An end of the year list of what I learned just didn’t seem right for 2020. So, I’ve compiled a list of everything I didn’t expect to do this year. Some are funny. Some are happy. Most are weird. A few are sad.
It was, so they say, an unprecedented year. Time to change things up.
Here’s 20 things I didn’t think I’d do in 2020:
1. Listen to the Hamilton soundtrack *nonstop*
Catch the reference? Yes, five years late, I finally succumbed to the Hamilton craze. I don’t know why it took me so long. It’s amazing. I was supposed to see it live this year too, but let’s just save ourselves the heartache and be grateful for the movie on Disney+.
2. Injure myself doing a cartwheel
Truly the most pride-damaging thing that can happen to an ex-cheerleader. It’s one of the last pre-COVID anxiety memories I have. When I went to urgent care, they screened me and asked if I recently traveled to China. I chuckled. Little did I know.
Moral of this story is you are never as confident as you think you are (about pandemics not reaching your country or cartwheels). My cartilage reattached to my ribcage eventually…
3. Spark an office debate about whether butt is legs or butt is butt
We can thank Hank Green for this one. Alyson, if you’re reading this, you’re wrong. Butt is butt.
4. Spend a weekend in Carbondale, Illinois
Morgan, Jordan and I stayed at a little AirBnb in Murphysboro and drove to Carbondale every day to watch Samuel and Michael swim/dive at their conference meet. They won and it was exciting and special. I didn’t know that this would be one of my only travels this year, but I’m glad it was. It was a weekend of sweet memories because of who I shared it with.
5. Hoard hand sanitizer
Right before I left for spring break in Hilton Head, there were grumblings of COVID making its way into more and more states. So, I went to Bath and Body Works and bought six bottles of the last scented hand sanitizer they had left. Now I have a bottle everywhere I look. Car? Check. Desk? Check. Purse? Check. That day at Bath and Body Works was the first time I remember thinking, “This might be an issue.”
6. Be on the beach while the world shut down
Then, in Hilton Head, everything fell apart. States were closing borders. Restaurants were shutting down. The drive down was the last time I ate inside a Chick-Fil-A. It was all so much. No one knew what was happening. We made plans to leave early if we had to. I was anxious, to say the least.
7. Say goodbye to Wetzyl
Three days after I returned from Hilton Head, we had to make the difficult decision to put Wetzyl down. Hands down the worst day of my life. Losing her right before we went into shelter-in-place was just awful. All I wanted was a Wetzyl snug. I miss her so much.
8. Live with my parents for four months
Something about the world changing completely makes you search for anything that comforts you. For me, that was living out of a suitcase in my childhood bedroom from March-June. I came home to quarantine after spring break and didn’t leave until I moved into my new apartment at the start of July. It was good. I spent a lot of time with my parents during a moment I really needed it. I’ll aways remember those months as weird and scary, but also special and warm.
9. Plan, then cancel a trip to New York City
All my plans around graduating college turned out… different. One was to go back to New York with my mom for a “Last hoorah before the real world.” We got flight and hotel credit when we had to cancel, so fingers crossed we get to go in 2021. I’m ready to drink wine on an NYC rooftop with my mom, dangit.
10. Go to grad school
I have a different perspective on grad school two semesters in than I did at the start (it’s really difficult and is not a decision you should make lightly), but I’m still glad I did it. I don’t think I would have gone back if I waited. Also, if you can avoid ever taking economics, do it.
11. Watch a Parks and Rec reunion
This day (I honestly don’t even remember what day it was) was a bright spot in the middle of adjusting to pandemic life. It felt so good to see my favorite characters do something new. I definitely cried and sang along during 5,000 Candles in the Wind.
12. Play online Catan every night for a month straight
If you asked me what I was doing during the month of April, the only thing I would know to tell you is that I was playing Catan online with my friends. I was always the one trying to pawn off my sheep.
13. Wear a mask in public
And now I will never go without one during cold and flu season. I can’t believe I used to just let strangers breathe on me in the grocery store.
14. Listen to a new Taylor Swift album
One July morning I bolted awake during my morning Instagram scroll because Taylor Swift decided to casually announce she was dropping an album that night. Folklore made its entrance into the world on July 24, and we collectively agreed that Taylor Swift partially redeemed 2020. Folklore brought familiar comfort with a new style of music, and I was, of course, in love with it. Not to mention the tiny, spontaneous release party with Maddie and Tony is one of the highlights of my year.
15. “Graduate” in October
Well into my second semester of grad school, I walked in my undergrad ceremony. It was special and weird, and Tina and I accidentally wore the same mask. I am grateful I got a real ceremony.
16. Watch election results for four days
My most vivid memory of the four-day election haze was lying face down on my living room floor, turning to look at Tina on the couch, and saying, “Is this the bad place?”
I hope we never have to do that again, mostly for Steve Kornacki’s sake.
17. Listen to another new Taylor Swift album
And then in December Taylor Swift was my alarm clock again. The woman honestly needs to chill. Evermore entered my life on FaceTime with Tony and Tina. We drank wine and I cried during Marjorie and it was a grand old time. I’m still shocked that Taylor wrote and recorded 30 songs in quarantine while we all just sat there oblivious.
18. Adapt to life during a pandemic
Many months have passed since this became our “new normal,” and when it’s over, we’ll never completely go back to the way it was before. Despite the strange things and the pain this year brought, we have to give ourselves credit for adapting. We kept going. I kept going. It’s been difficult most days–to focus, to be hopeful–but I made it to the end of December. 2021 won’t solve this, but I have hope that it will be better.
I’m proud of you for making it through the hard days.
19. Struggle to be content where I am
This is mostly because of grad school. It’s not what I thought I’d be doing at the end of 2020. I’ve wrestled with this feeling almost all year. There will always be a “what if” scenario, and it’s hard to focus on what happened when the “what if” is what you wanted. But, it wasn’t in the plan for me this year, and I have to trust that I’m where I am supposed to be. I’m usually a bright-side person, but for this, I just want you to know you’re not alone if you’re feeling it too.
20. Make new traditions
For Thanksgiving this year, we swapped food in my grandma’s driveway. Birthday celebrations were small. Christmas is going to be quiet, but grandma wants to celebrate in July. Gathering looks different, but it’s forced me to think about what really matters in the scope of tradition. Traditions are hard when people are missing. Putting aside the “normal” for one season will hopefully make way for more joyous celebrations in the future.
And at the end of the year,
I have to thank the people who, honestly, pulled me through a tough 12 months. Mom, Dad, Samuel, Alyson, Tina, Morgan, Abby, Tori, Michaela, Justin, Isabella, both of my grandmas (and grandpa Tom), and so many others. I consider it nothing but joy that I got to spend another year with you, no matter what it looked like.
2021, please be good.
Merry Christmas, friends. And an AMEN for the new year.