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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.
MAY
31

The Return of Business Travel

My company apparently tracks our top travelers, a rolling report looking at the past year and ranking those who've logged the most trips. I'm a person who typically does travel for work, but not at a level that would ever normally earn a spot on this list. Amusing then, that I'm currently showing as the company's #1 top traveler because the business trip I just returned from was the first one that got approved since the pandemic shut everything down. It was just a one-hour flight to Phoenix, which makes this pretty hilarious, but I suppose it's also a strange sort of badge of honor, as if I'm helping to usher in a return to business normalcy.

The business trip was to an industry event, an event that had assured the wearing of masks, the requirement of health screenings, and the presence of sneeze guards on all booth tabletops. Features that were all completely rejected by the event attendees, which, combined with the relaxation of requirements by the CDC, resulted in an event that felt downright pre-pandemic. I kept asking myself if I was comfortable not wearing a mask (since in California we are still required to wear them everywhere we go) and the answer, of course, was that I wasn't. Not so much because I felt at risk of getting COVID, but because I hadn't been prepared to go cold turkey. I had underestimated how comforted I had grown to feel in a mask. It's a layer of protection that apparently did as much for me mentally as it did physically. Yet I joined my industry associates and shook hands and gave hugs and broke bread and did business, and despite the previously mentioned discomfort (should we be doing this???), I confess it felt refreshing to step, however tentatively, back into a world where people do such things.

Other things are moving forward as well, including cover options for my new book, out later this year. I'm a bit torn between an option with a familiar style a bit reminiscent of my most recent book, or one that has a completely different look and feel. This decision, too, feels nice. The kind of decision that wreaks of normal life. Of everyday pursuits. Of questions, answers, and individuals having more influence on the futures we are shaping together.

MAR
28

Enjoying the View

Considering I've lived just a few blocks from the ocean for the past several years, it is perhaps a bit disgraceful that I've spent so little time at the beach. It's safe to say the novelty wore off relatively quickly, and equally quickly my life became full with new friends and pursuits that cut into my beach time. (I also write books. Have I mentioned that?) I can think of other reasons, too. My fair skin that burns easily, the incessant and annoying tourists that crowd this little beach town between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and, of course, COVID-19. But it's there, the ocean. And every time I see it, I have to remind myself that it's real. That I live here.

Another rather disgraceful fact about living here is that I don't leave my little beach town all that often. I'm not really talking about vacations or work trips, which are a regular part of my life. But when I'm in town, I rarely hop over to the next town, or the next after that, or to any number of the seaside communities that surround me. My life is here, my office is here, and I just don't find myself exploring very much, certainly not as much as I used to. You can blame part of this on COVID-19 as well, but you can also blame part (read: most) of it on me just being lazy. It's simply easier to stay put. (Plus, traffic. You cannot underestimate it.)

And so I've been trying to explore a bit more lately, putting a few miles on my car and seeing corners of my community that are new to me. It probably seems simple to you, but especially after a year of largely staying at home due to the pandemic, it can be a strangely powerful feeling to be driving down a road and realize that you've never been there before. (Even more strange if the road is, hypothetically, only a few miles from your house.) Last weekend I visited a city a few hours north and spent some time appreciating the same ocean, just on a different stretch of shoreline, and it filled me with a rather unique sense of happiness. One that I think stems from knowing there is so much world left for us to explore, and that most of the time we don't have to go very far to find it.

MAR
04

On Perspective

This picture was taken in Palm Springs in the middle of a windstorm that came out of nowhere, which was weird and also weirdly liberating. I had just gotten my hair cut and felt like it captured me as I don't usually see myself. Which is to say that everything about it, even the angle, seemed to offer a different perspective.

How we ultimately feel about various circumstances in our lives usually comes down to our perspectives. Perspectives are made up of our history of experiences, yes, the things we've been exposed to (or not), the things we've learned (or not), the things we've overcome (or not). But perspectives are also made up of aspects of our own personalities, those things that are baked in, so to speak, parts of our DNA, our characters, our temperaments, that are unique to us. I've been thinking about perspectives in a rather pandemic-specific light lately, particularly after my department at work had a recent team meeting where we discussed the pros and cons of working in the office and working at home and began to try and brainstorm what kind of hybrid model might work best for us once we are given the clear to come back.

What struck me about this meeting was how varied people's thoughts on the subject are. You have some (and I'm in this camp) who rather enjoy working from home, and some who say they have hated it and never want to do it again. You have some who feel they are more productive at home, and some who feel they get more done in the office. There was no single solution that seemed it would be optimal for everyone going forward, and it's largely, again, because of our own perspectives and circumstances. Those who have quiet, empty homes are in different situations than those working in closets to avoid their noisy children. Those who have long commutes are in different situations than those with short ones. Those who tend to rely more on other departments are in different situations than those who can for the most part do their work independently. And then there's the personality aspect, the fact that not everyone values the flexibility of cooking scrambled eggs during a conference call, going for a run at lunch, and not having to be showered and in makeup and high heels and a non-elastic waistband by 7:30 in the morning as much as I do. Which is to say that I value these things so much that it's almost worth things staying bad/closed. 

I hope what does come out of this is a true hybrid model that prioritizes flexibility and doesn't forget how effective we've been at working remotely for an entire year. I hope companies, especially conservative ones like mine, remember this efficacy and consider our individual perspectives, which vary, and create a scenario where everyone can thrive. And I hope my pencil skirts still fit when it's time to put away the elastic waistbands. 

NOV
12

When You Want Shortbread

When I went to Scotland a few years ago, I had this little shortbread shop on my list of places to go while in Edinburgh. It's certainly not what I would call a tourist destination, and in a city full of museums and castles (and Arthur's Seat, for crying out loud), it may seem strange that this was such a must-see. It would seem less strange if you knew how much I love shortbread--I just have to sort of ignore the fact that it's pretty much straight butter--but still, one might say an odd choice. I did those other things too, the museums and castles and even Arthur's Seat, but perhaps my favorite moment of the entire trip, at least the one I kept trying to re-create as I continued exploring the handful of Scottish cities I'd chosen to visit, was when I opened the door to Pinnies & Poppy Seeds Artisan Shortbread Shop and stepped inside. To this day, and for the rest of my life, I will never have smelled anything so delicious. 

I was late to the game when it comes to international travel, something I didn't start doing until later than most, but that I was able to do consistently in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019. My goal was to keep the trend going and take one big, foreign trip every year, a plan that was of course foiled by this blasted pandemic. While I want to make clear that the most tragic aspect of COVID-19 is the lives that have been lost and the grief and suffering endured by those who have felt those losses most dearly, for those of us fortunate enough to only be dealing with the side effects of quarantine and lock-down, one of the saddest things I've witnessed is a general abandonment of our various shortbreads. We all have those things and places that speak to us, that compel us to try, to visit, to see, to achieve. It's not just that the pandemic can make a person feel like these things are no longer attainable, it's that they are in many cases actually no longer attainable. Worse, it can make a person feel foolish for even thinking such a pursuit was realistic in the first place. I have listened to the tears of friends and family who worry their windows have closed, and, in some cases, don't have it in them to try again. To the world I say, is there to be no more shortbread???

My own opinion on the matter is that shortbread is not over. It may be changed or different. It will certainly be delayed. But it is not gone. On good days, you can even convince me that my quest to visit the shortbread store would have been no less noble had I arrived to find the door locked, the store closed. On bad days, such a thought breaks my little angel cake heart, but let's focus on the good days. Let's remember that things will get better and that if we had the courage and gumption to pursue a thing once, surely we can summon the courage and gumption to pursue it again. Or even again after that. And for those whose windows truly have closed with this pandemic, do not for one second think yourself foolish for trying. Trying already sets you apart from those who assumed it impossible from the start. The effort is success already, see?

This is not to say that I'm immune to the pandemic blues, because they damn near paralyze me sometimes. I found myself looking up the Pinnies & Poppy Seeds website today just to cheer myself up, only to find that they have had to close their store. A reminder if ever there was one of all the dashed dreams, ruined fortunes, and overall melancholy that has seemingly enveloped the world. I'm glad I have the memory, is something I suppose I could tell myself. The memory not just of that initial inhale inside the door, but also of selecting the flavors I wanted to buy, of watching my selections be placed in a small box and tied with string, of schlepping the box around a beautiful new country, and of curling up in a different hotel room each night with a cup of steaming tea and a piece of shortbread. Yes, I'm glad I have the memories, but if you want to know a secret, without the shortbread store, I'm fairly certain the trip would have been just as amazing. I know that's hard to believe when all you want is shortbread, but in times like these, let's do our best to re-imagine what shortbread can be.