A Photo from Last May Prior to my First Pandemic Haircut [Photo: Courtesy B. Maschal Private Collection]
A year ago, this week, we packed up a couple of suitcases and headed for the hills (literally), to spend what Britt and I both assumed would be a week or so. These were the beginnings of the weirdest 12 months of my life, so far. I wrote some of my initial impressions about my new isolationist life over here. During the first several months, I felt every shade of survivor’s guilt. There is definitely a lot of ire directed at people who chose to leave NYC when all of this hit the fan (This terrible attempt at satire sums it up pretty well). Knowing that was the case did not help my own mental/emotional process. Some time last autumn, I think that I finally settled in and decided to embrace my situation.
A few months from now, I will most likely be sitting back at a desk in midtown beginning the awkward transition to the new post-pandemic normal life, whatever that looks like. Until then, I will continue to enjoy my “gap year” (stealing that term from Britt) and attempt to maximize the unique opportunities that it presents.
The New Deck, Shortly After Completion Last September
Britt and I had been searching for a fixer upper in the Catskill mountains since the first year we were together. January of 2020, we finally found something with great potential for the right price. The dumb luck we were afforded on the timing of the transaction is uncanny. Our initial plan was to complete the renovation last summer after spending every other weekend working on it. A year later as I type this sitting 10 feet from a bathroom that still dons its original 1985 glory, I can confidently say that we grossly underestimated the amount of time and work that it takes for a crew of two people to DIY renovate a house.
I struggle with anxiety about certain things over which I have zero control. The past twelve months has afforded many, many opportunities to confront this self imposed psychological taxation. Working on this house was no exception. Almost nothing has happened on “our” timeline. We couldn’t really even officially get started on the work when we wanted to because the NY State shut down made it impossible to record a deed in this county for several weeks. Once officially underway, it has been an endless battle of securing permits, shortage of materials, non-compliant weather, and the fact that we seem to unearth 3+ additional problems each time we start a project.
Despite all of that, it has been an awesome experience. Britt and I have learned a lot together (about home renovation, and about each other). Plus, we kind of expected setbacks. It would have been foolish to think that everything was going to go exactly as planned and that every job would be as straightforward as it seemed. I will say though, the times when things did go well it was insanely satisfying. One such example was after I hooked up all of the new plumbing under the kitchen sink and found that everything worked perfectly as it was meant to upon reopening the water valves. As banal as it sounds (and probably is), to me personally it felt like a massive win.
Even though we still have an entire bathroom to redo, I know it will be our best work. With each progressive project, Britt and I have become a better team. We have also jointly become better at tiling, drywall, plumbing, painting, etc.. We will be installing a larger window, and adding an externally venting fan (two things that I definitely would have been nervous to attempt 12 months ago). I look forward to it.
Returning From a Run on a Six Degree February Morning [Photo: Courtesy B. Maschal Private Collection]
When we first moved to the Catskills, I was still in the early stages of rehabbing from a pretty major surgery. I had attempted a few short runs (at the track) prior to the onset of this pandemic pandemonium, but had not attempted any real road running since July of 2019 when the injury in question had forced me to stop. Mind you that running in NYC is mostly flat. Sure, you can mix in a bridge here and there for elevation. But mostly just flat. Where I currently live, my run starts out climbing 200+ feet in .3 miles. In 5 miles, depending on which route I take, I can get as much as an 800 foot elevation gain. That is more elevation that I was getting in an entire week at home, even when I was doing a full loop of Central Park 3x per week (all of the hills combined are only 200 feet and change). So, it was a bit of an adjustment, all of this hill running. I’m still nowhere near my pre-injury pace, nor do I have the range. I may never get back to those stats. But I’m crushing those hills like I never thought I would be able to. I’m actually kind of excited to see how I do on a flat course, once we transition back to NYC.
Missing seeing my family and my NYC friends in person has probably been the most difficult part of all of this for me. We have stayed in pretty close contact via digital mediums, but it’s just not the same (for obvious reasons that I do not need to explain to anyone who has lived through this past 12 months). That being said, there is a nice little bubble up here, where we have made some new friends. It has been awesome to get to know our neighbors and do neighborly things like lend/borrow tools, etc.. Our neighbor even came to the rescue when the truck got stuck in the snow. Another time, a different neighbor made us some awesome banana bread. These guys have also been kind enough to have us in their homes to break bread. Something that is a luxury when your own kitchen doesn’t really work, and and you don’t own a proper table at which to sit and eat. I’m sure that we will remain friends with these neighbors beyond the gap year, and I’m truly grateful to have befriended such interesting and kind individuals.
I think that staying super busy has been key to my personal sanity through all of this. I thank the stars that B and I have had the fortune of staying employed through all of this. Not only employed, but incredibly busy with our respective professions. Between that, and filling almost all of our off-hours and weekends with renovation work, our hands have scantly been idle. The reason that I posted the top photo (of my crazy hair) is because I currently have the same coif. The last time I have been able to venture to the barber was prior to Thanksgiving– so, coming up on five months worth of mane. I’ll be taking a vacation day from work this week so that I can trek into Kingston to have my locks trimmed and tamed. What better way to commemorate a year in isolation? I think, none.