2020 was a Horrible Year!
As a whole, for the world, 2020 was awful. I do not live in a bubble immune from what happened. Please do not fill the comment section of this post telling me how dumb, sheltered, inconsiderate, and privileged I am. As a healthcare worker (albeit not directly on the front-lines), I worked through and witnessed the toll of pandemic up close. As a human, I watched as our society confronted difficult issues regarding every life’s value and the fight for social justice. I thought deeply about all of that and still do. As a dad and husband on his own journey towards life optimization and being a better person, I had the best year of my life, and here are a few reasons why.
Hitting the Pause Button
We are like many families. We have no time! My wife and I both work, and we have two teenage boys active in school and sports. If you own an iPhone and use the calendar, you know that a dot marks a task or event on the calendar. To have a dot free day in our house is rare and cherished. Before twenty-twenty, we would maybe have one dot free day a month. We were lost on those days. It was as if we forgot how to enjoy our family time if we weren’t running from rink to rink or field to field. Our dot free days became empty days when they should have been filled with quality together time.
Then along came the shutdown. After the initial shock and fear passed, a quiet calm came over our family. All of a sudden, we had our time back. There was nowhere to go. We were forced to stop and slow down along with everyone else in the world. My wife and I felt a relief like we were permitted to take a breath for the first time in years. A day or two went buy much like our dot free days of the past where we basically did nothing, but then we started to find our groove. Many of the things that follow in this post came out of the great pause button of 2020, for which I will always be grateful.
You can learn anything you want on the internet. I learned that this year. If you want to learn how to fix your house, car, or anything else, someone has made a video or post about it. There is nothing we can not learn as long as we have some time to do it. Twenty-twenty gave me the gift of time, so I ran with it and started to fix everything.
Benefits of DIY
- Learning a new skill is fun and rewarding
- Saving money by not paying someone else for labor
- Spending more time with my kids and teaching them new skills while I learn to
- It is empowering to know that you can make and/or fix things
I started small by replacing a few seals around the toilets that were well over do. My confidence grew immediately after completing that task (with a few hiccups along the way), and I quickly moved on to more tasks that needed to be done.
My DIY Greatest Hits
- Replaced toilet seals and inlet hoses
- Replaced all smoke detectors
- Fixed a broken light switch (had not worked in two years)
- Painted multiple rooms
- Added a new light fixture and dimmer switch (learning wiring in the process)
- Replaced liftgate struts on my car
- Replaced a broken radiator hose
- I started changing my own oil and replacing filters etc.
- Build two raised garden beds and grew our own vegetables/herbs
- Serviced all my small engines (oil, filters, etc….)
- Replaced rotted exterior trim boards around doors and garage
I apologize for the long list. I am very proud of it. Before this past year, I would have either ignored many of those things or paid for it to be done. I was able to learn new skills, save money, and teach my kids those skills. In the end, that is priceless. I love to learn, and now I love to learn DIY.
The initial shutdown started in March. It started with big venues and large crowds but quickly moved to work, schools, and just about everything. There was a lot of confusion. Luckily, my wife and I kept our jobs and continued to work. On the flip side, that left our kids home alone with a sudden loss of structure. They had no school or sports to give a framework to their days. It was cool at first, as no school’s thought is for most kids, but after the initial coolness wore off, they began to drift. Their days were filled with screen time (TV, phones, video games). There was nowhere to go and nothing to do, so they kept busy and connected the only way they knew how.
After a few weeks of this, something needed to change. I do not work on Fridays, so I decided to teach them what I know best: Money/Finance. That is when Dad’s Money Class started. Every Friday, for one hour, we would sit and discuss money. We reviewed our family’s money situation openly and honestly. I gave them articles to read and videos to watch that taught them basic concepts such as banking, compound interest, debt, and more. My wife and I gave them challenges to complete, such as the grocery store challenge (feed yourself for 1 week with $60). My father started to teach them about investing in the stock market, so I gave them each money to start “owning” their own companies.
We probably ended up having about 10 classes. When the summer ended and real school began again, we stopped the class, and I miss it. This Summer, I plan to start Dad’s Homeowners Class. More to come on that later.
I have always been an anti-board game person. It is a weird stance to take, but I had my reasons. When I was a kid, I knew the board games always took too long and felt like forced fun. I created a very fixed mindset about playing board games, and I would not budge. Lock-down! When the DIY and Money Class were done, there was still a lot of time left in the day. We went hiking and did some other outdoor family fun, but there was still time. The kids were already spending a lot of time on screens, so we did not want to fill it with more shows or movies, so we decided to play some board games.
For many of you, this is obvious, but board games are fun. Hours pass by quickly. A good game challenges you, create good conversation, and build relationships. Over the past few months, we have expanded our gaming range to more complicated games, and we have even started having small group game nights. A year ago, I never would have even considered having or attending a game night. Thank you, 2020!
We are not done yet. There is still a lot of sickness and dying happening every day. Last week there was an insurrection in Washington DC. There is still a lot going on, but inside my family bubble, we are trying to maintain what we started last year. The vaccine is rolling out, kids are in school, sports have begun, and our dots have returned with a vengeance. As we ramp back up and return to “normal,” I am trying to hold onto what was good in twenty-twenty. As a family, we are learning to say no to some things to say yes to family time, board games, DIY, annoying dad classes, and more. We have learned to make time for what matters, and for that, we are grateful to 2020.