2020 was our lost year. Most days, I feel like I’m still stuck back in March.
In 2020 we missed out on vacations and socialization and time with friends and family. We spent most of our days at home. Our lives were upended in the strangest ways, from not being able to buy toilet paper, to gaining and losing a second income within the span of four months, to schooling our kids from home.
The year was marked by the sacrifices we made to stay COVID-free, and in that, it was a success. It was hard and weird and tiring, but we’re here. We made it. We’re the lucky ones.
It doesn’t feel triumphant, because the pandemic isn’t over, and the staggering losses we personally avoided are still all too real. It feels weird to talk about the books I read or the art I made (or didn’t, more accurately) or the funny things my kids have done in light of that.
But the good things are there, and recognizing them is part of how I survived this pandemic with my sanity intact. I have an amazing family. I have a great job. We’re in a good place to weather this storm.
Some of 2020’s highlights, in no particular order: Spending time at the lake. Watching Hamilton. Bonding over Animal Crossing. Building LEGOs. Lots of walks. Christmas lights. “Fancy” dinners at my mom’s. New comfy clothes. Rewatching The Office and The X-Files. Weeping a little at Kamala Harris’ acceptance speech. Walking along the canals in Amsterdam. Leveling up my development skills. Pandemic baking. Being swept up by new books. Saying a fond farewell to my therapist of seven years. Watching my kid learn to ride a bike.
Despite the tumultuous year, I am leaving 2020 in a good place. I’m not setting any specific resolutions, but there are a couple areas I want to meditate on.
I want to continue to find a clearer sense of direction at work. I need to remember that staying engaged means challenging myself, even when it feels uncomfortable. I need to remember to look at the big picture and keep my professional goals in mind regardless of what I’m working on in the present moment.
I also want to spend more time in nature. I notice I feel better on the days I get outside, even if it’s only for a few minutes and regardless of the weather.
And I want to draw more. I did very little creative work in 2020; the pandemic threw me off track and I never really recovered my rhythm. But I picked up my iPad and have been doodling nonsense since the start of 2021. Maybe this year it’ll stick!
Wow, that was a year, huh? In looking back over my posts in 2017, there were some ups and downs, but overall things remained pretty steady. I’m thankful for that, where the rest of the world seems to be in the midst of great upheaval.
I read 24 books in 2017, some new and some old. It had been a long time since I’d read more than magazine articles, self-help books, or fanfic; probably since having kids, actually. I’d forgotten how fast I read when I’m into a compelling work of fiction. There were so many good ones, too. Some new favorites:
Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The Earthseed series by Octavia E. Butler
The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood
The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman
If you notice a dark, post-apocalyptic trend in the list above, it’s probably the result of the sense of doom that seemed to underscore every bit of 2017. I expect that to continue in the New Year, unfortunately, and I’m getting better at compartmentalizing my horror so I don’t let myself get dragged under — at least, not too often. I recognize that as a facet of privilege. I’m getting used to calling my Congresspeople. I’ve set up recurring donations to Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. I’m trying, but there’s a persistent feeling of not enough that I haven’t been able to shake.
I’m challenging myself to read 30 books in 2018, starting with The Power by Naomi Alderman; it’s been on my to-read list for months.
Speaking of work, when I left for my sabbatical, my team was perched on the edge of some major changes in how we operate and what we do. I stepped down from the lead position to focus on individual contributions again, and I didn’t realize how much I’d missed the nuts and bolts of the work until I was no longer managing people. I learned something about myself; I can “fake it ’til I make it” as a people person, but I’m more content as a problem solver.
The landscape of my job changed dramatically while I was away, and I’ve done my best to keep an open mind as we try new things and redefine what it means to be a “themer”. As always, the team itself is my anchor in the storm; the people and our team bond make the job so much more enjoyable.
Thankfully I have my family and our old house to keep my head from growing too big. The house in particular has tested us with an old septic system, a leaking shower, an irreparable oil furnace, several unwelcome critters, and as of December, a broken heat pump. Current temperatures in the main part of the house are in the 50’s and low 60’s (~13-16 C) thanks only to two supplemental electric heaters, and we have to wait for a seasonably warm day to have the pump fixed. The forecast is calling for bitter-cold temperatures, so it may be a few weeks before this place is warm again. Until then, long underwear and blankets and layers. So many layers.
On a personal level, T and I celebrated 10 years of marriage and 17 years of love and nonsense; we’ve kept two children alive for a total of 15 years, too, so we’re basically superhuman.
We played lots of games as a family this year; I love that board games get us away from our screens for an hour or two. Our current favorites are Sorry, Pandemic, and Forbidden Island.
I’ve also watched more television, which isn’t usually considered an accomplishment, but one of the things I’m not very good at is just…relaxing. There was a time where I couldn’t sit down without a nagging sense of guilt about All The Things I Had To Do, and curling up with a good book or a TV show was out of the question. It helps that TV provides some escapism (see the part about 2017 being a turd), and that there are many quality shows to pick from. I’m loving The Crown, Travelers, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Exorcist, The OA, Black Mirror, Stranger Things, and the list goes on. I’ve also dug into some more established series to catch up, like Brooklyn Nine Nine, Call the Midwife, and Parks and Rec.
And the next season of an old favorite started on Wednesday. I’ll have thoughts on that episode soon, but if you’d told me in 1998 that The X-Files would still be on TV in 2018, or that I would still enjoy it so deeply, I’d have laughed. Sometimes the universe is a beautiful surprise.
Health-wise, I haven’t paid as much attention to my weight or my exercise habits as I have in years past. I still use my Apple Watch to track overall activity levels, but I’m not hawkish about it. I eat what I like, I walk when I feel like it, and it’s made for a peaceful co-existence with my body. Maybe it’s age, but I don’t have the same anxiety about my physical appearance I had when I was twenty or even thirty. I can look at pictures of myself and not feel that nagging dissonance between the vision of myself in my head and the one in the photograph; they’re mostly the same.
I’ve experimented with new styles (a post about that forthcoming) and I’ve grown out my hair (not sure how I feel about it yet) and I’m feeling pretty good about being me. Physically, emotionally, mentally…it’s a nice place.
And what about 2018? I won’t bother with resolutions, but I’m going to revisit my life list and see what I can check off this year. I’m feeling optimistic, but that might be the leftover eggnog talking. Happy New Year!
I ended my 2015 review post with the following quote:
Most of all, I hope 2016 takes it easy on us during this next trip around the sun. And in the unfortunate event it’s not so kind, let me get through it with grace.
…and I’m not sure 2016 took it easy on us, huh? But on a personal front, it was a pretty good year.
It started off with a new season of The X-Files and all the excitement surrounding that. The season itself was 50/50 for me, but that exceeded my purposefully low expectations. It looks like we may not see another season for a while yet, if ever, so I’m disappointed in the show runners for ending on a major cliffhanger. Ah well. We’ll always have Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-monster.
In May, I saw A Streetcar Named Desire in Brooklyn and met Gillian Anderson for the first time. That was probably one of the biggest highlights of the year for me; her performance was stunning and not something I’ll soon forget.
Over the summer, we finally had the upstairs room renovated into an office/guest bedroom, making a large portion of our home into a functional space. I love having my own office, and I pampered my inner geek by dedicating a whole wall of it to X-Files fan art. Unfortunately, it’s been too cold to use it recently, since it’s poorly insulated and relies on heat rising from the lower level of the house. If it ever warms up a little this winter, we’ll have a new heat pump system put in to fix that.
The kids started kindergarten and second grade, respectively, which means we’ve had a lot more quiet time in our lives since September. I remember when they were babies, how it seemed like life would never feel “normal” again, and the daunting task of being responsible for small humans seemed to infiltrate every aspect of daily living. Five years down the road, I think we’ve reached our new normal.
I worked hard, with my role shifting even further to the management side, but I also took more time off, and took a more relaxed attitude toward vacation overall. That was good for me. I celebrated 4 years at Automattic in May, and I remain thankful for the opportunity to work with the people I do.
As the year came to an end, after feeling a bit lazy on the creative front, I challenged myself to write for 30 days straight. As a result, I started 2017 with a bunch of new short stories and drafts. I think I’m going to try to do the 30-day writing challenge every few months as a way to create new material for editing.
…and now, here we are. 2017, I’m not sure how I feel about you yet. Right now, it feels like I’m trying to keep my head above water, which I attribute partly to seasonal affective disorder and partly to the political atmosphere in the U.S. We’ll see how that plays out.
Well, unlike 2014’s “maintenance year”, 2015 has been a doozy. I wanted to say something elegant or profound to sum it up, but looking back through my posts, I’ve done a lot of navel-gazing already, so I’ll keep this list-like.
I set out to make 2015 the year of being kinder to myself, and I think I’ve succeeded in that. I’ve become better at questioning my thoughts to the point where I can defuse most unkind inclinations before they take root. I still have anxiety, and I don’t think that will ever go away, but it’s had less of an impact thanks to healthier ways of coping. So, A+ on the mental health front this year. Kudos, brain, for not being such a dick!
My dad passed away suddenly in the spring, which prompted a lot of introspection and shuffled my priorities in a big way. I’m coming out of this year feeling like a changed person, with a new appreciation for my family’s resilience.
I celebrated fifteen years with this guy, who went through some major changes of his own. Tim left his job at Automattic to stay home and be my houseboy a full-time parent and writer, and I’m grateful and glad we made that happen.
Meanwhile, I now lead the Theme Team and am privileged to work with truly awesome people at a company that continues to make me proud to be part of it (we’re hiring!) I worked on approximately 32 themes, and I think my favorite of the bunch is Libre.
This year, Ellie started first grade and Gwen started Pre-K, and having two school-aged children in the house — and out of the house — is surreal (or maybe we’ve just forgotten what silence sounds like). I love that they’re old enough for us to have common interests; I spent most of Christmas break playing Exploding Kittens and building LEGOs. We’ve had our fair share of struggles — they’ve grown not only in inches, but in opinions — but at the end of each day, when I tuck them into bed (sometimes for the fifth or sixth time…I’m looking at you, Gwen) and tell them I love them, I mean it from the bottom of my (sometimes grouchy Mama) heart.
My favorite TV show of all time is coming back! The X-Files is my indulgent escape from reality. I’m going to miss mulling over spoilers and set pictures and speculative fanfic when the revival ends. Until then, I’ll just be over here, fangirling.
Speaking of fangirling, I finished my X-Files trilogy after nearly two years of writing and revising and revising and revising. I also wrote a few short fics.
I revamped Calobee Doodles, and barely drew enough to continue calling myself an illustrator. I need about six more hours in a day to keep up with all these hobbies!
I meant to write this at the end of 2014, but didn’t get around to it. Then I thought I’d take the opportunity to reflect on my birthday, since that seemed appropriate, but that was weeks ago now. I figured I should write something before 2016 comes along and renders my thoughts on the last year moot.
The best way to sum up 2014 is, “It was okay.” Difficult in some respects, but with less drama than 2013. Quieter. Let’s call it a maintenance year.
I wrote more; I finished a second fanfic novel, a few short stories, and continued working on a third novel. I built a website to house my growing fanfic collection. I drew, dabbled, and enjoyed making things.
I obsessed over The X-Files, and the universe rewarded me by hinting at a possible revival, so I take that as a sign I am to continue obsessing over The X-Files. Duly noted, universe.
On the work front, I moved into a new leadership position, my first time overseeing a group. The job is a good complement for how my brain works; fast, sometimes scattered, holding lots of plates in the air. I made a few new themes of my own design, and helped launch many more. I also took my first two-week vacation, which was bliss.
On a personal note, my mental health suffered in 2013, but in 2014 I turned things around with the help of therapy and SSRIs; a big part of that meant trading weight loss for happiness. While I will probably always struggle with my weight, I would rather take care of the body I have and be happy than lose a dress size and be miserable.
I think what I mean by that is, I’m learning to be kinder to myself.
Meanwhile, I spent another year with this guy, who remains my partner in parenting/life/crime and perpetual best friend through All The Things, good and bad; who supports me at my worst, loves me at my best, and even betas my fanfic:
And then there’s these two:
Ellie and Gwen amaze me, whether by saying something hilariously apropos or getting into the kind of trouble I couldn’t have dreamed up myself. They’re so independent now! They eat, they play, they laugh a lot, and they tell me they love me. I must be doing something right.
It’s safe to say I’m feeling pretty content.
I’ve been taking time to practice gratitude; acknowledging the good things and taking a moment to be thankful for them. We’ve started a family tradition of going around the dinner table and talking about our favorite part of the day. It’s corny, but it’s a small, easy thing to do.
This time of year is difficult; I withdraw, I struggle with SAD, I bitch about the weather, but a daily practice of thanks-giving has curbed that. (Hawaii didn’t hurt, but it put Maine weather in harsh perspective!)
Those are the big habits I’ll work on throughout the next year and beyond: Gratitude, and being kinder to myself.