My Pandemic Year in Photos

My Pandemic Year in Photos

I remember sitting in my therapist’s office in the before times. It was around the middle of March, the last appointment I had with her in-person, and the pandemic was just starting to ramp up.

“I wanted to check in with you about Covid19, and see how you were feeling. I know some of my clients have a lot of anxiety about getting sick.”

Uplifting chalk art found in my neighborhood.

The only sickness I thought much about back then was Pascale’s cancer, and doing everything I could to fix her. The virus, something I expected to disrupt my life for a few weeks at most, was an afterthought.

“I’m not worried,” I told her. “I mean, we’re all going to get it. It’s out now. It’s just a matter of time.”

I wasn’t wrong, but in light of everything that has happened the flippant attitude is certainly not a good look.

I made this cake for my friend when she broke her arm in a riding accident a few weeks before the world shut down. Little did we know how appropriate this theme would be for 2020.

When we were sent home from work around this time last year, I didn’t think it’d be my last time working in the office. I didn’t bring a monitor. I left my plant, and all of my personal belongings. The abrupt shift felt like a weird kind of snow day, at least for the early days. I beat the grocery store mad dash by a few days and got toilet paper (which was only available in a 24 pack… one that lasted this single lady throughout almost the entire pandemic) and groceries with plenty to choose from. Of course, that wouldn’t last and in the following weeks I got used to seeing entire aisles empty as the supply chain struggled.

Lucie was pleased about my shift to working at home. I have about a million photos of her in this room on my phone.

Besides stocking up on food, which was a shift for someone who eats 40% of her meals at happy hour, I also got a lot of crafts to do. I dubbed them “Corona Crafts” and wrote reviews on my instagram. They filled the evenings when I wasn’t working. Throughout the spring of 2020, we all mostly stayed at home. Everything was big and scary, and the science hadn’t quite figured out how you catch this thing yet. I mean, these were still the days where you shouldn’t wear masks in public and instead save them for health care professionals.

Corona craft one of many. A 2020 (and now 2021) mantra.

I also spent a lot of time doing yard work. After Pascale died, I built her a memorial garden and kept digging through the dirt all summer. Many of us turned to home improvement with all the extra time at home, but I kept that to my yard. Something about getting my hands dirty made me feel marginally better about all the loss and stress.

As spring turned more into summer, I started to realize this pandemic was not going away anytime soon. It was clear people couldn’t figure out how to behave and do what’s necessary to stop the spread. So I began to adapt from a “hide at home” mentality to a “live my life safely” plan. Outside became my safety net, which of course lends itself to barn time.

We were put on reduced hours/pay at work for six weeks in early summer, so I halted lessons/training for a bit. I certainly won’t complain though, because the economy was (and continues to be) awful for many right now. In our downtime, Poet and I worked on building a more trusting relationship with each other. As shown by many rides in the big field. Eventually though, things went back to normal for me financially and that’s something I’m very grateful for.

I also did a lot of hiking with Lucie, hitting up a local off-leash park nearby. It was really nice to shut off reality for a bit and just march through the woods with my pup. And being how crazy high-energy Lucie is, she certainly appreciated our outings too.

Outside only also became the rule for friend gatherings. We swapped our nights out on the town for afternoons on each other’s patios. Takeout options abound. I think we each worked on and perfected signature cocktails of our own. Before long, we didn’t really miss going out as much. Friendship, social time, companionship. It was more than enough.

We even got to sneak in a little beach trip in my friend’s camper. It was a nice escape for the weekend, but seeing everyone out and about like things were normal was totally jarring. We brought our own food and stuck to the beach or the camper, but there were lines outside of restaurants and tourists shopping galore like everything was honky dory. Bizarre.

As the year went on, I had to confront my own feelings and fears about Covid. Mostly, I stayed pretty neutral. While I certainly didn’t want to get the virus, I wasn’t terrified of getting it. Although some days, the fear and uncertainty felt very real. Mostly I was concerned with making sure nobody else got it from me. I’m quite single, in good health, and live alone. Although I’m worried about Covid’s longterm effects we still don’t fully understand, I wasn’t exactly at a huge risk myself. So if I got it, meh.

But I couldn’t cope with giving it to anyone else. At best, I’d force them to feel bad and get stuck in their house for a few weeks, but the fear lies in the more severe options. So I met people at their comfort level. Some of my friends have completely, totally isolated since the event started. Luckily, no one in my inner circle has disregarded safety measures though I’d be lying if some of my friends didn’t push things farther than I felt comfortable with. Although, I’m sure some people thought I pushed things too far. After all, I did not stop living in 2020. I just lived a lot in a mask, spread out and outside.

As the holidays rolled up, I tried to make adjustments. With so little to look forward to, I decorated early and intensely. My Halloween decorations went up October 1st, and for the 1st time in my life I did the Christmas lights before Thanksgiving.

I didn’t have my big Halloween party at my house this year, but instead my trainer hosted one outside at farm house’s giant porch. The decorations were killer, and I got to dress up as a character from the “fun” time of the pandemic when we all stayed inside baking and watching Tiger King.

Thanksgiving was actually one of my favorites to date. I went to a friend’s house where four of us sat outside in perfect weather. We each cooked our favorite Thanksgiving treats, meaning there was a comical amount of food for four people. But it was truly lovely. Another reminder about what’s important, and how this crazy year really stripped things back to the basics.

In normal times, I’m the hostest with the mostest. I usually have 2-3 significant parties at my house, which of course isn’t exactly a good look in a pandemic. Though I tried to do a smaller gathering for Lucie’s birthday/holiday fun in early December, cases kept rising after Thanksgiving and Austin’s Stage 4 protocol (which is not exactly enforced but the official public health guidelines) said to keep groups to ten and under.

To cope with a strange and oftentimes very sad year, I decided to create a holiday pop-up bar on my patio. In Austin, holiday pop-up bars are a huge trend. Ordinary bars pick a Christmas theme, throw up a ton of cheap decorations, add a specialty cocktail menu and people flock. For my patio, I did “Christmas puppies” and decorated it as over the top as the Dollar Store and Hobby Lobby would allow.

Lucie discovers the magic of Christmas.

Instead of a party, I did small groups of 5 & under for happy hours and on the weekends where we huddled around the fire. There was charcuterie. It gave some element of a social life to the holidays, which helped the general pandemic Christmas fugue.

For Christmas proper, I did what may be considered an unpopular choice and went home to see my family. I drove, so I could take Lucie and also avoid the extra exposure at the airports. Ultimately, I made the trek for my own mental health and also because me coming to visit was not putting my family at any more risk than they already were taking with work/their pandemic choices. If I had elderly parents or people truly isolating, I would have spent my first Christmas alone at home. But instead I made the drive.

It was a quiet Christmas for my family, cancelling many of our normal gatherings, but still a good one. I stayed in North Carolina for a few weeks, and especially enjoyed getting to spend time with my nieces (not shown, bc gotta protect the babies). They’re at such a fun age, especially with all the toys Aunt Lauren spoiled them with. Though I hope Christmas 2021 does not carry any anxiety about sickness, 2020 wasn’t so bad.

I meant it when I said a lot of presents!

Over the holidays, vaccines started going out to healthcare workers and we all felt optimistic about the new year. I drove back to Texas with the feelings that things were going to change for me, for all of us.

And they have changed, and I think things are starting to get better, but I can’t deny it’s been hard. 2021 brought not one, but two snow storms to Austin. The second was catastrophic, although my old house never lost power and besides losing water for a few days remained unscathed by the storm.

When I thought this was our “big snow”
No, just kidding. THIS is the snow.

But we survived (although all that gardening I did last spring? It did not). The snow melted. The temperatures rose. It’s now green outside, beautiful weather most days. I’m starting to think about what to re-plant in the garden.

Some of the pandemic changes seem permanent for me. I’m not sure when I’m going to want to walk into a movie theater again, although I can’t wait for live music and comedy. All those nights out at the bars? I think the friend’s porches and patios makes a fine night out, and so much cheaper. I will always carry hand sanitizer now, and use it often. I watch the local news now every day.

It’s hard for me to fully understand how the pandemic has shifted human behavior—for myself and everyone else. I do have the extreme privilege to say that I’m fully vaccinated. Writing this now a few weeks after my second dose, I’m 94.5% protected. What I can’t say is my mental clarity or sanity having lived through a year of this. Even with how fortunate I’ve been, I can’t deny the continued stress and emotional endurance the year took out of all of us. I certainly see the light on the other side now, which I couldn’t for a long time, but I don’t know what that other side is going to look like. Hopefully this global experience has given us all a chance to level set with what’s important, embrace our inner “yolo” and emerge as a more connected, caring community together on the other side.

15 thoughts on “My Pandemic Year in Photos

  1. I think a lot of us had the same thoughts when we were sent home from work last year! I did bring my monitors home, but also left all my personal belongings. And I cringe to imagine all the green things growing in the work fridge, because I’m sure at a minimum I left a couple yogurts.

    I, too, am fully vaccinated, but I got the J&J shot, which isn’t as effective. So the 1 in 4 odds do still make me hesitant.

    1. Glad you were able to get one! My gut is the science will get better and better as we move forward with boosters over time, and hopefully no one will need to worry much if they have any version.

  2. what. a. year. agreed that it’s going to be hard (and possibly quite a long process) to fully understand everything that has changed in the past year. in some ways my day to day life doesn’t look meaningfully different (i’ve worked from home for about 5yrs already) — except for the brutal 8 weeks i couldn’t go to the barn…. but on the inside, things FEEL different. i’ll be curious to see what snaps back as vaccines keep rolling out, and what paradigms have shifted more permanently… anyway, glad to hear you got the shots! my state is being crazy slow, but i already had covid so i know what it is for me and feel fine about waiting another couple months, and most of my immediate family has the shot already — so i’m feeling pretty good about things.

  3. Life really got weird didn’t it? I too left so much stuff behind at the office. And then they let me go last week and they had to ship it all back to me via TRUCK because it was too much to ship Fedex… Ha! 17 years of stuff really can accumulate in an office apparently!
    Congrats on getting the vax! I cannot wait to get mine. I’m eligible to schedule on April 5th, but did get on a few lists in case there are extra doses set to expire.
    I hope things get more normal for all of us as the year progresses. And lastly, I really enjoyed your Corona Craft reviews. Little things like that kept us all going this past year.

    1. SO weird! And LOL on them trucking your stuff back to you. That’s the least they can do after everything you’ve been through with them. Hopefully you’ll get your shot sooner than later.

  4. I count myself as one of the EXTREMELY fortunate people who made it through 2020 with steady employment and good health for my family and friends. But I certainly experienced my share of stress, anxiety and concern for my fellow humans.

    This time a year ago I was an emotional mess. Every day it seemed like a whole new world, and just going to the grocery store (which I barely did) freaked me out. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to arming myself and going into battle and I HATED it. My heart broke for friends who were losing loved ones, and my work email held weekly announcements of another employee’s (usually elderly) relative passing away. I did not get to see my boyfriend in person for almost a month, while we sorted out risk factors with his special-needs son.

    Eventually working from home, wearing a mask and doing very little except walking, biking and having dinner at home became the new normal (and I love the WFH part!). We managed to take a couple of socially-distanced trips and I got to see my mom. My anxiety level settled down, and wearing a mask and using sanitizer non-stop became habits.

    Through ALL of this, though, I’ve been blessed in another way: I never had to stop going to the barn. Riding my lease horse twice a week was absolutely the most sanity-saving activity of all. I could truly feel like myself again for a couple hours. Animals have always been there for me when I needed them and have my everlasting gratitude…

    Glad you’ve had your Lucie and Poet, and glad we all can look forward to better things. As you said, I too hope we will emerge as a more connected and caring community. I continue to look for the positive!

    1. It’s been so hard, even on those who know they are fortunate. So glad you had the barn for sanity and that you and your loved ones have come out on the other side. Here’s to positive!

  5. I’m glad you’re already fully vaccinated! Woot! I loved your decorations through Halloween and Christmas and that pop-up bar was a great holiday idea! I’ve not been one to go out much even in the before times, so I’m glad there are more people getting into porch/patio/backyard gatherings – way more my style. One day, I will have my own backyard to host in!
    Holidays were a little weird, although we have opted to stay in SD for the past few Thanksgivings and Christmases, this was our first Thanksgiving just the 2 of us, and I really enjoyed it more than I expected. Christmas, to me, is about getting together and feasting with friends/family, so I did miss that this year. Although, we did have a Christmas fire pit with a couple friends, so it was nice.

    1. Not gonna lie – the casual porch hangouts are really going well with my late 30s lifestyle 😀 Christmas isolated would be really hard. I hope this year allows you all the travel and family you want to be around.

  6. Yay fully vacc friends! I guess this means I can come visit you in Austin at some point .

    You and I were in the same mentality “continue to live as safely as possible”. It’s personally think it was the most sustainable mindset.

  7. Gov Abbott announced staying at home on my 40th birthday last year. That and the following about 5-7 weeks were the most stressful in my entire career in Human Resources. We laid a few people off. Had no idea if our business would come to a screeching halt. All those things. I think I lost 10 lb and I didn’t need to lose them. It was so weird to be in the office with our company executives making decisions that were going to have a huge impact on people’s lives and families. Ugh.
    But things went amazingly well for the company where I work and things picked up and we stayed really busy. I can’t even put into words how grateful I am for all of that! My husband had a similar experience. He worked more last year (and that is saying a lot, he has no hobbies) than ever before.
    I was able to ride more (horses are at home), lots of lessons when the barn I ride at opened up and do quite a few very safe horse/foxhunting trips. I’d be lying if I said the pandemic didn’t play a pretty big role in my decision to buy a living quarters trailer.
    All in all, us horse girls were so fortunate to have an obsessive hobby that kept our minds off other things and allowed us to be outside for a large portion of the past year.
    And I loved following your Corona Crafts! I bought lots of fabric, but have yet to make much with it. LOL!

  8. It was a strange year for sure. The barn was my sanctuary even when one of the other boarders did get Covid and was still coming out to feed…. Until I found out. I let him know I would take care of his horses and for him to just stay home and get well. The barn owner and other boarder jumped in to help and everything was good. His 3 geldings were perfect gentlemen and very well behaved which surprised him.

    The storm last month was really something with snow and power/water outages. I was home alone thru all of it and without power for 2 days, a busted water line and water off for 2 weeks, but with a fireplace, gas stove, bottled water and the pool out back- everything was under control and sort of like camping. Makes us all appreciate our creature comforts.

  9. Horses, riding and barn time were my escape during this weirdest of years. I am a teacher, so this whole mess led to constant change in every aspect of my job as an educator. Combine this with trying to work with young children stuck at home and ever shifting opinions of my profession from the public, which have not always been positive, and the stress has been incredible. As a parent, daycare for my young ones and virtual school for my older child have been a gauntlet at times, but overall we have been fortunate. Teamwork between my husband and family were the only reason that we succeeded at anything this year.

    I ready for all this to be over like yesterday.

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