2021 in the rearview

Aiyeeeee! Where have I been for three months?

Autumn was a lost cause. I spent most of it awash with stress and anxiety, mostly over work. Burnout is real, y’all. After almost ten years with Automattic, I’m struggling to figure out how I fit in to a company that’s grown to ten times the size it was when I joined, and I’m mulling over what I want my career to look like in my 40’s. Right now, it’s this mishmash of skills and strengths and weaknesses that have yet to be clarified, and the uncertainty is exhausting.

But I’m coming back from Christmas with a renewed sense of determination to redraw those work/life balance lines in permanent ink. I feel rested and refreshed for the first time in many, many months.

Christmas itself was a blast. It’s probably gauche to say it, but for the first time in my adult life, we are not living paycheck to paycheck, so we splurged! Lots of new toys and goodies for all; my personal favorite is a mother’s ring with our family birthstones set in it. We also snuck in a quick trip to southern Maine to see my brother and sis-in-law and do some post-holiday shopping.

Ellie also celebrated her 13th birthday in December, and I’m still reeling at the idea of having an honest-to-goodness teenager in the house. To celebrate, we planned a spring break trip to New York City, where we’ll stay in Times square and see Hamilton and Harry Potter on Broadway. Hopefully by April the current COVID wave will have subsided!

Looking back, my 2021 wasn’t terrible. Echoes of 2020 showed up, but there was also more light, more time with family, and more travel. We’re all fully vaccinated and boosted, so the kids went back to school in person — that alone helped 2021 look better than 2020. Family vacations to the coast and southern Maine kept us from feeling cooped up. I didn’t get to go to France as I’d hoped (boo), but I used the money to buy myself some new furniture, so now my office feels cozy and inviting.

Gwen joined the middle-school basketball team this fall and played in a few games. It’s pretty cool to see how much she’s improved over the short season, and I’m glad we’ve found something to help her expend all that extra energy.

Tim was hired at Wirecutter in the spring, and started a master’s degree shortly thereafter (he got straight A’s this semester!) We paid off our vehicles and home loans and put aside a healthy nest egg for future home renovations/vacations/oh-shit funds. I scaled back to a 4-day work week and we’re not even feeling the pinch. Money can’t buy happiness, but not having to worry about money has definitely increased my happiness. 🤷🏻‍♀️

As for me, I painted, a lot. I filled up a large file box with paintings and sketchbooks. Having a regular creative practice is good for my mental health, and I love that I’m working with a physical medium rather than digital for once. I think I’ve come into my style over the last several months of near-daily practice. I’ve also acquired way too much paint. 😅

Speaking of mediums, in what is arguably the most unexpected turn of events in 2021, I took up cooking. I’ve been using meal kits, which has helped me pick up the basics — things like “at what temperature is chicken done” and “how to make a simple roux” are no longer mysteries — so I’m feeling more confident in the kitchen and more adventurous in preparing things from scratch. But it’s hard to argue with the simplicity and convenience of having all the ingredients pre-packaged and delivered. We’ve also tried dishes we probably wouldn’t have otherwise; I’m enjoying more Indian, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean flavors, lots of rice bowls and curries and veggie dishes. 😋

I’m entering the New Year feeling hopeful. The latest COVID wave is surging, but there’s reason to think it will abate soon. It’s time to hibernate, so it’s not like we have a lot of places to be anyway.

And I have things to look forward to in 2022! I’ll turn 39 in a couple weeks. 😱 We’re taking the kids to New York and Bar Harbor…and maybe even Disney for Christmas?!? I have a sabbatical coming in the fall, and I think we’ll make some much needed repairs and improvements to this house. I’m ready to soak it all up, come what may!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.