Welp. 2021 has come to a close. As much as everyone wanted to celebrate the end of a sucky year in big fashion, it went out with more of a whimper. Almost everyone I know had COVID over the break, so we spent Christmas through New Year’s Eve with just the four of us. It’s fine, we’re all fine.
I realized over the break that I’ve been starting almost every post or caption with “welp.”
Welp. The holidays happened even though our family couldn’t come visit as planned.
Welp. Our New Year’s Eve plans were canceled because everyone got COVID.
Welp. The kids are back in school even though cases are rising.
Usually, I go back and edit it out before I post, but since it seems like “welp” is my general state of mind, I looked it up to find the exact definition. Officially, it’s not a real word (Merriam Webster identifies “welp” as a term they are currently monitoring but does not quite meet their criteria for entry), but I did find this description on Slate: “Welp signifies the speaker’s reluctance or lack of enthusiasm for something that is finished or unchangeable; it is, roughly speaking, a linguistic shrug, which you might imagine as a combination of well and a gulp.”
To me, it means, “It’s not great, but it is what it is.” Insert shrug emoji, which is currently my #1 emoji, beating out the LOL face and the heart, which really says something.
BUT. I don’t want to start 2022 on a “welp” note. And I don’t want to pretend that all of 2021 was shitty. It wasn’t! Great things happened last year. In fact, a lot of the great things that happened wouldn’t have happened if 2021 was business as usual. For a moment, I’m going to set aside all the mental and physical turmoil of 2021 and focus on 10 great things that happened instead.
1. We fell in love with NYC all over again.
After watching many of our friends leave the city for literally greener pastures, debating endlessly over urban living vs. the ‘burbs and spending countless hours agonizing over my life choices (mostly in the middle of the night), Mike and I decided that NYC will remain our home. This was confirmed by how we felt this past year, taking advantage of all that our city has to offer while the tourists were keeping their distance. The energy in NYC for the residents who stayed was amazing.
But I actually came to an even bigger revelation at the end of this summer, after writing out my thoughts on Apparently (both on the house envy post and the post about community). After reading through all of your comments and rereading my posts, I realized that even though I don’t want to leave NYC, I am still craving a lifestyle change. I want to move within the city. After lots of discussion, Mike and I made the decision to put a hold on renovating the house (which was our original plan for this year) and put that money towards renting a bigger apartment (3 bedrooms hopefully) in a NYC neighborhood where more of our friends are located. The pandemic has taught me that living in close proximity to your friends is very important and will be a game changer for the kids. More on our decision making process and our apartment search soon!
2. Harlow had a super successful year at school.
If it wasn’t for virtual learning in Spring of 2020, we never would have understood just how much Harlow was struggling in school. We knew she needed extra help, but we weren’t sure to what extent. Being there in-person while she was trying to do her assignments made it very clear to us that she needed a totally different learning environment. And because of the pandemic, and so many people leaving the city, I think we had an easier time getting her into our first choice school. That school has been incredible for her and all through 2021, Harlow has thrived. It was not an easy transition for us as parents (it was very strange to join a new school community in 2021 and we still feel like we don’t know anyone there!), but it was the best choice for Harlow. She has made good friends, she loves her teachers, she has advanced at least ten levels in reading and writing since she started last year, and she is happy. Remember all that separation anxiety that Harlow used to have every morning at school drop-off? I did not see it even once in 2021.
3. Mazzy got to experience the kindness and generosity of my online community.
Over the course of last year, hunting for Squishmallows became a fun pastime for Mazzy and I during the pandemic. Maybe in previous years, I would have objected to buying a crapload of stuffed animals that I know she will tire of soon, but for the time being, they made her happy and that was reason enough. I think we all wanted to give our kids reasons to be happy last year.
However, we had so much trouble finding Squishmallows in our area, I started getting messages from you guys offering help. You may have seen every time a Squishmallow was delivered on my Instagram story, but you have no idea how many messages I fielded with pics and videos of followers alerting me to Squishmallow locations or telling me what they found and asking if they could send it to Mazzy. (If you are wondering how I decided who to give my address, it’s because with every person who messages me on Instagram, I can look back to our entire history of DMs. If I can go back a few years and see a robust history of kind and supportive correspondence, I deem you a pretty safe bet.)
Mazzy’s Squishmallows started arriving from all across the country (I think there are a few international ones too) and we are both forever grateful to you all for making her dreams of a large collection come true. You should also know, that if we get a new apartment and Mazzy gets her own room, she has already submitted plans to Mike for a custom bed with built-in shelves for all her Squishmallows, so she can finally sleep with ALL OF THEM at once.
We know he can build the bed, because…
4. Turns out, Mike is pretty handy!
In 2021, Mike started and completed his Pandemic Gardening Project. It never would have happened if we weren’t spending so much time at home and Mike needed something to do. I was very skeptical when he began to tell me his plan and even more skeptical when he came home with truckloads of materials from the landscaping store, but I decided to look the other way and now I can’t believe how good it looks. Who knew Mike knew how to use so many power tools??? You can read the full post about it with before and after pics here.
5. I learned there is so many places I still need to see in the United States.
In the Spring of 2021, we took a road trip South, stopping in Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida. It’s a trip we probably would have never taken if it weren’t for the fact that we felt flying was unsafe. I also never really had that much a desire to see other US cities, prefering to travel internationally when we had the opportunity. But now I know how much I have been missing that is closer to home! For instance, I never had any desire to go to the Carolinas before and now Charleston is one of my favorite places I’ve ever visited. One of the best days of the road trip was on the way back home. We decided to detour to DC, which happened to line up perfectly with Cherry Blossom season. I’ve heard that the Tidal Basin can be totally overrun with tourists and make the whole experience somewhat of a nightmare, but not in March of 2021. We felt like we had the Cherry Blossoms all to ourselves.
6. We learned to live life to the fullest.
Over the summer, I went on a trip to Savannah (yet another fabulous US city!) with my mom and Harlow, who I discovered are excellent, like-minded, travel companions. We all like to do ALL THE THINGS, no matter how much running around it will take. In the absence of practicality (i.e. Mike) and disinterest (i.e. Mazzy), Harlow was able to convince me to wake up at 5am so we could drive to Tybee Beach, go swimming at sunrise, come back to our hotel and shower, all before we had to catch our plane out of Savannah at noon. WORTH IT.
7. I got my eyes did.
I have been wanting to do something about my droopy eyelids for a very long time and being stuck at home with no in-person events made 2021 the perfect time to sneak away and get a cosmetic procedure. I spent one week at my mom’s and the second week at home recovering and no one even noticed I was gone. Even better? I am SO HAPPY with the results. (Full eye post coming in two weeks for paid subscribers!)
8. My bubble friends became friends for life.
Granted, Lucy and her family are moving to New Zealand, but we probably wouldn’t have gotten nearly as close if it wasn’t for being part of the same bubble during lockdown. Aura’s family too. And because of the way communication has worked during the pandemic, I now have all the tools and experience to keep our friendship strong even though we are long distance. Zoom calls, facetime happy hours, group texts and Instagram DMs are how I’ve been keeping in touch with almost everybody I know for over a year, so a regular facetime to New Zealand will not be that different. We also have an awesome place to plan a visit.
9. I learned to never take big family gatherings for granted.
On Thanksgiving this year, during that one week at the end of November when everyone was vaccinated and it seemed like everything was going to be okay, my whole family gathered for Thanksgiving. We gathered with Mike’s side of the family the night before. It was wonderful to see everyone again and sit down at a table all together. I’m thankful we were able to do it when we did.
10. I started to write about stuff that matters to me again.
I’m not sure if starting a Substack newsletter was a direct result of being in the pandemic, but it’s definitely kept me busy over the last six months. I am so happy I did it. It feels great to write long form posts again, especially since I am only spending energy on the topics I truly care about, and delivering it to supportive audience of people who care. Whether you realize it or not, you guys helped me figure out what’s important to me and what my goals are in 2022. I can’t wait to share the new year with you on this platform.
Tell me something good that happened for you in 2021!
Next week, I’ll be discussing more about why we decided to move and the week after, I will finally be posting about THE EYES for paid subscribers. If you are interested, you can click the button below to upgrade. Also, once you become a paid subscriber, there is a secret perk that will be revealed to you!