Finding Stability Amidst the Chaos and Uncertainty

The last year was filled with many unexpected changes, many which I never in a million years imagined. At the start of 2020 we were very excited and optimistic for the future with the decisions we made in our personal lives. In 2019, I took a full-time promotion in management at my current employer. This new position would allow me to grow professionally, and stabilize my income, which was something I always struggled with, even though I had a great PT day job in addition to being self-employed. I took this promotion with the intention that we would transition our new business into Tom’s hands so he could take over the bulk of the responsibilities. This would be the perfect time for him to jump into the world of self-employment as photographer and small business, to take that leap that we’ve been talking about him taking for years.

Long Term and Big Decisions 

I struggled internally for many, many years with myself on what I really wanted to do with the long-term direction my career — stay self-employed or take a full-time position? I loved the flexibility of working PT and having additional self-employment income, working as much or as little as I wanted (or needed), to be on my own terms, and work from home in the afternoons; those were the biggest benefits that I didn’t want to give up. I loved the lifestyle, freedom and flexibility I had. I also loved that I had enough time and energy to pursue awesome, random opportunities whenever they appeared, projects like the murals in Ontario and the Faces of the Community documentary portrait exhibit. But with full-time employment came other opportunities — a consistent stable salary, good health insurance benefits, more savings to contribute into retirement, more job security, the ability to pay off debts at a faster pace, and a better chance at qualifying for a home loan. 

My home work space in 2020. This has changed significantly over the years. This year I decided to add the sound proofing foam panels* so I won disturb my neighbors right behind this shared wall. I can still hear some noise, but the sounds are muffled and I get to enjoy hearing their cute dogs and their puppy antics.

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The 2020 workspace edition features face masks and desk decorations, and Mr. Gold being bad!

I went into the decision confidently. I had enjoyed the time I spent in the years prior, the projects, the exhibits, the memories, and most of all, no regrets. I was happy with the direction my career path had taken so far, and this was an opportunity that could open many more doors down the road. Along the way of building an arts career and with the community engagement projects/events, I realized there was a lot of aspects I really enjoyed and could see myself doing more of in the future. I want to remain in the non-profit world, or even one day work for a museum, community center, college or similar environment. I love events and marketing. I love the creative and the business side. These are the main responsibilities I have going right now, and I will continue in that general direction for now. Its a good exercise for me to sit back peridoically and reflect on what I really want out of life, or if my goals have changed with time. 

The 2020 version of my workspace included seasonal decorations for Halloween, fall/harvest pumpkins and Christmas. I dropped the ball and forgot to decorate for Valentine's Day, maybe I'll put something up for this week.
2020 and the Storm
When we started 2020, we were so excited for the future. But 2020 had other plans of its own. Fast forward to a year later and here we are today in a world completely different than we imagined 365+ days ago. So much has happened, for so many people all over the world. I am saddened by all the loss — the loss of loved ones, the long term health issues many are facing, the loss of jobs, income, stability, sense of security.

I am grateful that my family and I are doing well. I'm grateful for all the basics as well as the important; our health, a roof over our head, plenty of food on the table, and regular stable income. I’ve adopted an (almost) daily habit of journaling to help me practice gratitude and to help me clear my mind when the times get overwhelming and I start overthinking. It also helps me remember, so that I never become ungrateful.

My stack of journals. I've been journaling since about 5th/6th grade and throughout my teens and adult life. In 2020 I made it a resolution to write regularly, and this was one that I kept and will continue keep throughout this year. My current notebook is the purple one at the bottom, and it’s almost filled up. 

Quarantine and Home Life
I’ve been working from home since March of last year, and the transition was very easy for me because I had spent many years working from home in the afternoons/evenings. Over the years I set myself up with a desk, computer, and everything else I needed to be productive. I know how to focus and get the momentum going easily (a pot of coffee helps). I don’t feel so isolated or lonely, I keep in constant communication with my work teammates, my family and friends, probably more so than in the past. This is something I hope to keep doing when things improve. I do miss seeing my family and friends in-person, but until things change for the better, we are self-isolating and avoiding visiting anyone. We are not shopping in stores, we're getting groceries delivered, and everything else is bought online or we go without.

One of our quarantine projects was regrowing green onions from the root turns out we're not ready for the commitment that comes with growing a garden yet 😆

There are some silver linings to this season in our lives. This year was different with lots of things going virtual, and lots of things changing rapidly. These have created plenty of new learning opportunities. Although another one of my (distant future) career dreams was to work from home full-time, I never imagined this was the way it would happen. For the time being, I'll enjoy my daily routine and the benefits working remotely offers — increased productivity, quiet mornings to focus, less distractions, a more comfortable setting, a much better sleep schedule, and the ease of exercising regularly (I usually ride my Marcy recumbent bike* during my lunch breaks to get a break from the computer screen). And best of all, my colleague is cute, soft Mr. Gold.

We have our daily routine — wake up, brew a pot of coffee, shower and get ready for the day. Then I feed Mr. Gold breakfast and afterwards he gets to enjoy his nice quiet window time, and I drink my coffee while we both listen to the peaceful sounds of the birds

Another positive is that we are also able to save money on a lot of things like junk food, impulse take-out/drive thru temptation and transportation related expenses (insurance, gas and maintenance). Another unexpected occurrence of 2020 was that my little Kia was destroyed in a rear-end accident this fall (on a day off where we decided to brave the world and venture out). While I'm thankful we weren't hurt, it was sad saying goodbye to the car that gave us lots of vacations, road trips and good memories. I decided not to replace my car until I really need another vehicle, it will save us a lot of money in the long run. For now we are sharing Tommy's car and living like cool city people who walk or order delivery. 

Some memorable road trips we took over the years. I owned this car from 2015-2020. We took many trips including our honeymoon up the central coast and northern CA, short trips to Big Bear and the desert, and many other trips I never got around to writing about. We traveled up and down California every year, mostly in the fall or early spring. Our next vehicle will probably be something bigger like a small or crossover SUV — big enough to haul our art for exhibits and something that can drive good in the snow/off road.

The holidays looked different this year, but that’s ok. We cooked all our holiday meals at home for Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. We FaceTimed and called close family to wish them happy holidays. My sisters did door drop offs/swaps for our Christmas gifts. We ordered gift cards for the family that don't live near by. We kept and started new routines, like Pizza Fridays and Nintendo Tuesdays (when we visited my in-laws last year on President's Day weekend, Tommy dug up his old video game consoles). Right now we are working our way through Super Mario World on Super Nintendo, we started with Donkey Kong Country but gave up because it was too stressful lol. 

Pizza Fridays — we've been making our own homemade pizza for a few years now but last year we upgraded our sauce with San Marzano tomatoes, which costs a little more but is completely worth it. Our pizzas taste like real pizza from a pizzeria! 

I forgot how stressful and exciting video games are. We are having a blast making new memories and re-visiting our childhood games.

Since we didn't do any traveling or overnight trips, we started having “Vacation Breakfasts” on days off/holidays to make our stay at home feel more special. We invested in more home supplies (like an LED floor lamp*, air purifier*, etc) and new cookware. And slowly built up our pantry over the summer since I was sad seeing the empty shelves early in the spring.

Our continental vacation breakfast at home. Yes that is a cat frame in the background. And yes, it still has the stock pictures of the cats that came with the frame, they are too cute to replace. I'll do that when I finally print pictures of Mr. Gold.

For Thanksgiving dinner we roasted a whole chicken. We had leftovers for days.

The Things I Can Control

At the end of last year, I was feeling burned out and sad. I didn’t do anything arts related for the whole year, until I signed up for a few Zoom sessions at the Ontario Museum. This made me realize how much I was missing the museums and the art events. I made the decision that since there are so many things out of my control, I was going to focus on the things I can control, and I remembered the Ontario Open Art Exhibit is supposed to be happening again this year (in a different format).

My new art supplies! 

I got inspired by one of the Zoom artists talks and after seeing pictures of the artist in her studio, I remembered how much I enjoyed the process of making art. This is something my art teachers and art podcasts I listened to always talked about — the process — about enjoying the journey and not just the destination. I never really understood it or thought much about it until I realized just how much I missed it, including all the random art adventures we used to take. To help remedy this, we decided to spend the second stimulus money guilt-free (however we each wanted). Tommy got himself some new photo gear, and for the first time in years, (I lifted my self-imposed ban) and bought myself art supplies, canvases and a new easel. I am excited to try new media and techniques — watercolor and palette knife painting. I already have some ideas in mind for my entry in the Ontario Open 😁 

I got a total of 31 canvases!

Our Quarantine Family picture. We got glasses in 2019

While we wait for the outside world to get better, we'll continue to prioritize making our lives at home enjoyable and fulfilling.


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