Southern Belle in Training

Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle Blog || Est. 2012 || Virginia Beach, VA

March 1, 2021

One Year Since March 2020: Everything I Remember.

      March 1st, 2020. I woke up in New York City. I was sharing a bed with my roommate Abigail, with our two friends Lily and Kelly sleeping in the bed next to us. We were in a hotel one block away from Times Square in NYC. That morning, my biggest concern in life was getting to the airport on time and making sure that whatever method of transportation that we took to the airport that day was hopefully cheaper than the expensive cab we had taken to get into the city two days prior. As we got packed up and headed back to the airport, something else was happening in NYC that day. The first positive case of COVID-19 in New York City was identified on March 1st, 2020.

    I have some of the most vivid and intense memories of my life so far from the first half of the month of March last year. I can't believe it's already been a full year. In a mere two weeks in March 2020, I feel like everyone watched their lives go from precedented to unprecedented, and with each day that went by, there were more surprises and changes to societal norms.

     I decided many months ago that around the one year anniversary of March 2020, I wanted to share a journal-type blog post to document everything that I remember thinking and feeling from that time. To be honest, I'm writing this more for my own benefit. So I can have a public record to look back on in years to come about what this strange time in life was like for me. But, I feel like you might also enjoy reading this and be able to relate to some of the things I was feeling and thinking at that time. This post isn't written to share my opinions on the politics of COVID-19 and/or the vaccine. Just an honest recollection of what life was like at the end of last February and March for me. 

{Photo from March 13th, 2020)

      December 31st, 2019. 2020 was going to be my year- my best year yet. 2018 and 2019 had both been very good years for me overall (In my head I kind of think of 2019 as 2018 2.0), but I felt like the best was yet to come. The first six months of 2020 was going to hold tons of travel- probably the most travel that I'd ever done in a short amount of time since college. My word of the year was "wander" to honor these exciting plans. And I was excited for some new developments in my career as well.

      I was supposed to be ringing in 2020 at a silent disco event in Downtown Charlottesville with my roommate Abigail and a few other friends. This was the same thing I had done for New Year's in 2019, and it has been a blast then! However, I woke up on December 31st with a killer migraine. I hadn't had a migraine that intense or painful in a few years... honestly this might be one of the worst I've ever had. I ended up calling out sick from work and staying home that day. I felt a little better by evening, but not good enough to go out. So I ended up staying in for NYE. I remember thinking that night "Well- this must be 2019's last laugh before the new decade." Ha. ha. ha.

{12/31/19 - Delilah keeping me company on the couch while I was home from work with a migraine.}

      Mid-February 2020. I didn't know it then, but it was the best month of the year. I thought that it was foreshadowing all that was to come in the months following- I didn't know that was the best that it was going to get as far as 2020 was concerned. Twitter is my favorite form of social media, and I spend a lot of time on there. In January, I started seeing more and more things pop up about the COVID-19 lockdowns in Wuhan, China. I was intrigued, but not too worried. I started getting a little more concerned in February. During the second weekend in February, I was in Richmond for the weekend with my friend Emily for a travel blogging opportunity. Lying in bed in the hotel that night, I was scrolling Twitter and reading about COVID in other parts of the world, and I remember that was the first time that night I wondered if life would really be changing in the US. But it seemed like such a far away, distant possibility. Every time that I would start to worry about COVID coming here, I'd calm myself down by remembering how worried I had been as a kid hearing about the Bird Flu, and then again in 9th grade when Swine Flu was happening. Both of those things had seemed so scary on the news at the time, but never really impacted my life at all. I trusted that whatever this Coronavirus was, it would be the exact same thing. 

     I went home to Maine for my grandmother's 95th birthday party during the third weekend of February. The night before the party, my parents and I went to dinner at a restaurant in Portland. My mom brought up COVID while we were at dinner, and mentioned she was nervous about me being in New York City the following weekend. I am fairly certain this was the first time I had ever discussed COVID with anyone in conversation. I didn't admit to her that her fears were my fears a little bit as well... I just shrugged it off and laughed and told her that as of that time, the only cases in the US were all in the Pacific Northwest, far away from New York City. My NYC trip the next weekend would be just fine. 

{2/22/20 - My grandmother's 95th birthday party in Maine}

      February 28th, 2020. My alarm clock went off at 3:30am, which isn't abnormal as I am a morning show host for my day job and typically wake up at this time. But today it wasn't going off for work, it was going off for the airport! I was headed to New York City for a girls' trip with my roommate Abigail, and our dear friends Kelly and Lily. We were headed up to see our friend Eden (Abigail's former roommate), who had moved to NYC for a new job a few months prior. We all missed Eden dearly and couldn't wait to see her. I was a bit anxious that morning that we wouldn't get to the airport in time (so nervous that I ended up throwing up before we left the apartment!), but it all worked out and we did make it in time.

     February 28th was my favorite day of 2020, if not one of my favorite days of my adult life thus far. Getting to be with four of my nearest and dearest friends in one of the greatest cities on earth. Recreating the famous Gossip Girl scene on the steps of the Met. Lunch and girl talk over the best Mexican food. A glorious afternoon nap back in our hotel. Taking all of the fun tourist photos in Times Square at night. Dancing the night away at the coolest retro themed bar. Being a little tipsy on the subway at midnight and screaming Hilary Duff songs in the empty subway station while waiting for the next train. Making it to Junior's Cheesecake in Times Square just before they closed and eating the most amazing piece of cheesecake that I've ever had in my life at 2am back in the hotel. Going to sleep after being awake for almost 24 hours and being so blissfully happy. 

     As perfect of a day as February 28th was... there were two eery moments that day that I'll never forget. This was the first time that I saw people wearing face masks, and this image is burned into my mind in a way I'll never forget. When we had landed at LaGuardia, we wanted to grab coffee/tea and a quick breakfast to-go before finding a cab into NYC. As we were in line in the airport terminal, two girls about our age walked by with face masks on! It was such an odd sight to see. I remember thinking that they must have recently traveled to China or one of the Europe countries where the Coronavirus was very present. The other eery moment was a brief conversation with my friends about COVID. We had just met up with Eden at a coffee shop at a little bit prior, and we were in a subway station for the first time of the trip (headed to the Met Museum). One of us (I think it was Lily or Eden?) made a comment about Coronavirus, and for a few minutes the five of us chatted about the headlines, and wondered aloud if our lives would change at all. I think I made a comment about Swine Flu not being too much of anything back in 2009, although internally I was panicking a little that we were even talking about this. 

{2/28/20 - the best day of 2020 for me. A highlight was recreating the famous Gossip Girl scene on the steps of the Met with some of my best friends.)

     March 1st, 2020. The day that this blog post opened on (see first paragraph!). The first day of what would become one of the longest and strangest months of my life. Abigail, Kelly, Lily and I made it back to the airport. We took a Lyft this time, which was much cheaper than the cab we had taken two days prior. I was the only one out of the group to have TSA Pre-Check, so I made it through the security lines faster than they did and had to wait for them for awhile. I remember thinking to myself how grateful I was for Pre-Check, and how useful it would be in the months to come with all the travel plans I had for the year. 
     Before our flight, I tried to locate the nearest Starbucks to buy a mug. I've been collection Starbucks travel mugs since 2015. I had an older version of the NYC mug from the former You Are Here collection, but I didn't have one of the new designs, which I think launched in 2018 or 2019. Of course while in Manhattan during the weekend I'd passed dozens of Starbucks locations, but I thought it would just be easiest to pick it up in the airport on our way home. I soon learned that we were flying out of a LaGuardia terminal that didn't have a single Starbucks location. What the heck!! Most big airports are full of them. This is one of the only times that I've ever traveled somewhere and wasn't able to get a Starbucks mug to commemorate the trip as planned. It felt like a weird bad omen.

{3/1/20 - No idea why I snapped this photo of this sign hanging in our Lyft leaving NYC for the airport... but I did! It's the only photo on my camera roll for this day.}

     March 2nd, 2020. Back to business! After two back-to-back long weekends of flying and traveling, it was time to get back to work and back to my blog. I had an early 3:30am wakeup call, and then had to rush home soon after to prep for blog photos. I was shooting that day for a campaign I did last spring for pet products, which meant Delilah got to be in the photos with me. (This was how they turned out!) After the pet campaign photos were done, my photographer and I headed over to a nearby shopping center to take a few outfit pictures. It was a cloudy day, and the shops were pretty deserted, so it felt like we had the place all to ourselves. I was happy to be back at my day job and back to diving into blog work. I was excited for the plans that the rest of March held for me. I was trying to push away any fears that I had about COVID-19... especially since I saw in the news that day that cases were officially starting to pop up in New York City, where I had just been less than 24 hours prior.

{3/2/20 - A quick selfie in between blog photos}

     March 3-5th, 2020. The rest of that week was busy and oh-so-normal. I had multiple collaborations that I was working on for the blog. Work was keeping me busy. I went back to my Jazzercise classes after a couple weeks of inconsistent attendance due to my long weekends away. I was still concerned by the news that I was seeing on Twitter about COVID, particularly the news out of Italy, but I didn't really talk about this with anyone. Except my co-host Marc a little bit, in between songs on the morning show when our mics were off. But even then, we didn't chat about it too much.
     I was starting to wonder about a planned trip to Bermuda that I was leaving for on March 17th. My dad and I were going to celebrate his 60th birthday together. It was starting to be in the news that people were cancelling trips abroad for fear of the virus. But it still seemed to mostly be trips overseas to Europe and other countries... a tiny island like Bermuda still seemed safe. I called my dad at one point this week- he had no concerns about the trip.
     I was fairly anxiety-free until receiving a work email that on March 5th. It was an all-office email, sent from our general manager (the highest person in our local building- next after him would be corporate). He was calling for an all-office meeting the next day on Friday March 6th. In radio, you don't have a ton of all-office meetings. They aren't super common. In my past experience with them, they usually only happen unless someone is getting unexpectedly fired, or there's going to be some other sort of big change that would affect everyone at work. Typically the only meetings I have to attend at work are just with my own direct boss or members of the stations I specifically work for, not the entire office. But alas- an all-office meeting was called for the next day. 

{3/4/20 - My work outfit of the day}

     March 6th, 2020. The day that s*** started to hit the fan... a little bit. First up was the all-office meeting at 11am. It was about the Coronavirus! I couldn't believe we were discussing it at all... it made my anxieties come back quickly. Our general manager said that even though there weren't cases in Central Virginia yet, he guaranteed that there would be soon. He reminded everyone to not be afraid to use their sick days in the weeks and months to come if they felt unwell. We talked about cleaning procedures for the studios and other parts of the building. We had never had an all-office meeting for something like this before... it felt odd. 
     That day the news also broke that the South by Southwest festival in Austin, TX was being cancelled for 2020. This was the first large-scale event cancellation, and it was trending all over Twitter and the internet. 
      That evening at Jazzercise class, my beloved 16 year old car wouldn't start after class. I had to call for a tow truck... thank goodness for AAA and my Jazzercise instructor who waited with me until they got there! I wasn't yet ready to accept that this was the end for my car- I was hoping to not have to get a new one until 2021 or 2022. (Spoiler alert: the actual end came two months later in May!) Fortunately, I was able to be dropped off back at work and could grab a station vehicle to drive for the rest of the weekend until my car could be seen, so I didn't have to worry about a rental. Definitely a perk of my job! While all this was going on, a friend was texting me and encouraging me to stock up now on hand sanitizer, as it was starting to go fast in certain stores. As soon as I picked up the station vehicle, I drove to Bath and Body Works at the local mall. They still had a ton of sanitizer left. I purchased 5 of their tiny bottles- thinking that was probably more than enough to have for the weeks ahead. 
     I thought of the irony how the Friday before was one of the best days I've ever had being in NYC with friends... and now here I was with a broken down car and rushing to the mall to get hand sanitizer. A lot had changed in a week. 

{3/6/20 - A strange, strange day}

     March 7th, 2020. I had a very chill Saturday night at home where I worked on a craft project: making Lilly Pulitzer bookmarks from their recent catalog. Little did I know I'd be spending almost every Saturday night at home for the foreseeable future after the following weekend!! If I had known what I know now, I would've most certainly gone out downtown that night. But alas, bookmarks it was. (I still have and love two out of three of them! The third one I lost when it fell in the water as I was reading a book lakeside in Maine this summer.)

{3/7/20 - A quiet night at home working on making bookmarks.}

     March 8th, 2020. The last time that I went to a traditional indoor church service. At the start of 2020, I had started church hunting again. March 8th was going to be my third time visiting my friend Lily's church. My friend Kelly was also church hunting and had been visiting Lily's church too- we went together that day. One of the pastors came up to chat with us before the service and he shook my hand. This was the last time that I can remember that I shook someone's hand. I immediately reached for one of my new little bottles of Bath and Body Works hand sanitizers and applied some- I was very grateful I had made it to the mall on Friday evening to grab those.
     After church, my friend Sierra and I went to check out a winery that neither of us had been to before. The weather was lovely- we sat and enjoyed our wine outside. We chatted about her new relationship and made some tentative plans for a day trip to DC at the end of the month to see the cherry blossoms with our friends. 

{3/8/20 - Winery day after church}

     March 9th, 2020. Back-to-back winery days for me! My friend Emily is often off on Mondays, and in 2019 we started spending the occasional Monday afternoon at a winery together after I got off of work. We had taken a break from doing this in the winter months, but the weather for that day was going to be beautiful and warm, so we decided this would be our first one of 2020! We headed up to Barboursville, one of my favorite wineries that Em hadn't been to before. 
     On the way, I shared with Em that I was nervous about my Bermuda trip with my dad being cancelled, even though he and I had talked the week before and he assured me it would be fine. She took the side of my dad and told me not to worry, it would definitely happen! We also chatted a bit about an upcoming trip to Texas that she was taking with our friend Sierra later in the month. We chatted about my car, which was ready to be picked up from the mechanic- Em was going to drop me off there to get it after the winery.
     I had gotten tickets from work for the Dan + Shay concert that was going to be in Charlottesville that coming Friday, March 13th. I had found out back in December I was getting them, and I invited Em to be my guest since she loves country music. We chatted that afternoon about our plans before the show (Were we going to get dinner? Drive ourselves or Uber?), and what we were going to wear. 

{3/9/20 - My final winery visit pre-shutdowns. Pretty sure my next one wasn't until mid-June.}

     March 10th, 2020. Marc's last day of work before he had a planned staycation. He told me that morning in between songs that he was really worried about the Coronavirus. He told me that as nervous he was about the virus, he was almost equally nervous about our country and the economy, and what a pandemic would do to life as we knew it. We also chatted about what the all-office meeting had been like the Friday before. After all of that, we discussed his karate classes and how excited he was for a few days off work. Back to normal discussions!

{3/10/20 - My work outfit of the day.}

      March 11th, 2020. The last day that life ever felt "normal" to me. It was my first day of a few to come doing the morning show solo, since Marc was on his staycation. I had started hearing about concerts and select large events being postponed or cancelled, and I began to become convinced that the Friday evening Dan + Shay concert that I was supposed to be at would be. Earlier in the day on Friday, I was supposed to attend a local women's career development conference with a few of my coworkers in the Sales department. There still hadn't been any word yet about that being cancelled either, but it felt ominous. 
    That day I saved several funny memes about COVID on my phone. I had already started seeing and saving other memes in the past few weeks, but I saved a lot on March 11th. 

{3/11/20 - One of the many memes I saved on my phone that day.}

     March 12th, 2020. This is the day that it all changed... at least for me. I woke up at 3:30 for work as normally. Typically when my alarm goes off, I see if I have any pressing text messages that I need to respond to from after I went to bed. If not, the first thing that I always check is Twitter. That morning on Twitter felt like something out of a bad dream. The top stories that had broken after I went to bed were the Europe travel ban, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson testing positive for COVID, and the NBA cancelling the rest of the season. What even?! I was lying there in bed in my dark room reading all of this, wondering what the heck all of this meant going forward... and also how the heck I was supposed to do a solo morning show that day while Marc was out when this much craziness was happening. 
     We do a segment at 6:30 and 8:30 on the show called Community Countdown where we talk about three upcoming local events for non-profits, the arts, or volunteer opportunities. That morning I picked three events to talk about at 6:30... by 8:30, two out of the three events had been cancelled. It was quite freaky, and it was tough for me to focus on work for the rest of the day.
     I believe it was still while I was at work that the Dan + Shay concert and the local women's conference, both of which I was supposed to attend the next day on Friday, were postponed. There was starting to be chatter online that was intensifying about toilet paper shortages, and some food shortages. I decided I would head to Trader Joe's after work just in case. I went that afternoon, and the scene there was something out of a dystopian movie. There was almost no food left in the entire store! Forget the typical bread and milk shortages that are common before weather events... oh no, this was much different. I snapped a photo that I shared on Instagram Stories of the empty shelves. 

{3/12/20 - The weirdest grocery shopping experience I've ever had.}

     March 13th, 2020. The day that was supposed to hold a conference followed by a concert... all cancelled. Instead I toughed it out through doing the morning show solo again (I still couldn't believe out of all the times for Marc to take a staycation... this was it!). I am pretty sure this was the day that most Virginia schools announced (what they thought would be a temporary) closure for the rest of March. My car started having issues again as I drove home from work, and I called yet again to get it towed, and picked up a station vehicle to take home for the weekend from work. I was over everything. How was it just two weeks ago that I was having one of the best days of my life with my friends in New York City?
     Later that day, my dad officially made the decision to cancel the Bermuda trip that we would've been leaving for just four days later. We both agreed that while we felt Bermuda was safe from COVID, we were nervous about being allowed back into the US after travel, since stories were starting to pop up about difficulties with that for travelers coming from other countries.
     I decided to go for a nature walk at one of my favorite local trails that afternoon to clear my head. (That's what the photo is from at the top of this blog post!) Being in nature often really helps me to feel centered and calm, which I needed that day. 
     Emily and Sierra texted me and asked if I wanted to go check out the new Quirk Hotel in Charlottesville for a drink that evening, since the concert was cancelled. I remember wondering in my head if this was safe to do... but a drink indoors in a brand new facility with just two friends (versus a concert with thousands and thousands of people) still seemed fairly safe to me, so I said yes. I remember the weather was beautiful and warm! I wore a cute, summer like outfit. Emily picked me up since I was having car troubles again, and we met Sierra at the bar of the hotel. We all talked about how crazy the news had been that week. I shared that my Bermuda trip had been cancelled. I remember at that time Emily and Sierra were still planning to go to Texas for their planned trip later in March. We all enjoyed cocktails and split an order for French fries. This is the last time I went out to a restaurant or bar indoors pre-COVID. 
     Sierra had to leave fairly early, but our friend Meredith was near the hotel and met Emily and I for a bit. Meredith and Emily both have March birthdays, and they were having a joint birthday party at Meredith's house the next evening! Internally I was a little nervous at the thought of attending a party, when the guidance coming out of the news lately kept suggesting gatherings were no longer safe... but it was going to be a fairly small affair, I knew everyone going, and there weren't any cases in Charlottesville specifically yet. 

{3/13/20 - My last night out at a bar pre-COVID}

     March 14th, 2020. I stopped at the grocery store on my way to Meredith's house to pick up some chips and dip to take to the party. (I am pretty sure I didn't end up eating a single thing there, I started getting worried about people sharing/touching all the food once I got there.) The topic for most of the evening was COVID. People were shocked about the NBA cancelling, Tom Hanks, and the toilet paper shortages. A lot of jokes were made about standing six feet apart. But it was still a fun time. COVID was talked about, but wasn't the focus of the evening. 
     About halfway through the party- there was a surprise. Eden showed up!! Yes- the same Eden my friends and I had been visiting in NYC two weeks prior. Someone snapped some photos of Eden's arrival and how surprised I was. I thought she came down just for the party! Nope. Turns out that her workplace in NYC had closed the office and sent all workers to work from home until April 1st! April 1st?! What the heck!! As soon as that was announced, Eden had hopped on a bus out of the city to go and stay with her family in Northern Virginia. She had decided to drive down to Charlottesville that night to surprise us. It was so good to see her again, but super weird to know the circumstances for why she was back in Virginia. That night I got home from the party, read more about COVID-19 on Twitter and Facebook... and decided I wouldn't be attending anymore indoor gatherings or going out to eat indoors anymore for a little while... at least until April. 

{3/15/20 - Eden surprising everyone at Emily and Meredith's birthday party.}

      March 16th, 2020. This is the day that the CDC put out the guidelines of "Two Weeks to Slow the Spread." Reading that, I felt bad that I had been at a party the night before. It was time to stay home for the foreseeable future. I stayed home from church that day, and I skipped out on going to get breakfast at Bodo's Bagels with my friend group and Eden. I stayed home all day and made a Chocolate Chess Pie from one of the cookbooks I'd received for Christmas that year. This was the first recipe to come out of my quarantine kitchen. (I would later do a TON of cooking and baking for the rest of March and into the spring.) 

     And that is everything that I remember thinking and feeling from the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic. I can't believe it's been a year. In some ways it feels so long ago, in other ways it feels like yesterday. Overall I think it feels like my life has been on pause since this time last year. There was so much cancelled and lost in the past year, and I know I'm not the only one who has taken time to mourn for the 12 months we thought we would have, but didn't. 

    The good news is that there is light at the end of the tunnel a year later. I truly do believe we will be seeing life go more and more back to normal as 2021 continues. But we aren't fully there yet, and that can be tough to accept. 

     Here's the this March... may it be so much better than the one before it.

     God Bless,

     xoxo Annaliese 


1 comment

  1. Wow!
    What a great post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts & memories with your readers.


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