I didn’t do a 2020 recap, and looking back at my 2019 recap, I feel a sense of loss. 2019 was such a great year, and I had no idea what was coming! So hopeful and energized about the future. Let’s call most of 2020 a lost year, and skip straight to the end.
In my 2019 recap, I mention the possibility of us moving to Philly. The pandemic waylaid those plans. However, after months inside sharing an office, and the realization that we were in it for the long haul, we said “fuck it” and seriously looked at buying a house in Philly. Why Philly? The cheapest property for sale in our Cambridge neighborhood was $850,000 for a studio. Houses were going for $1.2+ million. In contrast, comparable houses in Philly, a similar old-school East Coast city, were $3-500k. While I miss the hell out of the Boston area and would happily live there forever, it’s just not affordable.
We did most of our search remotely via a local realtor, and our Philly friends Tracy and Mia Levesque, who gave us a bunch of neighborhood advice to narrow down our search range and went and scoped out different houses for us. Thank you Tracy and Mia 🙏
After at least one failed bid, we managed put a successful bid on a house, and came down for the inspection. Unfortunately, that house had a serious mold problem. But now we were in Philly in person, so we extended our trip by a day and looked at a bunch of places in person, which was a much more fun experience than doing video walkthroughs.
It took some more bidding attempts, but eventually we were able to land a house. We moved in November 1st.
Owning a house has been an… experience. Since moving, we’ve had to do electrical work, HVAC, roofing, and plumbing. Our basement flooded several times due to the heavy rain this summer, the first time destroying a bunch of stuff (including my drum kit). We still haven’t been able to replace the drywall and fix the basement bathroom because we’re waiting on the city to install backflow valves to prevent future flooding. Until those are in place, we’re pretty much guaranteed to flood the next time a bad storm comes through. Given 2020 and 2021 saw a huge increase in climate fuckery, we’re assuming bad storms are going to be common from now on.
That said, buying a house hasn’t been all bad. We each have an office, and I’ve had fun decorating:
After all of our various repairs this year, I also feel like our house is in a better place moving forward. We’re paying less per month than we were renting in Cambridge. And, we can do whatever the hell we want! We’re not beholden to landlords anymore. We are the lords of our own land. I honestly never really expected to own a house, so that alone is one of the biggest accomplishes of my life to date. We’ve settled in pretty well, though we’re only really familiar with our little corner of the city so far, since we’ve been limiting how much we use public transit. We have some new favorite spots, even if we miss our old ones (Bow Market and Lone Star, I’m looking at you).
Despite everything, we’ve remained healthy and have managed to elude COVID (so far). We received our vaccines as soon as we were eligible (and we got lucky, once again thanks to Tracy, who knows everyone in Philly and told us about a popup). Two weeks after our second shot, we took a trip out to Shenandoah National Park, which was a huge mental health boost:
Now that winter’s setting in (kind of — it was 60* yesterday. Happy New Year!), I’m contemplating a sunny escape, but that’ll depend on COVID, vacation time, and also where to go and how to get there. I don’t think I have it in me to do a plane ride yet, so maybe somewhere warm isn’t feasible this winter. In the meantime, I’ll try to be safe and stay healthy, to the best of my ability.
Plenty of time inside, without access to many of my existing hobbies (I miss Peachfuzz 😢) = time to form new hobbies!
Once I wasn’t able to go to my drum lessons in-person anymore, I pivoted to doing remote lessons on music theory with my instructor instead. I spent much of 2020 building up my knowledge of music composition and production, and a lot of 2021 writing, rearranging, and remixing music.
I also joined the 8-bit Music Theory Discord server and have participated in a bunch of weekly challenges. I think I got to something like 20 straight weeks before breaking my streak at the end of the year? It’s been a fun, structured way to practice my music composition skills, and I’ve learned a little about musical notation and score writing because of the challenges as well.
Additionally, I took two classes on Monthly.com this year: Complete Music Production by Andrew Huang and Electronic Music Production by Kygo. Both were fun, informative, and well worth the investment (though IMO Andrew is the better teacher, probably because of his YouTube background). I’m eying Louis Bell’s Hitmaking for Producers next.
You can check out some of my music on my SoundCloud:
(Which reminds me, I have a backlog of things I need to post!)
Prior to the pandemic, I took in-person printmaking classes at Mixit in Somerville. During the pandemic, one of my instructors, Jane Goldman (fellow Smith alum!) started doing remote art lessons. I took her watercolor class, then switched over to her drawing class because of scheduling. Her next class starts up this month and I’m still trying to figure out if I can join in despite my new work schedule, so hopefully I’ll be able to take another class with her soon. Mondays with Jane and my fellow classmates has been a highlight of the past two years.
Lastly, I’ve started fermenting! I’ve done a bunch of projects: sauerkraut and kimchi (which have been the most consistently successful), hot sauces and salsas, kombucha, and even my own miso:
What are your favorite dishes to create with fermented foods? Always looking for new and interesting ways to incorporate my ferments into my regular diet.
In September, we welcomed the first dog into our family: Lemon, an adorable Jindo/Shiba mix we adopted from an international rescue.
I’ve been saying “I want a dog” for years, but the pandemic kicked my biological clock into high gear. We finally felt like we were in a stable place for adoption. I spent a while researching dog ownership and looking through listings. When I saw Lemon, I was like, “this is the dog.” Kelly agreed, and we put in an application, with the understanding that I’d be the primary dog parent.
Surprise! Lemon instantly bonded with Kelly, and is scared of everyone else, including me.
So, it’s been a little bit of a rough couple months — Kelly’s had to take on all of the dog parenting, pretty much — but Lemon is slowly coming around. She still has a tremendous amount of fear and anxiety that I’m sure we’ll spend a lifetime helping her through, but she’s becoming more open and interested in exploring. She likes meeting other dogs in the park nearby, though we haven’t managed to get her into the dog park itself. She still doesn’t know how to play (and is afraid of squeaky toys), but we’ll get there. And she can stand to be on the same couch/bed as me, even if she doesn’t want me to pet her. In the meantime, we’re giving her plenty of patience, and plenty of treats.
My second big life change this year was leaving Automattic and joining 18F. I’ve already said a lot about Automattic (I miss y’all!), but I just started at 18F in December. So far it’s been mostly orientation and training, and getting to know my new coworkers. The biggest point of impact so far is seeing how important and serious the work is, and the potential for improving the lives of fellow Americans. All of my coworkers have been so nice and welcoming, and I’m excited to start on my first project. There’s a lot to get used to — working for the federal government is much more structured and organized than working for a tech company — but I expect I’ll settle in soon.