from evy's notebook
my cover of a song i listen to every year: death cab for cutie's "new year"


I started out the year with starting a new job. I'd seen the way work worked, and could barely think of anyone I'd met that was genuinely happy with their job at a tech company. On my first day, I watched the CEO present the company's targets for the year at a company-wide meeting. He talked about "revenue" and "growth" and "ambitious goals", words I'd often seen used when justifying pushing employees past their breaking point, and found myself crying in a bathroom stall. A familiar experience, but a new office bathroom stall.

My desk was placed across from a kind boy with painted fingernails, and beside a new friend who decorated their desk with wondrously scented fruits I hadn't heard of before. The engineering team showed me a warmth and supportive attention I hadn't experienced in a long time, and within a few weeks I was shocked to discover that I could actually enjoy a job.

March came, and I stayed home with cold symptoms for a few days, and then never returned to the office. I had no idea how to think about what was safe to do and what would kill people. I had never thought so much about how many of my actions could make a difference of life or death, and comforted myself with the knowledge that this was a truth that had always been relevant, far beyond covid. But I continued to agonize over what I should be doing, and how to set boundaries with housemates around something I was so unsure of myself. I blocked Twitter. I longed for the spaces I could no longer spend time in, and grieved a developing relationship that had been lost to social distancing. I held my own hand and watched its reflection in the window, missing the feeling of touch, wishing I could hug someone again.

At the end of March, I decided to write a short song every day for a week. I named the songs after small comforts: "cat in a window", "the sounds and smells of outside", "drawing with crayons".

I walked a lot. I wandered the blocks around my neighbourhood in search of small notable things: paper cranes hanging from trees, hopscotch drawn on the sidewalk, small hidden-away parks. Spring flowers and strange trees caught my eye, and I photographed them and sorted them by colour. Anything to keep walks interesting.

sighted in a park

Days started to blur together, and a new normal emerged. I finished several puzzles, went on dates with Alan in Minecraft, worked out over video with strangers from a group chat, and explored as much of the surrounding area as I could. When it was warm out, we sat on the front porch and ate popsicles in the sunshine.

In May, Wesley made a thoughts page and showed me a cute community website designed around lists. I was inspired to make a website of my own, and skimmed a list of cheap domain names of the form "evy.____". After some frustrating infrastructure setup, I had created evy.garden - a vast canvas of creative space for myself, and possibly the most uncomplicated very nice thing of my whole year.

One of my housemates said she was going to move out of our house, a house that was a source of comfort and joy for me, and the first place I'd lived for more than a handful of consecutive months since childhood. Days later, another housemate said she was leaving as well. Two of us remained. Much of June was spent house-searching and packing. Protests broke out across the world and I learned so much about American history and race issues and politics. I blocked Twitter again. I later attended my first two protests, and volunteered with DefundSFPD to call district supervisors and into public comment meetings. I thought a lot this year about what actionable activism could really look like.

keep showing up, justice is long-term work

I refused to pack up the bedroom I loved until after my birthday, and we moved out shortly after. My birthday party was hosted in a spreadsheet, and I celebrated solstice the previous evening by reciting poetry in a fairy garden. These moments with friends, even amidst the stress of moving, were some of the best parts of my year. My friendships have brought me so much joy and energy and inspiration.

Chloe and I on moving day

As I settled into the new house, Wesley started a daily writing practice, and I joined them soon after. I wrote for 24 days straight, and spent several evenings calling Wesley to exchange writing feedback on the posts we'd written. Writing for my newsletter had become intimidating to me - what does one send to people inboxes in a year like 2020? - but notebook writing was comfortable because no one had to see it. The stakes were low. By the end of the year, I ended up writing over 40 notebook posts.

Wesley's lease was running out, and I ended up watching an icon with their face move gradually across a map as a car drove from New York to San Francisco. I remembered that relationships are complicated, and often hard in times of stress, but I savored the cuddles and the time we spent together eating ice cream and watching movies and sunsets. We spent more time living in the same city than we ever had before, and after being here for a few months they moved to Taiwan.

Before they left, we'd planned a backpacking trip with my housemate, but then the skies turned orange and full of smoke, and parks across the coast closed. I mourned the loss of my only vacation and trip out of the city. I mourned the loss of long walks, which had been one of the only things keeping me feeling okay. For months, I regularly checked air quality meters and savored moments of fresh-enough air.

dark orange sky on a mid-day walk

September came and my new housemate broke my trust. We decided my friend and I should move out. My friend decided to leave the city for a while, and I quickly found myself living alone for the first time in a studio apartment.

I continued going on walks. I noticed I'd memorized the street names of a 12x18 grid I'd walked through over the year. I danced and sang to myself. I started playing piano regularly, learning a song Alan had played with me several years before. I found joy in regular phone calls and walks with friends. I grew a collection of fancy loose-leaf tea. I lit candles on every night of channukah for the first time since childhood. I discovered the calm quiet of living alone.

fifth night of channukah

It's hard to think about making any plans for the near future, to imagine committing to anything with the uncertainty and fluctuation of motivation that I live with regularly. But there are some things I'd like to do, that I'm excited about and hopeful for. I want to learn to feed myself more regularly. I want to keep developing my writing skills, and find community around writing. I want to learn more about communal housing and better understand how I could eventually settle down to live with my friends somewhere. And I really need to buy some more socks - I think I can at least plan for that.