It’s 2021?!

2020 was one long year. Some might argue that it’s still March 2020, but my calendar claims it’s already January 2021, so I guess 2020 is finally over. Usually I tell myself something along the lines of ‘I’m ready for you, new year,’ but 2020 humbled me. Now I’m thinking, ‘it doesn’t matter if I’m ready—it’s 2021.’

And 2021 it is. Before I write down my hopes and dreams for the year, I want to acknowledge the things I have learned in and appreciated about 2020:

  • I developed a new hobby, gardening, which helped me appreciate the home more. I planted both ornamental and edible plants, and I’m always happy to see them grow. At the end of the year, I acquired some carnivorous plants, and I’m hoping they flourish as well.
  • I read some amazing books this year. Despite missing my 2020 goal of 30 books (I read 21), I’m happy with the books I’d read last year. I intentionally read more nonfiction (my book buying ban only applies to fiction), two of which—Atomic Habits and Educated—have become favorites of mine. I also delved deeper into fantasy. While I did not fall in love with The Kingkiller Chronicle, I would not have discovered (through recommendations) Mistborn, which I now cannot stop thinking about.
  • I learned that some things I deemed frivolous are quite important to self-care. 2020 was a year full of anxiety, and at first I used productivity as my coping mechanism. I worked out regularly, joined wine tasting classes, propagated new plants, and did anything to distract myself during the quarantine. By the end of the year, I’d learned to accept that it’s also okay to simply slow down. I listened to more music (the Crash Landing on You soundtrack is relaxing) and used 15-minute face masks. I also finally used the sleeping/eye mask that I’d received for Christmas 2019.

So here are three things I plan to take with me to 2021:

  1. To continue reading amazing books, exploring other genres and finishing my TBR along the way;
  2. To be mindful/intentional about what I do and why I do them; and
  3. To keep going no matter what.

These aren’t very grand, but I’m not going to let 2021 be another year forgotten. I’m going to make this year matter.

Hobbies of Quarantime

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how my (newly developed) routines helped me cope with the ECQ. Whereas exercise and plant care were hobbies driven by necessity (I couldn’t allow myself to use ECQ as an excuse not to work out, and, well, someone needed to water the plants; otherwise, they would die…), I also cultivated other interests to keep positive during ECQ.

Books

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. I love reading books, and I made it a point to read at least one chapter before sleeping as part of my night-time routine. (It was nice to end the day doing something I enjoyed since I was forced to welcome work into my home.)

During that two-month period, I read six books, including some that I didn’t love. I finally read books that had been sitting in my tbr pile for months (ok, years) and nonfiction books that I hadn’t gotten to for months (not years for this one at least).

Here are the books I read during this time:

Wine

Another hobby I unexpectedly picked up was learning about wine. It started off with an invitation to join an online wine masterclass hosted by AWC, and I got hooked. For some of the classes, I purchased the featured wines, but as I built out my stash, I began joining just to learn more about the lingo and culture.

I miss the days when it was so easy to drive to a winery. Since I lived in the SF Bay Area, I was spoiled with having Napa, Sonoma, and Livermore just two hours away (by driving). Well, anyway, I can still have my wine. On the plus side, I now have friends who have introduced me to wines from around the world.

Here are my favorite (non-California) wines:

  • Allan Scott Pinot Noir
  • Joseph Drouhin Laforet Bourgogne Chardonnay
  • Warwick The First Lady Cabernet Sauvignon

I’m still exploring though—I have more to taste! I recently downloaded the Vivino app to catalog the new wines I try, and I’ve been having fun with it.

Korean Dramas

Sometimes I can’t believe how hooked I am with kdrama. After I watched my first ever kdrama, Romance is a Bonus Book, (around this time) last year, I told myself that I should avoid them like the plague because I got too invested in the drama. In February of this year, I saw my sister watching Crash Landing on You (CLOY), and after seeing one episode, I decided to binge-watch it. I finished CLOY in 1.5 days… So, as I’ve said to myself before, kdrama is a trap. Yet do I listen to myself? Nope. I watched more.

Here are my kdramas of ECQ:

  • Goblin
  • Touch Your Heart
  • The King [in progress]
  • Itaewon Class [in progress]

Now that I’m deep into my kdrama obsession, try and stop me from watching more. Goblin is my current all-time favorite, but let’s see how The King turns out. Maybe I can live my kdrama life, too?

Developing Routines

A few weeks ago, an Instagram tag for “Daily Non-Negotiables” was going around. At that time, I couldn’t think of a response. Prior to ECQ, I did not quite have a set routine—in fact, I was still considering developing one but then ECQ came, and my plans fell through.

One thing that I noticed from the start of ECQ was that on weekdays I would consistently be up by 8am. Well, great. At least I was waking up at a reasonable time (considering there was no longer commute time to factor in to my day). With ECQ, my job had become fully remote, and I needed to make sure I was in the zone during work hours. A fix: I set up a work spot which I associated with productivity. Working at my work spot was a habit I consciously built. It’s been working out. But more interesting to me were the habits I unintentionally formed around my work schedule.

Morning

Bring Plants Outside

First thing in the morning, I bring my small indoor plants to the balcony to get their daily dose of sunlight. I like to look for new leaves and show them off on my stories. I also take this time to water my plants if needed.

Drink a Morning Beverage

Some people can’t start their day without coffee. Since I originally associated routine with a specific drink, e.g. daily coffee or daily tea, I did not think I had a habit around this. It turns out I’d unintentionally formed one.

Each morning I make myself a drink to start off the day. Some days I drink coffee, others warm lemonade. Recently I’d been making myself iced matcha and hojicha drinks. My routine isn’t based on a specific drink, rather, the act of drinking something that I brewed.

Write in my Journal

Since I started my bullet journal, I started tracking my daily activities. Initially I tried journaling midday, but it wasn’t working out for me since I could only write about part of my day. Eventually I grew into the habit of journaling the next day about the activities done the prior day. I journal in the morning because I tend to forget things as the day goes by.

Evening

Wash Dishes

We cook brunch and dinner every day, so every night we accumulate a fair amount of dishes to wash. My unofficial shift is to wash after lunch or during the day, but to help out, I wash the dishes that were not involved with dinner, such as mugs and water bottles, before heading back to my room.

Turn off the Lights

Since I am usually the last one to return to my room at night, I make sure all the lights in the common areas are turned off. No point keeping the on if no one else is in the room anyway.

Read a Chapter

I made a rule for myself to read at least one chapter of a book a day, even if I wasn’t in love with the book. (It will take a lot for me to purposely not finish a book.) I found that the best time for me to read books was right before sleeping, and this little rule actually helped me get through books that had been sitting in my to-be-read pile for so long.

There are some days when I have an addition to my routine: working out. It started off with my resolution to not become unhealthy during ECQ. I told myself to work out for at least 15 minutes thrice a week just to build the habit. Now I work out for 30-40 minutes four times a week. Not bad!

Completing my routines gives me a sense of accomplishment each day. It makes me think that ok, things are going smoothly, this is just another day, and it’s going to be a good day, and helps me manage the uncertainty during ECQ.

Now that I’m conscious of my habits, I’m considering doing some micro-optimizations, so that by the time ECQ lifts, I can seamlessly continue my positive habits. (If you’re interested in this idea, I suggest reading Atomic Habits.)