Any time someone would ask me where I live, I used to fan my peacock feathers and proclaim that I live in New York City. After all, if I can make it there…
I would go out in my car for hours driving around a deserted city taking photos and documenting empty streets. The images were surreal. As the weeks went on, I noticed more graffiti every day and plywood shuttered once-thriving businesses. The crime was up before the riots and for the first time in 25 years, I did not feel safe in New York. Have you ever stood in the middle of Times Square or 5th Avenue during prime-time Saturday? I would leave my car door wide open and step out to take photos in the middle of the street. Rarely did another car go by.
Soon enough weeks turned into months and violent protests, looting and riots were becoming an everyday occurrence. I stood there and watched my car get vandalized. The sound of criminals looting a business at midnight below my feet enraged me. What is this hell I am living in? Where am I?
I am in biotech sales and my hospitals were the epicenter of COVID-19. For over 25 years I would interact with dozens of people a day by noon. I tortured myself over the death and destruction of so many things around me that I loved. I felt helpless and lost but kept it to myself.
Many of my friends have left the city. Those who stayed were afraid to live. Nowhere to go. People forget that New Yorkers mostly live in isolation even though there are millions of us. A of million-dollars gets you a 400-square foot jail cell. I would go visit my mother and nephews on the weekends like a parolee soaking up whatever normalcy I could. I made cheeses and bread and pasta. I even made soap. My mind could not escape no matter what I did. After a while, I stopped taking calls from friends. I tried to be an ear but I could not hear the same stories over and over. We were all living it except they were in the suburbs and I refused to abandon my home.
The Beginning Of Something
I always had something deep in my soul for fishing since I was a kid. However, I never went fishing as a kid. I had only gone fishing a couple of times in my adult life.
I remember at the age of 7 my father said he was going to take my brother fishing the next day. My father did not fish. It is not something we grew up with culturally. I was told it is something only boys do. To get me to stop begging he promised to wake me up and take me. He never did.
My ex-fiancé’s father fished all the time in New Jersey and the Florida Keys on his boat. Dave hated fishing because it was forced on him. He hated it so much that I stopped asking him to take me. I thought fishing had to be a terrible thing. Maybe the reason it did not work between us was fishing was in my future.
Last year I reconnected with an ex-boyfriend. He took me fishing 7 years ago in Miami. I bought it up so many times that he chartered a boat and took me. He never fished and didn’t want to, but he always did things to make me happy and smile. I smiled big that day! That bug stayed with me and I felt it was time to revisit it. Thank Chad.
I spent some time online looking for places that I could take fishing lessons. I could never fish with boys unless I had some experience. I would not allow them to put me in a stereotypical category as my father did. I am in sales and I compete with the big boys. Besides, I need to represent women breaking the mold. I have been doing this my whole life but never gave much thought.
I found the Brooklyn Fishing Club which had members all over including Manhattan. I had emailed them about taking lessons. Victor Lucia, who founded and runs the club quickly replied. I never wrote back. I think I did not want to hear about one more thing that I was not able to do because of COVID-19. Everything seemed intimidating and I had so many questions. If I ask a question will he think I am dumb? Should I watch everything on fishing first? Do they have cute outfits like golf? Why do they have so many types of rods and reels? My mind was boggled, AAHHH!
It was a couple of days later on a Friday in June when I realized it was noon and I was still lying in bed. I was so frustrated and tired, yet too angry to cry. I am a 40 something-year-old educated working professional. I have overcome many hardships in my life. I am a strong, independent and secure woman. I have more blessings than most people can dream of. I am afraid of heights, yet I jump out of airplanes. I felt guilty for feeling bad for myself. I had to acknowledge that my guilt did not make these feelings any less valid. Yet here I am on a picture-perfect day unable to use my words. Why was I paralyzed?
I was missing that feeling of being alive. This is New York City dammit and people are here because they want to feel alive! I have a closet full of Chanel and Louboutin that are worthless. Where was I going? What restaurants and galas await? Dates? What is happening to me?
It was that moment when I remembered something Dave told me. He said one of the things he loved most about me was my sense of wanderlust. The way I inspired others to have fun. I sat up as if I were jolted and somehow found my words immediately.
I picked up my laptop and searched for fishing charters. I was ready to jump in without lessons. It would not be the first time I made a fool of myself so why stop now.
The stars aligned. That night changed my mindset and saved my sanity. We were out in Jamaica Bay with a painted sky of purple, blue, yellow and red. New York City seems so far away when in reality it wasn’t that far. I never saw the city from those waters. There was a fire lit sky at sunset and Manhattan looked like a distant land.
When the boat docked, I realized I forgot about everything that consumed me just hours prior. For those few hours on the boat, it was me and the mystery of what was under the water. It felt right. I felt peace being on the water and I felt safe. I felt empowered and energized. This was living again!
I was around passionate people learning something new. Striped bass and bluefish were my catches. It was messy and my cute designer outfit was no more. It didn’t matter because I was so excited! I forgot that feeling. The endorphins were jumping like bunker. I had no idea what bunker was six months ago.
After a few more trips I finally connected with Victor from Brooklyn Fishing Club. He welcomed me on a trip before I joined. I showed up to fish with members who treated me the same way they treat each other, like an angler. Everybody was so helpful and genuinely excited for me every time I caught a keeper. They encouraged me to keep at it every time I had short.
One member and his son had amazing banter because fishing was part of their life. This 12-year-old out fished 18 adults and I adored it. Little J is a sweet kid who takes this sport seriously and was still a gentleman who offered me some of his chips. You could tell his father was teaching him much more than just fishing. I wondered for a split second what it would have been like to fish with my dad as a kid.
I reconnected with one of my brother’s oldest friends Nick and his wife Vanessa. They surprised me and showed up on a fishing trip they knew I was on. That day I caught a 13-pound, 31-inch fluke. He was so happy for me as was my new friend from the club. I did not realize what a big deal that was. I was simply happy to have the biggest fish. It took me a while to realize ‘she has a Double D’ meant something else in the fishing world. More new terminology.
People who fish are different. Vanessa had recently recovered from multiple bouts of life-altering cancer and still wanted to come on the trip to feel normal. We all just want to feel normal and fishing is a part of that. I understand that now.
I do not have to arrange a schedule with three people to golf. I do not have to worry about girlfriends canceling plans for a guy. I can pick up a rod and go. I am reconnecting with friends to fish. I have traveled to Wyoming and Colorado for trout and had friends fly from Los Angeles and Arizona to join me. I have seen it change their mindset and that made me happy. I have connected with so many wonderful anglers from all over the country. They message me with tips and encouragement. They answer my questions without even knowing me. Many have offered to take me fishing and teach me. The fishing club has added a sense of camaraderie that is not easy to find these days. They just want to catch fish, create stories, and share their knowledge. It is not always about the size of the fish, so I do not have to compete all the time. I joke about holding the fish close to the camera to make it look bigger. I find a joke in everything about fishing.
I have remembered a lot about myself and living. I get excited like a little kid every time I catch a fish. Fishing saved my sanity. I wonder where this will take me. The thought of new possibilities fills my once-troubled mind. For those moments when I fish, my heart is not breaking, it is filled with hope. I found my wanderlust. I have so much to learn and with some great mentors, I plan to sit on their shoulders. I plan to advocate for women in this amazing sport and to bring to light to some gaps that have kept women away for too long. My friend Jonathan told me ‘you’ll never meet an angry fisherman.’ He said I might be the angriest one out there. He may be right.