Well, this has been an unforgettable year. I want to start with gratitude that we and all of our family members and close friends are alive and healthy. That is far from normal this year. We are lucky and privileged enough that we and most of our family and close friends have been able to isolate and/or protect ourselves.
How did my expectations hold up? Let's see...
I don't think I'll have as much work travel this year as I did last year, and I'm ok with that. I probably already did my biggest trip of the year earlier this month.
More accurate than I could have possibly imagined! January was my only work trip. It was awesome though, and I'm glad it was scheduled early enough in the year that it happened!
I think we'll do some fun family travel this year, but nothing all that long or expensive. We've got the beginnings of a plan for a big trip in 2021 that I'm excited about. This year we need to see some family and friends, and hopefully get Jon and Adele's passports in use somewhere. A couple of plans to combine work and family travel already fell through this year, so hopefully something will work out.
Not exactly. I went on a trip with Adele back to Big City in February, and in August she and I went to visit my parents for a couple of weeks after isolation and testing. No passport use for Jon & Adele. Jon had a fun trip planned in March with his best friend that was canceled. And that big trip in 2021 is seeming less likely, too (probably will be deferred to 2022 instead).
As usual, because for some reason for the last decade April is my busiest month of the year, I expect April to be very, very hectic.
Honestly, I don't really remember April. There was so much chaos and uncertainty around everything. Almost everything that normally makes April stressful for me was canceled, which made the kind of stress I'd predicted diminish but it was replaced by the stress of grocery shopping, deciding if masks should be worn/what kind/how, and whether or not school might reopen.
I hope to build some closer friendships this year.
Yes, but not at all how I'd expected! More on that below.
I don't expect huge changes. As far as we can tell, we're all in very stable places (home, careers, school), so more happiness is a matter of maximizing our already wonderful circumstances to make more room for what's fulfilling and leave behind what isn't.
Baaahahhahahahahahahahaha! But I was thankfully right about the stability part in a big way. I feel like we climbed above the high water line of financial insecurity over the last few years which, combined with other privileges, has unquestionably protected us from the worst of the pandemic.
Here's my expanded reflections on some key parts of life in 2020.
An enormous part of our sanity in 2020 came from decisions we made in April/May/June to expand our household and form a bubble with another family. First let's talk about The Neighbors. This family moved 3 doors down around June 2019. Their daughter is a grade behind Adele at the same school (not a given in the charter school landscape) and their younger son started preschool there that year. We saw them around a bit, but didn't really start to get to know them until I invited them over one weekend in December, then they had us over in January of the Before Time. We had a handful of other interactions before March, and then after school went online did some neighborly distanced chatting outside while trying to keep the kids a safe distance apart in the Time Before Masking.
As Adele continued with first grade online in April and May, no one in our house was very happy. Adele was lonely and online school was miserable for all of us. She hated being assigned worksheets. Jon and I talked about the idea of bubbling up with The Neighbors to be able to share childcare responsibilities. We cautiously emailed them with the idea in late April, and we spent the next month corresponding about it to gauge each other's level of exposure and precautions. We were very much on the same page: only essential trips inside other buildings, no play dates, all working from home. So in late May, we started our arrangement: all 3 kids spend 9-5 together M-F. Monday & Tuesday at our house, Thursday & Friday at their house, and we alternate Wednesdays. Whichever house hosts the kids on Wednesday also hosts dinner for everyone. The Neighbors have been the only people outside our household who we've spent time with indoors since mid-March (with one family exception explained below). We all take the bubble seriously and discuss if anyone is considering higher risk activities.
On top of the arrangement with The Neighbors, we also added someone to our household. Jon's best friend (of the canceled March trip) moved in with us in June, after isolating and testing. That idea was also discussed for weeks before it became a reality. For a variety of reasons, the safest thing for him to do was move in with us for 6 months, and turns out it was also the funnest. He and Jon have so much fun together, and it was great to have another adult in the house to help with chores (dishes!). It was nice to have him around because it took pressure off of me to be fun. I know that might sound weird, but I'm kind of a workaholic married to a lesiureaholic. In the Before Times, we (mostly Jon) had friends over 2-4 nights per week to play board games. So having his best friend here filled some of the fun he normally would have had with our other good friends. He left shortly before Christmas, which was bittersweet. For the first time in months it was just the 3 of us in the house again which made things more spacious, but we were all sad for him to go.
Having 2 or 3 uninterrupted work days per week plus four (!) other adults to interact with in person and friends for Adele has made 2020 manageable. I know we are incredibly fortunate that these arrangements worked out. We're committed to the arrangement with The Neighbors indefinitely, at this point. And depending how the chips shake out for our friend, he might be back again sometime in 2021.
We moved here, to Jon's Hometown, to be near his family. This year: so close, but so far away. We suspended weekly brunch with his brother in early March. We were just about to start weekly dinner with his mom. So, it's been a bummer not to be able to gather with them in person. For various reasons, none of them are in circumstances where it makes sense to add them to our bubble. We have had some outdoor conversations with them (with masks, at a distance). His family does have a weekly zoom gathering (which is much greater frequency than they all convened before) and more recently a weekly family book club. Jon's family has a rotation for hosting Thanksgiving and Christmas. This year was supposed to be our year for Thanksgiving, but it's been deferred until next year (I hope!).
We usually see my parents a few times a year (roughly spring/summer, fall, Thanksgiving, and Christmas). When cases were relatively low towards the end of summer, Adele and I went to stay with them for two weeks while The Neighbors went to visit family (outdoors, masked, at a distance). They isolated more than usual in advance, and we all got tested. Usually we have shorter but more frequent visits, but this time we spent a year's worth of time together all in one go. Adele had so much fun with them and was so sad to go. I really enjoyed exploring the parks around their house while we were there. We also got to see my closest cousin (outdoors, masked, at a distance) who lives nearby. The cynical part of me (anticipating a fall surge in cases) thought it might be the only time we saw them in 2020, but the optimistic part of me wanted to hope for the possibility of safely gathering again for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Sadly, the fall surge made it unsafe to gather again.
In terms of who in our families has been infected, as far as I know it's just one sister in law; my aunt, uncle, & cousin (one household); and my cousin's husband. Several of my cousins/uncles are working high risk jobs in hospitals/long-term care facilities and are getting vaccinated already. We're very thankful that all of our parents are being careful and have stayed healthy.
Oddly enough, I'm feeling better than I have in a while about my friendships. Maybe part of it is lowered expectations for socializing, but I definitely have grown closer to some friends.
Thankfully, The Neighbors are awesome. We've gotten to know them quite well over the last 7 months as the only other adults we see in person for any length of time. We've all heard so much about each other's friends and family that we're looking forward to meeting them when such things are safe. Adele has a ball with their kids. Especially as an only child, I think it's been great for her to have other kids to play with on a daily basis. They've started calling each other "corona cousins".
I also had a great time hanging out more than ever with Jon's best friend. I've always considered him a good friend too (we all met in college half a lifetime ago), but there was no question that he and Jon were two peas in a pod from the time they were freshman year college roommates. I'm thankful this year to have become closer to him too.
I started a monthly call with my college housemates which has been great for being more connected with some of them who I haven't seen in ages and don't regularly call. For a hot minute there was also the possibility of a different college friend moving in with us as she contemplated leaving her longtime partner. I wouldn't rule that out in the future.
We did surprisingly manage to see one of my best friends in person outdoors for a couple of hours while visiting my parents. Her in-laws live an hour away and they were visiting them. The visit was painfully bittersweet. Our girls are the same age and usually spend at least a few entire days each year with each other. We did a year's worth of in-person conversation in a few hours. It was so sweet for the kids to see each other, and it turned into a painful reminder of what we've missed this year because of the pandemic. It filled my heart to see them, but it crushed my heart to leave.
Last year I wrote about feeling like the clutter around our house (particularly the clutter I create) is a manifestation of trying to do too much. Aside from the unsubscribe-fest I did in January, it hasn't really been much of a year for decluttering. Our bedroom has just accumulated more and more of my miscellaneous stuff and I'm working up the resolve and energy to tackle it.
In February we replaced our 20 year old stove which was aggressively mediocre/slightly dysfunctional. Someday we'll properly renovate the kitchen, but thankfully we realized that we could (and long since should've) just replace the stove. Glad we got that one under the wire before covid really took hold.
For the past couple of years we've had the same woman come to clean once or twice a month. She came in early March and we fretted about the looming threat, then she didn't come again until late summer/fall when cases were relatively low and the doors and windows could be open while she cleaned and we stayed in rooms she didn't enter. I've kept paying her every 2-4 weeks whether she comes or not.
I've spent the last 9 months working full time while caring for 1-3 kids ages 3-7 for at least one full day per week. In June, I started tracking my work hours (see below), so I know I'm still working 40+ hours per week. Tuesday is my day with the kids. When school is in session, I help make sure they all attend the appropriate video meeting at the right time. Pretty much every week I mess something up and someone misses something. But this is far, far better than the alternative of trying to help or entertain Adele ourselves every day, and less risky (and less expensive) than forming a learning pod with a tutor like some families have done. My heart goes out to all the parents who are still going at it with little support. We as a society should be able to do better in so many ways.
My work remains fulfilling but often too expansive. I've done some great work and I've definitely let some people down. I've had some more conflicts with my boss, which remain confusing and disorienting. I have lots of vacation days saved up but I find it nearly impossible to actually use them because there's so much to do and our team is spread so thin. I have been unsuccessful in finding the path to grow our team so that I don't feel so threadbare.
Jon and I both took pay cuts mid-year, but his was fairly soon restored, and then he got a large raise that more than offsets my cut. I don't think my salary will be restored until well into 2021.
Jon has always enjoyed watching a lot of movies and tv shows, but this was probably a record viewing year for me given the relative lack of entertainment alternatives. Some of my favorites were Never Have I Ever (please binge watch it now) and The Queen's Gambit. We re-watched several older seasons of Survivor and Long Way Round. We're part way through Long Way Up now and I'm appreciating the vicarious adventure of it.
I've written in the past about growing weary of a major volunteer commitment. The weariness continues. I've doubted my effectiveness as a leader and had some extremely frustrating experiences this year. It was a real roller coaster, and thankfully it was most recently at a good point, but yeesh. At one point I rage-read this book Strategic Doing because I was so frustrated that our attempts to be helpful kept getting blocked by unnecessary bureaucracy. I was thankful to be volunteering closely with someone else on the same page.
Remember November? Early November? Yikes, what a nail-biter of a time. I wrote letters to voters. I called people in swing states. I texted my friends to ask if they had a plan for voting. I gave a lot of my personal "entertainment" budget money to campaigns. And thank goodness we voted that monster out in a landslide (it turned out) and some of his supporters (though not nearly enough of them). It was a necessary (but not sufficient) step.
The self-inflicted devastation of the last four years has been agonizing to watch. Three years ago, I wrote
My immediate family is doing fine, but the world feels much less safe with the insanity of nuclear brinksmanship from two insecure leaders, no new gun control measures despite escalating casualties in mass shootings, and the mainstreaming of white supremacists. We continue to ignore the paths for action on climate change, despite suffering extensive damages from hurricanes, flooding, droughts, and fires exacerbated by our inaction. Measures making the dysfunctional health care system we have even worse and tax changes that will disproportionately benefit the incredibly wealthy and wreck the federal budget make me less optimistic for a thriving future of broadly shared prosperity in our country. I am sad for our country and the world.
These words are sadly still so timely. It's just missing the part about the devastatingly preventable pandemic and the aggressive and racist policing and systems that makes us all less safe.
January: wrote about unsubscribing from 31 things here
February: I came up with a process for managing my photos from both my phone and separate camera. I didn't completely deal with organization of past photos, but having a system in place for this year has really helped.
March, April, and May: Turns out the main goal was "don't get covid or lose your mind"
June: track my hours again. During grad school, I tracked my working hours and added them all up here. I wanted to do it again to get a sense for how much I was actually working. I told myself I'd do it for a month, but once I got in the habit I just kept doing it, so now I have 7 months of data. I just checked and I've worked 1238 hours over the last 31 weeks, or 39.9 hours per week. Considering that I took a pay cut, have "had" 10 days worth of holidays or vacation days during those 31 weeks, did at least 36 hours of volunteer work (more on that below), and spent at least one full day per week supervising 3 kids, I'd say that's plenty.
July: exercise every day. It's been ages since I had a regular exercise routine, so I decided July would be the month to do it. I did some kind of exercise each day, though sometimes it was pretty modest (i.e. going for a walk when I otherwise wouldn't have). Most days I was run/walking with a Couch to 5k app. When July was over I still ran occasionally but not as much. I'll probably try to do something like this again in 2021. A month is a manageable daily exercise commitment, and some of the habit persists.
After this I think I stopped having monthly goals, so I'll call that a partial success with four out of twelve. Some of the ideas I had might be implemented in 2021.
I still love looking back on the year and reviewing my expectations, goals, and predictions. Especially in these strange and hectic times, I appreciate having a snapshot of my thoughts. I am cautiously optimistic about national and global improvements in the months ahead, though we have a long way to go. For my part, I will continue to do what I can to right this ship by protecting and supporting others.