looking back // 2020.

it feels so weird to be writing an annual recap for a year that was so all over the place [which is also why it’s taken me so long to finally publish this]. i had so many plans at the beginning of 2020, and so many of them – mostly travels – fizzled to nothing by the time spring came around. nevertheless, this is a tradition that i want to continue, so here we are with a look back at everything that happened [or didn’t, in some cases] in 2020.

first, we will begin with my initial goals for the year:

when i first sat down to write this recap i was certain i was going to say i didn’t meet my initial goals, but after going through them i have to say i am rather impressed with how i did. a few of the ones i didn’t meet were out of my control, and a few i realized weren’t as important as i thought they would be when the year began. without further ado, here’s how i did:


an ellie-veena reunion. well this one did not happen, but that’s not for a lack of trying on our part. our plan was to do a national park road trip over thanksgiving, but we obviously postponed that idea. we are hopeful we can make it happen this year once vaccines are more readily available but figure it’s more likely to be 2022. thank goodness for facetime and whatsapp video calls so we can at least see each other’s faces virtually every few months.

great smoky mountains national park, tennessee. august 2020.

go on a solo trip to a new-to-me place. i’m very happy i was able to make this happen! i very carefully planned a road trip to the smokies at the end of august and it was exactly what i needed.


read this read this read this. memphis, tennessee. may 2020.

read 35 books. check! i crossed 35 books before the year was halfway over and when it was all said and done i read 67 books last year. when we transitioned to everything being virtual last spring, i was often so burnt out on screens by the end of each day that i couldn’t bring myself to turn on the tv. the result was that i read during any free moment i had, and i read more books in a year than i ever have before or likely ever will again.

forever my favorite. memphis, tennessee. april 2020.

re-read the harry potter series. i decided toward the end of 2019 that i really wanted to re-read the harry potter series, and i am so glad i opted to do it last year. the escapism that hogwarts provides was exactly what i needed when the pandemic hit, and i loved every moment of revisiting this favorite last spring.

finish maya angelou’s autobiographical series. this was a pretty easy one, especially once i was reading so much in april and may. i will forever be amazed by the life that maya angelou led, and this was a really fun journey to travel with her.

i will never tire of reading this. cordova, tennessee. december 2020.

read 3 books translated from other languages. i got this one just in the nick of time, reading two translations as my final two reads of the year. i got lucky with that, though, and would like to make this more of a priority going forward.

you can read my full 2020 reading roundup post here.


new thanksgiving tradition. millington, tennessee. november 2020.

exercise twice a week. i fully expected to not meet this goal. to keep up with it for a few months and then forget about it. to get to the end of the year and laugh hysterically at myself for thinking it was possible. and then, somehow, i did it. it took a combination of walks, runs, hikes, workouts, and the elliptical at the gym [before covid], and a healthy dose of creativity, but i did it.

cross 1,000 miles on the nike run club app. this was a special one, because i completed it on my birthday!


at least 6 new challenges documented on here. this was a really fun project, and i actually managed 9 of these monthly challenges! i: went a month without dr pepper / went a month without paying to eat out / took 1 picture every day / met my step goal every day / wrote a postcard every day / went a month with no online shopping / published a blog post every day / went a month without drinking / and made a donation every day. it was a pretty fun undertaking, and while i don’t know that i’ll make it as formal going forward i will still do a monthly challenge here and there.

some hard core savings. yeah, this one didn’t happen. i mean, i saved a bit, and i continued to contribute to both my 401k and my roth ira accounts, but not like what i was hoping for the year. between pandemic donations, supporting memphis restaurants and small businesses, and election contributions – all combined with a 5-month pay cut – this goal had to take a bit of a backseat. i’m making sure i’ll be okay if anything happens, and otherwise i’m doing my best to get my money back into the community.

clean and purge all the things. if i were grading myself on these goals, this one would get a b. i tackled a few different things, i cleaned up my bookshelf, i got rid of a bunch of clothes, and i rearranged my room a bit. but also i was exhausted a lot or needed to be outside or just plain didn’t want to. it’s an ongoing process and will continue to be ongoing for a while but i feel good about the progress i am making.

and possibly a move? well. i think it goes without saying that i was not able to make this happen. i had some interviews in the spring, and then the pandemic hit and everyone put hiring on hold. i’ve started applying to a few more things and have become much more intentional in how i am approaching my search, but things are moving slowly right now. i am incredibly lucky because i have a full-time job, so i can take my time and make sure i am finding the right city and the right organization for me, but also i am recommitting to making this happen. fingers crossed i can make this happen in 2021 and this can fall into place.

and next we move on to month-by-month highlights:

besties. cleveland, ohio. january 2020.

january. visiting chrystal in cleveland! i had never been to cleveland before, so over mlk weekend i donned my parka and went to check out churst’s new city. we had a great weekend of seeing lots of things but also chilling and watching basketball, and it was perfect.

views for days. cancún, mexico. february 2020.

february. technically this was a bridge january / february highlight, but this one was my trip to cancún with lauren and jen that happened as one month led into the next. we had a great 2.5 days lounging and reading and drinking and swimming and treating ourselves, and it was exactly the escape we all needed at the time.

march. a whole week in new york! i will forever be grateful for the luck we had in making this trip happen just before everything shut down. i flew up early and spent a few days wandering on my own and catching up with maggie, and then over the weekend kat, jeremy, alex, and lauren also came to play. new york continues to be one of my absolute favorite places, and i loved all of our adventures.

favorite view. memphis, tennessee. april 2020.

april. lots of downtown walks with churst. chrystal spent most of the spring and beginning part of the summer in memphis, and at least once a week she and i would go for a walk downtown. riverside drive was closed to traffic, and we could mask up and spread out and enjoy some fresh air and views of the river. getting outside was a big theme of my spring, and i am grateful to have been able to do that safely and to have had the time with chrystal.

my favorite place to spend a weekend. millington, tennessee. march 2020.

may. after a 6-week closure of the state parks, meeman-shelby forest opened back up and alex and i managed a weekend hike for almost all of may and june. it was so good to have that weekly time with her, and we were both grateful for the opportunity to get out of the city and get out in nature. and solomon loved being able to scamper all over the place.

this might be my best one yet. memphis, tennessee. june 2020.

june. lots of rooftop dinners with lauren and jen! both lauren and jen have great rooftops that have fantastic views of downtown memphis and the river, so we spent many weeknights eating and drinking and enjoying the views and the company. those dinners were the source of my sanity last summer.

all my dreams came true. memphis, tennessee. july 2020.

july. i know it sounds like hyperbole, but i’m not joking when i say that the recorded version of the original broadway cast of hamilton dropping on disney+ was the absolute highlight of my summer. i stayed up until it released at 2am, and i watched it 3 times over that initial weekend. each time i watch it i notice something new, and i love that i can turn it on whenever i want.

great smoky mountain national park. august 2020.

august. my solo road trip to the smokies. by the end of august i had not been outside of memphis in 5.5 months, and i was desperate for a change of scenery. i am so, so grateful that i was able to make this trip safely, and that i was able to visit great smoky national park for the first time. nature is one of my happy places, and the mountains might just be my happiest. i had a fantastic few days on my own, waking up with the sunrise and hiking part of the appalachian trail and driving through the park and being answerable to only myself.

memphis, tennessee. september 2020. photo by kristen archer.

september. by far the coolest thing i got to do in september was model for the archer sisters. kristen and lindsey run one of my favorite local businesses, and i was honored when they reached out to ask if i would be willing to model their new t-shirt designs. it was one of the easiest yeses i’ve ever said, and it was so great to finally meet them both in person after following them the last few years.

i love you, too, cooper-young. memphis, tennessee. october 2020.

october. the cooper-young 4-miler is my favorite neighborhood event, and as much as i hated missing the camaraderie that comes from running – and drinking – with all my favorite neighbors, i did very much enjoy being able to run early on a saturday morning in october and discover a few new corners of this place i have been lucky enough to call home for nearly 3 years.

views on views on views. great smoky mountains national park. november 2020.

i’m allowing myself a bridge october / november addition since apparently all of my trips with lauren and jen happen like that. at the end of october we hit the road to the smokies and had a great 3 days hiking and driving and playing games and enjoying being out of town for a few days. these two make multiple appearances in this post because they were so instrumental in helping me make it through 2020.

celebrations abound. germantown, tennessee. november 2020.

november. first and foremost, my november highlight was joe biden winning the presidential election. those 5 days from the election to the announcement were some of the longest and most lost of my life, but it was such a great feeling to be able to celebrate that win. but oddly enough, i think my november highlight is the week i spent in the hospital with my mother. don’t get me wrong, i wish i could go back in time and prevent her fall and everything that came after, and i would not wish what happened on anyone. but i am grateful that when it did happen, i was in a situation where i could take a week off work to be with her and that we were at a point where i was allowed to be in the hospital with her. i am grateful for how my friends took care of both of us, ensuring we had everything we needed while we were there and bringing me clothes and meals and consistently checking in on us both. and above all, i am grateful for my mother’s strength and resilience and incredibly strong will. what a gift to see that in action.

i get such satisfaction from this sight. cordova, tennessee. december 2020.

december. december was an absolute whirlwind, but one thing i did accomplish was rearranging my mother’s pantry! it’s something i’ve been wanting to do for years but could never make i happen, but while i was off for the holidays and going out to my parents’ house each day i finally did it. i cleared everything out, threw away all the expired things [including something dating back to 1998!], consolidated what i could, and washed all of her extra jars [no one hoards glass jars like an indian mother…or her daughter…]. i feel very accomplished about this one.

this post is always a labor of love, and as much as i sometimes dread sitting down to write it i always wind up getting a lot of joy out of it. 2020 was a lot of things, but you can never claim it was boring. let’s see what 2021 has in store for us.


8 thoughts on “looking back // 2020.

  1. Lauren Albright says:

    Veena! I loved reading about your year and how much you explored and enjoyed. 2020 was definitely a tough one, and it’s easy to feel like we couldn’t get anything done. Your perspective and experience have inspired me to reflect and find joy amid the chaos. Thank you for that ❤


    1. veena says:

      You are too kind! This post definitely turned out differently than I expected, which makes me glad I sat down to write it. Sending you good vibes for your own reflections xx


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