How do I even begin to describe 2020? Unexpected? Hard? Ridiculous? Apocalypse Bingo? I am still trying to process everything that we have collectively survived this year. This was not the start of the decade that I was expecting.
However, I will also say that it wasn’t all bad. We learned how resilient we are when faced with adversity. The importance of community was once again established, even if that community fellowship took place over zoom calls and face time dates. We were made painfully aware of injustices that had gone ignored for far too long, and many of us worked collectively to enact positive change.
2020 forced a global pause on everything that we called life, forcing us to re-evaluate every priority and assumption.
May we never forget those lessons. And may we emerge stronger, more compassionate, and more empathetic after this dumpster fire.
January started out with grad school orientation (Hundreds of people gathered indoors! What a lifetime ago!), closely followed by the start of classes. Well, actually a single class started. I elected to take only a 3 credit course. It doesn’t mater how fast or slow I go, the goal is to just get there.
Towards the end of the month, I had a dear friend fly out to visit me. We celebrated several honored traditions, such as going on a run, getting a pedicure afterwards to reward our angry feet, and chowing down on raw cookie dough while watching a Disney classic. That just so happened to also be what we did before our high school homecoming dance!
In February, I decided to outsource something that was causing me an undue amount of stress. I hired a small business to clean my house. They could vacuum the stairs and clean the toilets every two weeks, allowing me to conserve my spoons for other activities. My mom also came out for a visit, and her plane just happened to land the same night that I went to the ER. It was nice to have her pick me up, though I do feel silly that she drove straight from the airport to the ER.
The rest of her trip was very enjoyable. I was able to splurge on a chest freezer for my kitchen and pay off some of my medical debt with my tax return. Yes, I had heard the word “COVID-19,” but that was some far off problem. It didn’t concern me here. Yet.
March was when the reality of COVID-19 became more apparent. There were so many unknowns, but we did know that the world was going to be placed on pause. I began working from home on March 12th, as my company shut its office doors to keep only the essential manufacturing on-site. Additionally, my university switched to an online only model for my graduate program.
Originally, my parents were set to visit at the end of the month. Instead, my mom came to visit me the same day her county went into one of the most strict lock downs in the country and my dad cancelled his ticket completely. We did not know what this isolation and lock down would look like, but we figured it would be safer if my mom and I were together. She came, with no return ticket booked.
April consisted of the realization that every social activity was cancelled due to COVID-19. On top of that, there were still a slew of unknowns with much anxiety. Was it safe to go to the grocery store? Could you get COVID-19 from packages? How fearful should you be of your neighbor?
One thing that changed was the realization that cloth face coverings significantly slow the spread of COVID-19. I had to put aside my personal feelings of discomfort and unpleasant memories about the last time I was required to wear a mask in order to do my part in slowing the spread of the virus.
Masks should have never turned into a political issue.
By May, my mom and I had settled into our new routine. Days would consist of me working upstairs in my home office while she was downstairs chatting with friends or working on embroidery projects. After dinner, we would binge on Netflix shows, each with our own cat in the lap. People were amazed that we weren’t constantly fighting. But honestly, we weren’t. My mom and I have a very good relationship, and this wasn’t actually the first time she moved back in with me for an unknown amount of time. In 2013, she lived with me for three months as I recovered from my nightmare crisis. And then in 2019, she lived with me for a month as I recovered from mono.
Though there was one significant difference about her living with me during this time. Typically, she moves in because I am in some sort of crisis and do not have the strength to live on my own. This time, neither she nor I was in a crisis. It was the outside world that was in a crisis. Our sanctuary inside the walls of my home was calm, peaceful, and safe.
In June, my mom decided that it was time to move out. By this time, we had learned more about COVID-19, and realized that we could venture out in public wearing a mask. We were both confident in my ability to live alone, even though the pandemic within the USA had no end in sight. Additionally, I was able to knock out another three hours towards my master’s degree through a summer session online.
Finally, after reading about how face masks prevented the spread of COVID-19 with hairdressers, I decided to reach out to my amazing hair lady and ask her to do something I had dreamed of – purple hair. As I was not returning to the office any time soon, I figured now would be the perfect time to treat myself to something fun.
Towards the end of the month, I did end up going to the ER for the first time during the pandemic.
Originally, I was going to go visit one of my favorite Addy sisters in Florida for the Fourth of July. I had bought my plane tickets before COVID-19 shut the world down. But as the date drew closer, we realized that it would not be prudent for me to travel to her. The risk was not worth it. Many tears were shed over this realization, but we firmly believe that my trip was not cancelled, it was merely postponed.
Instead of flying to Florida, I took an introverted road trip vacation in order to recharge and refresh my soul. At the end of the month, I drove out to a part of the country that I had not visited before in order to paint and sketch. The vacation looked a little bit different due to COVID-19, but it was still very enjoyable.
Oh, and I also had an emergency root canal, during the pandemic.
The month of August started out with another visit to the ER. But shortly afterwards, I had an unexpected visit from a friend that I worked with back during my high school fast food days in Arizona! He travels for his job, and his industry was able to safely restart after proper COVID-19 restrictions were put into place. This meant he would be about twenty minutes from me! The risk of breaking my isolation bubble was worth it in order to catch up with a very dear friend.
Classes started again at my university. Although they did offer some in person classes, my six hours were fully online. And finally, my job function officially changed. I went from a Test Engineer to a Test Automation Engineer with more responsibility over more labs scattered across the globe.
September was somewhat of an interesting month. At the beginning of the month, I was in the ER again for IV fluids. About a week later, my company announced that they were permanently shutting down the manufacturing site in which my lab was based. My lab (and my job) would be relocating to another location 1.5 hours away. The company would pay to move me, and I would report to the new lab no later than April, 2021. This was unexpected news, and I struggled for a while at the thought of selling MY town home, the one that I built specifically for me. However, when I ran the numbers financially, it made much more sense for me to sell.
This town home, the one that Amber Nicole (an unmarried woman) purchased by herself, had served its purpose. And yes, in the deed to my property, it makes special note that I am an unmarried woman. This served as a source of pride for me, given what I had escaped.
Socially, October was actually a rather busy month for me! It started out with a visit from one of my dear friends who is a pilot. I told him I was struggling and asked if he could visit. He could. We spent a day house hunting and scouting my new location. Shortly afterwards, my Addy sister and her husband came up to visit me for my birthday. We celebrated with pumpkin carving, s’mores around the fire pit, and hikes in practically my back yard.
At the end of the month, I flew to Texas to meet my new niece. There is no denying that 2020 brought a lot of pain to the surface. And I am sure that a pregnancy during a pandemic was not quite the picture that my sister-in-law had planned (we had a gender reveal party via zoom). However, when we look into the absolutely beautiful eyes of my perfect niece, we are reminded that not everything in 2020 was bad.
My niece is one of the best things to have happened this year.
In November, I ended up in the ER, again, only two days after getting a routine blood draw. This provided additional insight that allowed one of my specialists to give me two more medical labels to my growing list of diagnoses. It turns out that my frequent trips to the ER are not because of my Addison’s Disease. Rather, they are due to the fact that my body cannot maintain the proper amount of fluids. There currently is no cure for this, and the treatment is what I have already been doing for years: IV Saline Fill-Ups.
On one hand, this was extremely hard news to swallow. I have collected more rare medical diagnoses that are misunderstood. The focus of treatment is on just reducing symptoms. On the other hand, this was incredibly encouraging and validating news. My Addison’s Disease is stable. It’s this other problem that keeps sending me to the ER.
I spent Thanksgiving day by myself, participating in an extremely well organized and socially distanced 5k. I didn’t mind though. Just a few days later, I knew my family would be celebrating Thanksmas.
On the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, I once again flew to Texas to celebrate Thanksmas with my family. What is Thanksmas, you might ask? Oh, it is only the best holiday in the world. You pick a day, any day (for us it was December 7th) and you decide THAT day is when you will celebrate “the holidays.” There are no expectations, no traditions that MUST be upheld. The focus is merely on being together. And in 2020, it was a nice luxury that we were all able to be together for the first and only time this year, if only for a couple of hours.
A few days after I returned from Thanksmas, I was back in the ER. This goes down as one of the more noteworthy experiences that I have ever had, and I do hope to eventually share it with my Clearly Alive family on this blog. But here’s a quick little summary: I received my 100 mg solu-cortef emergency injection from a vet. Yup. It is definitely a good story… for later. Less than two weeks later, I was in the ER again. After that, my PCP and I worked out an avenue in which I could preemptively receive scheduled 1L saline fill ups. I had my first one on December 29th.
Finally, my parents visited me on Christmas. But, we did not celebrate Christmas, as we had already celebrated Thanksmas. The purpose of their trip was to help me prep my home to sell. It should go on the market early January.
I would like to end this recap by reminding y’all that although this has been one of the most difficult years ever, hope is on the horizon!
Bring on all the amazing things 2021 has in store.
We are ready.