It feels unwise to refer to the year 2020 in the past tense, even though I know the calendar has flipped to a new year. It feels like saying 2020 is over will somehow jinx things–2020 will hear me and start to ooze into the new year.
I’m an introvert, so at the beginning of lockdown, I was completely in my element. I’ve frequently said that my goal in life is to be left alone, so I buried myself in books and felt like I was getting away with something. It was so nice to not have to psych myself up to go out and be social. I assumed that I’d easily lose weight with all the extra time I had to exercise and all the restaurant meals I wouldn’t be eating. I didn’t leave the house except to go for a run or a walk for at least a month. I slipped into survivalist mode and started scanning my food stores for how to make balanced meals with what I had on hand. I calculated that I could survive for at least two months on just the contents of our freezer and pantry. Instead, my husband told me I was coming unhinged, and kept going to the grocery store regularly.
After a while, even the introverts miss people. Working remotely was going generally well, but I started to notice that without the palate cleanser of casual conversation, I was starting to find my colleagues incredibly annoying. All their worst qualities were magnified because emails somehow made the most mundane things seem more important/urgent, and I always found myself needing to pee during endless zoom meetings.
I had to figure out how to do my job in a different way, which was time-consuming and stressful. Instead of teaching face-to-face, I was making videos, which should have been more efficient since I could use the same video for multiple classes, but it was impersonal and felt more like talking to myself than teaching. I realized very keenly how important student reactions are.
When I started to go back into the office on a limited schedule, it was great to see my colleagues, but we now had nothing to say to each other.
2020 was just a lot. It was too much, even for a homebody with the luxury of a comfortable home perfectly set up for never leaving. I tried to focus on the small things that brought me joy–extra time with my 16-year-old cat; easy access to ebooks from the library; streaming media; beer delivery; stretchy pants; my treadmill; not having to commute 10+ hours a week; going for neighborhood walks with my husband in the middle of the day.
I feel incredibly spoiled to count my blessings like this knowing how much so many have suffered over the past year. I hope we’re turning a corner and that all this ugliness will force our country to reckon with our shameful history and the gross inequalities that have always lurked beneath the surface. It feels naïve to be hopeful after this year, but what other choice is there?