2020: A New Beginning

I think I have global support when I say that 2020 has been one of the most communally challenging years most of us have ever experienced.

The first half of 2020 was, hands-down, the most difficult period I’ve ever trudged through. In the first week of January, I started in a new position at work. The role of Travel Wrangler hadn’t existed before I claimed it on my freshly ordered business cards. I was excited for the opportunity to put the knowledge I’ve gained through my years of travel to good use for my colleagues and the company. It seemed as soon as I found my footing, got to a point where my Impostor Syndrome wasn’t crippling me any more, global travel came to a red light.

Then came February, when I suffered whiplash from being rear-ended, while stopped at a traffic light. In Chicago, in March, I got horribly sick on the last business-related trip before the aforementioned travel stoppage. I’m 99% sure it was COVID-19, but securing a test was impossible that early on. A friend on my softball team, who was full of love and light, with the most incredible smile, took his life in April. Then we were in May, and my wife and I were 2 months into a self-imposed lockdown (Florida wasn’t really enforcing anything), and I was struggling without the social connection I so desperately desired. By June, I came to the realization that my marriage was in crisis.

I was in crisis.

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Trying my hand at acrylic painting.

Oh, art. It’s still a subject that my inner critic loves to talk to me about. And just like this critic made me hesitant to sketch something, I had been procrastinating to try painting. To be honest, I was tired of looking at the acrylic paint kit and the still-cellophane-wrapped canvas 10-pack, and hearing my critic chuckle that I wasn’t even creative enough to open up my art supplies.

Once again, I built up my courage and faced my inner critic head-on. It only took me 10 months to do it, but I’m happy to say, I can now cross this off this year’s Memory List.

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Making sourdough bread.

As with most things, I often find I’m late to join the party. It took me forever to join ICQ, only to have most people already moving to MSN Messenger. Then there was MySpace, but I never got on that train. Facebook came out and I held out for about 4 years before finally buckling, and getting an account of my own.

I technically have profiles on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, but I rarely check them. I’m actually quite surprised I already have a TikTok account. The platform’s only been popular for a couple years, so this is a clear sign I’m keeping up with the times better.

Last year, during the height of the pandemic lockdown, it seemed like everyone and their mother were trying their hand at baking sourdough bread. I’m not sure exactly why I didn’t join that bandwagon when it was popular, seeing that my pantry hadn’t fallen prey to the Great Flour Shortage. Maybe it’s because it was popular. Maybe I don’t like to do something because everyone else is doing it. Maybe I like to give others time to make their mistakes, and then I can learn from them.

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Getting my daily steps each day for a full year.

Wow. A whole year. This is a memory I added to the list early in the Spring, months after I initially compiled it, when it dawned on me that not only could I actually be able to accomplish such a feat (ha! who doesn’t like a good homophone?!), but it was also something that I wanted to achieve.

Last summer, after a couple months of eating my feelings in the aftermath of leaving my marriage, I made the decision to live more healthily. I threw out the leftover pint of ice cream in my freezer, and started walking. I counted peacocks to begin, but quickly expanded my territory. My daily goal was set to be 12,000 steps.

Walking became my crutch, my vice. When I was sad, I walked. When I was lonely, I walked. When I was homesick, I walked. If I stayed still in my new apartment, these feelings would easily smother me. It was in those first couple of months that I depended on walking, much like an alcoholic might rely on a drink. In many ways, I drowned myself in those steps.

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Tracking the path of Hurricane Mindy.

For those that don’t know, the annual lists of tropical storm names are compiled 6 years in advance. At the beginning of the year, when I was putting together the items on my Memory List, I knew that Mindy was going to be a storm I could track this summer, and that knowledge brought equal parts excitement, interest, and, well, dread.

M-named storms have recently wreaked considerable damage on our planet. Maria decimated Puerto Rico; Michael tore apart the Florida panhandle. I was concerned that Mindy could very easily follow that path.

Well, this past week, Mindy officially formed. I got my answer.

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Spending a week at my family’s cottage.

When compiling my list of desired memories for 2021, this was one that I could feel when I jotted it down. My family bought the cottage when I was 13, and it immediately became a weekend destination… every weekend.

I have many, many memories of the cottage. They’re good, they’re bad, and yes, some are even ugly. I remember finally getting up on waterskis in early October and hearing the cheers of all our neighbors, who had come down to their docks to witness me rising out of the water in the frigid temperature. I remember the 135-minute, one-way drive because it always challenged my carsickness. And, ugh, I remember the endless chore of raking the bottom of the lake, hauling out the gross, decaying leaves.

Returning to the cottage as an adult is a way to make new memories. I can work on letting go of the dread I carried as a teenager, enjoy it for its serenity, and make it a place where I can have a true, relaxing vacation. That was my goal when I added this to my Memory List. But, this memory held so much more weight than it simply being time up at the cottage.

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Taking a trip to St. Augustine.

I had visited St. Augustine twice before. The first time, budget restrictions kept me in cheap lodgings and sightseeing from the outskirts, because I didn’t want to spend money on entrance fees. The only thing I splurged on was a walking ghost tour. The second time, I walked through the beautiful sand dunes of Anastasia State Park, and then got more steps on a historical walking tour through downtown.

I added this trip to my Memory List for two reasons: I wanted to go somewhere in Florida after I was vaccinated; and I knew there were more things that I wanted to experience in St. Augustine. The fact that a couple of my closest friends live there made this memory so much more heart-filling.

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Sketching something in my sketchbook.

To some, sketching something might not seem daunting in the slightest. But to me, I would more quickly run a marathon. And there’s such a slim chance that I’m ever going to run a marathon!

My inner critic is deafeningly loud when it comes to art. She’s intimidating, and her words cut deep. I didn’t want to give her the opportunity to ridicule my attempts at producing a drawing. I hated the idea of hearing her voice. The acknowledgement that she holds so much power over me is precisely the reasoning I added sketching to my Memory List.

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Going go karting.

In some ways, I feel like this is an ode to go karts. My inner child absolutely adores them, but growing up, the activity was rather cost-prohibitive, so I rarely got to enjoy go karting.

That’s why it was so easy to add this to my Memory List. There isn’t much else in this world that makes Little Mindy do a happy dance quite so easily. Go karting is a real-life video game! And it’s so much safer (and legal) than street racing my Toyota Corolla.

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Designing and wearing my own T-shirt.

A couple years ago, a friend asked me an extremely innocent question, but wow, did it unleash an unexpected response. “Do you own any non-Automattic shirts?”

Automattic has been my employer for about 6 years (my anniversary is coming up on July 1st), and one of the perks is that we can get our hands on a bunch of the product swag that gets design. And this includes t-shirts. Before that question was posed to me, the vast majority of my wardrobe consisted of WordPress-branded tops. Heck! They were free, and that fit my budget.

But that question made me self-conscious. It made me hyper aware that I was mostly a walking billboard for the company I worked for. And although I really like the company, perhaps this was a sign I could introduce more variety to my wardrobe. So, I began a quest to find t-shirt designs that made me smile, made me think, and made my closet more colorful.

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Gambling in a casino.

Although I enjoy the rush of a win, I’m not a big gambler. I’ve gone to casinos and literally not spent a dime because I knew my chances of winning weren’t good. My mom enjoys the casino, and I enjoy going with her, because we have so much fun together when the slot machine gives us an exciting bonus.

I was thinking of my mom when I added this to my Memory List. I imagined being with her, at a casino somewhere in Ontario, while on vacation in the Toronto area this summer, after we’d both been vaccinated against COVID-19. And with the news that she’ll be getting her 2nd shot in the next few days, my confidence is high that this will still happen in a couple months, but it won’t be the first time this year making this particular memory.

That’s because I went gambling last night.

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