One Year

One year ago today I had my last day in my office. I know this because we were supposed to have an event on Pi Day (3/14) that we had cancelled because of the incoming threat of COVID and it was an event for very literally hundreds of people. We were answering calls and complaints and processing refunds. Then I wrote a check, cleaned my lunch container (as far as I know it is still there), and went home.

Monday morning we received an email asking us not to come into the office unless you needed a company issued laptop or phone. We started working 60 + hours a week, with hour cuts, pay cuts, and mandatory vacations through the summer as the world go more and more intense. Then raises, promotions, and 80 hour weeks into the fall and winter.

My partner and I have spent a full year with almost no one else. My cats separation anxiety has gone through the roof. We have switched diets approximately 4 times (Currently we are low carb). I have watched in the triple digits of seasons of shows, though to be fair many were repeats.

Family members have died and been hospitalized. Friends were laid off. It has been a really hard and weird year. It’s hard to believe that a full year of my life has been spent this way. 4% of my life has been a global pandemic, a national crisis, and not sincerely leaving my home.

I don’t know what the next year will bring, but if it is anything like the last one I am not at all prepared.

On going to the mechanic

So I have only been going to the mechanic/garage on my own for about two years since moving out of my parents house. Honestly, I feel like I was made to be more scared of it then I needed to be. Since I started driving and was taking drivers ed (9/10 years ago), I was told that mechanics would surcharge me, try to sell me on add-ons to every service, and lie to me. However, for the most part, that has never been the case.

Tips:

  • Know exactly what you are going in for (oil change, part replacement, state inspection, tire rotation, etc.)
  • Understand that unless they say ” To pass inspection” or “This is broken” you can probably wait to look it up yourself or get a second opinion.
  • Go early. Most people don’t make appointments for the morning they make it for the end of the day or the weekend.
  • Understand that the parts/fluid cost less on their own but you don’t know how or don’t want to do this labor. That is the extra cost,
  • It’s not that scary.

Work boundaries

I am quickly approaching a year from working from home full time. There is still one thing I have a really hard time with and that is separating work time and home time. While I did work from home on occasion there were clear borders in my day for work time and home/life time. There were clear lines, when my partner came home from work or when I left the house for events.

Working from home full time, I don’t have the same time boundaries. I just want to another room in my apartment. My work computer is always out because I don’t need to back it away to be ready for the next day. My work phone is always on and I don’t have any time that I am apart from my work or anything to physically and mentally distance myself from my job.

I do want to clarify that I really like my job. I really feel good about the work I put into the world and the people I work with. But my brain in all its anxious and attempts to be perfectionists glory really needs the separation and genuine switching of modes to do other things. On average I have been working over 10 hours a week more since we switched to working from home. When we had to transition and do a lot of work to make our jobs work virtually it made sense but know I am just doing too much, beyond what I need to and beyond what I am paid for.

Currently, there is no way to fully recreate these boundaries, but I have started noticing and actively trying to put pseudo ones in place. I am still working on the rest of in place and hoping to improve the work-life balance, as well as this general. As for the most part I will continue to be working from home moving forward I want to make sure I can actually create a healthy balance.

One: I am actively taking lunch everyday to take a break from the computer and eat food and not just coffee and snacks.

Two: I am turning on my work phone after 7 PM and turning it on when I wake up.

2021 Goals and Moving Forward

I have done my yearly goals on this blog for the past several years. While for the most part I have stuck to them I think announcing goals into the void can help hold myself accountable. After this past calendar year it feels impossible to prepare for the world that is coming, like it will continue to zig and zag in every direction (murder hornets anyone?). I feel like it is impossible to plan anything, but these goals are mostly small and habit oriented.

Home Goals:

  • We moved into a new apartment this year but it has been hard to feel like home. I don’t know if this is because of the stress, due to being unable to explore the neighborhood, or because we are messy. I really want to start making more of an effort:
    • Add all pictures to the walls and more home decor
    • Start our herb garden
    • Sweep every other day

Professional Goals:

  • I am very lucky that this year I kept my job in a year of mass layoffs. I also gained a lot of responsibilities to my position and started attended networking events within the position. I still want to look for ways to find a solid career path towards figuring out what I want to do forever by:
    • Create a list of recommendations
    • Actively network in work and with our partners
    • Start taking graduate school classes

Health Goals:

  • I got weird in terms of health this year. Between stress, family issues, and lockdowns it has been hard to be, let alone feel healthy. However, I am regularly drinking water and taking vitamins and moving my body everyday. This year I hope to go one step further:
    • Eat at least one cup of vegetables everyday
    • Sleep at least 7 hours a night
    • Find an exercise that works for 1 hours a week

Book Goals:

  • Reading is basically my number one hobby. I read a lot, I read about 140 something books this past year and bought a bunch as well. I did better on diversifying my reading, as well as intentionally reading more LGBTQ+ books. I want to continue to grow and be more in this space as it is what I truly enjoy.
    • Read 120 books over the year
    • Read at least one non-fiction book every month
    • Participate and complete (1) the Around the Year book challenge on Goodreads
    • Put my money where my mouth is and have at least 1 of every 2 books I buy be authored by a person of color.

General Goals:

  • I truly love baking and want to start baking at least once a month, if not more.
  • Connect with friends more frequently
  • Go back to therapy (this could be in health but truly has more to do with follow through than anything else)

Let me know if you have any goals for the upcoming year. Happy 2021!

Pleasure and Accomplishment

Something I have a big problem with especially on my time off is the feeling like I am wasting my time. I feel this a lot when I spend the day watching TV, coloring, reading, etc. There is nothing to show for the day. I know there is work in the future but the time, but relaxing and pleasure is a genuinely positive way to spend the day. Honestly, in the past it is has made me feel really bad at the end of the day, even though it has genuinely made me feel at peace and rest while happening.

I feel like when my dad watches another movie towards his year goal or my partner and his squad win a new round. I can appreciate the joy and the accomplishment in what they do. I have a really hard time giving myself that same patience and permission. I think it’s really hard to because there is some much going on with work (even on vacation) and that can be done around the home.

I am really lucky that I get a pretty genuine break from work this year between Christmas and New Years. I am trying really hard to constantly remind myself that it is okay not to get anything “done”. But it is really hard to maintain that mindset day to day, especially in a time where we mostly have to stay home. so there is no full way to break up the day.

Wish me luck in giving myself a break.

Christmas Prep

This year has been hard and long and I have lost most sense of time. We had previously been planning on traveling south to visit my family for about a week or so. My partner and I and family all decided it would be best not to travel down because we would have to stop multiple times along the route and someone would have to come into our apartment multiple times to cat-sit. My immediate family is also currently in a pod with my grandmas and my aunt. We decided it would be best not to put any risk and do a Christmas in July when it is a little safer for us personally.

With just the two of us, plus the cat, it has been hard to make it feel like Christmas. We have been doing the regular work and maneuver around the pandemic as best we can do order food or go on long walks. We recently had our first snow storm of the year. So at least it will be a snowy Christmas. In that spirit we are preparing for Christmas and making the best of it we can.

One, we are making sure we do a deep purge of old clothes, especially, hats, coats, scarfs, and sweaters to donate to our city. Wave 2 and blizzards hitting at the same time is really bad and it seems like the most direct thing we can do immediately. As well as donating food each time we go grocery shopping.

Two, a lot of baking. We started with apple pie. We are doing two batches of cookies in the next few days. We basically are doing our best to make the apartment smell like Christmas: cinnamon, chocolate, pork cracklings, garlic rosemary, etc.

Three, Christmas entertainment. We have been starting on the Christmas movies before bed. We don’t listen to a lot of music together but in the car it has mostly been orchestral carols just trying to set the mood.

I hope you all are enjoying whatever holiday you celebrate and are able to take sometime for yourself to relax.

Cabin Fever kind of…

It took nine months but I am here. I feel it. It hits me mostly at the end of the work day that I have no where else to go but here. My cat and I have developed a velco-like relationship. And the only other person I am going to physically see is the same person I have seen every day for nine months. Honestly, we have run out of new games to play and I lose at every card game every single time. Does anyone have a rec for a card game it’s easy to cheat in?

At first in March through the summer it was easier. There were was purpose through work and we already had a pet and didn’t have to scramble to find one. There was good weather to walk safely in daylight hours outside. However, I think now it would have been easier to manage the cabin fever then versus now when we are working, mentally and emotionally exhausted, and it is freezing and dark.

I think work has made my cabin fever all the worse. Previously, when I was feeling overworked or overstressed I didn’t have to stay in it. There is no where to go, I never actually get to leave work it just is paused for a short period of time. It’s not just that I can’t leave my home but I can’t leave my work. It seems like the world is so small right now.

Anyways, I think it is going to be a hard winter. I hope you all are doing well and stay warm.

TV Shows to watch based on your current political feelings

As the US General Election approaches, I know a lot of people are feeling a lot of feelings about the state of the world, including fear, frustration, hope, and exhaustion. I thought it would be fun to recommend TV Shows based on how people are currently feeling.

Side note: Early voting has started in many states please vote if you are eligible to.

“Things can and should be better”

  • Madam Secretary (Netflix/CBS All Access)
  • West Wing (Netflix)

“Things are fine”

  • The 100 (Netflix/CW)
  • The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
  • Snow Piercer (TNT)

“Why is everything so political?”

  • The Fosters (Prime Video/Hulu/Freeform)
  • Brooklyn 99 (Hulu/Peacock)

“Everything is political!”

  • Equal (HBO/HBO Max)
  • Dear White People (Netflix)

“Politicians are the problem”

  • The Politician (Netflix)
  • Scandal (Hulu)

“I want to move to Canada”

  • Kim’s Convenience (Netflix)
  • Schitt’s Creek (Netflix)

“I want to make a difference”

  • The Mayor (not currently on a streaming platform, but so good so keep an eye out)
  • Parks and Recreation (Peacock/Fubo)

GRE at Home?

I just took the GRE at home. This was my first time taking the GRE period and any type of standardized test at home. It was a super weird but ultimately successful experience. If you have taken the GRE let me know how your experience was and how different the testing locations are. if at all.

Setting up the test: I will say that the test does cost the same to take virtually as in person, but keep in mind that the weight of the score is the same and they have to pay a for more proctors as each test is heavily monitored. Once the test was paid for scheduling through ProctorU was incredibly easy. Everyday including the weekend was available, with start times staggering about every hour and or so. This made it really easy for myself and my partner (more on this later) to pick a time that worked for the test. You can also change the time of your test up to 10 minutes before your scheduled start time!

The Testing Area: So the reason my partner and I had to work together to pick a time is because no one else can be in the room while you test and the testing area had to be a flat table or desk like surface with nothing else on it except approved materials. We have one place like this in the main area of our apartment. So to pick a time for the test either my partner would have to cordon off in our bedroom for 4-ish hours or leave the apartment and not be able to return for 4-ish hours.

Monitoring: You are heavily monitored which is a little nerve-wracking at first, not that a huge test doesn’t cause a lot of anxiety already (haha jokes.). Your microphone and video camera are on and recording the whole time and your screen is being shared and recorded the whole time. At two points when starting and after the break you have to secure the area showing your proctor the 360 of your room to show no one else is there and there are no prohibited materials. This is all made better by the fact that your proctor is a real person that you verbally talk with at the beginning and then can chat throughout your test. It wasn’t as stressful as I thought my cat jumped up on the chair and table but it didn’t cause any kind of commotion with testing I did have a moment where my video went out on their end and my proctor because of the monitoring knew I had done nothing but remotely took over my computer and opened chrome to refresh the closed stream. If the monitoring hadn’t happened my test would have been immediately invalidated and I would have been out almost two hundred dollars.

The Test: Yikes. I actually don’t know how I did officially but they give you a rough score for the verbal and quantitative when you finish and it was okay! I was a little bummed because the approved testing materials are not common household items so I couldn’t have anything to physically write on but the calculator is on screen and you could draft in the writing portion. In fact, not being able to write made me think a little harder about my choices and increased my going back to review the questions. I felt really good about the writing because it’s a lot of what I have to do for work now. Math was a little rough because spatial reasoning is not my thing. I do not see the pictures in my head when told the coordinates! But overall it didn’t end up being too much of the test.

What’s next: Once I get the official scores back I am going to reach out to some of the prospective grad programs and my current and old bosses for letters of recommendations. I will retake the test if needed for the program (preemptive scores hopefully mean this isn’t so).

What I thought: I thought it went well. It was a little stressful with the monitoring and my partner having to hide or leave during a pandemic. However, I got to go at completely my own pace for every section and moving on to the next sessions. I think I would have actually been a lot more anxious in a new environment with people around who could watch or judge me.

On Death in the Family

My grandpa died about three weeks ago now. It was very hard and very weird to deal with as a human, let alone dealing with a death in the family as an adult for the first time. We knew it was coming but it was still a really hard experience

I feel like a lost so much:

  • A family member
  • One of the smartest person I have ever known (like actually I don’t know that I can think of someone smarter and worry seriously that a mind like his won’t exist again)
  • A beekeeper and a wonderful source of honey
  • My favorite gossip partner, after every family gathering we would just talk about the terrible decissions everyone had made and commenting on the slightest of remarks made by a cousin’s girlfriend or a great-uncle
  • A home base
  • And so so much more that I don’t totally have the words for yet

What I learned:

  • Take more pictures of everyone for all time. You will want them and you will cherish them.
  • There is no way to prepare to carry a box of someone’s ashes, you will just never be ready and yet it happens.
  • A box of a person is A LOT heavier than you would think. (side note: the realest fear was coming from what if I drop this and he floats away)
  • Tell HR at your place of employment there are these things called bereavement days and you don’t have to take vacation or personal time. Also, people can be nice.
  • Sometimes it is helpful just to be there and be present and be ready for whatever.
  • You can’t do many things until you have the official death certificate.
  • No matter how much you know ahead of time and no matter how long you have been preparing to grieve it still hits you like a ton of bricks.