This was a year of adapting, writ large. It goes without saying that the death, sickness and economic destitution visited upon our friends and family has been jarring and scarring. But there are a few things I want to take from 2020, that were either forced upon me, or learned through trial and error.
- Stronger relationships with my wife and son.
As bad as things might have been this last year, it cooped me up with my wife Teresa and my son Nicolas every day. We’ve gotten used to seeing each other all all hours of the day, occasionally having lunch together or going for afternoon walks and generally being accessible. I think we all learned a lot about one another, become more tolerant and found ways that we like each other more than when the Pandemic started.
- Zoom calls with friends across the country.
I have three sets of friends from different corners of the US that I now video chat with every six weeks or so. And I have many more groups of scattered friends in the U.S. that I check in with more often than I did before the Pandemic. It’s made for some great conversations and kinds of friendships I would have never imagined before.
- Staying in closer touch with friends around the world.
I mostly hung out with the international students in graduate school and I have more friends from other parts of my life that live overseas. I stayed in loose touch with many of them, but when the Pandemic hit, I needed to know how they were all faring, especially in the beginning when global conditions were so unclear. Now, my sets of friends and I talk much more, some of them multiple times a week. It has made the world seem so much smaller and warmer.
- Sending postcards.
As I’ve mentioned here before, I’ve been sending people postcards – fiver or six a month – since the Pandemic hit. It’s been a great way to say hello, and I find people love to get them. A cheap and easy way to bring joy.
- A better appreciation of who I want to talk to, and who I don’t.
Rediscovering old friends I like so much, and building warmer relationships with them, threw into stark relief the bad, or merely empty relationships I’ve kept up with so many others. I did a lot of relationship pruning this year and it’s resulted in a great deal of mental health improvements.
- No more tolerance for Facebook.
Along with relationship trimming, I came to believe that Facebook was no longer a good thing. Seeing how every digital thing I did turned into advertising in and outside of Facebook got more and more creepy. And even though I have family and friends I really enjoy interacting with, too much of Facebook seems to be vapid posturing. The balance was negative, and in November I let it go and deleted the apps. I don’t miss it. You can still find me on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn though. Isn’t that enough?
- Weekly meal plans.
I used to grocery shop two or three times a week. Mostly because I really like (and personally know) my grocer, Chris Dallas, but also because I was terrible at planning Upcoming dinners. The Pandemic’s demand for limited interaction forced me to shop only once a week, and to develop meal plans. After 38 weeks, I’ve gotten good at them, and those plans have led to a number of other improvements, like…
- A way slimmed down restaurant budget.
Teresa and I never were big restaurant goers, maybe once every two weeks for dinner. But we did eat out for lunch almost every day, and I often got breakfast if I was rushing downtown for a meeting. Now that we’ve gotten down to meal planning – and we work from home, that former restaurant budget has become like found money. And when we order in now, we make sure it’s going to be something we really want.
- Leveling up my cooking skills.
I do about 80% of the cooking in the house – mostly because I really enjoy it. But now that I’m making dinner, and often lunch and snappy breakfasts, I’m faster, more efficient, and more creative. Wednesday, I made french toast with leftover French bread for breakfast. Took me 10 minutes. I make Nicoise salad. Bake gluten free cakes. The kitchen is my workshop.
- A clearer idea of why I want to travel.
I love travel, but I didn’t really understand why until recently. It’s so I can meet people and understand why they live and think the way they do. That sounds really basic, but now that I know that fact, when I go places, I can orient myself to do that. I can’t wait for what the next, more focused trip is going to be like.
- A commitment to eliminating commutes
I don’t ever want to work a job where I have a daily – or near daily – commute ever again. I’ve realized this was just merely a timesuck, and that 90% of what I do as a writer, researcher, and nascent business operator, can be done from home. And then, when I’m home, I can work how I want, make lunch in my kitchen, and use my own bathroom. Of course I want to see people IRL now and then, but not spend two hours everyday commuting. I want to build a whole life this way.
- A whole new industry.
Brad Spirrison, who is the most graciously dogged person in the world, kept nudging me last winter until I joined him in his cannabis newsletter venture, GrownIn.com. I finally said yes, and eleven months later the thing is actually doing some cool stuff with bright business prospects. As a lifelong abstainer, I can’t believe I’ve become an authority on the cannabis business – and I can believe how interesting the cannabis business really is.
- A deeper commitment to swimming.
I stopped swimming when my public pool closed in March, but then in September, I joined a private health club with a strict lap swim signup system. Having regular access to the pool, and swimming at least three times a week has made me focus on my stroke and – holy wow – I’m better than I could ever imagine. My whole life, I’ve never been athletic. Now I’m edging into it.
- Better writing.
I’m writing a few thousand words a week now, and like with my swimming stroke, I can feel myself gradually getting better. So many little tips and tricks add up to big improvements. A phone call recording app that automatically generates a transcript. Keeping my interview notes in a searchable database. Developing a few basic story structures so I can quickly plop in quotes and fill in the gaps, no matter the topic. I feel myself moving from a lope to a run.
I hope you too can take some good things from 2020. I’d love to hear about them. Next week I’ll tell you some of the things I expect to see next year.