An Abnormal Year: The Vines’ off-cycle annual update

Forgoing my traditional annual recap in January and saving it for the anniversary of all things pandemic seems appropriate this year. As I write this, it is mid-March. Mr. Vine and I have lived in an Airbnb for one month, with another four weeks to go, which wasn’t planned at the outset of our stay. The past twelve months have been full of change for us. 

During a year that sometimes felt like every day was the same, our lives today bear very little resemblance to this time last year. Fortunately we were spared the worst effects of the pandemic. Mr. Vine was laid off for about a month beginning in late March 2020. His job at the time was stressful and the layoff was a nice respite. At the time, I had not yet set up a home workstation and was working on my laptop at the kitchen counter. He’d often cook lunch or dinner while I worked. Those early days of the shut down period, filled as they were with uncertainty, now seem simple and sweet. 

By the time Mr. Vine was called back to work, I had just started a new job. The job that would eventually relocate us whenever in-office work resumed. Once called back, Mr. Vine quickly realized that his current employment was not sustainable. Thinking ahead, he found a job in the area where we would relocate. Having experienced distance in our relationship on several prior occasions, we were not too concerned about having a commute. As we’ve aged, our tolerance for this type of situation has diminished. Or the complexity of the renovation of the new home we purchased in August made it more difficult than it had been before. Perhaps it was our more demanding career level jobs. 

In any case, we spent the summer splitting our time between two cities. We were closer to the beach, which is where Mr. Vine wanted to be on weekends anyway. We spent as much time outdoors as possible. We visited friends on patios. We canceled trips and resisted the urge to plan anything further afield than a weekend getaway a few hours away (which reminds me, I need to write an article about that trip). 

We were lucky to have a generally milder winter. Our Hawaii trip was scrapped, but we did go to Florida for a few days to visit Mr. Vine’s parents. We had a family health scare and felt it important enough to take the risk of traveling. Mindful of the ongoing pandemic, we took many precautions and I’ll write a future article about our experience flying. That experience was stressful enough that we knew we didn’t want to repeat it. We struggled through the short days and long nights without our usual winter trip or two.  

Overall, the lack of travel has been good for our finances in that travel spending has been diverted to the house renovation. It certainly does not feel like we’ve saved much during the past twelve months due to choices we’ve made. But I have this feeling like we are a slingshot pulled back. Although it feels like we are going backwards, I have a sense that soon we’ll launch forward. 

My wanderlust has forced me to creatively make regular activities feel like vacations. While working from home, I have adjusted my schedule when possible to capture time outside during the nicest parts of each day. I sometimes took a midday run. While working from home, I adjusted my regular run time from “after work” to first thing in the morning. My days begin with a solid routine that includes journaling, exercise and sometimes cross-stitch and a podcast. The rest of my days often feels like a hot mess, but at least I have mornings down. 

After one year, we are grateful for so much. We are high earners and keep our expenses low. This has spared us any financial stress. My ability to work remotely has been helpful. We’re lucky to have made it through the pandemic without losing any close loved ones. But even with huge advantages, these last many months have been hard. I have struggled to focus and maintain productivity. One of the most important lessons in life, and reinforced during the pandemic, is to keep showing up. That’s what I strive for most of all. And on most days, that’s enough. 

Thank you for sticking with us on this journey. In the comments, please share your pandemic experiences. How have you coped with isolation? Lack of travel? Finances?

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