she put me in touch with an attendee selling her spot. She was a Chicago Writer’s Association member who purchased a discounted seat, so I paid discount. I stayed at Warwick Allerton, a gorgeous hotel in the middle of downtown Chicago at the steal of $99 per night. Regular price is overpriced. My room was the size of a dormroom, the bathroom even smaller than that of my NYC apartment, which I jokingly call a bathroomette. In the cold, windy and rainy weather, I went to see the famous art installation known as The Bean. That tied as being the highlight with reuniting with my old friend Byrdie (real name Robin), whom I met in my Borders days in the early aughts.

Also in March, I went home to catch a concert with my family. Even though the Jodeci/New Edition New York date was a mere days after the Boston TD Banknorth one, I couldn’t not see this concert in Boston and with my family. Most of us met up to eat first, where the restaurant tried to kill me by cooking my food in the same oil as shellfish and denied it. My brother and I made a mad dash to a nearby CVS to buy Benadryl. Despite hitting a wall when the two pills took effect in my system, I still had a blast. While some family members called it the Jodeci concert, I was very clear that it was the New Edition concert. After all, there were only 3 of the 4 Jodeci members and they opened for New Edition. Jodeci even went on before Charlie Wilson, which baffled me. He was an outlier for that concert, just as he was when I saw him at Essence Festival years back.

I didn’t want to spend my birthday in New York, and I definitely didn’t want to spend it in Boston. Deep down I knew I’d go to DC, but I was determined to be a fiscally responsible adult. I’d be taking a Girls’ Trip the following month in May. Well, a week prior to my birthday, I researched and booked everything, including a show at DC Improv Comedy Club, to which I invited Randolph to drive up from VA to join me.

The lowlight of the trip is that the first hotel looked like the setting for various nefarious acts ranging from drug deals, sex trafficking and torrid affairs. The highlight is that I took a hop on/hop off bus tour and was able to see many of the DC monuments. I got emotional climbing the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and at the MLK Memorial before feeling underwhelmed. “That’s it?” I thought it would’ve been bigger. I do understand and appreciate the magnitude of a Black man, a non-president, having a memorial in the nation’s capital, right around the corner from Roosevelt at that. Another highlight: on the day of, more entry tickets to National Museum of African American History & Culture were released. Online said sold out. I was able to complete my tour that was left unfinished years before. Three whole floors were left untouched my first visit. This time, I/we started from the top. He’d been to the museum before too, so we didn’t need to revisit all floors. Besides, we were tired and hungry.

May was our first ever (annual?) Girl-Cousin Trip. Though months before we’d voted on Portugal, somehow a domino effect happened that led to Aruba. The island was on my Life To-Do List, so no complaints here. I was thoroughly worried about the smoothness of a trip with 8 women. Except that one of us tested positive for Covid and couldn’t return to the United States as planned, it did. I woke up early one morning for my zoom writing group. Highlight of the trip: Flamingo Island. I saw live flamingos! They were in a mood and wanted only to remain in the shade.

I closed out May with invitation to view the Louis Vuitton and Nike Air Force 1 by Virgil Abloh exhibit. I’m not even a sneakerhead and found it was amazing. The painted sneakers were works of art. Since I was invited by a LV employee, we received the VIP treatment by being able to skip the line, and a chauffeured decorated van ride to a boat ride so we could view other orange statues n various poses like break-dancing that were part of the exhibit.

June was a doozie. I went home to celebrate a cousin’s daughter’s first birthday. Wouldn’t you know I was felled by covid? Thanks to a false negative, the only way I did survive was by telling myself at least it wasn’t covid. Around the same time, I was reunited with a not-so-lost cousin from Utah. The last time I’d seen him was 15 years ago at a family member’s funeral. We’d kept in touch via social media, but that does not constitute a relationship. While in NY visiting a military buddy, we linked up. The original plans were to go into the city, but since I was on death’s door (at the time I didn’t know it was Covid), we stayed local and swapped Daddy Issues stories. Fun times!

July I got to see my favorite comedian of all time, Chris Rock, perform live for the third time. Happy to say it wasn’t a Sher Date. I had planned on going because the Kevin Hart/Chris Rock shows were here in New York, but my cousin Tania called me one morning and basically ask/told me that I was going with her. I’m not mad at the initiative. Dave Chappelle was the surprise opening guest. I hollered behind my mask at Madison Square Garden when I saw that “C” flash on the screen. We rounded out the visit with Brooklyn Museum Virgil Abloh exhibit, delicious eating at Melba’s in Harlem, and Brooklyn Chophouse, which is actually in the city. I say delicious even though I could hardly enjoy the food. I was suffering from a double tooth infection. My left and right bottom wisdom teeth had a group meeting and decided they wanted out! That lovely procedure took place early August.

August, I lost two more healthy teeth, in addition to the four that were pulled twenty years ago to make space for shifting when I got braces. Calling it a tooth infection is a misnomer. My gums were infected. Hold on! Before you go thinking I’m nasty and neglect my oral care, let me explain. My back wisdom teeth never fully grew in. They were both covered by a flap of gum. For decades, bacteria had been accumulating. No amount of brushing, flossing or mouthwash could’ve prevented what inevitably happened. The infection was so bad I got a sore throat, earache and couldn’t sleep at night.

When the dentist explained the cause, I felt relieved. I wasn’t judged as an unhygienic slob. However, I was confused and concerned as to why I was never warned about it happening. Furthermore, I was confused, concerned and angry that they didn’t properly prepare me for the caretaking of the two holes I would have in the back of my mouth. I don’t understand the purpose of stitches, if in the end I still had gaping holes which I had to make my own contraption out of an emptied shampoo bottle to clean. I am still amazed at the amount of food particles that landed in the bathroom sink after I flushed out the gum holes with salt water. Let’s not get into the agony I endured trying to get rid of a small white watermelon seed that lodged in the right hole. The thin slimy thing refused to budge for over an hour. My lips became irritated at the amount of salt water that they were subjected to. I was still healing from the teeth-pulling when I finally got to see Gary Owen perform at Caroline’s on Broadway. I’ve been trying to catch his act for years. Every time he came to New York, I couldn’t make it or found out too late.

September was a fun month. I went back home for a Sweet 16 birthday party. Wearing an off-shoulder, pleated rainbow dress, I did my best to last in heels before changing into orange Chucks. My “niece” made the whole room teary-eyed when she delivered a speech thanking her parents, siblings, grandparents, (honorary) aunts, friends and family for supporting her. Homegirl had an outfit change and everything. There was a photobooth which I visited several times. I’ve never met a photobooth I didn’t like.

One weekend in October had two birthdays. Friday night, a cousin threw a Nike vs Adidas-themed birthday party. Even though I’m a Nike Girl, I sure did recycle the Adidas track suit I’d worn three years earlier for his 40th, when that theme was strictly Adidas. It was a great night with some good food. At least at that party I was just a guest. The very next day, I was part of the set-up and clean-up crew for Grandpa’s 100th birthday.

Knowing how BFF aunt turns into a monster while party-planning, I tried to distance myself from it. I still got roped in. Not only was I put on bottle label customization duty against my will, but for months, on a weekly, if not daily basis, I received updates from her and my cousins. We tried to reel her in when it sometimes seemed like the party was more a way for her to showcase her party-throwing abilities than to celebrate her father. While we all balked at the notion that his children, grandchildren and great-grands had to dress in white (women and girls) or gray (boys and men) in the end, the aesthetic was beautiful, especially in the photos. I had to swallow a few choice words for her, when unprovoked, she called to let me know that she didn’t like the dress I planned to wear. The day after the party, there was an impromptu brunch cooked and hosted by moi, but not by my choice. Unbeknownst to me, my cousin Paul from Canada, who was also staying at BFF aunt’s house had coordinated with the other cousins to come over in the morning. Here I thought I’d have a relaxing day before some of us were set to have dinner in the evening.

Two aunts and I hitched a ride with my cousin back to New York. Hosting my aunts in my apartment was a riot, but also bittersweet. My mother’s sisters. The stay started out rocky because my apartment wanted to embarrass me by having a blackout. It had started before I left for the weekend and I was assured the problem would be resolved upon my return. Joke’s on me because I failed to follow up. Nothing was done. I lost hundreds of dollars’ worth of food (I had salmon and oxtail in the freezer), but I didn’t let that bother me. I asked for it to be knocked off my rent. My aunts and I gallivanted around the city in search of a mother-of-the-groom dress. Paul’s wedding is in September, I repeat, September, but we were on the hunt already. We were successful, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be spared wedding outfit talk from now until September.

Bringing back the theme of doing things last minute: I attended the Well-Read Black Girl Festival in DC by the skin of my teeth. My silly self booked travel and lodging but not festival tickets. Once again, closed mouth don’t get fed, so I texted Glory to ask if she’d be releasing more tickets. She asked if I’d like to be a part of the crew. Suuuuure. I worked the Sign In table, meeting and chatting with some incredible women, and even encountering a few bookstagrammer friend. Highlight: I met Bevy Smith, who closed out the festival with Sarah Broom, author of The Yellow House. I was slightly bummed at missing a good chunk of the panels, but it did help keep me from spending too much money or bloating my TBR. At the end of the night, Glory, the other crew members and I had dinner at one of the restaurants in the hotel where the festival was held. No anxiety that night! Before leaving DC, I visited indie bookstore, Loyalty. I exercised self-control and only bought a book, bookmark, notepad and pen, unlike when I visited Harriett’s Bookshop in Philadelphia in August.

November was an emotional month. I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). About a week before month end, I surpassed the writing goal of 50,000 words. Some days I typed on my laptop, other days I dictated into the Otter app. Some days I had a semi-plan of what I wanted to write about and followed it. Other days, the writing told me what to write. One morning, I was awoken out of my sleep at 7 am to write about a past failed (read: abusive) relationship. I don’t even know if I can call it that because it was long-distance and we were never officially boyfriend and girlfriend. Writing personal essays unlocked memories I had forgotten about. I’ve been through a lot. I was pleased and surprised that I even managed to continue writing during two trips to MA. The first was when I flew home to watch Wakanda Forever with the family, and the second was, of course, Thanksgiving.

That brings us to December. This holiday season was strange. I didn’t fall as deep into my annual year-end funk as I usually do, but it was there. Lurking. There were plenty of crying jags, some in public, some that sprang out nowhere, most in bed. There’s a loneliness that I still can’t shake. It is and isn’t because I’m not in a relationship. Despite the grief and it still being a pandemic—actually New York was declared to be in a tridemic—covid, flu, and RSV, all of which fuck with your lungs—I went on plenty of Sher Dates. I didn’t bother to list them all here. No point in doing that. But I’m not letting not having my Someone hold me back from doing and experiencing things.  

I have a Life To Do List that I plan on attacking with as much fervor as I can. Unfortunately, I’ll never get to see a taping of The Daily Show hosted by Trevor Noah (loved his memoir). Homeboy abruptly quit after seven years. A co-worker and I had discussed attending together pre-covid. Caroline’s on Broadway shuttered its doors forever this week. Thank goodness I caught one of the final shows this week with Michael Che as headliner. It was a Sher Date, as was my annual trek to Rockefeller Center to see the tree and Saks light show.

Using my PTO since December 16, I squeezed in binge-watching several series, Christmas rom-coms, and other movies. I slacked in reading, but I had already surpassed my Goodreads goal of 40. I made it 47. I earned the time to relax. Throughout the year, I participated in several workshops, sometimes juggling more than one per week. Social media has its pros and cons. I made and strengthened more relationships via Instagram. In fact, thanks to that damn app, my First Love found me, reached out then disappeared again, but not before asking and answering some questions we’d both had for nearly two decades. It was a good reminder that I’d once had love and can have it again. I’d had a false alarm in February, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. No more app dating!

2022 was quite a year. It left me in my feelings, but I’m still standing and ready to tackle 2023. New year, same me. I don’t make resolutions, but I plan to hop more planes, trains, and automobiles, wearing my mask, of course. We outsiiiiiiiide!

Writer’s note: despite several attempts, I gave up on trying to add photos. The program just wasn’t cooperating.

One comment

  1. Pingback: Don’t Call It a Bucket List | Just Sherring

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