I thought I would send out a Christmas letter this year, but between travel, family commitments, and work, it just never happened. And so here I am on a chilly Martin Luther King Day in January sipping on a latte across from my love in a Crown Heights coffee shop, writing about last year before it feels too late.
I couldn’t have predicted I’d be here this time last January. Here is Crown Heights, not the Upper West Side, not Cobble Hill, not Mexico, not an airport. Here is a job running growth and marketing at Glitch, not my consultancy, Frida, on a full-time basis. Here is a life with a partner who has proven to me time and time again that happiness, compromise, and compassion is only elevated when shared.
I’m learning a lot. The lessons that I find most difficult: making space for vulnerability, letting go of control, and being more okay living in the present versus chasing what’s next.
Before diving more into what’s now, let me take stock of just what I did and felt over the course of 2019:
In January, I found a subletter for my beloved Upper West Side apartment and moved into Matt’s 1 bedroom Cobble Hill apartment. Giving up a space I called home for almost 6 years brought me to tears. I think I’ll always miss and love that apartment for the rest of my life.
After spending a few months coming off my Andela experience, I incorporated Frida Consulting, whose only online presence is a placeholder at FridaLabs.com. I felt so unsure about what I wanted, but I knew what I didn’t want: a full-time job working at a company. I wanted a change of pace and time to explore what I wanted to learn, who I wanted to learn from, and what skills I have that could be serve others. The choice came with highs and lows, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
In February, Matt and I went with our friend Natalie to Durham, NC and watched Zion Williamson play at Cameron Indoor Stadium. I’m a Duke fan by proxy, but even I could appreciate the thrill of seeing K-ville up close, the Cameron Crazies, and the intensity of a Zion dunk IRL. Weeks later, we went to Oaxaca where we ate complex mole dishes, sipped on mezcal, and then ventured to the state of Michoacan where we saw millions of monarch butterflies in the mountains. The experience felt serene, spiritual, and truly took my breath away.
After Matt flew back to New York, I spent the rest of February and early March in San Miguel de Allende. I befriended an expat Carol, my AirBnB host, a local couple that ran the cutest coffee shop, and even got invited to a family birthday party in the countryside. I love the hospitality and community I experience when I travel. It’s when the phrase “the kindness of strangers” feels most alive and well.
In late March I flew to Los Angeles to facilitate a workshop with my friend, mentor, and coach, Chris. I’ve been a student of hers for 3+ years now and I’m increasingly fascinated by the world of professional coaches and what they have to offer the world.
April was a tough month for me. I couldn’t get into a New York rhythm and felt restless, like I was floating with no real place or purpose in the city. I was doing client work, meeting new people, working out of coffee shops, and trying not to freak out about the irregularity of getting paid. There’s honestly so much to love about consulting, but the back office admin stuff – statements of work, invoices, accounts receivable, taxes – it blows!
Since the beginning of the year, I had been nudging Matt to see if he could get approval to work remotely, at least for the summer. Ever since I started working remotely in 2016, I fantasized about having a partner who would have the same zest for slow travel as me (more on this too, but I feel strongly about staying in a place for at least 1-2 weeks at a time and typically rent month-long AirBnBs when working abroad).
He confirmed he kicked off the necessary conversations, which immediately plunged me into a happy state of travel plotting and possibilities. We’d fly into Barcelona and then go to our friends’ wedding 2 hours outside of Bordeaux. From there, we’d stay in the Dordogne Valley and then relocate to Italy, specifically Florence for the rest of the summer.
Although excited by our summer plans, May was overwhelming. We did a long weekend in Savannah and Charleston followed by Elizabeth’s wedding in Albany. I had complications with my UWS sublet, a new client to onboard, and logistics surrounding our Cobble Hill apartment. It was one of those times where everything felt chaotic all at once and nothing quite landed the way it needed to. In true Alexa fashion, I was my own worst enemy. I absorbed the stress and took on every action item instead of demand help. It took a toll on my health in a way that made me feel shame, which further exacerbated the stress I felt.
By the time June came around and we were days from leaving, I was exhausted. I share all of this because it was probably the most important lesson I was presented with in 2019: I can’t be a hero in a partnership, at least not the type of partnership that I want. As independent and capable as I am, I have to resist the temptation to take more on. I feel like I learned this lesson as a professional and with more management experience, I’ve come around to delegating comfortably. What’s shocked me is how much trouble I have doing that in a relationship, something that I’ve been examining and reacting to ever since this one moment back in June.
I should probably just write an entire separate series of summer-oriented posts because July, June, and August were just one big blob of European bliss. I was working incredibly hard, think EST calls from 3 PM til sometimes 1 or 2 AM while still making space to plot and savor daytime adventures. The first few weeks of the trip I fell twice because I was so sleep deprived and disoriented. After soaking in the medieval sites of Sarlat, exploring prehistoric caves, and possibly sleeping in more, my springtime stress faded.
I’ll share more another time, but in broad strokes, the summer felt endless. I felt like we were there for 6 or 8 months instead of 3. We met the kindest people and were inspired by so many makers. The diversity of places that we got to experience made me increasingly curious about what I crave in a home and a community.
All in all, this year has been one big meditation on the word home. How much of it is a physical location, who you’re with, the cost, the community, the context? All in all, I slept in 26 different places over the course of the year – from hotels, bed and breakfasts, chateaus, and farmhouses – they all gave me perspective into what I appreciate and crave in a space that I occupy. I can’t wait to have a home one day that I can make my own.
In August I started consulting remotely and part-time at Glitch and then committed to spending time in the New York office in September. We flew from Sardinia to JFK on September 9 and spent the weekend of the 10th and 11th looking at apartments. We loved our place in Cobble Hill, but I was in search of a new apartment to make ours together. Matt was always great at making me feel at home, but the lack of closet space and a dishwasher started to feel like real deal breakers for me.
If you ever want to test the strength of your relationship, spend 72 sleep-deprived hours looking at apartments in New York City. The experience demonstrated to me just how differently Matt and I approach decision making and just how insane the NYC rental market is. The juxtaposition in speed and intensity from the summer to September was stark and unsettling. Lessons learned: have a shared vision for what you want before searching, plan the logistics of your move early, and don’t try to transition jobs while doing all of that.
If September was all about shifts and adjustments, October was very much about decluttering. We combined our things and had many Konmari moments. We debated what should stay and what should go and day by day, our new 1 bedroom apartment started to feel more and more like home. I’d say there’s a direct correlation between the state of our apartment and my mental state. I feel best when things have a place and are orderly; I think better when there’s space and sunlight.
I almost feel lame to say that November and December were dominated by work, but that’s what occupied most of my brain space. I say it’s lame because I’m so past seeking personal validation from a company, but at the same time, it’s hard not to put that type of weight on an experience that really does occupy the bulk of your week. I transitioned to Glitch as a full-time employee in November and I continue to search for ways to apply the many lessons I’ve learned (many the hard way) over the years.
The company is the earliest stage startup I’ve worked at since 2U and the product and mission sit squarely at the intersection of code and culture. There’s a B2B/B2C opportunity that I’m trying to reconcile from both a brand and product positioning standpoint and all the unique challenges that come with a newly formed team taking a product to market. I’m excited about the possibilities and trying not to get engulfed by the emotional rollercoaster that comes with leadership, management, and growth.
When I look back at 2019, my three words – home, write, and vinyasa – revealed themselves in many ways. Home was the most obvious for the reasons I described. The word “write” appeared, but not in the way I originally intended. I thought I would be more public about my writing, but instead it existed in emails, client memos, work product, all of which I created in spades as a consultant, more so than I’ve done as a full-time manager in years. I also started co-hosting the podcast Future Forward with Steve Rosenbaum, which doesn’t involve writing at all, but is aligned with my original intention of wanting to create more public artifacts about my thinking and experiences.
The word vinyasa came to me in my moments of crisis, doubt, and stress. In January, I began researching yoga training courses thinking that perhaps startups and marketing would be put on pause in favor of a more low-key vocation. Little did I know that vinyasa would actually be the process of taking things in and letting them go, rinse and repeat, all year long. If you know anything about yoga, a vinyasa class is all about movement through breath. And that’s exactly what 2019 felt like — deep breaths, constant movement, and finally on a cold January Monday, a bit of shavasana.
I’ve already done a couple of rounds of meditating on my 2020 words and in no particular order, they are: vision/clarity, confidence, and invest. I can’t begin to predict what 2020 will hold in store for me, but based on what I learned in 2019, I’m happy to be here – wherever that is – right now.