My annual reviews are personal, but I do take stock of where I am in all aspects and where I want to be, recognizing the journey this has been and planning steps to take it to the next level. It took me a few years into adulthood to understand that this process, the expectations and the outcomes, as well as the sentiments attached to it all are going to be different for everyone, and even for me at different stages in my life. The past year sure put everyone through the wringer, and I was no different. Overall I think I fared quite well, without any major threats to professional or personal wellness, and plenty to do on both fronts to keep me occupied. My prime concern was not being close to my family in India through it all and worrying how I'd get there should anyone fall ill so I am glad they've been in good health through the whole year. Here are my observations and takeaways...
In January, we started out the year with optimism as always, and the grand plans that usually accompany such positivity. I celebrated the new year in India with my family for the first time in many years since I left home after marriage. By mid-Jan, I was back in Los Angeles and got settled in to work with existing clients, as well as scouting for some new projects. I decided this was the year I would go ahead and publish my monthly digital magazine, so I went ahead and hired my design intern. Met with friends, hung out at my coworking spot and in general all seemed fine and dandy with the world. I won’t lie – I truly had some big plans for 2020 and totally bought into the hype of the year and all the things I would accomplish including a bunch of travel plans in the works locally and internationally. Well, we all know how the next few months panned out.
I had interviewed for an editorial position end of 2019 and never heard back after a few rounds of interviews. I’d put that out of mind but February brought the conversation back to the forefront. I was hired as the new managing editor with a diversity focused magazine and was glad to have that venture come to fruition. It’s been one of my saving graces this year considering how many folks lost jobs in the next few months. I had a few new writing clients in the works, so the year was starting to look up. Still meeting with friends and acquaintances to catch up on plans for 2020. The invites for media trips started rolling in and my calendar in general started looking like it was filling up with appointments and deliverables for the year – just the way I like it. I am a bit of a busy body, so this string of action was working very well for my focus and goals.
Along came March and there were some news bytes of this virus that was going around but just whispers and nothing more. What started as a month of travel for me ended with lockdowns. In fact, it was on a weekend trip to Santa Barbara mid-March when the first lockdown was announced and the event that I was there to attend was cancelled given the restrictions. One by one the meetings in person were being cancelled and more virtual calls organized and coordinated. Going out wearing a face mask, maintaining distance, and hand sanitizer available everywhere became the new normal. I’ve never seen things flying off store shelves with as much speed as once the lockdowns were announced. It was very much a wait and watch situation. Having already finetuned ‘work from home’ as a fulltime freelancer, the stay-at-home orders didn’t come as too much of a shock to my system.
Over the next two months, work from home continued at a steady pace, and in fact, it picked up even more for me - more assignments made their way as some of the industries I was focused on – data security and privacy, and also construction – were doing really well during the whole work from home and lockdown situation. People were biding their time to see how this virus scenario evolved. Outdoor dining was still allowed so we managed a few outdoor date night stints trying what was open at least once a week for some sense of social interaction. I looked at online avenues for networking and that resulted in my interview feature published about journalism in the digital age with Deskpass, the app I’d been using the year before for a coworking membership to access a venue near home weekly. I certainly missed the freedom of one full day of focus at a coworking spot - that I’ll admit.
My birthday celebration in June, usually a reason to meet with friends, was a quiet dinner by ourselves in a nearby neighborhood and a drive around with the husband, enjoying each other’s company and simple pleasures of empty roads. Our Thursday takeout date nights became something to look forward to – whether we did anything else the rest of the week, this was a staple. We’d either grab food from home or a restaurant and end up at a park near us for an outdoor picnic, we would take tea and coffee breaks in the evening going for a drive and parking by a nice viewpoint - just little breaks we created for ourselves as avenues for outdoor excursions which were truly only outdoors and not in confined spaces anymore. A daily walk around the neighborhood became a necessity and grocery store visits became planned events given the limited number of customers allowed in any space.
Despite that, we managed a little summer getaway in July to Paso Robles near us for some winery visits and enjoying open expanses. Around this time, I got more involved with Global Girl Project – a nonprofit in the United Kingdom I had already been volunteering my time doing some grant-writing work. I moved into helping them with their blog post updates every other week and then their first book which turned out to be a great exercise in global volunteer work, coordinating with a team across countries and time zones, meeting folks for the first time and still managing to put out a decent product. I also created a short year-end highlight video for GGP - the organization has done so much despite the challenges thrown its way. I am proud to associate with them and looking forward to volunteering there this year too, they already have some great plans in store.
The month of August brought in a surprise – amid the busy-ness of work and keeping track of global developments, I found out I had won three awards in three different categories at the SoCal Press Club journalism awards. Last year I was nominated in only one category, so this was definitely an improvement and a welcome one in a year that seemed to be going by in a blur. Interestingly, restrictions eased up in September and that allowed for some more local travel – we headed back to Paso Robles and then a work trip took me to Texas, first to Fredericksburg for a press visit and then San Antonio for some time together with the husband. I had my interview with Outside the Book go live, that gives some insight into my professional journey here after moving to the United States. I also participated in a roundtable discussion with Silver Telegram on pitching for holiday gift guides that was a fun diversion.
October saw us doing a road trip to Sedona to meet some friends. And then me traveling on another media trip to Hot Springs, Arkansas, and so it was that I found myself striking another state off my list in the process. Enjoying a small town feel and some rejuvenating time in the mineral waters after the stress and limbo of the last few months was welcome respite. I also got to attend the ONA everywhere conference on a D&I scholarship and learned a lot from that virtual event I was able to apply to my work and life. I hired an editorial assistant for the magazine which was a long-needed move and a decision I had been putting away for months. Meetings in person were starting up again though socially distanced and with all precautions in place. Little did I know things were going to change soon enough. I also joined Ellevate – a networking group for professional women as part of the LA chapter leadership team.
Making grand plans for the holidays came to an abrupt halt when lockdowns were in effect once again just before Thanksgiving. While travel back home to India, which we usually embarked upon around this time, was not a possibility, we ended up doing a staycation for Thanksgiving with dinner served in the room for the two of us – one way to ensure social distancing and no cross contamination of any kind whatsoever. In December, I heard the fantastic news that I was one of three recipients of the inaugural Richard S Holden Diversity Fellowship offered by the American Copy Editors Society just ahead of Christmas. That was a nice little surprise gift to end the year on a high note. We celebrated Christmas indoors and New Year’s Eve was a drive to the beach, chomping on bento boxes in the car while wishing friends on the east coast. We managed a glimpse of fireworks lighting up the sky on our drive back home.
Through it all, I think I’ve learned the best made plans can go awry and you just have to learn to adapt and progress no matter what is thrown your way. I think I did pretty well on the work front and possibly had my best year yet financially – given there were many that lost jobs and had to take on pay cuts, I do consider myself blessed and grateful for the clients and projects that kept me sane. The lack of opportunities to meet friends, network, cover events, and freely move about did create some boredom but having myriad interests ensured I was able to divert my attention to a few other projects in that time. Spring cleaning certainly occurred multiple times in my one-bedroom apartment! The only thing I miss is travel, but more so, traveling home to see the family – that has been an annual year-end event and 2020 has taken that way from me. But here is 2021 and I am hoping that day will soon arrive when I can change that.