I know, I know. I'm tired of reliving and rehashing 2020 as much as you are, and I'm just as glad as you are that it's almost over. However, today is a special day for me. Not only are we only four days away from a new year, but I'm beginning my 45th trip around the sun. What a way to end 2020, isn't it?
I know that most of you have already had your birthdays at some point during this crappy year, but now that mine has finally arrived, I actually am feeling a bit hopefull for the first time in a long time. Not only are we starting to see the first COVID-19 vaccines rolling out, but we're finally getting a bit of stimulus relief soon (even if it's too little, too late for most of us). And from a more tech and consumer-focused persective, this year has brough tons of great devices, games, services, and content for us to enjoy in our isolation.
Just as one's birthday is a great time for self-reflection, so too is the end of the year. I'm not much for new year's resolutions, but 2020 has made me rethink and re-learn the importance of self-care, personal connections, and helping others.
With a global pandemic raging, taking care of myself was more important than ever — not only for my own benefit but for the benefit of others.
I started really digging into the fitness and holistic wellness functionalities of my Fitbits and other wearable devices, and even signed up for Fitbit Premium to get more actionable insights and guidance on my health and fitness journey. A late-year update to one of the best wireless earbuds, the Amazon Echo Buds, even added Alexa-triggered fitness traking so I could just ask my virtual assistant to start tracking one of my "runs," hands-free.
As the pandemic and quarantine ground on, I started looking for the best fitness apps and the best cooking apps, and I even experimented with some of the best mental health apps to explore the benefits of meditation and mindfulness. At one point, I also signed up for my first healthy meal kit service (opens in new tab) so that my family and I could start eating better at (contained) family dinners throughout the week.
I may not be more fit than before the pandemic began, but I have a much better understanding of the importance of a holistic health outlook, and I now have more tools to understand my own health better to stay healthy and happy for a long time to come (hopefully).
Connecting with friends and family
With everyone self-quarantining, 2020 saw a dramatic uptick in video chatting platforms and services. From Zoom to Google Meet to Google Duo, we had more ways than ever of staying in touch with friends, family, and coworkers. Yes, we all got Zoom fatigue (remember Zoom happy hours back in April?). But at least we had some remedies on how to make the virtual meeting more entertaining with backgrounds and filters.
We also accessed these services through more devices than ever. In addition to video chatting on the best Android phones of the year, the best Google Assistant speakers and best Alexa speakers quickly came to support more and more video chatting services. The rest of the world started to see what the Chromebook fuss was about and realized that these affordable laptops could be both productivity and communication machines, capable of serving as portals for services like Zoom, Meet, and Duo.
On top of checking in and catching up, many of you undoubtedly got roped into providing remote tech support for friends and family via these apps, services, and devices. I can't tell you how many times I was asked to solve random Zoom audio problems or video problems with a Google Meet session. If only I had a nickel for each!
Supporting important causes
Suffering is nothing new in this world, but I feel like the events of 2020 opened my eyes to it more than ever before. It also made me want to help or give back in whatever ways I could. That often took the form of lending my voice to people and causes that I believed in, supporting social and political issues that would lift up those less privileged than I, or doing my part to keep others healthy by wearing a mask, thoroughly washing my hands, socially distancing, and staying away from public places.
I also tried to donate to causes I believed in. For me, that included a local environmental conservation association, as well as COVID-19 charities and political campaigns, but that could mean different things to different people. What's important, I think, is remembering how lucky we were to make it through such a difficult time and remembering those who've had even more difficulties. It's easier than ever to donate — you can even make a charitable donation through the Play Store, or by asking Alexa! Sometimes the smallest gestures can have huge long-term effects. If you've got any spare change lying around after the holidays, make a donation for my birthday. 🥳
I hope your holidays and new year are peaceful and joyous and that 2021 is much better for you than 2020 was. Stay safe, and stay healthy!
Jeramy is proud to help *Keep Austin Weird* and loves hiking in the hill country of central Texas with a breakfast taco in each hand. When he's not writing about smart home gadgets and wearables, he's defending his relationship with his smart voice assistants to his family. You can follow him on Twitter at @jeramyutgw.
Happy birthday sir. Hope you have an awesome day.
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A nice present back to me would have been when I opened this post not to endure a 5 second ad with sound you can't back out of as I scramble to turn down my volume as others stare at me.
Happy Birthday and may next year be an outstanding year for you.
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