Every year for the last few years, I've written an annual recap, except I think I skipped last year because I was too busy? It's hard to remember as far back as last December, except I know that it was the last time I got a haircut.
2020 stretched out like taffy, every day longer than the last. My memories of the last eleven months are all folded together, a squished blur of the couch and Zoom calls and crying. I guess it's saltwater taffy. It's pulling on my teeth, this year, and even though by now most of it is chewed through, there's still a sweet and greasy coating on my tongue.
I feel superstitious writing this, like by talking about 2020 in the past tense, I'm inviting its dimming eye in my direction.
This year could have been so much worse, is the thing. There were good parts! I sold my first short story! I completed an SFWA mentorship program with the wonderful Jenn Brozek. I joined Cat Rambo's online writing group, which has been a great motivator to sit down and just write without distraction for a few hours. I completed Nanowrimo, even though someone scheduled the US election and an unexpected parental hospitalization for that month, which, rude! Against all odds, I accomplished things this year.
It's been a year where success was mostly defined by keeping what we already had. Keep my job? Success. Keep my health? Success. Keep my relationships? Success. The good things I accrued in previous years, stuck in the saltwater taffy like unlucky bugs.
For so many people, those little bugs were it; it was a maintenance year at best. For so many others, it was a year of catastrophic loss.
I did have my losses. My cat died. I went from hearing "large cell lymphoma" to an euthanasia in like 21 days; my beloved and loyal little dude, my companion of 10 years, my longest relationship, poof. My best friend should have gotten married in March... and she still did, but it was over Zoom, in a state far away, with no close friends or family. My mom was unexpectedly in the hospital just last month. Today, right now, this second, I'm quarantining from my boyfriend as we wait for the result of his COVID test.
But so many people have stories like this, this year, and stories that are so much worse.
I remember in 2019, at a few different points throughout the year, Tim and I stopped and sort of verbally fist-bumped, saying "Things are going really well right now, life is good, we're very happy... we should remember this for later." Because the wheel of fortune always turns, and after this year, it seems like it powers a millstone.
If there's a benefit to helpless loss, it's that it teaches you what you can live without, although that never feels worth it at the time. This year has powerwashed my hopes right down to the bone. This was the year we all learned to adapt to things we didn't expect, and if I don't have a cheerful note to end on, I can observe that adaptability is sturdier than hope.