Is it too preemptive to talk about the lessons I’ve learned in the last year when we’re still in full swing of the pandemic and likely headed toward even direr straits as the US continues to say fuck all to the fact that COVID is still actively a thing? Honestly, maybe, but I have learned a lot in the last year, and I’d like to reflect back on that. Some of these are going to be serious, and some not because we’ve got to have some kind of balance!
Put yourself first.
This one was a hard one for me to learn this year. I’ve long shouted about this as a thing to do, and while I think I’ve mostly managed doing that, it was put to the test this past year, and I don’t think I came away entirely unscathed. Because when the world has gone to absolute shit and everything is up in the air, not only are you effected, but everyone else around you is, and it’s really easy to say that you’ll fix other people’s problems rather than focusing on your own. Because who actually wants to focus on their own problems? Not me! But–and I can’t believe I’m still saying this and just not listening to myself–you can’t pour from an empty well. You’ve got to take care of yourself if you’re going to take care of others.
Tea is actually everything.
Around April or May, my favorite teashop closed. They planned on reopening, but they closed their physical location and weren’t accepting virtual orders for a while. Thankfully, they opened virtual orders right as I was drinking my last cup of Earl Grey, so I avoided certain disaster, but wow, I definitely took having fresh loose leaf tea for granted. And this shouldn’t seem like such a monumental lesson to learn, but when I finally got to pickup my first order from Jolie after months away? I may have cried. Don’t even get me started on the full body scream I let out in my car after picking up my first order of macarons after nearly a year.
Turn off your computer.
For almost a year, I worked from home, and though I went into the office every day, I was alone, and I would bring my personal laptop with me while I stuffed envelopes. I also was forced to use my personal laptop as my work one while I was home since I was never setup with anything but a desktop, and my work wouldn’t grant me a work laptop. That’s a whole other topic, and one of these lessons should probably be treat your employees well, but I don’t feel like dragging anyone today, so moving on! The disconnect between work & personal became almost nonexistent over the last year, and, eventually, I had to set a specific time of day where I needed to be off my computer. If I hadn’t gotten the writing or blogging done by 6PM that I wanted to, well. It was going to have to wait until the next day. I’ve drifted back toward using my laptop at night now, but I’m also working in the office (at a new job), so it’s easy to differentiate between the two. But still–turn off your computer occasionally.
For a while there, the state parks were closed, and when I would have been hiking in April & May, I was instead just twiddling my thumbs, practicing yoga outside, and waiting for the mountains to open up. I ended up going on a lot of local walks through the Rail Trail and searching for some new trails along the North Shore. But the most important thing I did for myself throughout the last year was to go outside. Even if that meant taking my reading into our backyard rather than lounging in bed. We’ve all collectively spent way more time in front of a screen over the last year, and everyone’s anxiety has been through the roof that getting that sunshine is imperative to staying sane.
Takeout is still terrible, even after the millionth time.
This is totally personal, but I don’t like takeout at all. Pretty much everywhere I’ve gotten takeout from is just bleh. Sushi is my least favorite to get for takeout, though burritos are a close second. My favorite Thai place is pretty much the only one that I really, truly love for takeout, and I don’t know how they do it, but it honest to Satan feels like they cooked it in my kitchen and then handed it over. Most of the reason I don’t like takeout is because it’s usually lukewarm, if not cold, by the time you get back, and it’s just never quite right. But, all that said, I’ve still gotten takeout at least twice a week in trying to support the small businesses around me that I usually dine-in at, and I’m going to keep doing it until it’s safe to dine-in again.
When people show you their true colors, don’t ignore them.
Oh boy. I’m not going to specifically drag anyone, but I lost two friends and quit my job in 2020. I talked a little about those friends in my post discussing why I’m not talking about writing anymore, and though both have tried to reach out again, I’ve cut those ties pretty definitively–read: y’all have been blocked. My boss, too, showed his true colors pretty early on in the pandemic, and I don’t think I’ve ever cried that much over a job. He made me absolutely miserable, and, when 2021 finally dawned, it was with a new job (that I absolutely adore, holy magic) and a better understanding on what I was going to allow in my life. Because the point of not ignoring people’s true colors is this–you deserve better. You do not deserve to be treated like the gum on the bottom of someone’s shoe, so if someone shows you that that’s all you amount to, let that shit go.
Your time IS important.
If you know me IRL, then you know my number one pet peeve is punctuality. I hate when people are late to things. I’ll never forget the time that I was supposed to see Leigh Bardugo for a signing for King of Scars, and I left work early so that I could get to Boston in time because I knew that it would be too packed for everyone to be able to see her talk, and I wanted to make sure I had a good spot. The friend I was going with decided that she had “more important things to do” than show up on time, and that her errands meant she was going to be late. Well. She was almost an hour late, and we didn’t get to see Leigh speak because of that. Somehow, I didn’t take that to heart the first time, and it happened a second time when we were meant to see VE Schwab speak, and we ended up at the very back of the line because I waited for her so we could carpool together. I finally figured it out the second time I was seeing Leigh, and I left without her and told her to figure out her own way there, and while neither of these happened during the pandemic, they are great reminders about allowing your time to be important. When I was working from home, my boss installed a 24/7 policy, where we had to always be available to him–and yes, I really do mean this, he frequently called me at 10PM at night or tried to convince me to teach midnight yoga classes for free or scheduled meetings on the weekends–and it was another reminder that letting someone else’s time come before my own wasn’t acceptable. You’re going to burn yourself out so fast if you don’t stand firm and say that your time is your own.
Your pets deserve more love.
Y’all, they do! They deserve so much more love! My cats, Lily & Grace, have been there for me more than any single human being over the last year. They’ve let me snuggle them half to death, cried on them, played with them when they’d rather be snoozing, and just bothered them so much that now, since I’m working in-office, they bother the hell out of me on the weekends as revenge. But, even still, they deserve that love. Don’t you dare take your pets for granted. Go hug them right now.
Thank Satan for books.
I mean, this is not actually a lesson any of us needed to learn, but with the way that publishing has gone and how so many release dates have been pushed back, I just want to take a moment to thank everything for books. They have saved me time and time again in the last year, and I’m so grateful to them for their existence.
You don’t need to be productive just because you’re home more.
I’m actually just learning this lesson right now. It’s been almost four months into 2021, and while I’ve written a little, I’ve written way less than normal, and while I know part of that is because I’ve got a new job and finding time to read and write is harder than I anticipated after a year doing whatever I wanted. (Real talk, though, it’s been almost five years of this because my job before the toxic one last year was also the worst, and I had a lot of time to read & write while at work.) But just because we’ve been home more, or because we suddenly have more free time without the usual going out, that doesn’t mean that we have to be productive. Not even more productive, just productive in general! We’re all collectively experiencing a horrible trauma, and that’s a hard space to do anything much more than survive in half the time, so don’t get down on yourself for not being productive. It’s okay.