Another year, another Christmas Card. I initially wanted to paint a full sized portrait of me as the Petit Père Hoël, but time crunch forced me back to my familiar photoshop. Maybe next year we’ll improve on my brush skills. I once again wrote a letter to accompany the cards, figuring that friends might care for a summary of my life in the last year. This is that letter. I also translated it into French this year for family back in the motherland. Link is here.

The Corona Christmas Card.

Hello friends, bonjour chers amis,

What a year this has been, filled with unexpected twists and turns, and marred by the deadly reality of the COVID-19 pandemic. 2020 will surely be a year for the history books. If the overworked USPS can deliver it, I hope this card finds you well after a roller coaster of a year.

For me, despite the bleakness all around, this has been an incredible year for change, growth, and joy. January kicked off with a job offer calling me to Baltimore, Maryland - Charm City, “The Greatest City in America” as the public benches proudly proclaim. I left New York in a snowstorm, a fitting goodbye from a state I called home for nearly three years. My brother Matthew was invaluable help in loading, driving, and unloading the U-Haul in a 24-hour stretch capped off with a platter of oysters and some Natty Bo’s (the Baltimore beer).

The next day, I hopped on a plane headed for Istanbul. Two weeks I spent exploring Turkey, riding water taxis up the Golden Horn and across the Bosporus, marveling at thousand-year-old mosques, and eating everything in sight. I even managed a quick detour to central Anatolia, to Cappadocia, former home of cave-dwelling early-Christians now known for its hot air balloons. An incredible country, filled with kind welcoming people, delicious food, and beauty everywhere you turn.

The chimney houses of Cappadocia, Turkey // Adirondack backpacking with Mike

The adventure didn’t stop when I returned State side though. Baltimore was new to me, and I immediately set about exploring the town, rebuilding a social circle, and settling into my job. February was a whirlwind of meetup groups, bike rides, restaurant and bar outings, lots of trips to IKEA, and many afternoons playing with my nieces Claire and Evelyne, whom I now lived just 5 minutes from. If you ever come to Charm City, l have a personally-vetted list of 100 attractions for you.

The pandemic abruptly stopped that honeymoon phase, and I found myself stuck in alone in a half-unpacked apartment with nothing to do but work, watch Netflix, and read apocalyptic news. Two weeks stuck with only my thoughts for company broke me, so I surprised myself by willingly, temporarily moving back to North Carolina– the first time since I left home at 16. To everyone’s surprise, Spring in Durham proved a triumphant success, marked by apéro every evening, family movie nights, tasty cooking experiments, bike rides and long walks, outdoor board game sessions with old friends, tapestry lessons, and not a single parent-son conflict.

Durham quarantine with the parents // Learning tapestry weaving from Maman

Two months with les parents was great, but as they were headed to their second home in France and I was itching to get back to my independent life, I eventually returned to Baltimore. I learned to play tennis (a great socially distant sport), ran, rode my bike (of course!), and went on hikes alone, sometimes with my nieces, and once on a three-night backpacking trip in the Adirondacks with my friend Mike.

Paddling trip on the Chesapeake Bay // Making a Thanksgiving Pavlova with Sarah

I met Sarah in August and have been on a cloud since. A blissful second half to the year has flown by, punctuated by scavenger hunts, backpacking and paddling trips, painting nights, pillow fort construction, scary movie marathons, and lots and lots of baking. We challenged ourselves to bake alongside the latest season of the Great British Baking Show and learned to make Pavlova, checkerboard cakes and mirror glazes, Japanese buns, candied fruit, and many other delicious, handshake-worthy desserts.

I recognize 2020 has been tragic in a lot of ways, and yet personally, it’s been an incredible twelve months. I moved, adventured, learned new skills, spent lots of time with family, and fell in love. If next year is even a fraction as good to me, I’m excited.

Joyeux Noël, happy holidays, and best wishes for 2021!