This week we will be saying a very gleeful good-bye to 2020, which I think most people can agree was NOT the best year ever by a long shot. And even though there was a lot that made me sad and broke my heart this year, there was also a lot to be grateful for, and good lessons to be learned. So in that spirit, I decided to make a list of 10 good things that happened to me in 2020, so I can close the door on this year with positive reflection.
I got to spend the last six months of Oliver’s life working from home and seeing him more. Prior to 2020, I commuted for hours each week in horrible traffic and my workdays were long. But in 2020, I worked from home exclusively beginning in March and that has allowed me to spend a lot more time with my sweet kitties. Although losing Oliver was by far the worst thing that happened to me this year, getting all that extra time with him when I otherwise would have been at the office meant SO much to me. I think he loved having Bill and I around more and the memories we made with him this year bring me so much comfort.
I practiced gratitude. In the early days of the pandemic and as it has worn on, it’s easy to focus on all the things we’ve been forced to give up, but I choose instead to look at how much I still have. I deeply miss spending time with friends and family, but we’ve found many creative ways to see each other either in socially distanced ways or virtually. I feel such a deep appreciation for all of the blessings in my life and I make a point to spend time every day just to reflect on those things.
I reassessed my priorities. Although I loved my life prior to this year, I admit that the day-to-day was busy, exhausting, and relentless. Being forced to stay home made me realize exactly what things bring me the greatest happiness, and what things were really just clutter that didn’t especially add to my life. Even when things do go more “back to normal”, who I am and what I make time for will be different.
I got to enjoy my home more. Bill and I bought our condo in 2018 and I’ve probably spent more hours here this year than we did in the first two years combined. It’s been an adjustment having our home also serve as our gym and our office space, but we’re making it work, and I am extremely grateful for this place.
I improved my financial health. Having more time on my hands gave me an opportunity to assess our monthly bills and to restructure them, including refinancing our mortgage to get a lower interest rate and save a ton of money per month. I also paid off my credit card and car and am debt-free (minus the mortgage, of course) for the first time in my adult life. Paying off debt was a huge accomplishment for me and it gives me so much peace of mind to finally be out of the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck. My goal going forward is to set a little money aside every month, so that by the time I need a new car I can either pay cash for it or put down a big down payment.
I stuck to a workout routine and got stronger. When our gym closed, Bill and I knew that we couldn’t just sit around or our mental and physical health would decline rapidly. We committed to getting up before work and exercising four mornings a week (on Fridays we get up and do our housework so that the house is clean going into the weekend). We also made a habit of taking daily walks – we started off going after work, then switched to lunchtime walks as the days got shorter and colder. Although it hasn’t been a perfect practice, we’ve been extremely consistent and I’m really proud of us. I feel stronger and healthier because of our efforts and I’m excited to continue our routine in 2021.
I became less high-maintenance. I was one of those people who wouldn’t leave my house without my hair and makeup done, and for work I would usually have on a dress or a nice sweater and slacks for the office. Now I have my “nice” leggings that I wear as part of my workday outfits, and I’ve only worn makeup a handful of times since March so my skin is better. My hair is longer, healthier and shinier because I rarely heat-style it anymore. There are definitely days where I feel plain but for the most part it’s nice to have a simpler routine.
I got to eat In N Out for the first time in years. Bored and needing something pandemic-friendly to do, Bill and I drove to Oregon in November, waited in the drive thru line, and thoroughly enjoyed a lunch of In N Out Burger while sitting in our car in a Target parking lot. It may seem silly to drive four hours each way for a fast food burger, but I’m still a SoCal girl at heart and wow did it taste good!
I discovered a love of cooking and made new dishes I was really proud of. Growing up, my mom did teach me the basics of cooking, but she didn’t really enjoy it the way she did baking and our family wasn’t particularly adventurous when it came to food, so cooking was more a chore so you didn’t starve than a fun activity. When I got older and did find a love of trying new foods, I still wasn’t inspired to try and learn to cook things (in part because my boyfriend at the time, who was quite talented at cooking, was also quite talented at being unsupportive and was very critical of my efforts when I tried to make anything, so I learned quickly not to bother). Although I have since discovered that I’m not actually a lousy cook and taught myself some basics, this year was the first one in which I really found how much joy I get in making a nice meal. My friend Jeanette got me a really nice cookbook for Christmas and I’m already bookmarking the recipes I want to try first.
I got to see beautiful new places in Washington. Bill and I love to travel and were a little sad that we couldn’t take any vacations this year, but we made the best of it by planning and taking day trips in the car. We spent time on the Olympic Peninsula, drove up north for a picnic lunch overlooking the very beautiful Diablo Lake, and saw the abandoned Vance Creek Bridge (to name a few highlights).