Like everyone else, we were thrilled to see 2020 leave town on the horse it rode in on (trailing a few folks behind it, eating dust with every clip-clop). The year even had the audacity to extend the collective trauma it inflicted on us into January, with the seditious attack on the Capitol and the stressors leading up to and beyond the inauguration (not to mention the continuing, surging, pandemic). It’s as if 2020 didn’t get the memo that the calendar pages had turned to a new year. But we did, and we’re doing our best to leave the year permanently in the rearview mirror. And we’re doing so with gratitude, not only that the year is over, but that it left us with some surprising gifts.
So, rather than piling on to what will long be remembered as our collective year from hell, we’re looking inward and forward. In this post, let’s accentuate what went *right* this past year, what we learned along the way, and what made us truly thankful for the hidden blessings around some of the sharp corners.
As a company, we’re grateful for simply surviving 2020, in particular not only because the year was so hard on small businesses, but also because it was our tenth anniversary. We weren’t able to celebrate our first decade as we’d hoped (custom-corked champagne and all), but simply surviving as a small agency was celebration enough. While things slowed down for a little while as COVID-19 took hold, they’re on an upward trajectory headed into 2021.
I’m deeply thankful for our amazing team, which persevered throughout the madness. Since we were born distributed in 2010, we didn’t struggle as much with working from home—but many of us with kids had to learn to work while teaching from home. In fact, parents on our team wrote a blog about their experience.
I’m also deeply thankful for, and grateful to, our clients—including those at Google, Atlassian, Palo Alto Networks, NetApp, AlterAgents, and Entercom—for continuing to partner with us even as they struggled to work (and often teach) from home. By choosing to work with us this year, they helped us stay in business. And we hope we made their lives easier, too.
As silver linings go, one of the shiniest has been our volunteer work with The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (www.civilrights.org). In 2020, we knew we wanted—and indeed, needed—to do something for the greater good by sharing our abilities as writers and communicators. Our friends at Google Ad Grants kindly introduced us to The Leadership Conference, one of the oldest civil rights organizations in the country. We’ve partnered with them on everything from their e-store content to social media posts, op-ed content, and video scripts. It’s been a pleasure working with their dedicated team, which advocates for everything from voting and LGBTQ rights to a fair U.S. Census count, justice reform, and so much more. We look forward to continuing this work in 2021.
And one last thing I’m grateful for as an agency lead this year is that we’ve added some wonderful new team-members. We’ve also welcomed back as Studio Director our old pal, Katina, who like many of us is a former Googler (aka Xoogler). When we relaunch our site in early 2021, you’ll see some new faces.
Speaking of our team, I asked them to share what helped get them through the year. For some, it was their relationships and the ways that the pandemic brought them closer together. Elena, one of our Senior Writers, shared, “As much as I have dealt with big challenges in 2020, I have had the joy of doing it with a loving partner by my side—a new love that started as 2019 was drawing to a close. The pandemic was indeed a ‘relationship accelerant’… We are now looking at houses and will be starting our new life together in 2021!“
Bianca, another Senior Writer, credited her ability to get through this year to two things: “My support system and meditation. With so much uncertainty, it was vital to be able to get quiet, and also to allow myself to rely on the strength and love of those closest to me.”
Alyssa, one of our Project Managers, shared that, despite the stressors of 2020, “my little family of four has experienced so many blessings. We got a new puppy, we built a pool and finished our basement—and most of all, we’ve grown closer than ever. We are more appreciative for what we have, and have become more kind. These lessons are something that are priceless for my children!”
For Meghan, our Senior Editor, the best part was “going for long daytime walks with my husband during the initial shutdown when roads were less busy. We discovered a lot of neighborhoods and beautiful streets we didn’t even know were there.”
And Heidi, another Senior Writer, told us,“While the pandemic has denied us our ‘normal lives,’ I learned to be more grateful for what we do have.” Among the things she’s most grateful for is her newfound delight in her husband’s work as a guitar teacher. “When both his schools went to remote learning, he started teaching guitar lessons from his iPad in the basement. I can hear everything from ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ to ‘Stairway to Heaven’ to classical compositions and jazz standards—all wafting up through the floorboards. And I’ve learned to appreciate how he brings his best to each and every student, every day—despite the challenges of teaching on a small screen. This has inspired me to bring some sunshine to the people with whom I share my workday.I never really realized what went into his teaching. In this way it’s brought us closer.”
Heidi also gave a shout out to her “superdog Cooper, who turned 15 on Thanksgiving”—and he was just one of many pets that kept many of our team-members going this year. Stephen wrote, “My dogs, Baloo and Foxy Cleopatra, got me through 2020. We’ve walked together sometimes up to six times per day through our neighborhood and surrounding national park land. Occasionally I lead but mostly follow along. We’ve dog-surfed at Stinson Beach, sniffed with glee while driving down Highway 101, and heroically chased evil crows into San Francisco Bay. In my mind I imagine they like their new, pandemic life and that in turn rubs off on me.…”
New dogs were a theme this year—along with Alyssa’s new puppy, our Chief Creative Officer, Michael, welcomed the fabulous Rony. “I’d qualify Rony as a rescue pup who rescued us…Reminding us to always wag, find the sunny spots, and bounce with happiness at the simple joys, no matter what’s happening in the world.” And Zöe, one of our new writers, shared that she got a new puppy in September and “she’s the best reminder of finding the good in everything (and the snacks, wherever snacks might be found).” And Zöe, who had to spend five months in quarantine outside of her adopted home of Mexico (where she loves to surf), said that 2020 has given her a chance to “fall in love with the quirks and beauty of the place I call home all over again.”
For others, the act of creativity was what both saved us and lifted us higher. Alex, our Studio Chief (and the author of two hiking guides for the San Francisco area), noted “I got through 2020 by creating a project to document San Francisco’s 1000+ public stairways. I did this through a map (http://bit.ly/sfstairmap), a spreadsheet (http://bit.ly/sfstairsheet), and photos (found in both the map and the sheet). I’m up to around 950 stairways now, and I keep finding more every time I go out to explore.” The San Francisco Chronicle reported on Alex’s mission, and interviewed her for a podcast, too.
One of our newest writers, Deb, who specializes in cybersecurity, was also featured in a recent podcast. She’s getting ready to promote part one of her cyber thriller series, “Breaking Backbones.”
Personally, fiction writing kept me grounded and sane in 2020. I wrote my first novel in decades, and started mapping out another one the day after Christmas, in hopes of making an annual habit of it.
Entrepreneurship kept our social media and SEO lead, Khaleelah, busy this year: Not only did she launch a new AI startup, Dime Digital, in 2020, she was also a keynote speaker at the European Parliament in December, and was a finalist for three different women in tech/female entrepreneur awards.
Others shared that the simpler things were their touchstones. For Abby, one of our new Editors, it was her morning Starbucks. “Going there and seeing my favorite baristas who know me by name/order,” she wrote, was a daily delight. Heidi also found great joy in binge-watching “all 12 seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race, including every season of All Stars,” and Meghan says she can now “tell at a glance what makes a great jigsaw puzzle.”
Karen, another Senior Writer, kept her chin up with a variety of small but meaningful rituals and events, including “writing weekly ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ song parodies for a friend’s early-pandemic Facebook Live series of piano concerts; guilt-free Schitt’s Creek bingeing; a dollop of homemade whipped cream in my first cup of morning coffee; and online holidays with relatives in other parts of the country/world.”
And then there are folks like Eve, our Senior E-learning Specialist, for whom activism was a force for good not only in the world, but in her own life. During 2020, Eve writes, “Political and social activism allowed me to better redirect, reignite, and revitalize my voice and power to help others.”
Our team also gave thanks for the opportunity to work with each other and our clients. “It’s a gift to be working with such respectful, kind, and skilled teammates,” wrote our Senior Designer, Marlene—who’s been part of the team since 2011. While our newest Editor, Ben, shared, “finding a home at Wordsmithie in 2020 has taught me that I can still expand my world through dedication to meaningful work while surrounded by like-minded individuals, even if I can’t leave the house.” And Heidi noted that she’s “grateful for my amazing colleagues at Wordsmithie! A blessing to work with such supportive, smart, and talented people. And for the privilege of writing about people and businesses doing good in the world.”
No matter what helped people get through these past 12 months, the same thread emerged: Gratitude. Because, after a year like 2020, being grateful for the things that went right (and kept us going) may be the most healing and uplifting way to look backward with a hint of a smile. Honestly, it wasn’t all bad. In fact, once in a while, it gave us exactly what we needed, even if we didn’t know it at the time.
So, I say to 2020: Farewell, and don’t let the door hit you on the way out when you finally get the message that your time in the Sun is one and done. Despite some day months at the outset, we’re hoping that 2021 gives us far more to be joyful about, and far less to cause us sorrow. But also, thanks. We’ve been reminded and encouraged that we can get through whatever the universe decides to drop-kick our way.