• Kathie Scalf

Lemons to Lemonade


I just got back from the best/worst trip of my life.

I was sent to New England for work training last week, and since I was flying into LaGuardia and have never spent any time in the city, I decided to head up a couple days early and explore Manhattan on my own. The day started on a downward trajectory, with a 5:30am flight out of Nashville, meaning a 2:30am wakeup call for me. After missing the exit for long term parking twice due to lack of sleep and slowly losing my night vision to old age, I rushed inside to check my bags, expecting no more than a handful of people at that unholy hour. Unfortunately, it seems everyone in Nashville decided they were flying to NYC at the crack of dawn on a Monday, because I was on an overfilled flight. (Literally, they booked too many people, then offered $1000 in airline credits to whomever bumped themselves to the next flight.) With that being said, the line to check bags was outrageous, made worse because the First Class Only airline Southwest (that’s sarcasm by the way) only has automated kiosks where you print your own bag tag and boarding passes instead of humans, and half of those were non-operational. When I finally made it to security, the body scanners were down meaning the lovely agents of TSA (again, that’s sarcasm) were relying on sniff dogs, metal detectors, and their own ceaseless screaming to ensure public safety. Thankfully, the flight was on time and short and I landed in one piece in Queens, where I had booked a black car service to get me to my hotel in Manhattan by 10am.

My first day in the city was kind of a downer. I will preface this by saying everyone local I spoke to said things have changed for the worst since Covid, and I’m sure that is true. I will also say I am definitely a southern girl, born and raised below the Mason-Dixon, so I’m used to a certain level of nature, cleanliness and manners that are not the norm in that area. I’m not being derogatory in this assessment it’s just the facts; it’s simply a different lifestyle. I was expecting the fast paced city of glitz and glamour portrayed on TV and movies; instead there was piles of trash, tons of homeless and the whole city smelled like urine and THC pens. I spent most of Monday strolling around Central Park and getting situated in my hotel, then capped the night off having a few drinks with a friend who lives there and almost getting trafficked by some very shady characters with thick Easter Europe accents. Let me re-state my opening sentence- Monday was a bust.

On Tuesday I awoke with a fresh mindset and decided I was not going to repeat another crummy day of vacation. I spent my morning exploring the galleries at the Museum of Modern Art, then whittled away the afternoon taking in all the beautiful architecture along 5th avenue. I did a tour of the Rockefeller Center, climbing all the way to the Top of the Rock for their breathtaking views of the city. And I ended the night at an exclusive rooftop where I had a cheeseboard and martinis among the iconic NY nighttime skyline. My impression of NY completely flip-flopped simply because I changed my mindset and my surroundings.

Wednesday and Thursday I was off to Connecticut for intensive work training, and a much anticipated return to Nashville by 8:30am Friday morning. Following our final team dinner on Thursday night, a few of us stayed out for cocktails and it was during that time I received notification my flight back home was canceled. I was fuming. Having been in travel since the Friday before, all I wanted was my own bed, not to mention I was now stuck in CT another day alone and since the rescheduled flight was later on Saturday, I would lose my entire weekend to airports. With not even so much as a rental car available, I resigned myself to my fate and decided once again to just wake up Friday and “make the best of it.”

I asked one of our Texas reps if she wanted to grab some fresh seafood and bloody mary’s for lunch before she headed out to NY. After several suggestions, we decided on The Restaurant at Rowayton, a local, family-owned seafood restaurant and market right on the water. It was a mere 10 minute Uber ride away, so I thought nothing of being dressed in yoga pants and a hat, my dining companion in her Ugg slippers and travel/leisure clothes. What the person didn’t mention is that Rowayton is basically a whole other city, comparable to The Hamptons, where some of the wealthiest people in America call home. The owner of NASAQ resides there, as well as the former owner of National Enquirer, whom was sitting 2 seats away. To say we were mortified to be so underdressed would be an understatement, but my life motto being “confidence over competence,” we sat down to enjoy some lobster bisque and cod tacos anyway. I am so glad we stayed. The owner of the restaurant was there and began chatting with us, keeping us there the entire day. We made so many amazing connections and everyone was incredibly nice. The views were outrageous at sunset and quite frankly it ended up being the best part of my trip.

Life is all about perspective and state of mind, which is a constant battle for me. There are always going to be curveballs thrown your way in spite of the best laid plans. I booked every moment of this trip 2 weeks in advance and still managed to have those plans completely blown due to no fault of my own. With the mindset I had Thursday night, I planned to spend Friday locked in my hotel room and pouting. I’m so glad I decided to make the effort to think positive and push myself out of the comfort zone of negative thinking, because I would have missed this incredible opportunity to network and most of all have the most fun day of my trip!

It’s easy to let negativity run your life, especially in this day and age. It seems people only want to share inflammatory or heartbreaking news, so it’s become the norm to exist in that headspace. You have to be absolutely diligent in taking life’s lemons and turning them into lemonade-or lemon drop martinis- to survive. The more times you say “NO” the more opportunities you’re missing out on; seriously, you could actually miss meeting the person who could change your life simply because you were being stubborn because things didn’t go your way. Plan to the best of your ability, but when things go wrong you have to roll with the punches and keep a smile on your face. Take it from me, an expert in this arena- the worst thing to ever happen can become the best, life-changing event; it’s all about a positive mindset and a survivor spirit.