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  • Writer's pictureSiria Contreras

Happy One Year Anniversary

Happy one-year anniversary to those who observed the social-distancing and self-quarantine period of 2020-2021. Even for those who didn’t, I will assume that your life was impacted nonetheless. Apologies, I don’t have a present for you. However, since the traditional first-year anniversary gift is paper, feel free to print this out and pretend that I wrote this only for you. That counts right?

Thinking back to exactly a year ago, it seems like both just yesterday and also like years ago.

I’d been reminiscing with a few different folks throughout the week at the top of meetings or in messages as we thought back to what was happening for each of us this week a year ago.

I am certain that we can all agree that it was a surreal time.

Today, marks exactly a year from the day that it became real to me (and most of the U.S.). However, on that day, I don’t think most of us grasped exactly what “it” was. Sure, we’d heard about the virus in China. I was actually having a conversation with a friend earlier that week as Italy was also hit hard at that time and we at that moment had friends vacationing there. Residing in the United States, we’re used to being the observers, pandemics like what we’re all still navigating are typically just global headlines to us. Of course, we can feel empathy and even organize relief efforts, but these type of events are usually removed from our daily lives and don’t typically impact us.

Not this time. This time we’ve all had a co-starring role.

So back to my own March 13, 2020. This happened to be a day when I was in our Hollywood Blvd. offices in the middle of tourist-heavy Sunset Strip with the rest of my marketing team. Half of our team was working from home for unrelated individual reasons. The morning proceeded as usual, for whatever reason it actually was a lighter day meeting-wise for me, which is typically not the case and I was thankful for the opportunity to get ahead as we were in the early stages of our #WomenForward digital video series, having shot only a handful of episodes by that date with many more scheduled in the coming weeks. One of the last ones we shot was with my good friend Britt Witt (who would also later be one of my Bring on the Ballot co-founders) and I do recall thinking when I came down to grab her from our Live Nation office front lobby from security check-in, shooting a glance towards our glass front doors to see if it was still drizzly outside and thinking “oh, there must be an event or premiere again outside” making a mental note to instead take the side street away from the office on my way out of our parking garage that day.

Britt and I rode up in the elevator together catching up and talking about the SXSW cancellation from a week ago (an early warning sign of what was to come), as she was producing some of the larger events and was having to do major damage control. On our side our two panels and other activations had of course been canceled with the conference as a whole, so logistics (hotels/flights, etc.) were also being dealt with. That was the normal part of the morning.

By about noon, rumors that Los Angeles was going into some form of lockdown were circulating as we all started getting text messages from different people. My colleague was on the phone with a friend who worked in D.C. government, who was telling her that there would be an official announcement soon. Everyone who happened to be in the office dealt with this day a little differently, our receptionist became so frightened and alarmed that she ended up leaving in a panic, only to come back a couple of hours later apologizing for freaking out. I kept our team together and we quickly prioritized what needed to be completed should there be an official announcement that we’d need to head home.

At that moment, we still didn’t know what we were facing entirely. There was a moment that exemplified how little we all knew about what was happening. I had to get a drive from an editor who was across the street in our studio/production offices and all I had to do was literally cross the street to grab this as I didn’t want them to step out of a shoot to come to me. Two of our building’s sweet security guards insisted on escorting me, stating “we don’t know what’s going on out there” and they didn’t want anything to happen to me.

We made it through most of the “workday” before the actual announcement that schools were sending students home and our own Live Nation leadership and our Beverly Hills office neighbors of UTA all decided to send everyone to work from home indefinitely, but estimating about a week, possibly two of this.

That is when havoc began. A lot of quick short-term pivots and re-scheduling happened in record time. The entertainment industry especially was in limbo as we weren’t sure if we were only canceling or holding March live shows and productions or if it would go beyond March.

Of course, everyone decided to make a stop at grocery stores and pharmacies to get basic staples. No one knew what they were really preparing for, but they knew they needed sanitizer and toilet paper, lots of toilet paper. In a few hours a city known for it’s high traffic volume turned into a shell of what it was just earlier that day, with no cars on the empty streets and emptied grocery store shelves. I remember driving by the Wells Fargo off of Vine and there being a line out the door, I think people weren’t sure at that moment if their money should even be in the bank, again uncertain of what exactly was happening.

One thing I honestly don’t recall from this day is what the White House official announcement or press conference might have been as of course, I wasn’t going to rely on that leadership for any information, recalling that I only really visited the CDC websites instead of just looking for news, etc.

I planned on going home, then looked at my phone to see a text I’d missed from one of my best friends from college in the sea of all of the other what seemed to be at least a hundred texts, a mix of personal and professional, checking in to see if we were still having dinner that night and giving me an update on where she currently was. I honestly had almost forgotten and at that moment was certain if we should cancel it or keep it, we ended up keeping it and I was glad we did as little did we both know that a year later we’d all still be mostly social-distancing. I remember thinking, well at least there’s no traffic so I can definitely make it to Malibu from Hollywood in time, laughing to myself how typically we only enjoy empty freeways and highways on major Jewish holidays and Coachella weekends.

The rest as they say is history.

As more vaccinations become available and as we cautiously resume some of what was put on hold, I do hope that we continue to take some of what we learned with us. These learnings, about ourselves, our professional lives, how we work, work-life balance, our relationships to others, and especially that internal work that we’ve all had to do at one point or another are what will help humanity evolve. Most of us accomplished more than we each realize in the past year as we were forced into a new way of doing things and new ways of living and we should all be proud of that. I joke that I never want to see a list of everything that I accomplished during the 2020-2021 pandemic period, because quite honestly it was a lot, even for someone like me who needs to keep busy and mentally engaged. Of course I also took moments to practice self-care and mindfulness, I’ve written before about how the first 2-3 months of life in the virtual world spending all day on Zoom or Skype or Google Meet was draining. However, I quickly learned to set boundaries. I also got the answer to a question that likely always floated in the back of my mind, what more could I accomplish if I didn’t have to attend so many dinner meetings or events, it turns out in those hours you can actually help improve the world in a very real way. Most of all, this pandemic reinforced the fact that I am surrounded by some pretty incredible individuals, many of whom I collaborated with as we sourced large runs of masks early into the pandemic for healthcare workers, service employees, and other high-risk individuals--activating designers, 3-D printers, and many other talented individuals. Found creative ways to track inventory and route those to ensure they were getting to those who needed them. We also found ways to help out-of-work Service Industry Professionals (Adopt-A-SIP) at least in Austin, TX, a city that has many more in the hospitality and service industry than most others. We also co-created and managed (it’s still going) a multi-million dollar fund (Crew Nation) for the live music industry’s backstage and production crews funded initially by some of our biggest names in music (U2, Coldplay, Madonna, Metallica, etc.) More recently, we turned music venues into COVID-19 testing centers. Then, of course came ousting 45 from a second term and fighting for Senate majority via the activation of our powerful Gen Z population. A majority of this was what I did or helped do in my “spare” time (yes, I still slept and I’ll be honest, my stress-levels were probably lower than they normally are) as I also had to help shift an organization from in-person programming to completely virtual basically overnight on top of business as usual, resulting in over 200 programs, performances, series episodes, and panels just in 2020.

A lot can happen in a year.

Of course, we also saw some of the bad in the world, especially here in the U.S. All of which will need continued work and most importantly dialogue and leading by example. However, for today, I will focus on the good and the aforementioned accomplishments were not achieved by me alone. No, notice that I used the word “we” in all of those statements, whether I led any of those or if it was my idea or not, it matters very little as it took collaboration and I’ll say what I said in one of my past posts, in order for us to thrive in 2021 and in the post-COVID era, it will be collaboration that will help us make progress and impact that much quicker.

May you all continue to be safe, healthy, and productive beyond this one-year anniversary of what could’ve crippled all of us indefinitely. Yet, as the past year has demonstrated, we’re stronger than that. Whatever comes next, that’s for you to define.

You’ve got this. Just keep moving forward, the path will show itself.


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