This year the arrival of June not only marks the unofficial start of summer, but also the beginning of a new chapter. Over the few couple weeks, things have started to feel a lot more like pre-pandemic times. And last week (June 1), I returned to work in the office after working from home for more than 14 months.
I never expected to experience anything quite like what life was like from mid-March 2020 through May 2021. And while I hope there’s never another global pandemic of this magnitude during my lifetime, I honestly will always have some really sweet memories from this period. I’m thankful that I and all my loved ones remained safe and healthy during this season, and that I remained employed and didn’t experience the economic blow that many others felt.
While I recognize that COVID isn’t 100% behind us and it’s still ravaging some areas of the world in devastating ways, the past few weeks really feel like we’ve turned a huge corner here in the US. The light at the end of the tunnel is shining brighter than ever. As my life returns to normal, I want to take a moment to reflect and reminisce on the past year or so. Here’s my open letter to the past 14 months:
Dear March 2020-May 2021,
Before you came along, I felt burnt out and overwhelmed from the stress of juggling a full-time job, blogging, social life, and maintaining some sense of organization at home. So in the middle of March 2020 when the world came to a halt, this exhausted introvert embraced the opportunity to stay home more and not feel physically pulled in multiple directions. Since various activities were either cancelled or moved to Zoom, I didn’t have to feel antisocial or have FOMO about opting to skip something and stay in. Although the uncertain circumstances of a global pandemic weren’t quite what I envisioned to bring about a forced chance to rest and recharge, I wanted to make the most of it. Here are some memorable events you brought my way that I will always associate with this season:
Working from Home
I’m thankful that my workplace quickly pivoted so that we could function virtually and those of us who were more comfortable working from home could do so. In addition, I don’t take for granted the blessing that I remained fully employed during a time when so many suffered financial hardships. I will always have fun memories of the 14 months my couch was my office, loungewear was my work attire, and my Duffy & Friends stuffed animals were my assistants. In fact, Duffy became such a fixture in my Zoom background during staff meetings that one of my coworkers would always note when he wasn’t there!
As a March baby, I experienced not one, but two birthdays during the pandemic. My birthday in 2020 was literally on the heels of everything shutting down, and I wasn’t able to really go out and celebrate. But I will never forget being in a Zoom staff meeting on my birthday, and my coworkers telling me to open my door. When I did this, I discovered a box of Dunkin’ Munchkins on my doorstep that a coworker had discreetly delivered earlier that morning. Then in 2021, things were starting to turn the corner with the pandemic, but I still wasn’t able to partake in all of my usual festivities. But I was still able to enjoy a small celebration with my family, plus enjoy the return of March Madness basketball.
I’m definitely looking forward to going all-out for my birthday in 2022 and having a fun in-person celebration with friends for the first time in three years. But my two pandemic birthdays were special and memorable in their own way.
Summer 2020 Beach Trips
I’m also grateful that I was able to safely enjoy multiple beach trips to my family’s place on the North Carolina coast during summer 2020. They were filled with leisurely mornings of going for a run and sipping a latte, hours of reading on the beach, and evenings enjoying takeout and movies with my parents. During a season when so many usual traditions and activities were put on hold, I was so thankful for a semblance of normalcy. There were also a few days during the summer that I worked virtually from the beach house, then headed down to the beach to relax once the workday ended.
XOXO Gossip Girl
Watching Netflix was one way I took advantage of additional time at home during these 14 months. I will always remember the COVID pandemic as the time when I watched the entire Gossip Girl series for the first time ever. (A little late to the party, I know.) In fact, I got so into it that I had to get the Gossip Girl Complete Series DVD (see my April 2021 Favorites). No worries that it’s off Netflix now, because I can watch it whenever I want.
(PS. If you want some Blair Waldorf outfit inspo, check out this post.)
Moving into a New Place
I literally only moved to the other side of my apartment complex. Nevertheless, moving and setting up a new apartment was definitely a memorable event during the pandemic. Shortly before COVID started, I learned that my apartment complex wanted to finishing renovating every single unit. As a result, I would have to move into a renovated apartment unit no later than January 2021.
However, I had the option of transferring to a new apartment early. Thus, I decided to go ahead and move in August 2020. At first I was annoyed that I had to move in the first place. But then I realized it actually turned out to be a good thing. I really like being in a renovated unit. Also, moving during a pandemic actually had some advantages. I could stay at home getting the new place organized without missing out on social events. In addition, the extra time at home gave me a good reason to be more thorough with purging items.
Looking back, moving to a new apartment earlier than I had to was one of my best life decisions. It felt so good moving in late summer and being mostly settled for fall and the holidays. I’m so glad I didn’t have a January 2021 move looming during the final months of 2020. After all, January is already depressing enough without the stress and hassle of moving!
Fall Saturdays and College Football
Fall 2020 was the first time in YEARS I didn’t attend a college football game or tailgate. But after months without any live sports, the fact that we even had a college football season was a gift! In the face of so much change, I loved the familiarity of continuing my favorite fall Saturday morning tradition of picking up a Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks and watching ESPN College GameDay.
McDonald’s Happy Meal Toys
I will also always remember the pandemic as the time I reconnected with a childhood pastime of collecting McDonald’s Happy Meal toys. In November 2020, I got a Happy Meal for the first time in years when I discovered McDonalds had a promotion featuring Mickey & Friends riding popular Disney World rides. Even after this Mickey’s Runaway Railway Happy Meal toy promo ended, I still continued getting Happy Meals periodically. Subsequent Happy Meal toy lines, like Hasbro mini games, were also fun to collect. During this season of doing less, I learned to appreciate simple joys more, such as going to the McDonald’s drive-thru to pick up a Happy Meal with a fun toy.
Sweet and Slow Holiday Season
The 2020 Holiday Season, both Thanksgiving and Christmas, was such a sweet time that I will always cherish. Though I missed participating in some of the gatherings and traditions, I was also thankful for a less hectic pace than past holiday seasons. The introvert in me definitely loved more time cozied up at home by the Christmas tree watching Hallmark Christmas movies. I’m also grateful that I got to enjoy modified versions of cherished traditions. A local dance studio owned by a family friend put on a video streaming performance of The Nutcracker ballet. I also got to stream a video version of the Christmas Eve Moravian Lovefeast, complete with Moravian love buns picked up in advance. In addition, I had a sweet time relaxing and enjoying good food with my family over Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Duffy & Friends
Another fun thing that happened during COVID was that I got to complete my Duffy & Friends plush collection. I discovered via a Duffy & Friend’s Facebook group that Kalepa’s Store at Disney’s Aulani Resort was doing phone orders. After months of checking shopDisney to no avail, I was finally able to order CookieAnn and StellaLou plushies. It was Christmas morning all over again when FedEx pulled up to deliver them. The extra time at home meant more time to snuggle with them and enjoy their cuteness. (Check out this post for additional pictures, and this post for background on Duffy the Disney Bear.)
Personal Growth and Development
Life may have seemed to be at a standstill from March 2020-May 2021. However, spending 14 months with much more alone time than usual during such a chaotic time in history actually gave me additional clarity about who I am, what I stand for, and what I want out of life. I definitely feel like I could have better utilized this season to spend additional time with God. And I didn’t have a profound spiritual breakthrough moment. Nevertheless, I still feel like He used the slower pace of the pandemic to prepare me for what lies ahead-not only in this immediate season of things returning to normal, but with respect to future seasons I hope He leads me to.
Other Miscellaneous Things
As I reflect and reminisce on the past 14 months, a few other miscellaneous things come to mind. My Beautycounter business really grew during this time. I had my top two best months ever in sales during this period, and I promoted to Senior Consultant for the first time ever. In addition, I discovered the awesomeness of Moe’s Burrito Bowls, and Moe Monday (where you can get a discount on burritos and bowls) became a nearly weekly tradition. I’m also thankful that my BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) group had a fruitful and encouraging study of Genesis via Zoom.
As an introvert, a big part of me enjoyed the extra time at home these past 14 months. But being around a lot more people again these past few weeks has made me realize how much I love and need community, even if I still need time alone to recharge!
So March 2020-May 2021: Even though you unexpectedly brought a welcome season of rest with memorable moments my way, I also hope that the world doesn’t experience anything quite like you ever again in my lifetime. Also, my heart goes out to all those in our country and the world who experienced more trauma and loss than cozy memories over the past 14 months.
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