It's been one crazy year, hasn't it? We still have four months left, which include a double hurricane coming through the southern U.S., a potential asteroid the day before the Presidential Election, the start of a new school year, and the much-anticipated end of 2020 to look forward to. We're on month five of attempting to flatten the curve while life for many has slowly returned to normal whatever that means. For others across the globe, not so much. Regardless of how COVID-19 changed our current world, summer was long-awaited. I had most of it planned out since the beginning of the spring semester, like many other things. I was going to move out of my first apartment in May, go on a pilgrimage to Russia for several weeks at the end of June with friends, be a counselor at St. Seraphim Camp for my 12th summer in a row in attendance, go to my Big's wedding and move into my new apartment for the start of senior year at the end of August. Now, the only thing that happened the way it was planned was my 21st birthday (very important) and the wedding. Cheers to being of legal drinking age and being a bridesmaid for the first time!
I'd be lying if I said this summer was what I expected, or that I wasn't disappointed about having almost all my important plans get cancelled. I didn't go to Russia and missed camp for the first time in 12 years which left me heartbroken. Though I saw it coming with how COVID-19 progressed over time, it didn't make it any easier. I'm sure I speak for many when I say that I've had enough of this virus robbing me of so much since we were all sent home from college in March. I was, and still am, so sick of it all. But, by May, everything began to open again, so I had a rad 21st with a friend from home which I was super grateful for and called my best friend Marf to plan a trip to visit her. I booked a flight to Kansas City the week after and eagerly counted down the days. That was the best decision I made this summer. It was about time to leave my small town in Pennsylvania and get a much-needed break from home, especially after three months of lockdown. We hadn't seen each other in six months and a reunion was long overdue. We live so far away and essentially summer or winter break is the only time we can see each other.
So, I spent a week with her and even got to reunite with our close friend from St. Louis on my last weekend there. Kansas City is my favorite US city, there is so much to do, and it is such a fun place. We were busy from morning until night every single day; there was so much to catch up on that we missed in person. There were definitely some crazy nights I won't forget and some poor decisions made. For starters, we ended up swing dancing with a group of strangers we just met on a Friday night at Sandbar and grabbing burritos together at 2 am and then went back out with Anya the next night for a rooftop view of the city. Following that we went to the WWII museum grounds after midnight to take photos by the skyline, only to get a warning from security for (accidentally) trespassing after hours. Oops! I drank way too much coffee, understood the power of cold brew (if you know, you know), and finally got a change of scenery. Our time together went by faster than we realized, and I even tried to switch my flight home to a later date but was too late, unfortunately. I got to my gate five minutes before I boarded in our effort for me to get there as late as possible to maximize our last day with each other. One week is simply not enough to make up for half a year apart, and we were SO not ready to be separated, but it was still the best trip ever. To my best friend: you are my family, my soul sister, and my better half. Best bet I'll be back in Kansas soon enough.
My summer adventures continued 10 days later as I boarded my usual flight to Ohio
for my Big's wedding!
For my new readers, Meg and I met through sorority recruitment in September of my freshman year and were in AOII together (and both dropped LOL) before she graduated in December 2018. Ever since our first conversation, I knew we'd be inseparable. She became my new member mentor and big, then one of my closest friends in life. When we were at OU, we did just about everything together: study sessions in the library, workouts at the gym, and me walking into her room unannounced every other day when I wanted to hang out. She has embodied the role of a big sister to me in so many ways outside of sorority life too, and I will forever be her biggest hype woman. As for Meg and Nathan, they were two of my first friends in college. I remember the day they first started dating when she told me "I have a boyfriend!" and my response was "What?!", and called it on when they got engaged. A couple of days before he proposed, she sat on my bed in my dorm room and I asked, "Do you think he'll propose this weekend?" and she had responded with "I don't know, we'll see," only for me to get a text with a picture of her ring that same weekend (I tell you, my bets are on point!) And then, last summer I got a card and a pretty robe in a care package with the message "He's marrying me but he's stuck with us… Will you be my bridesmaid?" and ever since then, I counted down the days until July 18, as I got my invite and dress, booked my flight, got the bachelorette party décor and shirts, then eagerly waited to squeeze my favorite bride at the airport.
Alas, it was finally time to kick off the wedding shenanigans
To start, wedding planning is a lot of work. We did everything ourselves with the help of their two families, from organizing the flower arrangements to set up the entire venue ourselves. It was a super busy 10 days of prep, but we had plenty of late nights of bonfires, pizza orders at midnight, chatting with ducks, playing VR, and running through aqua obstacle courses at our cabin in the woods. I cherished every day of that crazy week and a half, especially with how much fun we had at the combined bachelor/bachelorette party and how perfect the actual wedding was. I got to be a bridesmaid for the first time, and I absolutely loved it.
It was an honor to be a part of this wedding for my two favorite people
I cannot think of a better couple to be married, and it was the best day of 2020 hands down. Their ceremony was so beautiful and spiritual, and the reception was such a blast. (All the bridesmaids cried a little when Meg walked down the aisle.) Everyone was so happy to be there, the music was great, and all parties had a blast. I truly felt like we all needed something positive to celebrate after the craziness of this year, and I was so right. PLUS, in an epic and very dramatic dive, I caught the bride's bouquet!! I was surprised, but at the same time, I was so determined that I literally said to myself "I'm going to catch this" when Meg tossed it over her shoulder. LOL! That was my biggest accomplishment of summer, and the icing on the cake to check off "be a bridesmaid" off my bucket list. I even took the flowers home with me, (shoutout to TSA for letting me through with them) and they sat on the kitchen table until they wilted away. So, to any Orthodox men reading this, I'm taking applications for future husbands. I left Ohio with so much love and happiness as one of my best friends began her married life, knowing that they won't be far from me when I return to OU. Here's to our forever friendship, Mrs. Severance. You're the most beautiful bride.
Upon coming home, I've had several impromptu meetups with friends from camp thanks to weekend trips to New Jersey, church on the weekends, and a grad party at the end of summer. It was a blessing to see so many people from far away, especially since St. Seraphim Camp was cancelled and we don't know if St. Herman's Conference will happen this year. Coming out of lockdown made me 10x more grateful to see loved ones and be grateful for little things: (domestic) travel, Sunday brunch, going to church, going out to eat, etc. It's crazy how fast things can be taken away from us and how much we miss them when they're gone.
So, to wrap this up, a big takeaway of mine from 2020 could be summed up in this quote: "People make plans and God laughs." So many times, we have our entire futures laid out in our heads, make plans, and are hellbent on our lives going exactly the way we picture them. Yet, we forget that we're actually not in charge, God is. While we may not understand why things happen the way they do, it's all in accordance with His plans for us. I learned that prayer, unwavering faith, and going to church really does wonders. So, here's hoping for more success to come.