Even in this no good, very bad year, we spoke to so many Texans who lifted us up. Despite its many flaws, 2020 was filled with stories of selfless essential workers, innovative small business owners, and more folks who brought their light to a challenging year. As we prepare to say a long-awaited goodbye to 2020, we checked back with a few of the many noteworthy Texans who’ve inspired us this year. Each offered their best advice for a New Year’s reset, whether that involves ordering in a favorite slice of cake or sitting down to write a gratitude list. None of us know what 2021 holds, but let these New Year’s rituals provide some solace and celebration as we prepare for what comes next.
Bridgewater first launched his popular TikTok account in December 2019, and he spent 2020 spreading garden (and life) wisdom to hundreds of thousands of followers from his Houston backyard. For Bridgewater, gardening is a metaphor for the trials, tribulations, and hope of 2020. “When caring for plants, we cannot act out of self-interest as we cannot force our plants to grow,” he says. “We can tend to them and foster an environment where they can thrive, just as we can with people.”
He’ll be celebrating New Year’s at home with close loved ones, but long before the clock strikes midnight, Bridgewater plans to spend December reflecting on the past year. He advises taking to a journal and asking questions like: What did I do well? What could I have done better? What do I want to learn in the coming year? “Planting my seeds of thought in December helps them begin to bloom as the new year begins its course,” he says.
Unofficial mascot, Harris County Public Library
Back in August, we named Curbside Larry (and his fanatical devotion to “selling” curbside pickup at the local library) as one of the best things in Texas. Played by program production specialist John Schaffer, Curbside Larry spent the better part of 2020 reminding adults and children alike of the value of a good book, so his New Year’s Eve plans are no surprise. “I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than curl up with a good library book on New Year’s Eve,” he says. “At midnight, I’ll be glad to kiss 2020 goodbye, and then when I wake up in 2021 I’ll be well-read and well rested!”
Looking onward to next year, Schaffer-slash-Larry suggests a New Year’s resolution we can get behind: “Make 2021 the year you get to know your library a little better.” As he rightly points out, libraries do more than house books. The Harris County Public Library provides a place to start a job search and increase workforce skills, free resources such as 3D printers, and, most importantly as we break out of 2020, “a place where you can connect with your community.”
Joanna Czech has worked with the likes of Cate Blanchett, Kim Kardashian, and Anna Wintour, so it may surprise you to learn that she spent New Year’s Eve cozying up at home long before the pandemic. “I start the day with a workout, eat Lady M cake delivered from New York, watch all my favorite shows and movies, do lots of jigsaw puzzles, and step out for a walk if the weather is nice,” she says. Whether you’ll be ringing in the occasion with your quarantine pod or solo, that’s an itinerary we can get behind.
Before jumping headfirst into 2021, Czech advises taking a long, hard look at your lifestyle from this year. “It’s important to remember that a healthy lifestyle is the best preventative medicine for skin, health, body, and mind,” she says. “Look at what you currently do and make adjustments where necessary to what you eat, your exercise regimen, your skincare regimen, how much sleep you get, how much time you take for yourself, etc. Positive acts yield positive results.”
Founder, Neon Cowboys
Asia Hall, founder of the fashion brand responsible for Kacey Musgraves’s light-up cowboy hats and a whole range of effervescent Western wear, didn’t think Neon Cowboys would make it through the year. With the company’s main source of business—live music and events—canceled, she had to pivot to online sales, and what resulted is one of its best years yet. Still, Hall faced other challenges. “Being an African American and Chinese businesswoman this year has forced me to step into the role as the ‘face’ of the company,” she says. “I have learned that my existence in the country western space has sparked more conversations around what Americana culture is and who has the right to represent it. My brand is forever changed because of this, and I am excited to continue exploring these cultural constructs in the new year.”
In a year with less disposable income than usual, neon Western gear isn’t exactly an essential purchase. But Hall realized that Neon Cowboys represents things that were hard to come by in 2020: light, joy, and fun. “During these uncertain times, our audience was looking to us for moments of happiness,” she says. Next year, try to find time for those moments, even and especially if they involve a glow-in-the-dark cowboy hat.
Executive chef and co-owner of H-Town Restaurant Group
As the executive chef and owner at Houston staple restaurants Hugo’s, Backstreet Cafe, and Xochi, Ortega typically spends New Year’s Eve satiating diners with four-course menus, party favors, and live music. This year, with reduced capacity in the dining rooms, the party vibes will be more subdued—though the food will be as delicious as ever.
In a highly challenging year for the restaurant industry, Ortega has learned a few lessons he plans to carry into 2021: “Keep a healthy cash reserve. Keep the menus tighter, keep the hours tighter, keep the staffing tighter. Don’t spend unnecessarily. Take a personal interest in our employees. You never know what someone is going through.” As for the rest of the non-restaurant-owning public, Ortega has no New Year’s advice to offer. “This pandemic is not finished with us yet,” he says. “Until then, I am sleeping with one eye open.”
D.J. “Shangela” Pierce
Actor, performer, and drag superstar
Early on in the pandemic, D.J. Pierce packed himself up, along with his drag alter ego, Shangela of We’re Here and Ru Paul’s Drag Race fame, and left Los Angeles to wait out the storm in North Texas. Pierce is planning to spend New Year’s “celebrating the fact that we made it through a very difficult 2020, honoring those who I lost this year, and showing gratitude for the family and friends who give me hope for 2021.” Despite the difficult year, Pierce is still finding reasons to get excited about 2021: “I say smile and truly believe in your heart that 2021 will be your year to shine. Embrace joy and shake off the weight of 2020 so you can freely step forward. Halleloo!”
Founder and CEO, Supergoop
As the CEO of a fan-favorite sunscreen company, Holly Thaggard is already doing her part to keep Texans healthy for years to come. You won’t be surprised to hear that her advice for 2021 is also a reminder of the importance of incorporating sunscreen into your morning routine. “This year taught us that taking time out of your day for a moment of self-care is essential,” she says in an email. “We know that SPF is the number one thing you can do for your skin, today and tomorrow. If you’re not already an SPF superfan, 2021 is the year to make wearing sunscreen a habit every.single.day.”
Thaggard’s New Year’s ritual comes courtesy of her mother, who “always encouraged us to cultivate gratefulness and to properly thank those who help us along the way.” Each January, she sends old-fashioned thank-you notes to the mentors, friends, and colleagues who have supported her the year before. “Even amid challenging times, there’s always something we can be grateful for, so I encourage folks to think about their own thank-you note list.”
Bassist, the Go-Go’s
For the past four years, the Austin native and lifelong musician has spent New Year’s Eve writing and recording a song. “[I go] as far as I can get with it until I get tired and go to bed,” she says. “I like ending and starting the year in a creative, productive, place.” (If you love the sentiment but lack the talent, we’ll direct you back to Bridgewater’s journaling tip above.)
In 2021, Valentine hopes the world can hang on to the “quick pivot” of resiliency and survival skills we collectively learned this year. The 62-year-old also has plenty to look forward to, including graduating from St. Edward’s University with a degree in English and fine arts. She encourages Texans to find their own paths into uncharted territory. “Doing something new, different, scary, always feels like a fresh start,” she says. “Write a book, learn a language, play an instrument, research and learn about future trends. Grow.”