2020 was just… hard
As much as I’d like to say something profound or thoughtful about it, the reality is that I spent most of it just trying to survive😖1
I had designs for 2020. I was going to take what I’d learned setting—and mostly achieving—goals from 2019 and roll that forward. The short version was to make 2020 a more focused year 👍
But when the pandemic reached Canada, that changed… well, quite a lot of different things. Big plans? Not happening. It was the
Winter Spring Summer Fall year of deferred cancelled plans.
Conventions—huge geek-centric spaces that, for me, sit somewhere between hobby, personal energizer, and coping mechanism—were understandably cancelled. In 2019 I made it to seven different conventions, and in 2020 just two before the beginning of lockdown(s). This was a particularly harsh blow because conventions are a place where I meet new friends, see lots of existing friends, and grow a little bit by learning about other areas of fandom and by running discussion panels and presentations.
Working from home was an adjustment, but not unfamiliar. I’d worked from home for about a year at a previous company. The advice I’d been given, at that time, was that it’s workable so long as you make social time outside of work hours: that was a bit of a problem for 2020. Also, while my part of the organization is distributed on paper, not having an office really highlighted the difference between on paper and reality.
The big theme for me, and I imagine for many others, was a year of social isolation 🙃
For such a crappy year, some good did come of it all, though, the ‘good’ didn’t always come from where I would’ve expected… or how I would have expected. To bastardize a quote from William Gibson:
“The [bright spots are] already here — [they’re] just not very evenly distributed”
There were a lot of folks that I’d hoped to hang out with more—folks that I ordinarily would’ve ran into at cons, but couldn’t—and streaming became the outlet to hang out virtually. I’d gotten ‘Zoom fatigue’ pretty early on in the pandemic, so I was surprised at how effective streaming was at helping with the isolation 📺
I think it’s because it’s a combination of something new—usually a game I’ve never played before—and being part of the audience, but also part of the experience and sharing that experience with other folks… who are also usually friends of the streamer. For me, it was like a little group mixer except most people had to communicate through the chat.
Except for the other times. Like the times where I was a voice or even a face on stream. Or the times where folks were on my stream. Even just sharing and leaving positive comments on friends and acquaintances content on social media felt like something, and helped to create small connections.
Even with the expectation of social isolation, I think I underestimated exactly how much time I’d actually be spending alone, and when you’re by yourself, it’s hard to ignore… yourself? At the very least, you begin to notice some things 🤔
- Feeling down around the end of August—when summer, conventions, and the Race Against Time all wrap up
- Being unable to just relax, so I take on new hobbies, or throw myself into projects
- Loving routines, but only being able to manage them for a few weeks before losing the rhythm
- Feeling like quitting my job, regardless of the job, a few times a year3
You also notice your limitations: certain times that you’re more productive, or what kinds of things wear down your energy levels and willpower. In my case, I started to notice how I can get really overwhelmed by the gap between what I want to do and what I have the time and energy to do! Gonna save that tip for 2021 😉
Which is to say the thing about myself that I understood most is that I’d been neglecting my mental health! The pandemic likely exacerbated that, but the more I researched online the more I realized that a lot of problems I’d encountered this year, and possibly for years before, might all be linked.
I’m not sure what specifically—Some variety of ADHD or one of its comorbidities seems likely—but at least I’ve started working with my doctor to start the diagnostic process, and I’m also going to start therapy… as soon as I can figure out a particular issue to dig into 😅
In 2020, of all years, I finally made progress in an area that I’d stalled on previously: regular exercise.
For years, I’d tried to get more exercise and generally watch my weight without a lot of success: In that chart above you can see a big dip early on—coinciding with a period of diet change (vegetarianism) and a lot more exercise via running and playing recreation league ultimate—and then a gradual rise as life goes back to a more sedentary setup.
As it turns out, when you and your partner both work from home, it’s a lot easier to exercise? We’d go on lunch walks together, then I’d do some simple bodyweight exercises. I’d set a timer and that would be it!
Well, that plus Ring Fit Adventure 🕹
Doing a little bit every day, even if it wasn’t consistent, even if it wasn’t perfect, all made a difference.
Plus, I often forget that exercise impacts mental health, so this was a double-win.
In 2019, through charities, causes, GoFundMe, Patreon, Fundraisers, Paypal and… whatever other means I’ve forgotten, I managed to help folks out to the tune of about three thousand dollars. That felt good at the time.
In 2020, despite being a disaster year, I managed to somehow do almost twenty-five thousand! That’s almost ten times the previous year! I don’t think I’ll be able to keep that up every year, but in the middle of a pandemic, it felt good to help even if it is just cash.
Even though there weren’t a lot of opportunities to see friends, there were a few opportunities to see immediate family by choosing to have them in our ‘social bubble’ during the pandemic. Even that small connection was a bright spot.
…And I can’t understate how beneficial it was to have my partner Lulu here too! Even though it was hard on both of us as we learned to cope with all the different things going on, I think overall it made our relationship stronger 💖
Honestly, I’m so tired. 😫
2020 feels like the year that wouldn’t end and that wouldn’t get any better. Lots of really awful things happened.
And this isn’t over just yet: The pandemic still casts a shadow over the year. I’m still probably going to miss people. I’m still going to be isolated. I’m still going to be hard on myself.
But there’s hope (there’s a vaccine), and while I can’t change everything, I can change myself, or at least try.
I can still celebrate accomplishments from 2020, even if I choose not to focus on accomplishing in 2021:
- First time running an Extra Life event (solo) and raising almost $500 USD
- Starting (and maintaining) a weekly stream
- Staying at the same company for almost three years—a new record!
- 9/12 blog posts (if you count this one)
I can still learn from the 2020 that was and try to aim for a better 2021 for me. I know that I’ll probably try to set small goals, quarterly goals, SMART goals… I’ll probably try to do too much, to be completely honest!
But I know that I want to be better, and I know that 2021 will be a year of just trying to survive.
And that’s fine by me4 🤷♂️
Here’s to a 2021 of surviving!
Special thanks to so many people for helping me to survive in 2020—and for helping me to be a better person. In no particular order (and apologies to anyone I missed): My fellow Nickscasters, Fragile Air and NickSCZach; SMZeldaRules; Dan the Video Ninja and the collection (RagzCosplay, manpans, rindescribable); ArtImage84 and Pup; zabka_zee; Valkyrja Cosplay; bwongdraws; Notably Nerdy; Slothcore and Stark Reality Cosplay; Nikoli’s Kitchen; PantsTresBien; Zeekayart; my partner, Lulu (💖💖💖); Stephanie and Britton; My buns, Pumpernickel and Biscuit (🐇—actually, all bunnies, and cute animals really); Supergiant Games (for making Hades); Nintendo (for making Animal Crossing); and to anyone else I missed because I wrote this list at like 2am and forgot… THANK YOU
- Survival not in the “fight to live” sense, but in the Spaceship You sense↩
- For the record, I am pro-lockdown—generally, they’re very effective! Unfortunately the provincial government really dropped the ball reducing the effectiveness of all lockdowns outside of the first one.↩
- This is multi-factoral but I imagine the nature of work in capitalism is not insignificant.↩
- And after more than 6 hours of writing and re-writing this post… yeah, surviving is fine.↩