Ok, let’s get this out of the way: 2020 did NOT turn out the way I expected it to at the beginning of the year.
If you ever needed the perfect embodiment of “understatement” or an apt excuse to retort “duh”, that would be it.
But the thing is — I could have said the same exact thing about 2019. You know, that whole getting pregnant and having a baby thing.
Of course, 2020 was much different because it involved a plot twist collectively experienced by most of the world.
So, on this last day of the year that will one day be documented in our history books, I reflect on my journey these past twelve months.
How it began
I went back and read some of my earlier posts from 2020 (actually, I read them after writing the intro above), and funny enough, I actually started the year with a lot of uncertainty.
Having given birth a little over a month prior, at the beginning of January, I really didn’t know what the year would bring. I wasn’t sure what it would look like raising a baby and continuing my career exploration.
As the month trudged on, the responsibility of caring for another human being really began to set in. And so, I became more and more determined to return to work to help support my family.
Even before I was certain what new path I wanted to pursue.
Even if it meant just returning to my old field.
At the start of March, I started looking at what was out there, but in the back of my mind, I was thinking May/June would be my ideal time to return to work. Artie would be six months by then, and I’d feel more comfortable with him going to daycare.
The plan started coming together … and then just two short weeks later, we were hit with a stay-at-home order, and the “year that no one expected” really began.
How I adjusted
With shelter-in-place, I knew my plans to return to work would be delayed. Though, at the time, I didn’t realize just how delayed they would be (more on that later).
Most companies enacted hiring freezes. And even if that wasn’t the case, with the pandemic, we weren’t comfortable sending Artie to daycare. I mean, it took us months to be comfortable having him go to his grandparents once a week! So, could I really work if we were still taking care of a newborn?
Returning to work might have been on hold, but I didn’t want my time to go to waste. So I was determined to continue upgrading my skills, and took on a number of creative projects in order to do so.
I ended up accomplishing a lot this year, when I really look at it.
I started a YouTube channel! This had been a goal of mine since I began my sabbatical. And really, being stuck at home gave me the time to finally pursue it. I learned a lot about planning a series and a brand. I increased my editing knowledge and skills tenfold. And I got more experience in front of the camera.
I also still did a fair amount of acting. I got to play a bucket list role — Beatrice — in a filmed production of Much Ado About Nothing. I played Mina in a Zoom production of Dracula. I did voice over work on a short film and an upcoming animated series.
I had an exciting writing achievement. My script for the US West competition of the 48-Hour Film Project won best writing!
And most recently, I created a short video that really pushed me to up my skills in production planning, directing and editing.
Surprisingly, this has turned out to be one of my artistically busiest and most creatively-fulfilling years of my life.
While I kept having win after win on the creative front, job-hunting turned out to be one giant loss.
I applied to over 50 jobs this year. The majority of those applications were met with radio silence. A good chunk of them elicited the templated “your qualifications do not meet our needs” email. And the few interviews I had went nowhere.
And frustratingly, I’m not sure I’ve learned much from the experience. Sure, it got me back into the habit of preparing a resume and interviewing, but with so little feedback, I have very few learnings from the ordeal.
The big question
When I talk about the journey of my sabbatical, this is my go-to narrative:
“After years of working in marketing and advertising, in the fall of 2018, I decided to take a break from full-time work to give myself the time and energy to explore some new paths and reflect on what type of work truly energized me.
I initially planned this sabbatical to take up to a year, but when I found out I was pregnant five months in, I decided to extend this to a year and a half, rather than rush back to work and potentially be forced into a shorter maternity leave than I wanted or needed.
Of course, that timeline got pushed back once again with the pandemic. So, now my sabbatical has extended over two years.”
But here’s the big question: can I really call this past year a sabbatical?
A sabbatical is a break from work to explore, enhance skills, reflect, etc.
But, when I think about it, to call 2020 a “break from work” is utterly ridiculous, and frankly, an insult to stay-at-home parents and caregivers everywhere.
I need to remind myself that for the first couple of months of this year, I was taking care of a newborn all by myself for the majority of the day!
And even once shelter-in-place started, sure, I got a little relief from having Ryan at home, but he was still working.
On top of that, those first few months of shelter-in-place, we isolated from everyone — even family — so we had absolutely no outside childcare. Even now, Artie only goes to his grandparents’ once a week.
So, in addition to all the creative projects where I’ve gained new skills in video production, project planning, writing and much more…
And on top of job-hunting, which involved hours of writing and rewriting dozens of resumes and cover letters, studying for and getting a content marketing certificate, and interviewing …
I have been raising a child. With much less help and resources than I would have without the pandemic. And that has been WORK.
No, the year didn’t turn out how I expected. Far from it. But I still accomplished a lot. And while I have not yet landed my next full-time paying job, I still had a full-time job. And trust me, I worked plenty of overtime.