Here’s to 2021.

What. A. Year.

365 days ago, I spent NYE with an old friend from high school in a holiday light-speckled Ballard dive bar in Seattle. I readied to relocate to Europe later in the year and made plans for the time leading up to the move. The first quarter brought travel to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Mexico, Portland, Hawai’i, New York, and Las Vegas. Two days after I landed home, NBA player Rudy Gobert contracted coronavirus, all of the American sports leagues shut down, and well, the US – we – finally got it. Covid-19 was real and here to stay.

Madain Saleh UNESCO World Heritage Site, Saudi Arabia
Kona, Hawai’i

Spring was filled with loss. My great uncle passed away peacefully in his favorite chair in California. We had to unexpectedly put my little 12-year-old dog, Chewbacca, to sleep as he was fighting too many health battles. My mother suddenly lost two older siblings – one due to Covid – in 8 days. Although I was not close to either aunt or uncle, it is difficult to describe seeing someone go through so much pain at once and you feel somewhat at a loss trying to help them process it in person. Tears flowed fast and freely.

Chewbacca

In support of our essential workers’ heroic efforts, I donated blood for the first time and have proceeded to do so every two months since. And we greeted another cockapoo puppy, Chachi, to help us heal, make us laugh, and most importantly, be a friend to Chimichanga, our sassy 9-year-old cockapoo.

Chachi

Summer came with more loss – the loss of all of my spring and summer international work – but more personally, the loss of experiences, places, and time with people that bring me so much joy, purpose, and fulfillment. I did the only thing I could do; I promptly recalibrated. In between, I read books, attended webinars, walked around my neighborhood, absorbed ‘Tiger King’, took charge of grocery shopping and errands for my parents, Zoomed with family and friends, reconnected with alumni associations, indulged in those Verzuz Instagram battles, and figured out the “now game plan”.

Lake Union, Seattle

Autumn gifted work, and lots of it. I began spending part of the week working remotely for the Swiss hospitality school that originally hired me. I was invited to teach an online business ethics class for my old university in Kyrgyzstan. Feeling called to contribute to virus relief, I started a part-time, 6-month AmeriCorps service term as a member of United Way’s Covid-19 HungerCorps team, working with the National Guard at my local food bank – a massive operation. I gave several webinars and presentations as a guest speaker. Later on, I set about reviewing international admissions applications for UC Berkeley. I learned a lot and the learning never stops. Stay tuned for the next chapter of my story there…

On the more meaningful human – and canine – side of things, I became the luckiest godmother to Delia Clare and traveled to Indianapolis for her baptism. From afar, I watched my sister run sh*t at her hotel as its rockstar manager. (Seriously, you’d want her as a boss.) I took and shared countless doggie photos of my #stayhome best friends. I got my parents to get their flu shots earlier than normal. I got one for the first time myself! I lost track of how many candidates I donated to before the election, and then voted like my life depended on it. Because it did. Ours do.

Precious Delia Clare

In winter, my long, late-night FaceTime conversations with friends across time zones have continued – and probably stretched into the wee hours of the morning even more. I laughed. I cried. I mourned the year we ALL should have had and those we have lost. I became more creative at finding various safe places to check out around the area with my parents. Work was done at any hour. I experienced slightly fewer near-heart attacks due to Seahawks’ games. Yes, like everyone else, I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel with the first vaccinations.

World Trade Center, New York City

But more than anything, I remain thankful for who, including the furbabies, I have around me, the food on our table, the roof over my head, and the ability to work. And it is with this gratitude that I shift into 2021. Already, I can definitively say that the best day of the year will be the day my parents get vaccinated!

I know this past year made many reexamine what was important in their lives. To be honest, the whirlwind of events ended up reaffirming the choices I’ve made and continue to make: purpose and people matter. Looking forward, here are a few motivating items on my 2021 to-do-list…

-Hug dear friends and family

-Embody and push JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) practices

-Start a business

-Annoy my sister in person

-Speak a foreign language in a foreign land

-Sing – rap? – karaoke to Warren G’s “Regulate”

-Become debt-free

-‘Release the Kraken’ in Seattle #NHL

-Move to a new country

-Thank more

-Give more

-Surprise myself

Cheers to a new year and hope for a healthier and safer journey ahead!

Oregon Coast

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