If there was ever a year to have my Year-In-Review be delayed and published late, isn’t it fitting that it be for 2020?
The good news is that my 2020 Year In Review is finally ready! I’m publishing it much later than I envisioned so I apologize for that. I recently wrote about how I had to undergo an unexpected operation due to some bad luck with my appendix. Fortunately, that was promptly taken care of at a hospital and I’ve had adequate time to rest and recover from my surgery.
Originally, I drafted another 2020 Year In Review prior to this, but I’ve decided to trash that version and start over. Writing about 2020 is stressful and difficult because last year was filled with so many different forms of… devastation. Between murder hornets, wildfires, a year-long pandemic, toxic conspiracy theories, and endless political controversy in the United States, my mind was nearly ready to explode by the end of last year.
I’ve decided that I do not want to revisit too much of those past events so I’ll try to take a more personal approach to this 2020 year-in-review.
This post may look REALLY long at first, but after March, it is mostly photos of animals with a few stories and captions thrown in due to COVID-19 lockdown consuming the remainder of the year.
Last January, I decided to try something different. After spending the previous two years working remotely teaching English as a second language classes online, I decided to branch out and try in-person substitute teaching while seeking new work opportunities.
After acquiring my certification, I began taking assignments in different schools and in different grade levels to see where I might feel the most comfortable. Up until that point in time, I never considered the possibility of becoming a full-time teacher. I felt like subbing could be a great way to see if that is a path I might like to explore in the future.
A challenging aspect of subbing is that normally you never know what school you will be working in, who you are covering for, or what lessons you may be teaching until you receive an extremely early morning phone call with an assignment for that same morning.
I was fortunate to find myself in a longer-term position where I was asked to consistently cover for a history teacher who was out for several weeks. I enjoyed the experience because it gave me a taste of what teaching is actually like. As the weeks went on, I got to know every single one of the students on a first-name basis. I had every eighth-grader in the middle school as a student.
It was really cool to connect with the kids and help facilitate lessons while executing lessons as planned by the teacher who I was covering for.
These “pets” were the 8th graders’ health projects. They were required to care for a “pet” (a milk carton converted into an imaginary creature-animal thing of their choosing) by taking it with them everywhere they went (sort of like the robot-baby, fragile egg, or bag of flour assignments done at other schools.) For several weeks, this project coincided with the period of time I was subbing so my history classes were twice as big since each student would arrive with their pet each day.
Occasionally, pets would be forgotten or left behind when the bell rang. I would attach a sticky note to them before turning them back over to the students or to their health teacher.
I was so impressed with the different pets the students made. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing all of them as the kids walked in with them each day. I thought it was such an adorable project and the students clearly put a lot of effort into it!
In February, things were still pretty fine. A lot of rumors about the coronavirus were circulating, but people were still living their lives normally in my part of the world.
Business as Usual
I continued to do VIPKID classes online along with subbing in schools as frequently as I could. I spent a few days in various elementary schools. Some days went better than others, but there wasn’t a day where I didn’t have an incredible class of students. Even on days where I left a school terribly stressed out from things not going as expected, at least one kid would always do something special to make my day.
Crafting a Speech
Simultaneously, I spent a TON of time last February working on a side-project that I’ve been developing since my college years. I was spending countless days hard at work in the library trying to craft a professional hypnosis presentation.
The challenge with being self-employed is that you’re constantly looking for different ways to showcase your work by finding new opportunities. You have to put in the time and effort that your work requires otherwise it is difficult to get the results you want.
I kept searching for unique opportunities and eventually landed one that I viewed as an excellent way to share my message and build some momentum and confidence with my public speaking skills.
If you’ve ever tried to craft a new presentation, memorize it, and fully master a 45-minute presentation on a specific topic, it is quite an undertaking. From the start, I knew I would need to focus all of my energy on this TED-like presentation if I wanted my talk to be successful.
Each day, whether I had work or whatever else, I made a point of spending at least two hours on this.
(This is also why I wasn’t publishing a lot of posts this time last year. All of my time and energy was going into this project.)
The start of March was AWESOME.
My Hypnosis Presentation
The day arrived when I’d be giving my big hypnosis presentation. I’ve had smaller gigs in the past, but this was really the first one that I had poured hours and hours of my energy and time into preparing for. Most of the other gigs were during college. This was really the first of its kind for me and I was so thrilled with the outcome.
Despite getting multiple warnings from my Apple Watch for having an extremely elevated heart rate, the talk came and went and I was thrilled with the result. I got a lot of positive feedback from the audience and from the participants.
I learned a lot just from going through the process.
By attending that conference, I also had an opportunity to network and meet some of the other speakers who were there which was awesome. I actually had a really nice conversation with the guy who created The Onion: a satirical news network. Even though you might associate him with fake news and comedy, when we were talking one-on-one, he told me that he was fascinated with my talk’s topic because, for him, hypnosis was legitimately the only thing that helped cure him of something he once struggled with. It was one of those miraculous stories of finding a cure in a place where modern medicine failed.
I am so grateful that my presentation was the day it was because the following week, the COVID-19 quarantine lockdown began.
COVID Quarantine Begins
I told my family that the vibe in the schools the day before the lockdown began was so eerie. Not to be dramatic, but it really gave me flashbacks to when I was in school on 9-11 as a kid and I watched as my classmates were getting called down to the office to get picked up by their parents.
The way there was this elephant in the room and yet no one was talking. Seeing teachers whispering to one another and hearing the principal make a school-wide announcement about emptying the lockers by the end of the day and to prepare for an unknown break from in-person instruction…
Honestly, it was scary…
Creating Noah’s Ark
My family joked about how I created a “Noah’s Ark” of sorts in the comfort of our backyard. I’ve had a habit of feeding wild animals for some time now. It is a hobby that I really took a liking to while backpacking.
Ever since I returned to the United States in September of 2019, I’ve made a point of feeding the birds in my yard every single day. With COVID lockdown beginning, I had a unique opportunity to be home each day and actually see the birds that would be eating the food I’ve left behind for them.
With all the time stuck at home, I used lockdown as an opportunity to redesign and upgrade my blog.
Adding Animals to the Ark
I didn’t shoot any of these with my professional camera so I apologize in advance for the quality. Still, if you enjoy spotting and identifying animals, I hope you will still appreciate the photos.
The two mourning doves have become regulars. I’ve been seeing them daily since the wintertime.
Reading with Friends
While reading books outside, I started to notice some of the animals seemed to be getting more comfortable around me.
One curious little chipmunk seemed to be paying very close attention.
Peanut Butter Sandwiches
I wanted to see if the squirrels might enjoy salt-free, organic, peanut butter sandwiches. The answer is: they do. This squirrel would pick them up with her paws and eat them like a tiny, little person.
The chipmunks much preferred the birdseed which there was no shortage of.
Despite actually being a bird, the robins would not eat the birdseed whatsoever. They’d only eat fresh berries or live insects. Go figure.
The Ark is where all sorts of animals and birds come together. In this instance, you can see house sparrows, mourning doves, a male cardinal, a blue jay, a cowbird, and a grackle all eating together.
Of course, it isn’t always peaceful when different species come together. Through my little backyard experiment during the lockdown, I learned that blue jays and squirrels aren’t afraid to pick a fight with one another. They are both highly intelligent creatures. Neither one lacks courage in the face of a challenge over food. I definitely saw them get into a handful of fights over peanuts.
Surprisingly, the blue jay would usually win.
However, NO ANIMAL CAME CLOSE TO HOW TERRITORIAL WOODPECKERS ARE.
They are SOOOOOOOO aggressive to EVERYONE ELSE. Even if there was plenty of food, plenty of space, and no reason to start a fight, without fail…. woodpecker fledglings would always launch an attack.
All of the other animals would be so civil around one another so I always felt bad when a woodpecker would join the party since the other birds wouldn’t be expecting the hostility and a moment or two later, the new guy would be ripping the feathers out from their wings for no reason. 🙁
By August, the animals were getting really comfortable around the Ark.
The squirrels learned to politely beg by holding their arms up to the bellies to indicate an empty stomach. I had no idea squirrels could communicate so effectively and with such nice manners. They are such polite animals.
The blue jays remained mostly skittish around me, although agile and smart. They would watch me like a hawk and if they saw peanuts anywhere in my vicinity because of me feeding the squirrels or chipmunks, they would swoop down and try to steal them from me.
The cardinals are much sweeter. I had a male and female pair that would visit me at dusk with their newly hatched fledgling. I’d give them sunflower seeds which they’d eagerly hop up to me to take and feed to their young. I couldn’t believe how fearless the cardinals had become in such a short period of time.
At the end of August, I had to take a trip to NYC. Due to the lockdown, I hadn’t gone into the city at all in 2020 up until that point. The next day, when I returned home, a flock of rock doves (the pigeons people associate with cities) showed up in my backyard. I thought it was kind of funny timing for them to make an appearance. I had never seen pigeons by my house EVER before. It sort of felt like they followed me back from New York City or something.
I would rather save this story for a post of its own so I will keep this part short and sweet for now.
September was when I started to really form a friendship with a chipmunk that I named Pancake.
Pancake is the sweetest chipmunk I have ever met. Not that I’ve met many chipmunks… but you get the idea. She’s really gentle and nice.
I didn’t expect to befriend a chipmunk last year…. but I did. So yeah, that happened.
Knowing that Pancake would soon hibernate, I tried to spend as much time with her as I could. For me, it was such a unique thing to befriend a wild chipmunk that I didn’t want to waste even a single day that I could be near her. Obviously, anything can happen to wild animals (or to people…) at any point in time so I really wanted to treasure and value my time with her while I still could.
Simultaneously, the squirrels grew jealous and began to knock on my door to try to get my attention.
Fortunately for them, Pancake soon entered hibernation which she will remain in until March or April of next year. After that point, the squirrels have had my undivided attention and total access to the Pancake Peanut bin with unsalted peanuts.
My mom says the squirrels have gotten too comfortable here.
I don’t disagree, but I also don’t mind. Lol.
December brought with it a snowstorm.
An injured mourning dove landed nearby. I tried to see what happened to her but I could not tell. She was completely stunned so I think she may have crashed into a window or something. I put food out to try to help her since it was so cold. She eventually flew away.
Of course, the holidays this year got a little messed up because of the coronavirus, but I still did my best to enjoy them despite the changes. This chipmunk-themed gift made me smile since it was a nice throwback to Pancake who has been hibernating since the fall.
I look forward to hopefully seeing her again in the spring when temperatures rise. Now I have a calendar to count down the days.
It is my greatest hope that the world will once again be a little more normal by that time in 2021.