2020 had a sameness to it all. Mainly, being nervous and staying inside. In order to counteract that sameness, here are my most memorable pictures and events from the past year.

The format for this roundup is a month-by-month playback, and then a summary of where I’m at in life. You can read my previous yearly roundups for 2019, 2018, and 2017.

January

My brother and I went to MAGFest, a video game music festival in the D.C. area. Because of the pandemic, that weekend was most of the live music, travel, meeting people, and sightseeing I did for the entire year. I’m glad we made the last-minute decision to attend.

February

My band played a gig at the Iron Post in February and that’s sort of the last real gig we played. We did play a couple of times in the summer (outside and with masks), but it felt weird promoting our shows during a pandemic. We’re on hiatus now and I’m not sure when we’ll play again.

The Iron Post’s future is up the air too. There’s a GoFundMe for keeping the bar open. I don’t know what downtown Urbana will look like in 2021.

March

My friend Kevin passed away. It was unrelated to the virus but still unexpected and devasting to my friend group. Kevin was one of the smartest, kind, and fun people in the world. Even nine months later, I don’t think my brain understands he’s gone. The funeral happened in person, but the statewide lockdown happened the next Monday. I stopped seeing ALL my friends – so there wasn’t a moment where Kevin was absent from board game nights or downtown. The pandemic made the mourning process weird and abrupt. I’m not sure what else to say. Tell your friends you love them often.

Meadowbrook Park in Feburary. We are looking at a sculpture that represents grass or a leaf. The art is made of bright steel. The grass around is dry and dead. When my friend died, my friend group all went for a walk at this park. I didn't take this pictures then, but this picture represents the event the most.
Flowers in a row, from my friend's funeral.

April

Normally, Champaign-Urbana comes alive as the weather gets warmer. This April, I walked around downtown and it was completely empty.

One good thing is my extended family started doing weekly Zoom meetings, and we’ve kept it up through the entire year.

Zooming with the family. I for some reason had a pineapple so I placed it in front of me and then was pretending to be it. My brother is amused, my parents less so.
I’m doing my best pineapple impression.

May

I started working from home in March but May felt like when I got the hang of it. Those first months were rough. My projects dragged on. I rewrote my code often. I wasn’t good enough at poking people for clarifications.

My working from home flow has gotten pretty good. I have an office area separate from my bedroom and I bought a legit standing desk. My lunch is usually a sandwich.

Granular has been super supportive during the pandemic and I’m extremely grateful for it. They let me take my chair from the office, they sent me cute working from home socks, and my bosses are good at encouraging us to take breaks.

I sometimes imagine what it’ll be like going back to the office, but I don’t expect it to happen anytime soon. We’ll probably be working from home for most of 2021.

Sock that have a message on their tag - "We are thinking of you! We hope these new socks keep you comfy in your home office!"

They say WFH on the bottom.

I actually like these socks a lot.
Poweful socks for working from home

June & July

I walked a lot this summer. Most evenings after dinner I’d go on a walk. I walked with my brothers, my parents, and my friends. I walked the family dog more than I had in years. It felt nostalgic. The warm summer nights reminded me of growing up here.

The most exciting walk might have been an owl family we encountered at a park. I never got a great picture, but they were very loud. We decided they were barred owls.

Less exciting but easier to take a picture of was this construction near my old high school. Seeing its progress night by night was a thing.

An outstreched hand holding 4 golf ball sized pieces of hail. It's obviously summer with the greenery in the background.
In July, we had the largest hail I’ve ever seen.

August

My family drove to Michigan for a week-long vacation. It worked out well and it felt like we traveled in a safe matter. We rented a cabin in a remote area and stuck to ourselves. We all got tested before and after the trip. I’m grateful that Champaign-Urbana has easy access to community COVID testing.

We brought our instruments!

There was a theme this year of heavily thinking through any event to decide if it’s worth the risk. I remember how big a deal going to the dentist felt. Same with a couple of times I visited my boyfriend. So far everyone in my family has stayed healthy, but I realize how much of that is due to the privilege of working remotely.

September

In September my boyfriend John visited 😊

We played a bunch of virtual reality games. I bought my VR headset right as the lockdown started, and playing VRChat became one of my main hobbies throughout the year. I went to dance events, birthday parties, and I even saw an immersive theater performance. It ended up being a great way to stay social during the pandemic.

October

We went on a hike at Homer Lake, and randomly ran into my childhood doctor. He said he’d just retired the day before. That’s not enough to make me feel old, but it definitely reminded me that time is moving on.

A lot of the walking I did this year was at nearby areas in central Illinois that I hadn’t seen before. There are a surprising amount of things here I haven’t done.

We collected White Gentian seeds for a volunteer project. They wanted to take these seeds and plant a bunch of native plants nearby. The weather was amazing this day.
Collecting prairie seeds with my brother for a restoration project at Lake of the Woods

November

The election was chaotic and I buried myself in my work – which is a fine reaction but not great. Even after the results were finalized I was anxious for several weeks because that’s how my anxiety works.

Thanksgiving was nice and calm. I’m grateful that my brothers and my parents live in the same town as me. We zoomed with the extended family and then sat down for a nice meal with just the five of us.

A laptop with my family zooming in. The table is nicely set with Autumn table settings. A Yeti mic is on the table too. My Mom is clicking the laptop to do something.
My Mom organized the Thanksgiving family Zoom

December

I had a wonderfully chill holiday. I took 2 weeks off of work and didn’t go anywhere.

My brothers and I put on a Zoom concert for our extended family members.

Looking Back on 2020

My job and housing were stable and I’m grateful for that. I saw a lot of friends who struggled with unemployment this year. Getting used to working remotely was stressful for me, but nowhere as hard as job searching in a pandemic would have been.

The pandemic made my long-distance relationship feel longer-distance. I only saw my boyfriend a couple of times. We did a great job staying in contact regardless, but this year is convincing me that moving in together would be a good idea.

The most frustrating part of 2020 was seeing the amount of chaos in my country and the feeling of not being able to do much about it – mainly the incompetent response to COVID, and the growing racism and fascism in the government. I tried hard to focus on what positive impact I can have on my communities around me.

My resolution last year was to practice German daily using Duolingo. I did manage to do that successfully.

I'm sleeping on my parent's couch. Wearing the my sweet WFH socks.
It was a tiring year
duolingo screenshot that says "365 day streak! Congrats on using Duolingo for 365 days in a row"

Looking Forward to 2021

I have a simple resolution this year – trying to stretch my hamstrings more. I’m quite inflexible at the time of writing this. Hopefully next year I can post a picture of myself doing a good forward fold.

I’m optimistic about the new administration and about the vaccine rollout. But with how chaotic this year has started, there’s a lot of uncertainty about 2021. I can’t imagine this year being worse than 2020, but I don’t expect things to go back to a “normal” any time soon either.

I have a lot of things I hope to do in my 30s. Make more music, more websites, more tech talks. I keep meaning to pick up a brand new hobby like singing or drawing. For this year though, I’m trying to keep my expectations low. Just surviving will be good enough for me.

We went for a walk in January (with masks). I got to see several friends I hadn't seen in a while.

Final Thoughts

Thank you for reading about my year. Maybe it’s helped you and I feel a little more connected – something that’s been hard to do throughout this pandemic.

My friends, please feel free to reach out at any time. Zoom fatigue is real, but chatting online really is something to take advantage of. Just reach out on Facebook or Twitter or anywhere really, I’d love to say hi.

One Comment

  • sarah says:

    I really enjoyed reading this and getting a sense of how you are. Thank you for sharing, Ben! Hope 2021 means I get to see more of you. Love, Sarah

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