I first took the time to write my first year in review blog post 365 days ago. Like the rest of the world, little did I know what was ahead for the year 2020! I’ve never been so happy to see a calendar year come to and end. You don’t need me to tell you what a disaster 2020 has been for much of the world. Although it hasn’t all been bad; I’m lucky enough to have had some amazing life events take place this year. Let’s go through a little recap, followed by some memorable pics.
2020 started out fairly fun and fine. Storyware had a stacked project schedule, I was settling into living in Richmond full time, and I had just started working out of a new co-working space. I traveled to NOLA for a great business trip just after the New Year. I saw two of my all time favorite bands in concert last January, and I met the lead singer each time. My best friend from college got married in February, and it was an epic gathering to say the least. My now wife and I took some great weekend trips; one to Snowshoe and one to Harrisonburg to show her where I went to college. Then sometime in early March I started reading about a new coronavirus that was causing serious issues around the world. I thought to myself, “that’s horrible” and didn’t think much of it at first.
On the Monday before St. Patty’s day I was talking to my business partner and he mentioned feeling apprehensive about going to the gym. I asked why, and he mentioned that COVID had made its way to the US. Two days later I was having a beer with an old co-worker when I saw the notification that suddenly a number of Virginia colleges had cancelled classes and sent students home. That made it clear that things were apparently about to get wild here in the US. I went home and started reading about what was truly happening in Italy. Around this time we also kicked off a project with an international study abroad program at Storyware. We learned a lot about what was going on elsewhere in the world with each weekly project status call. It did not take long for me to realize the gravity of the situation and what we were about to endure in our country.
I started telling my family about what was going on in Europe and that they needed to immediately start taking safety precautions. At first they thought I was crazy, then everything started shutting down and people started getting sick all around the country. The horror stories that started coming out of places like NYC were heart wrenching. And that was just as things were getting started in the spring.
The first part of COVID was pretty wild. No one knew how widespread it was, there was very little testing, and our government wasn’t doing much of anything. Anyone who say the US had a good response to COVID is literally delusional. Heres an example: my good friend’s dad flew back from China in mid March and it was 100% business as usual for him to get back into the country. He went through zero extra steps to re-enter our country. Meanwhile, leaders here knew months earlier that this virus was rapidly spreading through China.
As we went into lockdown in Virginia I continued to educate myself about what was going on around the world, and how other countries were responding. I couldn’t believe the lack of action in this country. Our president literally did everything he could to deflect the seriousness of COVID. I still can’t believe the so-called President of the United States said COVID would magically disappear, and if we stopped testing then we wouldn’t have so many cases. Let’s not forget about the bleach injection idea that was touted by our President as a cure. I’ve never seen such a gross lack of leadership, or common sense in my life.
The concept of wearing masks started to come about and the science behind masks made perfect sense. All one had to do was look at countries where masks were often worn in times of sickness prior to COVID, and to see that their rates of infection weren’t too shabby. Meanwhile here in the US, it seemed like one half of the population was willing to wear masks in public in an effort to do anything we could to stop the spread of COVID, and the other selfish half of the population complained about loss of personal freedoms and refused to wear masks because it was all a “hoax.”
Olivia and I were quick to adopt wearing masks in public and to practice social distancing, as were most of our close friends. She and I value our health, and have tried to do our part as responsible human beings in stopping the spread of this virus. Not everyone around us felt the same way about how serious this virus is, or the precautions that are necessary as responsible humans. We saw the true colors of a lot of people this year. Lives continued to be lost due to COVID, as were friendships, and a lot of respect.
When there was talk of “re-opening” the country as our president and his supporters/enablers threw a temper tantrum, it was clear to see this was going to be a nightmare. I was ready for life to return to some form of normal as quickly as possibly, but it was easy to see that certain steps had to be taken to safely reopen our country. While other countries rolled out national testing and contact tracing efforts, there was no such thing here. It’s like the towel was thrown in, and many states, particularly down south, said okay let’s just play with gasoline and see what happens. Disaster followed, and continues to follow.
Life thankfully went on as COVID continued to wreak havoc. At Storyware we saw a slight dip in our sales cycle, but we saw a rebound as more companies realized that digital is more crucial than ever. We brought on a new developer, and we were fortunate enough to work on a lot of interesting projects this year. My favorite projects of the year would be launching Phil Mickelson’s new online coffee store, writing a Disqus to WordPress migration script that handled half a million comments for VC Fred Wilson, developing a unique photo marketplace for some great people in New Orleans, and recently starting work on a SaaS product that leverages Laravel Jetstream and Livewire. Storyware was also invited to join the WordPress VIP Program, equating to an incredible seal of approval on our work.
From a personal standpoint, life had some gems in store once we settled into the new normal. After a few months, we restarted our weekly Sunday hangouts with our two close friends Ian and Sarah, albeit these were mostly outside and at a distance. With both Olivia and I working from home and rarely seeing anyone aside from Ian and Sarah, we started spending most every other weekend at the beach with my family. My parents are fortunate enough to own a duplex in Ocean Isle Beach, so we could spend time with them and maintain some form of social distancing around the house. This regular change of scenery over the summer was key for sanity.
Olivia and I bought our first house together in March of this year. That was an adventure in itself. Closing and moving during the height of the lockdown was more than a little stressful, but we did it. We bought a gorgeous cottage in Forest Hill, right near the James River in Richmond. The house was built in 1924 and has certainly kept us busy with projects. I’ve rediscovered my love of landscaping projects, while Olivia has made the inside of our house quite cozy. Our cats are very happy with the new space, as are we. We moved out of the Fan just in time…
Richmond turned into a chaotic place in the late spring/early summer as a result of protests in response to police brutality and racism around the country. This time period brought about some great change in our city as old Confederate monuments were torn down, but it also brought about incredible conflict. This was another instance where we saw the true colors of many individuals around us. It was shocking and disheartening to see how widespread racism and ignorance remain in this country. If you’re from a small town like me, you know what your Facebook newsfeed looked like during this period. For the record, I wholeheartedly support the protests that took place. Our country needs change and that change will not come quietly.
About the time the protests started in Richmond, Olivia and I started spending much of our free time on the rivers around Richmond. We started tackling whitewater with inflatable Stand Up Paddle Boards, which is the most fun I’ve had on a board since I lived in Hawaii. This hobby took on a whole new level of adventure in August when I proposed to Olivia on a rock next to our favorite rapid on the James. Paddling down a river can be scary in itself; throw in a secret diamond ring tucked away in your PFD and I promise you it’s way scarier.
Olivia had no idea that question was coming, but she said yes. Fast forward two months later and we were married on a cliff just outside of Asheville with our best quarantine pals, Ian and Sarah, as our witnesses. The date was October 13th, 2020 and it was a perfect day. Neither of us wanted a large wedding, nor did we want to put anyone in harms way due to COVID, which made the decision to elope a simple one. Check out our little wedding website to learn more and see pics of our special day. This day was definitely the highlight of 2020, and probably my life.
As October came to an end, November roared in with a certain level of craziness in tow. The election here in the U.S. was a big stressor for many. This year was the first time that I became outspoken regarding politics. Why did I finally feel the need to voice my opinion? I felt a growing sense of responsibility to speak out against a complete lack of values, decency, compassion, and ethics at the top of our government, and frankly, in one particular political party that I would now say more closely resembles a cult.
The election came, sort of went, then a new wave of COVID piled onto the existing wave. Thanksgiving was cancelled for us and many others due to the COVID tidal wave. Meanwhile, the rift between people in the US also continued to grow due to a plethora of ignorance, misinformation, and selfish behavior at the top. I’m hopeful that this rift can close as the world hopefully turns over some form of a new leaf in 2021.
Thanksgiving may have been canceled, but it was still a time of warmth and excitement in the new Wood household. Our little family grew the weekend before Thanksgiving when we adopted Cocoa, a sweet pup from South Carolina. Cocoa is half Basset Hound, half Catahoula leopard, and he looks just like Scooby Doo. I can’t say the cats have been thrilled with Cocoa’s presence, but they’re adjusting. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a puppy and it’s definitely a lot of work, but he’s a great little companion.
To round out the year, Christmas barely happened; there were masks, various precautions, and lots of cancelations as we tried to navigate this strange time. We still managed to safely see some family members, albeit much of it took place amongst frigid temperatures outside. Now here we are on New Years Eve. Olivia and I have been relaxing and skiing this week at Snowshoe in West Virginia. My 31st birthday was on the slopes this week and it was the most quiet birthday ever, which was welcomed after this rollercoaster of a year.
What’s in store for 2021? A lot. I don’t have my detailed list of goals yet, but I have some ideas in the works. For me, the end of this year warranted a period of decompression and not so much on the planning front. Besides, I’ve learned that you can’t plan everything out in life. The best things just sort of happen. Like meeting your future wife when a hurricane completely wrecks your fall surf trip plans 😉