Where does one even begin to write a year in review post when said year featured a once in a lifetime pandemic? This year was a defining year in my life for so many reasons I hoped to never have experienced. I made a point as the pandemic began to begin taking notes on my phone about this year. So I would remember every high and every low and so many of the things we endured this year as I sat down to write this post come December. Suffice to say that this year in review post will be unlike any other I’ve written.
2020 was a year when the familiar became unfamiliar. And when the unfamiliar took center stage. It was a year that challenged our beliefs, our certainty, our relationships and our livelihood. This year tested our patience and our hearts and our minds. It further exposed the cracks in so many of our systems. It showcased where we’ve been broken. It exuded loss on a level I still can’t quite comprehend. This year we experienced unprecedented, unimaginable change. Life, our plans and many of our goals came to a standstill. We were forced to face our deepest fears and insecurities. And it was a year I know I will still be processing for quite some time.
I don’t think in my 35 years of life I have ever experienced a year with so much fear. Fear of death. Fear of loss. Fear of my livelihood. Fear of the unknown. Fear of illness. Fear of what’s next. Fear of what could be worse. Fear of missing my loved ones. And it was a year that had loneliness seep in through every crack. It had me questioning decisions and reassessing priorities.
But let’s back up…I’m grateful to say that 2020 started out on such a high note. To be honest, 2019 had been rather rough for me and my family so I had started the year with such hope. I was looking forward to my niece’s arrival in the Spring and planning to grow Paris, Perfected. I was so glad that the year I had been diagnosed with cancer was behind me.
January started slow and hopeful and then Paris arrived. I can’t tell you how grateful I was all year long that I had booked my week in Paris in early/mid February. Granted, I’m quite sure I had COVID upon coming back from France – I was so sick for 2 weeks at home after that trip – but my soul had needed that trip and it was a hugely important trip for wit & whimsy and for Paris, Perfected. That trip was my dream for Paris, Perfected realized. A week spent meeting with brands, experiencing new places to recommend to clients, time capturing photography to go with all the blog post ideas I had and shooting campaigns for several clients. I had planned to do this every quarter of 2020 and while that dream was extinguished momentarily – I am so glad I got round one in.
When the lockdown started I felt paralyzed. So much was vanishing before our eyes and suddenly I was living in the U.S. epicenter of the outbreak. I uttered “I just can’t believe this” over and over again. I suddenly realized the shortcomings of living alone. I worried about my family. My older parents. My pregnant sister in law. I worried about getting sick. I worried about those losing their jobs and losing their lives. I worried about our essential workers and healthcare heroes. I worried about my friends and my extended family. I worried about my mental health. I worried about my livelihood. Cancelled and pushed back contracts piled up. Collaborations dried up.
Amidst those worries, I got to work. I wrote myself a to do list every day even when work slowed to ensure I had purpose and things to keep me busy. I pivoted all my content. And you guys rallied around that work and I will never ever forget it.
It feels strange to say it, but this year was a banner year for wit & whimsy for so, so many reasons. It was the highest trafficked year since I began the site back in 2006. It was the most profitable year since inception. It saw the most engagement its ever seen, I began doing videos regularly on Instagram and I doubled my newsletter following.
Thank you all for being a part of this year’s success. Growing this community truly renewed my sense of purpose with creating content that not only makes me excited but more importantly, that resonates with all of you. Thank you for making me feel heard, for all your encouragement and for opening up with me through your comments, DMs and emails. Hearing from you guys is why I continue to put my heart and hard work into my content day after day. You are the reason I get to do what I love every day. And for that I am forever grateful.
This year I published 247 blog posts! (2 more than 2019). I surpassed every goal I set for wit & whimsy in 2020 with the exception of just one. (I should note that 2020 was the first year I set real, tangible and measurable goals for wit & whimsy which allowed me to measure these successes more quantifiably – for that I am grateful as 2020 felt like a lot of passing time without accomplishment in a lot of ways, too.)
It was the year I heavily invested in SEO (I invested the money I didn’t spend on photography for March, April, May & June into SEO) and also the year I tackled so many pesky to-dos on my blog to do list. I learned so much in the process and was grateful to finally be managing things I had long told myself to handle. I got more organized (folders on my iPhone finally! Highlights on Instagram! Templates to use time and time again!) and I honed in on data and analytics in an almost obsessive manner to better inform how I was spending my time and how I could best serve my audience.
I took time this year to finally make a lot of updates and improvements to witwhimsy.com. I added a Paris hub at long last. I added an easy way to find my content related to books. I added a Clean Beauty hub. I refined and improved The Shop and finally kept it updated regularly. I improved the search functionality. And I dove into video! A format that has always terrified me – the rawness and realness of it. I put aside my fears & dove head first. I became my own videographer and photographer for much of the year. I was honored to be featured on Afar and My Domaine this year as well as serve as a guest on my first podcast appearance. And on the 29th of this month I celebrated 14 years of wit & whimsy!
This year I signed my first ever year-long collaboration. I worked with repeat clients which to me is the ultimate goal. They included Ann Taylor, Ibotta, Sarah Flint, Caudalie, Eileen Fisher, Talbots, Barbour and Everlane. And I landed some dream brand partners – L’Occitane, Nordstrom, Lumify, Lands’ End, Elemis and Vuori. And I landed my first partnership with a publishing house – Underlined. When I type these brands out I have to pinch myself to remind myself it was all real. These partnerships are what allow me to create the content I want to create – and your support of them is what makes them possible. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart for supporting my collaborations – commenting on them, liking them, sharing them – they allow me to write all the unpaid, unsponsored work you see on wit & whimsy five days – sometimes six days – a week.
In 2020 I opened up about body image, missing New York while living here, what NYC was like as the epicenter and living alone during a pandemic. I wrote loads of programming during quarantine like uplifting things to do doing uncertain times, how to spend time social distancing, a Francophile’s guide to staying inside, favorite podcast episodes, how to be a tourist in your own city, self care rituals to try at home, my favorite comfort food recipes, new things to try at home and how to spend a day in Paris virtually. I shared what I’ll remember from this pandemic.
I kept up my popular series of my Bucket Lists and Things I’ve Bought & Loved Recently and I launched a French Girl Closet Staples series. I took time to write more in-depth reviews like my Ilia Beauty Review, my Everlane Denim Guide, the best clean mascaras, the best clean affordable beauty products, the best shoes for fall and winter, how to get rid of maskne, my Neat Method review, the best sports bras for big boobs, the best self tanners for fair skin and how to get started in clean beauty. I shot in locations I have always wanted to like Top of the Rock. I ran my Kindness Campaign for the third year in a row. I wrote a lot of Paris content and a lot of holiday content.
2020 was a year of being uncomfortable and a year of growth. It was a year of further educating myself on my privilege and my experiences as a white female. It was a year of broadening my horizons. Of finding my voice and sharing my beliefs more broadly, more loudly. Of doing hard work to better understand the systemic issues in our country. It was a year of being more civically engaged. Of being less afraid to use my platform and my voice for the causes I feel are worthy of being shared and uplifted. I stood up more and spoke with conviction and worked to use my voice not only for myself but for others in need. I vowed to keep educating myself and to keep up the good fight and amplify stories that I believe need to be told and I intend to keep doing so. I was called names and had vitriol spilled at me and lost followers in the process. But it.was.worth.it.
In 2020 I had my lowest of lows. I felt deep sadness I haven’t felt in over a decade. My anxiety heightened. My chest was tight. My heart raced. My sleep suffered. I had heavy, heavy cries. I felt hopeless. I felt helpless. I broke down so much. And I got back up and rebuilt. A couple dozen times…
2020 was a year of more wrinkles. More pounds gained. More gray hairs. More dry skin. More heartache. I felt aging in a more deep manner than I ever have in my life previously. There were so, so many sleepless nights this year. So many bad dreams.
But it was also a year of trusting my gut and pivoting. Of seeing what happens when you’re vulnerable and willing to try new things and put yourself out there in new ways. Which led me to a year of connection. This wit & whimsy community kept me company and kept me going even on my hardest days of quarantine. You call gave me purpose this year in a much deeper way.
In 2020 I turned 35. I tackled moving during a pandemic. In 2020 I became a student of life and it felt good. I practiced my French for over 250 straight days in a row, I learned a lot about SEO and other backend site changes for wit & whimsy. I taught myself how to cook new dishes and be less intimidated in the kitchen. I learned the art of mixology! Teaching myself how to make cocktails unedited on IGTV for Let’s Make a Drink.
This year I spent more time in a car than I think I had in over a decade. I washed down McDonald’s with champagne on a Tuesday. I stayed in pjs all day some days. Anything went in 2020…
I found so many silver linings this year, too though. I spoke with family and friends more than ever. My first niece was born and brought so much light and joy to our lives. I became a godmother to my best friend’s beautiful baby girl. I bonded with my godson. I practiced gratitude for things large and small. I celebrated small victories. I leaned on my faith. I recognized my many blessings often.
I end this year with deep gratitude for my health, for the health of my loved ones and for the deeper relationships forged in the face of trauma.
It was a year I changed behaviors. I shopped less. Became more low maintenance. Cared less what others thought. Nested more. Was more open and honest than usual about how I was feeling and what I needed from my support system. (And I often shared it with you all). I gave more – monetarily to important causes and of myself to others. I battled my anxiety daily. I refaced my thought-to-be-behind-me depression. I felt tired. So, so tired. I had three more possible-skin cancer biopsies that thank God all came back benign. I completed BBG again. Twice. It was a year of hidden smiles as we all donned masks and my heart broke a million times as I experienced the life around me covered up and at times afraid of one another.
I read more than I could have imagined I ever would at the onset of the year! 40 books in all. And I watched a lot. So many Friends episodes kept me company this year. I laughed through Derry Girls, was charmed by Normal People, had my heart warmed by Queer Eye and Dash & Lily, visited Paris virtually through Emily in Paris and Call My Agent and was riveted by The Undoing, Bridgerton and The Queen’s Gambit.
This year I rediscovered my city on my own two feet. I saw it as never before during my nearly 10 years here. I walked and I walked and I walked and I explored every inch of my neighborhood. I took time to look closely at details and learn new things about the place I call home. I brought my audience along for the exploration during my Let’s Go On a Walk series on Instagram. I have never spent 1:1 time with my city like this year. I saw it like I never imagined. Quiet. Scenes like out of a movie. Or one’s wildest imagination. Moody. Boarded up. Eerie. Scenes I’ll never forget. An empty Met museum. An empty Brooklyn Bridge. So much emptiness.
But I will forever be grateful this city made me feel safe and taken care of this year. It kept me company on dark days.
And I prioritized doing good in my neighborhood. I shopped small, I helped neighbors and I spread awareness of businesses and causes in my own backyard that were in desperate need this year. And as a result I connected with so many amazing founders and saw how my support could help move the needle for them. I made a directory of favorite small businesses and designed stationery with a female founded small businsses.
In 2020 I made progress with my financials. I continued to put to work the lessons I’ve learned and I prioritized over and over again saving and making my money work harder for me. When the pandemic hit I was a ball of nerves about what my income would look like this year. But I also took the time to remind myself that I had prepared for the unknown following years of saving and responsible financial habits.
In 2020 I surpassed some goals, set aside others and I re-assessed my life in ways I hadn’t in some time. It was an interesting exercise to look back on the goals and priorities I had set for myself this year. Some things I excelled in (French practice! Video content! Meditation! Reading! Meal planning!) I successfully built a beauty routine that is 80% clean and in the process of doing so had a great time exploring so many brands – many small & female owned – and shared my experience finding great products.
And for other goals, God and the world had other plans for them. As someone who loves to be in control, having so much control taken away proved a difficult challenge all year. Time felt as though it was being robbed from us. Missed celebrations, missed quality time with family, missed trips and missed opportunities. The heartache of this stayed with me all year long.
Despite the year’s setbacks and restrictions, I felt so blessed to spend a lot of time virtually with my friends and family and also safely take trips to the beach and to the Hudson Valley and to Vermont – the latter being a place that had been on my bucket list for years but always seemed to fall to the back burner. Who knew it would take a pandemic, a negative Covid test and some wheels to finally make it there? I spent more QT with Mother Nature through many long walks and hikes this year.
So, 2020. You truly were a year to remember. I’m grateful for the lessons and the accomplishments this year brought but I am also happy to put the year to bed.
If you follow me on Instagram you know I’ve announced taking some much needed time off. This year was even more of a marathon of content creation and sharing my life than ever before and I felt some severe burnout come on as we closed out the past 12 draining months. I’m grateful this job allows me to take time when I need it. I have already started plotting all sorts of posts for my return in mid-January and know I will look forward to reconnecting with you all when I sign back online after a period of rest.
I want to say a heartfelt thank you for following along with me, engaging with me and being such wonderful readers always – but especially this year. I am so grateful for each and every one of you.
I thought I’d end with words I penned in March of this year. They remain true and I hope they’ll be remembered by including them here.
Life can change in an instant.
May we never take normalcy for granted in the future.
Keep taking the trips.
Keep documenting life’s moments big and small.
Keep connecting with others. Our family. Our friends. Our neighbors. Strangers. Old connections. New connections.
Value our surroundings.
Value the feeling of home.
Value life’s necessities.
Value life’s little joys.
Continue to show up.
Continue to practice gratitude.
Continue to Believe.
Embrace the day.
Embrace the uncertainty.
Stop the judgement.
Erase the comparison.
Make the visit.
Place the call.
Take the ride.
Make the memories.
Trust in the unknown.
Keep the faith.
— Meghan Donovan, 3/26/20
May you and yours have a wonderful new year and I look forward to reuniting with you all soon!