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  • Writer's pictureAli Hoyt

2020 Reflections

Updated: Jan 4, 2021

It's been a year. I know reflection typically happens at the very end of the year, before the new year arrives... but I was finding it challenging to reflect while 2020 was still going on. Now that it's a new year I find I can more easily digest everything that happened in the past twelve months.

When I look back on 2020, I think about people. As much as we've been physically apart, it's human energy that has made this year for me.

Here are a few things I've learned from people this year:

Being distanced may actually teach you how to be closer.

Being physically distanced from people taught me where (and with who) to share my energy. I spent more time (virtually on video calls) with friends -- more than any other time in life. My family spent time having fun together during virtual game nights - which is something we rarely did before 2020. I stayed with my dad for a month during the summer, which was the most time we've spent together probably since I was a young child. In a weird, roundabout way, this year of distancing has taught me how to reset my "compass" and focus on those who matter.

Loss of something can mean gaining something else.

In June my job was placed on furlough. I work in special events, and unfortunately there weren't many events on the docket with stay-at-home orders (and virtual events weren't understood enough at the time). When my furlough began I felt at a loss for my identity. So much of my self-identity was tied into my career, the groups or companies I worked with, and those communities. To be on furlough at least meant that I wasn't laid off from my work community... but it also meant that I was on "pause"... the deep ties had been loosened, and I didn't know where to re-tie those loose ends. For a while those loose ends hung free, but as time went on, I tried little by little to open my heart up to people. It scared me at first, but as I opened my heart, I gained something else... I gained new communities -- maybe not in the traditional sense with a core "work team" -- but instead I gained a web of supporters, some whom I ended up working with as a freelance consultant, some whom I learned lessons from, some whom I simply had brainstorm conversations with, exchanging ideas for "what could be." I may have lost the "traditional" sense of a 9 to 5 job... but in its place I gained things I never could've imagined otherwise.

Believe in others, and others will believe in you.

This year has been bizarre (to say the least) for the events industry. My bread and butter -- gathering people to celebrate -- was jarringly put on pause in March... and still hasn't come back. I was scared (and still am at times). Question swirled in my head... Will I have to go back to school to learn a new profession? Do I have to become a technical expert with all these new virtual event platforms? Will I have to pivot away from event management / production to go into a related field, such as marketing or communications? I had a dreaded feeling in the pit of my stomach that a career change may mean I'd never be going back to event production. I started to lose belief in myself.

I want to give shout outs to a few groups/individuals who believed in me, even when I had lost belief in my own self.

Convers(ate): Early on during the uncertainties of 2020, Taylor + Mollie at Convers(ate) welcomed me into their virtual event planning. I was given the opportunity to focus my energies towards event ideation on brainstorming calls with Convers(ate). This gave me confidence in my abilities at a time when I felt lost and unsure of my next steps.

Asana: The Asana Together community program has been a highlight of 2020 for me. In October I was given the chance to speak on a virtual panel about team collaboration. I felt honored and humbled to speak alongside other talented Los Angeles professionals. Thank you, Kimberlea and the Asana Together team, for giving me this opportunity to shine and share my voice.

Take a chance. If you find yourself saying, "But that's not me...", maybe stop and question yourself, "Why? Why is it not me? And could it be me?"

LMU LGBTSS: During my past couple years working at Loyola Marymount University (LMU), I had connected with LMU's Office of LGBT Student Services and their Director, Lalo Moreno. This office is near and dear to my heart because of my involvement in my alma mater's GSA. When LMU's 2020 graduation turned fully virtual, Lalo gave me the chance to help with the event production for their virtual Lavender Grad Celebration (my favorite moment: for the big entrance, each graduating senior virtually "vogued" into the main Zoom room - it was amazing). Afterwards Lalo gave me another valuable opportunity: to manage the LMU LGBTSS Instagram account during the summer while students were on break. Over the summer I curated IG grid and story posts, while highlighting intersectionality and underrepresented voices of the QTBIPOC (Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous People of Color) communities. Lalo entrusted me with the voice of LMU LGBTSS, and in turn they gave me a chance to strengthen my skills in social media/communications management and design.

Five Senses Tastings: For this one I need to first thank Fête Los Angeles, which is a networking group for events professionals in LA. Usually their meetups are in person with fabulous vendor showcases -- but once everything became virtual I continued to tune into their virtual mixers. Through one of their virtual events I met Kala Maxym, the founder of Five Senses Tastings (FST). I was hooked the moment I heard Kala speak about FST's mission to give people a place to "switch off to switch on" by opening up to our five senses through music and food/wine pairings. After many enjoyable brainstorm calls, I became contracted as a freelance consultant with FST. My focus as a consultant is on FST's event production, business development, sales, and developing new target markets. I will be fully transparent here: I had never "formally" practiced business development in my previous roles, so I felt a bit of "imposter syndrome" here. Kala entrusted me, believed in me, and wanted to give me this chance to develop the next exciting stage of her company. This may seem like a simple concept to grasp, but for me it was difficult to think that someone would want to give me that chance. It's been a busy start with FST (a wonderful rush of holiday events!), and I've learned more about myself than I ever thought I would. I have Kala and the FST team to thank for this growth. Thank you for giving me a chance.

Private virtual wedding ceremony: This was a first for me. A friend of mine was having a small (immediate family only) backyard wedding. Her mom contracted me to plan the virtual livestream and dinner. I felt in my element with this gig -- from choosing the look and feel for rentals, to the technical aspects (think: microphones, lighting systems, tripods, WiFi connectivity research, and many, many tech rehearsals). A magical moment was when I was sitting on the porch with my headphones on, managing the Zoom chat, audio & visual, music queues, etc... while looking down into the backyard and seeing my friend getting married to the love of her life. I thank this family for giving me this chance to practice my event production skills. I'm very blessed to have these people in my life.

Virtual Listening Sessions: During quarantine my dad and I started doing virtual "music listening sessions" as a way to keep in touch and enjoy music together. We each choose a couple songs, and for about an hour once a month we simply listen to the songs and talk about why these songs are significant to us. After testing out the format with a larger (virtual) group for my dad's birthday, I decided to open up my listening sessions to my networks. In December 2020 I hosted a "Holiday Virtual Listening Session," in which I led a group of about 15 people through a curated playlist of lesser known holiday songs. I entered fun facts about the songs in the "chat box" and encouraged people to simply close their eyes and listen to the music - no pressure to keep your video/mic on or off - whatever was most comfortable. We ended up listening to music for close to ~4 hours! People from both the East Coast and the West Coast were tuned in, and some even were listening from their phones while driving. I had one friend who cast the virtual event onto their TV, and used the music as the background soundtrack for the evening with his family. I was touched by how many people enjoyed the event... and I'm already starting to dream about the next one.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who believed in me over the past several months. You've re-instilled my belief in myself (what a gift), and I'm actually excited for what the next year has to bring. Thank you.

Happy New Year to my circles. Thanks for reading my reflections and for all your support in 2020. Wishing health and peace in mind and heart for the new year.

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