Well. Here we are. I’m not sure I can put this off any longer. My 2020 year in review.
For the last few years, I’ve started writing a ‘round up’ post at the end of the year. In 2018 this process started with a little harmless wondering:
‘Is this the life I thought I’d been living this time last year?’.
But once you start asking yourself these sorts of questions, you just can’t stop. So, let me ask you; is this the life you thought you’d be living this time last year?
In 2018 I felt this urge for change, this urge for transformation and searching. In that review post, life looked like a whirlwind with lots of travel and visits to the pub, but looking back on it now, that year, that post, it was just the beginning.
Moving onto 2019 (see I told you I was putting off 2020) and it felt hard, fast, but fun. It started with a thunderous bang and it didn’t stop. If 2018 was a whirlwind, then 2019 was a hurricane. What does that make 2020?
Looking For Joy
I’m not here to bad mouth 2020. I know it’s been hard. I know so many people are sticking their middle finger up and shouting ‘good riddance’ but it’s a year we’ll never get back. It was all we were promised. We’re not guaranteed another year. If we wish our lives away, hoping for the weekend, the summer, a holiday before we know it our time will be spent. Whilst 2020 might not have gone to plan, so much good still happened. So much joy. I believe there is always something to be grateful for, there is always a story to tell.
So here I am embracing 2020 for its beauty, the lessons I learnt and the stories I saved. I don’t know what 2020 was like for you friend, but I hope you can find some time to appreciate the parts that were good. Even if it’s the smallest, seemingly silliest thing you can think of. Look for the good, and you’ll find it. You can find a guide to help you review your year here.
2020 – The Year We Won’t Forget
January 2020 feels so distant now, like a blip on the calendar. But it all started with a cold walk with friends and that feels like a pretty apt start, it was a theme that only grew.
But January was filled with so much hope. So much potential. I went all-in on my first business and attended wedding fairs and delivered courses and dreamt of white dresses and parties. I found a new walking route and I didn’t know it then, but it would be something that saved me day after day.
February was fast but there was so much blue sky. Trips to the beach and new friendships. Pints in the student union bar. Excellent books and three weeks without a kitchen.
In March, I started teaching again. Watching someone uncover the joy of creative writing, watching them realise their potential is something I’ll never take for granted. That day. That group of people, it was one of my favourite days of 2020.
On the 15th of March, I printed my novel manuscript for the first time. I felt the warmth of the pages in my arms and I tied them with red and white string. Like Jo March did. I’ll never forget the sound they made as they hit the desk. The weight of the paper held hours of months of days within them and energy, pure energy. If you need to know what energy looks like and how much it weighs – I can tell you. Over 110,000 words. Four drafts, tears and sweat and pain. It still needs more work. But I’ve always always wanted to write a book and she’s here.
April bought much-needed warmth. Reading outside on our blue bench. Sunshine. Gratitude. Drinking wine as the sunset. I read for weeks. Day by day watching my flowers grow and meeting the people that lived on our street. It was such a gift. You’d find me at 11 am, with coffee and cake, sitting watching the world float past. That was the high part of the pandemic (if that’s such a thing). From April to August, it felt like it was manageable. The sun shone. I got up and wrote. I walked. I read.
Our neighbours moved out in April. We didn’t really know them that well, but the thing I miss most is how I used to hear them laugh through the walls. It used to echo around their living room and bounce through the plasterboard into our house. What a beautiful thing to be known for. What a legacy. Their house was filled with so much laughter it spilt into ours. I wonder if people would say the same about us? What’s the soundtrack of your life friend? I hope 2021 has a soundtrack of laughter.
There was Zoom, of course. Quizzes. More walks. You know the days when you don’t need a jumper? I love those days. More books. Great books and average books. There were BBQs in our yard and beer in the evenings on our bench.
I wrote a book in May. And I found a new love of French rosé. Ice cold. Dry. In a big glass please. Audiobooks and walks made me feel like a new person. I’d be out the door by 7am eating my banana as I walked past the lambs in the field. I’d breathe so fully. Everything was green and growing and beautiful, and I couldn’t stop typing. We queued outside supermarkets. I made jam.
Then there was the day I left the radio on in the car and the battery went flat. The day we had a picnic and the day I discovered I could make scones like Delia. Gosh, May was incredible. Green and blue and full of smiles. The day I cut his hair too short. The bottle of fizz on a Friday, every Friday. The way we could leave the front door open all day and let the summer float in. Letting the sunshine flood our front room.
My first try of outdoor swimming was quick and cold but leaving our town in the car felt wild. And then June brought work and ideas and too much work. Exploring and creating and then it was July. I bought a bottle of champagne one Wednesday because I wanted to look forward to something.
When lockdown eased and walks with friends were allowed life seemed to grow in size. I was smiling and still walking. I had a holiday at my Mum and Dad’s house, and I wrote my dissertation in my brothers’ old bedroom whilst listening to the sounds of home.
Then in August, we created the story of ‘that time we climbed Scafell in a heatwave and ran out of water’. We can laugh now, but as we set a timer for twenty minutes to force ourselves to cover ground before stopping once more it felt pretty desperate. Oh yeah, and I started a new business. We had an amazing camping trip.
But as the summer slid into the horizon, hope set over the clouds. Disappearing from view.
Clumps of my hair fell out this year. Not strands from too much hair straightening. But clumps. You can’t tell now but I couldn’t tie my hair up for weeks. Months. Patches were visible from the physical toll of 2020. Imagine our mental health if this is the physical, the tangible effects of 2020. But I’ve been looking after myself this year. That’s what 2019 taught me. It was preparing me for this year. I know what I need.
My wedding business failed in 2020. My friends had bumps that turned into babies and I didn’t even get to see them grow. My family slowly turned a year older and I had to see a year’s worth of age in one day. It hurts. I wrote another book and a half.
In 2020 you graduate with an email and a slightly bent certificate in the post. No cards. No cap. No gown. Completing my masters feels like it might have been a dream. Did It happen? For 6 shorts weeks in 2020 I was a student. And I’m glad I had those pints one Monday lunchtime with the friends I’d just met. I’m glad I spent 4 hours a day commuting on the bus, it made me feel the time pass. I watched as the sunrose earlier each day. From catching the bus in the dark to light crispy mornings. It makes me know it was real. I saw the time pass. I felt it.
At times this year it felt like if you’d cut me open, I would have bled thick black sludge. I felt like there was nothing good left inside me. Like all the pain, sadness, anger, self-loathing and hate had melted into this tangible substance that was pumping around my body. Pulsing through my veins, flowing through my heart.
I thought I’d got through this year unscathed, touched but not broken by the year but then I’d feel the sludge grow. Somewhere between graduating with an email, looking for a job, a second lockdown and the dark nights, a heaviness settled, and it’s only just started to lift. And in its lifting, I realised how much the load was costing me. How much it was to bare. But its lifting has provided deeper clarity. This was the test. This was all about trusting in the process and trusting in my decisions. This was the answer to the question: how bad do you want it?
I turned 32 as the leaves started to burn. I kept walking. My friend got married and it was the perfect example of the force of love, the importance of The Union. Proof that loves conquers all.
We visited the beach again and I started to see hope. I delivered more courses and I felt purpose. I kept writing. I kept walking.
More walks. More sparkling wine. A different Christmas but one I’ll always remember; one I’ll be forever grateful for. Snowy walks. Babies being born. Champagne. The best Boxing Day we’ve ever had. Puzzles. Hope. The clock struck 12. Joy.
The Life We Want
2020 is missing travel. Significantly empty of flights and nights away, and the fact I can count my beach trips on one hand makes me feel a little queasy but here’s the best part of this year, the theme I’m keeping forever.
I’m starting to build a life that I don’t ever need a holiday from.
I’m not giving up on my fight for balance. Success to me means waking up each day and loving my life. Not living for holidays or waiting for the weekend. I didn’t use 2020 to rest, I used it to dream. 2021 is going to be my rest. My haven. My year of space. Whilst I do the work to build the life of my dreams.
In 2021 you’ll find me attached to my keyboard and I’m hoping for fire.
I hope you make plans, I hope you set fire to your life in some way in 2021, because who knows what’s around the corner. This very moment, this day, this is your life. That’s It. No promise of tomorrow, just right now. What are you going to do to set your life on fire? What stories are you going to start?
2021 is going to be about giving myself time to breathe. It’s going to be about keeping focused and keeping my heart open. Open to people, to opportunities and most importantly open to stories.
What will 2021 be about for you friend? What will you be open to?
I hope you start some new stories; I hope you save some old stories. I hope you realise the value of your words. I hope you dream.
Stories From A Backpack is a place that celebrates the process of documenting our life through stories. You don’t have to see yourself as a writer to want to document your life. You can start to save your memories and share your story today.
Become an Everyday Storyteller by writing about your life. Your story matters and Stories From A Backpack is a here to help you live a life worth writing about. Join our monthly newsletter to become an Everyday Storyteller with us. Or buy the book Everyday Storytellers and learn how to turn your memories into stories.