It would feel wrong to miss out a year in my series of annual end-of-year letters – even if, for the most part, we can all collectively agree we’d much rather pretend 2020 never happened. Unfortunately, it did, and it’s left a mark on us all. And, try as I might, it’s difficult to look at this mess of a year and make any kind of sense of it; to seek out some semblance of meaning, or a lesson.
That, I suppose, isn’t strictly true, though. There are things to take away from it, but I want to be stubborn, to dig my heels in and refuse to allow the year 2020 to have any kind of ownership over me. That said, in all that it has stolen from me, it has also given me a lot.
It has given me time. A surprising amount of time. With so little to do to fill hours and days – and I had a lot to fill with that whole furlough then redundancy thing – you’d expect the days and weeks to draw on slowly. Still, part of me still feels like we should be somewhere in April. But the year has swept by. Summer played out in a blink of an eye, and suddenly it was November and I was 26 – tagged right on the end of another national lockdown.
Still, 2020 gave me so much time. Having created a strong bond with my niece, Eva, from the get go, I didn’t expect the same from her little sister, Delilah, who was born last December. This time around I was living far away, likely to only see her growth and milestones via FaceTime calls and texts filled with photo updates. However, aside from January and February, I’ve seen her every step of the way – quite literally now that she’s stumbling round, up on her feet – this wobbly, heavy-handed toddler with hair like Tintin. With her I have found so much time.
With my beloved “Wiggles”, too. Phoebe, who has wreaked havoc across my childhood home since 2006, a 16th birthday present to my sister. Around for over half of my life, Phoebe was one spoilt, lazy cat who, for all my probing when I was younger, seemed to favour me in her later life. Since being back home, she’d often lie, curled next to me as I worked, seeking me out in the middle of the night, sometimes even gracing me with cuddles on my lap or with paws resting on my arms.
In October we lost Phoebe, my Wiggles. A home without her is bizarre. It took a while to unlearn seeking her out; to put my keys in the lock and not expect to hear her cries welcoming me home. It still feels strange not to snuggle up to her at night, or to be awoken by her alarmingly human sounding cat snores. Wiggles was another loss to add to the list of many this year, but I also can’t help but feel that in the time I wouldn’t have otherwise had if not for this year’s events, I gained, too.
In some ways, I’ve also had more time with friends. Yes, perhaps only through the realm of pixels on a screen for the most part. Nonetheless, it’s given time to pause and connect with people in the means we have. I’ve spoken to my best friend who lives in Manchester way more than I otherwise would have via FaceTime. We’ve supported each other (her more so supporting me for the most part as I’ve navigated all the bad news of 2020). Group Zooms filled with quizzes and everyone trying to get a word in above lagging internet and terrible audio. It was chaotic and messy, but it brought comfort.
And perhaps now I’m on the up. There have been dark moments, there still are dark moments that are recent enough I can still feel their pull on me. But I have a new job to start in January, and I’ve built my own little side hustle drawing digital illustrations on Etsy, which I’m proud of. And perhaps all is not as lost as it seemed at the time. I also have pink hair now, so that’s pretty cool.
When it comes to pain – and I think we’ve all experienced a lot of it this year – you’re within your right to wallow. Yes, there is something to be said about coming back fighting, but pain is there to be felt and processed. I’m trying to take the events of this year as a platform from which to be more grateful and conscious of myself and my actions. I think I’m starting to do that, no matter how ungraciously and clumsily at times. However, I don’t think anyone should feel pressured to recover quickly or not have days of weakness; to not cry and acknowledge you’re not okay. The stiff upper lip approach doesn’t work, you’re just suppressing and, ultimately, I don’t think you can fully move on that way.
I’m not going to wish for a better year. Let’s face it, we can all see quite clearly there’s a long, bumpy road ahead yet before we can see the light. 2021 is going to be a year of taking it steady, of working on me and trying to be healthier; of throwing myself into this new job and giving it my all, and being proud that I’ve survived this long. It has been touch and go at times, but I’m here feeling it all, aching for what is gone, but alive and pushing on.