An Ode to 2020

Did I mention I used to have a blog that I put out pasture after writing on it for about sixteen years? I did huh? Really? Like in every other post?

Maybe I should get over that and stop mentioning it. Maybe I should quit trying to compare something brand new and completely different in tone and structure to this old thing I created organically without a plan nearly twenty years ago.

Maybe I should just treat my previous writing efforts like everything else in 2020, a thing that painfully passed into history and memory and take the lessons learned and move on.

So what if I used to spend the better part of each December writing a ten-thousand word retrospective on the year-that-was to share the good and the bad with friends and family? That was then, this is now. That was the old, this is the new. Get on with it.

So… 2020, eh?

It’s mid-day on the 30th of December as I start writing this and given the incubation period of COVID-19 with respect to the appearance of symptoms and the onset of critical health crisis leading to acute needs for medical intervention, I think I’m fairly safe to say that I’m gonna survive 2020.

Fuck you coronavirus. And fuck you 2020.

And, no, I’m not trying to make light of it. Where are we at? Almost a hundred million cases around the world, and a couple million people who will not see 2021, with a number to rise even higher in the next few months… it was not a given that we’d all pull through. It’s been a shitty year. Congrats if you’re joining 2021 with me. And by the way, holy shit!

I will caveat that my personal year has had some positives. I’m sitting here with a puppy on my lap thinking about how I should really go downstairs and edit that novel I wrote even while I still taste the coffee and sourdough toast in my mouth and everyone keeps saying to lay off the self-induced pressure to do fuck all for a couple weeks, y’know… given everything.

I’ll do the typical grumble about cancelling three vacations this year (while I note that I’m lucky enough to have had three vacations scheduled to cancel at all.)

I’ll complain that my job, location, colleagues, and foundation all shifted in ways that I couldn’t even have imagined a year ago today (while I note that I’m lucky enough to have a job to go to each morning, even if that “going to” is walking down my stairs to the basement.)

I’ll gripe that all those many years of work I did to help foster a community of friends and running enthusiasts into a cohort run club that has trained, suffered, partied, recovered, travelled, and generally grown together, that this all but fell apart over 2020 as social distancing rules put fears and wedges into our social lives (while I note that those same friends are smart enough not to become extremists, and only complain to each other on video calls not by trying to invoke a moral or legal outrage that endangers so many people.)

And yet here we are, on the cusp of another new year always with that indefatigable optimism that we all somehow get a taste of whenever the calendar rolls over to a new digit. I stood out on the deck in the mild winter morning of a brisk New Year’s Eve, barefoot on the frosty wooden planks and watched the last glimmer of a sunrise in 2020. The universe does not care how we count time. The Earth keeps spinning as the sun keeps burning and we are still just seven billion primates clinging to a rock hurtling through space and time.

Life goes on. For most of us.

What did I learn in 2020? It’s strange that between the layers of three hundred and sixty some crazy days there were lessons to be had about ourselves and each other.

When I started this year my biggest personal weight was the knowledge that I was registered for the Chicago Marathon in October. I learned that I was torn between two massive fears that met on the start line of that race: the fear of my inability to actually run it, and the fear that I couldn’t back down from something I’d committed to doing. I have a loyalty problem coupled with a pleaser-personality, and it backs me into so many corners in personal and professional circumstances. It too often gives the outward appearance of success and acheivement, but those things are fueled by unchecked, pigheadness to stick to something no matter if it nearly kills me. I remember feeling overwhelming relief the day I read the marathon was cancelled. I didn’t have to run it. I also didn’t have to quit it. Decisions are tough, and my capacity to make those decisions on my own behalf are something I suck at. Seriously suck at. As in, I’d have died of a heart attack on that marathon course through the streets of Chicago rather than admit that I probably shouldn’t have signed up for it.

It has made me wonder what else I do that with.

A lot, actually.

It seemed that so many people spent 2020 shrugging and thumbing their nose at commitment while they licked their wounds and binge watched Netflix all year. I watched my share of shitty TV, but I also was the one who organized group runs over the summer, set up weekly video chats, threw a couple socially distanced spontanous birthday parties, showed up to work every single day with no sick time, took on a half dozen new projects when others bailed or got sick, stayed positive on social media, spent more time with the family, used the time at home to finish some lingering projects, grew a pretty ripping garden, paid off our mortgage, wrote a book, and sent about fifty thousand text messages to check in on friends. I like to think that I showed up, stood up, and tried to be something of a stable rock for everyone around me.

I don’t know that it worked, but hell am I tired. Mentally, physically, and right to the core of my being. I committed to doing all that stuff … in my head, I did … and I nearly burned myself out. Or perhaps I actually did burn myself out. I can’t even tell anymore, I’m so … blah!

If you chilled and rested for 2020, I envy you. It took a lot from me to survive this year, even though I avoided the worst of the actual plague.

And I’m pretty sure that’s how most of us feel at the end of it.

It may just be a page flipping in the calendar, but in that there is a glimmer of hope for a minor reset. The universe might not notice that the year changed, COVID might not give two fucks that we’re going to have a brand new year, but hopefully we all get a chance to roll over to a fresh blank page in our minds and it feels like something has changed and that the worst year of our lives is going to end in a few short hours.

We did it. We didn’t quit it. But again, fuck you 2020.

Welcome 2021.