What a year, 2020! Let’s talk of all the good things that came out of it.

How can we? It was terrible! –you might be asking.

I agree. It’s anxiety-inducing even just to list all that happened last year. One post would probably be too cramped to fit everything. So, let’s not. Let’s not think of the bad things. We dwelled on them for months, we lived it through pain and loneliness. The good things, instead, might be fewer and on a less global scale, but they are what got us through it. And they are very meaningful, at times.

I never considered myself an optimist, but I want to give this optimism thing a try. We all deserve to smile and be positive. This year more than ever.

This post is a list of the things of 2020 I am grateful for, of the things that I have achieved against the odds, of life updates worth sharing. Let’s get started.

Time for change

In my personal life, 2020 was a strange year too. At the end of 2019, I had just accepted a postdoc at UC Berkeley. It was my dream job, but that meant leaving my husband and my cat behind in Seattle.

At the start of 2020, I was living alone in a small (yet very expensive) studio flat. The job was amazing, but it took all of my energy and time. Every day was a mental battle to decide on what to do next: look for a job back in Seattle, that would give me more free time? Or ask my family to relocate to the Bay area and continue with a demanding academic path?

After a lot of self-reflection, I got to the conclusion that my priorities have shifted. A few years back, all I would have wanted was a position, like the one in Berkeley, that would shoot me in a perfect trajectory to a successful academic career.
But today, that’s not enough for me. Academia is not my whole life anymore. I need to fit many things into my days to be happy. I surely still need science and research in my life, but I also need time to draw and work on my art, a consistent routine where I can get enough sleep and have dinner with my husband, some free time to play videogames, cuddle with my cat and do nothing constructive at all but be in the moment.

While all of these thoughts were taking shape in my mind, I got a job offer in the Greater Seattle Area and accepted it. Not only I was getting back home, but I could make the “jump” from academia to industry and see where this would lead me. I love my new job. And I could not be happier to have taken this risk.

Things that make me proud

I want to be gentle to myself, and take the time for once to celebrate things I have achieved. Here is a list of things I am proud of:

In 2020, I got out of bed every day. It seems small, but it’s not. So many times, I could have just stayed in bed. Why bother? The world was in flame, figuratively and, sadly, also literally at times. But I still got out of bed. I went to work, I showered, and took care of myself even when was working from home. Any other year, these things would be meaningless. But I guess 2020 was not any other year. 

I started the “Draw my science” series. I am behind on the last three episodes, but I am still very proud of the ones that got published. It is such a fun project for me! I feel so privileged I got to interact with amazing scientists and tell their stories through art. We talked about corals with Walter Dellisanti, fungi with Dr. Danny Healewaters and family connections with Dr. Jennifer Honeycutt. You can even listen to full audio of the interviews on my Youtube channel, or check the portfolio for the illustrations I made.

I published my first (and probably only) first-author paper. It came out in January, based on the work carried during my Ph.D. While I am not pursuing an academic career, I am extremely proud of the work I have done. The article is open access, which fills me with pride –I strongly believe that open access will improve the future of academia and research. I am happy I got this thing out before leaving academia: writing the first-author paper has been on my bucket list for a very long time, and I am happy I can scratch it off. 

I published a whopping 10 blog posts (compared to only 3 the previous year). One of my favorites is a 3-posts series where I shared all I learned by crowdfunding my illustrated book, Inking Science, on Kickstarter. It felt like a nice way to pay back the community the supported me and co-author Valerie with the knowledge I acquired by doing the crowdfunding. 

Things I am grateful for

Stickers with this available on the shop

I am grateful for waffles. Not any waffles, but the ones my husband got delivered to me for my birthday. You see –he is my best friend and my greatest support, but as a couple, we are not one for roses and chocolates, not after so many years together. That’s what makes these small lovely gestures more meaningful. It was nice to be reminded of how much he cares about me. Waffles also cheered me up while I was feeling particularly alone as the shutdown had just started on that day for our lab. 

I am grateful that no one I love got a serious case of covid. I know this is something not many people can tell, and that makes me even more grateful for my luck. 

Fluffy cat playing

I am grateful to be back home with my fluffy adorable cat and with my waffle-gifting husband. 

I am grateful for the COVID vaccine. But also for the flu shots, to be honest.

I am grateful for my family and friends, and for having access to the internet, which gave me the tools I needed to connect with them all around the world. I miss them a lot and I long for the day I will be hugging them again.

I am grateful there are online yoga instructors (like Adriene or my neighbor Nisha), who gives us the tools to stay healthy, body and mind, during challenging times.

I am happy for having access to various forms of entertainment, from great Science communicators on Youtube to quirky anime series like Dr. Stone.

I am grateful still doing research and science despite having left the University –and I have learned how to enjoy it fully

Things to look forward to

In 2021, there are a bunch of things I really look forward to.

In the coming months, I will publish the last three episodes of the first series of Draw My Science. Here is a teaser: we will talk about lasers and microscopy, particles and cakes, chemistry and trans-generational epigenetics. So stay tuned.
In the second part of the year, I hope to start a second series that I will announce in my newsletter first (subscribe below, if you want to get dips on this).

I am practicing painting. I have felt less motivated to draw lately. I reached a plateau in my skills, and the improvement is now very slow. To inject a breeze of new excitement, I decided to practice painting. Hopefully, this will also lead to more products coming to the shop too.

An amazing human being has “tasted” Inking Science. Yes, literally tasted. Friday from Friday Afternoon Tea in Seattle makes tea based on her experience enjoying some media or art. And she is making a custom tea to describe Inking Science. I couldn’t be more excited about it.

Finally, I hope that vaccinations and people’s consciousness will make COVID manageable at last, and give us the chance to go back home to hug family and friends.

For now, I wish you all a better and more positive year! And back to making amazing things — it’s a fresh year ahead of us!

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