All I’m going by are feelings

Plus adventures in Virginia

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Dear friend —

How has the pandemic reshaped your desires?

I ask because so many people I know have profoundly reinvented themselves in the last fourteen months—a reinvention that I’m finally getting to see up close, now that things are opening back up. 

Case in point: During Covid, my friend Zandria bought a small fixer-upper in Richmond, Va. — a place much closer to her parents and siblings than the apartment she shares with her husband in Washington, D.C. She completely transformed the place, taking out walls, adding windows, and putting in a tiny dishwasher — and now lives there a few weeks at a time, usually solo.

“It took so much work!” Zandria said, sounding thrilled when I visited last month. I looked at the before photos and marveled — mostly at the fact her mortgage cost about a third of what my rent had been living in L.A. Housing is really, really cheap in places that aren’t California, I’ve found out since becoming a nomad — 

It was my first time in Richmond, and the city was cloudy and cool — Zandria’s favorite weather. Now more than 200,000 people large, Richmond’s still actively contending with its racist past — most recently over its confederate monuments — though the mood when I visited felt relaxed and friendly. “We have Asian people here!” Zandria said with pride — she’d just read my love note about Jackson, Miss

There’s a lot that’s cute about Richmond: streets lined with shady trees and charming single-family homes, pedestrian-friendly shopping districts full of one-of-a-kind indie stores and restaurants, a fine art museum that boasts Warhol’s Triple Elvis and free admission. We had lunch at a restaurant that had once been a drug store — a faded “prescriptions” sign still hung over the bar — then dinner at a wine shop, with a huge yoga class happening on the outside lawn.

About a decade had passed since I’d last seen Zandria in person — and in the meantime we’d both changed our lives dramatically — and plan to keep doing so in the future too. “I want to do what you’re doing,” Zandria said. “Just travel and see —”

With so many of us now working fully or mostly-remote jobs now, will this become the age of digital nomadism?

*

I spent a week in Virginia, mostly in Charlottesville — a quaint college town best known for the University of Virginia, which Thomas Jefferson founded, and Monticello, where Jefferson lived.

Did I choose to visit this town for its historical legacy? No, I picked it because it was halfway between Nashville and Brooklyn — but I was charmed by it. Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall, which is really a pedestrian street with shopping and dining establishments, has not one, not two, but three bookstores — two of them used. I walked into one with Gina Frangello’s memoir Blow Your House Down in hand, then traded it to walk out with Jose Saramago’s The Cave. I ate a rich slice of chocolate hazelnut pie from The Pie Chest, then picked up a flower from the free bucket outside a florist’s shop and wore it behind my ear. I got a gigantic dish of seafood linguini from a local Italian restaurant and ate it listening to a violinist busking in front of the historic theater. 

I did visit Monticello and UVA too — though neither were as enjoyable as the time I spent just luxuriating at the local haunts. I couldn’t live here — having attended college in a tiny college town, I find I’m now repelled by many aspects of college towns in general — but it was a nice place to transition from the south to the northeast.

What I’m wondering now, though, is how long I’ll keep this up. Do I want to keep moving around forever — and if so, why? Do I want to put roots down in one place — and if so, why? 

So far, I really haven’t come up with reasons either way. All I’m going by are feelings — 

What are your feelings? Is the vision for your life different now than it was going into the pandemic a year ago? 

Love,

Siel

Three links you might love:

  1. How would it feel to be single for the rest of my life? A poignant and thought-provoking essay-in-questions by Yael Wolfe. 

  2. Do you regret your choice to have children, in some respects? Asking a question in this vein brought on internet fury against Jill Filipovic: “Can we comprehend the fact that a woman can nurse a baby she loves on one breast, and a vision of a life stolen from her on the other?”

  3. Why stay masked after getting vaccinated? It can protect customer service workers from having to wear performative smiles, women from dealing with the male gaze, people of color from becoming victims of racism, etc..... 

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