In many big, obvious, scary, glaring ways, 2020 — at least since mid-March — has been a hot, fiery mess.
But upon closer personal inspection, in spite of many events I never planned for, wished for, wanted, or expected, this time during the pandemic has included plenty of small, medium, extra medium, and large wins.
There are the little things, like Annie’s ever-expanding vocabulary and the silly things she says. And there are the biggest things, like the fact that we “moved” up to New Hampshire and I resisted and resented it for a while, but have grown to really love the life we’re enjoying here. My parents are getting to spend so much special time with Annie, and she’s getting to form a super special relationship with them. I didn’t grow up near my grandparents or any of my extended family, so I really value this time we’re all getting. (It’s special for me, too! I love my parents! They are silly and fun and unfathomably selfless.)
So, I made a list. As I do.
A list, off the top of my head, of all the wonderful things that have happened or that I am grateful for since March 13. This list doesn’t include the obvious — that our immediate family is healthy and safe, and that is something that will never, ever be lost on me or on any of us.
I don’t mean for this post to seem ignorant of the fact that our world is truly in an awful place. The news, at every turn and every scroll, is awful. I am anxious, almost constantly.
But, there are times of joy, too. Amidst the shitstorm, a rainbow, I suppose.
I highly recommend making a list of your own. This perked me up, seeing a long list of lovely things. And the next time I’m tempted to scroll political Twitter or do an 11 PM deep dive into what’s happening at the U.S. border, I hope I’ll pause and scroll this list instead.
Here are some wonderful things that I’ve loved this year — since March!
1. Cheer on Netflix was absolutely delightful. I loved it so much. I am so worried about all of their futures and I wish that whole thing with Jerry didn’t exist. But otherwise, I truly enjoyed this immersive experience into the world of competitive cheer, which I have always loved. (Fun fact: I used to work for American Cheerleader magazine. I wrote quizzes!)
2. Love is Blind on Netflix was chaotic. And yet I couldn’t look away. Jessica is a monster. I expected to hate this show and resisted it for a long time, but wow. I flew through these episodes.
3. Miss Americana, the Taylor Swift documentary, was fantastic. I’m not a T-Swift super-fan or anything, but I loved this. Some parts were so relatable (social media!), and I cried, and I really liked it.
4. The Baby-Sitters Club on Netflix was perfect. I was such a die-hard, intense BSC fan growing up. I wrote fan mail to Ann M. Martin. And, as with anything we are super passionate about, I worried about whether this update could be comparable to my first love. And it totally was. It was delightfully nostalgic, and updated wonderfully. I loved it so much. (And, after all these years, I’m still very much a Stacey.)
5. Selling Sunset. I need Season 4 immediately. I could talk Selling Sunset for hours. HOURS. I tried to get Mary on the Ali on the Run Show. Does she run? No. But is she a master at teetering around in sky-high heels. Totally. And that counts. But her rep said she is “currently only available for email interviews.” Nah. I’ll keep trying. I live for this show. I can’t tell Brett and Jason apart.
6. And with Selling Sunset came the Selling Sunset recaps on the “Watch What Crappens” podcast. These episodes are must-listens if you’re a fan of the show. I laugh so hard. Audibly. On the run.
7. Schitt’s Creek ended, which is tragic, but it did so perfectly. When Moira walked into the wedding in that Pope-inspired outfit. I was sobbing and screaming and laughing and I was an absolute mess, but I loved every second of every episode of that show.
8. Challenger: The Final Flight on Netflix was devastating and heartbreaking but I was glued to it. Christa McAuliffe, who died on board when the shuttle exploded, is from the town next to ours, so there are tons of things in New Hampshire named after her. But I never knew her full story, and this documentary told some of it. It really humanized the cast on board the shuttle, and I feel weird saying I enjoyed it, but…I did.
I didn’t just watch a lot of Netflix this year, I swear…
9. I also finally redid my website! You’re looking at it! Probably! I took the plunge and hired Brandt Creative Co. to do a total overhaul of the site. I’ve been wanting to do this for years, and I’m so happy with it. Hot pink everything!
10. I launched a Patreon page and it’s been so much fun! I love experimenting with stuff over there. Those monthly bonus episodes make me want to do more solo episodes, because they’re fun and silly. And I’m astounded, every single day, by the support I’ve received there. Truly grateful and humbled.
11. In the absence of live shows, I got to do a kind-of live show for Global Running Day! UCAN asked me to host a panel with some of the running industry’s leading experts, and it was fun and insightful and wowowowowow I got to talk with Dave McGillivray, the Boston Marathon race director. Very cool.
12. Shalane Flanagan made her Ali on the Run Show debut. This was so exciting, and unsurprisingly, that episode almost immediately became my all-time most-downloaded.
13. I have put out so many episodes of the Ali on the Run Show. More than ever before. I want to be humble and be like, “Tee hee, so many episodes, it’s been so fun!” And that’s true. But it’s also been a TON of work, and I’m really proud of where the show is right now.
14. I launched three new series specials on the Ali on the Run Show: the On the Job series, the On the Record series, and Feel-Good Fridays. It has been so much fun coming up with new and exciting ways to feature awesome people and have inspiring conversations with them.
15. I also brought back Ali & the Experts and What’s New With You!
16. I welcomed FOUR new sponsors to the Ali on the Run Show, and maintained relationships with all of my existing partners, even when times got tough. I talked about this on Patreon recently, but we never gave up on each other, and I’m so proud of and grateful for that. Plus, Tracksmith, Athletic Greens, Gatorade Endurance, and goodr all joined the Ali on the Run Show family!
17. I hosted Foam Rolling Parties with my physical therapist, Brynn Fessette O’Neill, on Instagram Live! These were so much fun! We will do more!
18. I, in partnership with AfterShokz, launched the “Be Open” series over on their Instagram Live channel. These conversations started in response to Ahmaud Arbery’s death earlier this year, and we’ll be doing them every month for at least one year. So far, I’ve interviewed Meb Keflezighi, Leo Manzano, Aliphine Tuliamuk, and Lacey Henderson.
19. I had the incredible privilege — seriously, wow — of getting to help my dear friend Chris Heuisler share his story.
20. I got to be on the selection committee for Tracksmith’s Fellowship program. I submitted my top picks earlier this week, out of 350 submissions, and it was impossible. There are so many great ideas out there. (Also, getting to be on the selection committee alongside Malcolm Gladwell? So cool.)
21. I got to spend hours interviewing the delightful Mark Kanemura, and writing a cover story for Dance Spirit all about him.
22. I ran the Anytime 5K. A 3.1-mile course, with a start line and a finish line, all by myself. It was awesome.
23. I ran the lululemon Virtual SeaWheeze. I ran 13.1 miles in the pouring rain, by myself, and recorded it wrong on Strava, so it didn’t actually count. A metaphor for 2020, no doubt.
24. I ran the New England Half Marathon. And missed by PR by a mere 10 seconds!
25. I hiked. A lot.
26. I did yoga! Only three times. But still! (Bethany Lyons teaches the best virtual classes!)
27. I spent a day on a boat. When I was close to hitting rock bottom (in life, not in the water), I rented a pontoon boat for our family for the day. It was so much fun.
28. We went “camping.” In an air-conditioned cabin, which is exactly the kind of camping I like.
29. Brian and I celebrated our fifth anniversary with a weekend trip to Bar Harbor, ME. I want to live there.
30. I made new friends. Somehow, in this tiny town of Contoocook, NH, I’ve made some new friends, and for that I am so happy and grateful. A few at the playground, and a few women who have kids in Annie’s class. It’s so nice to have friends.
31. And I’ve re-connected with old friends! One of my best childhood friends lives right down the road, and it’s like no time has passed between us. Annie adores her (four!) kids, and we get to see them when we’re out for walks or runs. (I also ran into my kindergarten boyfriend in town! Should that go on this list?!)
32. I registered to vote in New Hampshire!
33. Ellie turned five. So we celebrated.
34. Annie turned two. So we celebrated.
And that brings us to today.
If you’re having a tough time, know that I see you and I am sending you love and care and my warmest thoughts. I hope things get better soon. And I hope you know, whatever you’re going through and whatever you’re feeling, that you’re not alone.
It’s been a really hard year. Undeniably hard. For everyone, I think. And this list doesn’t mean things aren’t still hard. They are.
But today, I choose to see the good.
Today, I am grateful.
Thank you ever so much for your positive posts, Ali. I sometimes don’t see them anymore because I think you’ve stopped doing it… and then I notice that oh, five days ago! A new one! and it makes my life so much better. Thank you thank you thank you for what you do.
This is a good list! I forgot several of the ones from the beginning already!
Love this! Try to get Maya on the Ali on the Run show (she’s a pilates instructor, not a runner but in the fitness realm)!!!
Thank you for this, it was lovely and brought me so much joy. It definitely inspired me to make my own list, and also to make more of an effort to get out of the house 🙂
Love this! I agree with you about Cheer, the series was SO good but I hate the news that has come up about Jerry since he was one of my favorites and went to a high school a few towns over from me. Plus you can see that cheerleading really helped him after his mom’s death.
I think it’s good to share things you’re happy/excited/proud of because it means that despite all the bad, there’s still good in the world. Plus no one can live with just bad things, you have to look for the good and celebrate those things. And sharing the good doesn’t discredit any of the bad either.