Celeste posing under twinkle lights
Celeste, acting cute, standing under trees that have yellow leaves and twinkle lights.

Several friends of mine have reached out at varying times, somehow especially after I posted the image at the top of this post, and told me that I seem to be “happy” lately. I love it! Like all of us probably believe, this year has been … interesting. I started the year out in January with a heck of a personal struggle, for sure, so I’m glad that I’ve been past that for a couple of months now, and my friends have even noticed that I’m doing so much better. I work for AWS Security now, which has been a longtime dream, and I’ve set myself up for career and life success. One thing that’s helped get me through the tough times and which makes the good times even better is cultivating a sense of gratitude. Perhaps this will inspire you too, but here come ten things I’m grateful for:

  1. Long walks around Seattle, exploring parts of the city I’ve never seen, and photographing them to share with you on my Instagram
  2. Staying touch with my live-in partner, my two friends in my quaranteam, my virtual/socially-distanced & masked Lady Game Night crew, and my other friends who I manage to stay in touch with, mostly via SMS & Discord or Google Hangouts video chat
  3. My mom and her side of the family, who finally learned what a global pandemic was and how to socially distance to keep themselves safe
  4. My dad and his side of the family, who honestly lives far enough away that they could keep themselves safe by definition, but I get a weekly call with dad to stay in touch
  5. Working for AWS Security … I have always wanted to work in security, and in August 2020 I got my first “it’s in the title!” security gig
  6. Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited service, which has fed me so many enjoyable quarantine reads. I’m currently reading Edward Snowden’s Permanent Record
  7. Askamanager.org, which has also been a source of enjoyable quarantine reads, as well as advice on how to improve my skills as a people manager
  8. Baking. I had to give up climbing and BJJ in March, as those activities are both just … challenging to do without getting bacteria & viruses EVERYWHERE. In the absence of my usual time-sinks (seriously, I would spend 4-8 hours at the climbing gym alone every week) I need something to do, and obviously I’ve been reading a lot, but there’s many hours in the day, and I am not spending them at the office (my other great love)
  9. Yoga and other exercise videos on YouTube. (See above, need I say more?) I enjoy Yoga with Adriene, Redefining Strength, Nerd Fitness, Jeff Nippard, Rockentry Movement for Climbers, Face Yoga Method, and many others that I don’t subscribe to, but I had to keep this list down to something manageable, so there it is
  10. This blog. It’s been fun coming here roughly every week to say hi and share a little bit of what I think about work, with you. I think about work a lot, probably more than anyone would call “work-life balanced” but I’m happy, so I will keep on keeping on with my “work life harmony”

I have spent a good amount of time lately, wondering about “normal”. I can tell you this: Nothing is normal about managing a team that I’ve never been in the same room as any member of. Nothing is normal about working from home for the past 9 months in my pajamas (as comfortable as that might be). There’s nothing normal about any of 2020, a year which goes down in infamy for many of us, I’m sure.

What does getting back to “normal” in the workplace even mean? Is there a way to do so? Would you want to, if you could?

For me, personally, normal looks like being in the office most days, not wearing a mask, and not having to avoid incidental touching or strictly remaining 6′ away from any other human (and their pets!) I don’t mind videoconference meetings, but would prefer to have the option of VC-ing from the office, even if everyone else in my meeting dials in from their various locales. Normal means hosting team events like lunches and gaming days that include ordering in food, open bottles of water, soda, and beer, and conversation with my peers. Normal means having a snack table and jigsaw puzzle table near my team’s desks. Normal means having access to a whiteboard, and using it to assist with discussing and shaping half-formed ideas. Normal means wearing pants on a video call (because you wouldn’t be able to make it all the way to the office in your stuffed-animal slippers while lacking bottoms! Wouldn’t you?) Normal means coffee or cocktails with my mentors and mentees (not all at once!)

However, I can feel nostalgic about these without having a clear path to return to any of them. I’m excited about the news of a vaccine, though I am one of those personalities who needs to see it before I believe it. Show me the vaccine! 😀

I know that I would go back into the office as soon as it opened up, freely, for group use, without the distancing and mask requirements. Would you?