2021: marginally better than 2020

As I contemplated writing a journal post again over the past few days, it occurred to me that I couldn’t remember when I last wrote anything. Checking my site, it turned out it’s been exactly a year since I wrote this on January 1st, 2021. A quick review of that post confirms how bad 2020 was …
  • cancelling most of a year off to travel, rushing home from Bali and renting a crappy Marpole apartment from a really crappy landlord
  • sitting around while remaining on leave, mostly stuck at home due to COVID, for the entire year
  • a really problematic digestive year, culminating in a (thankfully clear) endoscopy AND colonoscopy
  • a nice little trip up the Sunshine Coast, Salt Spring and Victoria before renewed restrictions in October
  • unfounded (as it turns out) optimism for a better 2021, including a hopeful return to travelling

So, as a variation on the year in review type post (since we all know how 2021 has gone), I thought I’d just compare the two years on a personal level, to try and evaluate whether things got better, worse, or remained roughly the same. We all have our own COVID experience, so I’ll just say off the top this is no exercise in objectivity, including my completely arbitrary and subjective scoring system.

Travel: -1

Obviously the six weeks we did travel in 2020 didn’t satisfy the goal we had for taking a whole year off, and as we haven’t gone anywhere in 2021 (including even just a short trip somewhere in BC), we haven’t made up for anything we lost on that front yet. We are also keenly aware of the fact that, until retirement, we are very unlikely to be able to take a full year off to travel extensively again. Barring a lottery winning, that is. The development of Delta, then Omicron in the second half of 2021 means, for us, if anything the travel prospects worsened.

Minus-1 for COVID shitting all over that.

Employment: 0

After taking an early retirement package to accommodate our planned 2020 travel, my wife landed a new gig she’s very happy with, and it’s likely to move from contract to permanent shortly. While I had no such luck in moving to a new gig, I returned to work in mid-January, so at least we’ve been pulling in two full-time incomes again for several months. I was able to work 100% remotely until September and since then, my employer has deferred to BC’s inconsistent and insufficient COVID response measures, expecting me to work 60% at the office. This, in spite of the fact I can do my job 100% remotely and there has been no benefit in returning to the office at all so far.

With Omicron setting records and spreading like wildfire, while my wife can work remotely for most of January, at this point I am still expected to come to the office three days a week so I can avoid human contact while closing my office door and attending Zooms, just as I would if working remotely.

Plus-1 for my wife’s new job and a minus-1 for how my employer is handling COVID makes employment a wash.

Health: -2

carpal release incision
The post-surgery incision and bruising were much tamer than the shit the hand has put me through

Thankfully, 2021 saw no recurrence of 2020’s IBS flare-up or scopes, and my wife’s health seemed to cruise along pretty well, with no real issues at all. I was good until August, when I took a very low speed spill off my bike and really did a number on my wrist and hand. A bad wrist sprain in early August led to a severe case of carpal tunnel syndrome, which in turn led to carpal release surgery in mid-November. I’m currently just past 4.5 months since the sprain and six weeks since the surgery. I’m not even going to go into the interminable hand exercises I have to do to aid in recovery, except to say they’re tedious in the extreme.

As I already had early osteo-arthritis in my left wrist, the sprain alone has been very slow to heal, with significant stiffness in my range of motion and weakness overall. The surgery was successful from the perspective of stopping the intense parasthesia (pins, needles, tingling), and the numbness in my thumb, forefinger and middle finger are improving, I’ll only know how complete the success is after 4-6 months. I’ve also got an ultrasound scheduled for January 11th due to somewhat atypical recovery patterns so far.

Given that I may well have significant permanent issues from this, I’m giving health a minus-2.

Housing: +2

I could easily dwell on the Marpole rental in 2021’s evaluation, since we lived there for eight months, and it was by far the worst part of living there. From spring until we left at the end of August, once our landlord decided to sell the condo, we had to endure endless showings on short notice, a sanctimonious realtor in our faces, zero effort to avoid inconveniencing us and, most notably, an assumption on their part that we’d lie for them regarding our status as tenants so they could commit tax fraud.

image of laneway
Our little laneway

However, as we’ve decided to not buy back into the ridiculous Vancouver market, the rental we found for September 1st more than made up for that awful experience. Fingers crossed we can remain in our comfortable detached Mount Pleasant laneway for sometime to come. The rent is pretty good and the landlord has been excellent (including painting the place at our request before we moved in). We love the space and the neighbourhood and, as a bonus, we were able to report the old landlord to the city, province and feds for asking us to lie on her behalf.

Based only on Marpole, I’d probably give housing a minus-3, but a solid plus-5 for Mount Pleasant means a plus-2 overall.

Fitness: +2

In truth, the last few years haven’t been great. I really hadn’t been training and racing for some time before the pandemic, and I’ve been middling at best in the time since. I lost time in 2020 due to a lower body injury and really didn’t cycle or run that much even when healthy. However, given the impact my wrist and hand issues have had this year, 2021 seems far worse by comparison. Keep in mind the distance totals in the image to the left include walking and trainer riding, and the hours and days include yoga and even light strength.

I really couldn’t lean on handlebars at all from August 120th until well into October and haven’t ridden on the road since the sprain. I have slowly resumed trainer riding over the late fall and winter, and it’s at least manageable now, but long sessions can still get uncomfortable. Plus, so many things we do with our hands places significant pressure on our carpal tunnel, that I’m very conscious of not exacerbating things and causing my surgery recovery to take a step back. I’m hoping to test some shorter errands and commutes in the new year.

new bike image
My new Cervelo Caledonia Ultegra Di2

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about having to stop riding was my plan to spend my entire month of August off riding my new Cervelo and packing to move. The packing still had to happen, but the riding didn’t. I’d acquired the bike in February, but finally got it decked out with the Hunt Aero 44s in August (pictured right).

Similarly, I did’t run much in August and September for fear of taking a spill and making my wrist even worse. Resuming some light running in October, prior to surgery, often produced more extreme variations on the finger numbness and parasthesia I was experiencing 24/7, so I ran sparingly and tepidly. Given our recent cold snap and snow dump, I’ve retired entirely to the trainer pain cave (also known as the garage) and avoided running for the past week. As of this writing I’ve finally measured my FTP, set up a training plan and am about to put on the studs for a mellow run to end the year.

Garmin activity bar graph
My Garmin activity bar graph shows a sharp drop off in summer and no real recovery

Assessing my 2021 fitness by comparison with 2020, I was significantly more active, even with a horrible fall, and I got an awesome new bike. Notwithstanding whatever issues my wrist will suffer going forward, I’ll still give it a plus-2.


Even though we lived with the pandemic for 9-10 months of 2020, it feels like we all experienced a similar thing. It was novel and difficult to predict. BC’s response was inconsistent, but I suspect most of us cut our government some slack given the surreal nature of everything. In the broader context, there were governments who seemingly did next to nothing, allowing thousands of their citizens to get sick or die for no reason. By comparison, Canada and BC seemed … good.

Fast forward another year and things feel different. In our fifth wave, with the most infectious variant yet, our provincial response has seemed insufficient. When compared with other jurisdictions, tests and boosters are being rationed, the economy seems to be prioritized far higher than the health of citizens, healthcare workers are not allowed to wear N95s and the return to school for K-12 and post-secondary next week is scary, to say the least. It took nearly two years for BC to accept the science and begrudgingly admit the virus is primarily airborne, while little of substance has been done to improve the places we congregate.

Having said all that, 2021 saw highly effective vaccines developed in record time. At times we have been able to live almost normally (even if you, as I do, think restrictions haven’t been consistent enough or in place long enough), and the seemingly milder nature of the Omicron disease for fully vaccinated – even if not boosted – people does give some hope that we are heading toward endemicity sooner than later.

I’m cautiously giving COVID a plus-2 almost entirely for the effect vaccines have had.

Looking forward to 2022?

First off, my completely arbitrary score on the main aspects of 2021 is a plus-3, primarily because my wife got back to work, I managed to be more active than I was in 2020 (and got a new bike), and we have vaccines. Beyond that, there wasn’t a lot to distinguish this past year from the one that preceded it.

As for 2022, I’m optimistic. But, I have to be. I’m not naturally ebullient about things and, while I don’t make resolutions, I do want to try and view things through a positive filter when I can. If I don’t dwell on the possibility my hand will cause me all kinds of grief, and I ignore the absurdity in hindsight of what I said a year ago, I can see light at the end of the tunnel:

We often say this as we turn the page on another year, but I suspect this time it’s true. The new year will be better. It almost has to be. Here’s to everyone staying safe until the pandemic abates.

We have vaccines, and the latest surge also appears to be producing milder illness in vaccinated people. If this trend continues, there’s reason to believe we might be past the pandemic a year from now. If we can manage to travel safely and my wife’s job becomes permanent, we’ll actually be able to consider a decent trip.

At this point, travel is still probably a long shot, but again, I’m employing that positive filter thing.