Happy Birthday to me! Every year on my birthday, I always try to find a way to reflect on the previous year. Asking myself a variety of questions that get me thinking about what I have done, what goals I want to set, my yearly self-check in. This year is no different; however, after watching Penny K. & Kelly G. talk about New York Times’s 7 Questions, I thought it would be the perfect birthday post.
What’s one thing you made this year?
Early on this year, almost right after last year’s birthday, I started painting more. I have the cheapest of cheap paints and brushes, but I set forth learning how to bring more art into my life. I am intimidated by large canvases, but feel wholly comfortable in the 4×6 realm so I started making what I called, “Quarantine Cards.” What I determined would be little bits of joy that I could send my closest friends during this time. I have no formal training, except for late night sessions with Bob Ross and I am certainly working on landscapes still, but I was able to use painting to connect me to peace during a pandemic and I was also able to send letters through the mail, connecting me to others. It worked for me and I had a heck of a lot of fun.
What art have you turned to?
If you don’t know already, I really enjoy Taylor Swift and her work (see Found through Folklore). This past summer, she released one of her best albums at a time when I definitely needed it. I was just finishing up my ISTE Certified Educator portfolio which I probably put close to 500 hours into, I was teaching two new-to-me summer courses (all online), moving into a new house, all while being feeling the weight of the pandemic, and our country’s explicit hatred. So when T.S. decided she was going to release her album at midnight after I submitted my portfolio at 11:58pm, you bet I was ready and it remains in rotation in various capacities. I admit that there are “skip songs” on the album which would suggest it’s not perfect, but heck there are a few times last year that I would like to skip.
Did you have any particularly bad ideas?
Agreeing to teach an extra (new-to-me) class, during a pandemic, while overhauling my other courses, and supervising student teachers. While I absolutely LOVED working with the students in that class, it was a situation where saying yes was a particularly bad idea.
What’s a moment this year you’ll always remember?
One moment I will always remember is sitting in my blue swivel chair by the sliding door at the back of my house. I was drinking my coffee out of a fox-shaped mug, looking out at the back yard, thinking about how hard we had to work to get to a place where this was possible. 2020 is the year that we finally moved into our new house after an entire year of renovation. I don’t think anyone really knows what it’s like to remove everything from a house down to the studs, reimagine the entire structure and then put it all back together again unless they have actually gone through it. We didn’t have the financial means to hire someone to help us, so we worked everyday after our “day jobs” at school to put this place back together. When we were able to finally move in, sell our old house, and slowly unpack our life into this new space I reflect that this will be something I will always remember.
Did you find friendship that sustained you artistically?
Did I find new friendship that sustained me? Not really. I didn’t feel I had the need for this. In my early thirties I realized that I wasn’t going to have people in my life who didn’t sustain me (artistically or not). I had so many friends who I held onto because of time and history, but who I only engaged with out of perceived obligation. There wasn’t a formal break up with any of them, just a natural drifting of ways. I have found that I only need my people to sustain me and there is a level of peace I feel knowing this. While my funeral may be small, I know that the people who attend will be ones that I truly and unconditionally love.
If you’d known you’d be so isolated for so long, what would you have done differently?
Work out more. I am fulfilled in many ways, but in a literal sense I wish I was less full – especially around my jowls, but I enjoyed Trash Plate Tuesdays on a blanket in the lawn. I enjoyed learning to make pate-a-choux pastries (my birthday endeavor last year) and fruit pies. I loved my flatbread pizzas I made with various vegetables from the garden. Moderation would have been best paired with a little exercise…
What do you want to achieve before things go back to normal?
Pandemic life was an achievement for me. I loved being at home; I actually thrived in a lot of ways. I know I am lucky because many people didn’t. Regarding “going back to normal”, I think things that I didn’t really love doing/actively avoided (ie: going to the movies, concerts, sporting events, parties) will be things that I will enjoy signing up for when the time comes. I am getting my second dose tomorrow so I am well on my way to feeling a little more comfortable and maybe even a little more social.