Why I’m grateful for 2020

Yes, this is yet another blog post about 2020, joining what is sure to be an avalanche of articles summarising a year none of us will ever forget.

I’m sure there are plenty of hot takes out there, and identical updates that will be filling Twitter feeds over the next few days. So thank you for indulging me, and clicking on mine. I’m grateful and flattered…if feeling the pressure a little.

I’ve written identical pieces for the last few years, listing my reasons for gratitude for 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 – so it’s only fair that I treat 2020 in exactly the same way.

After all, as with any year, there have been lessons learned, events upon which to reflect, and shining moments for which to be thankful; it’s just that this year, the shining moments are ever brighter against the pitch-black of the bad.

Last year I wrote that 2019 was somewhat smaller in stature than the previous year in terms of successes – that my achievements were simpler but no less transformative. Well, this year things got smaller still. In fact, my whole world was inside a one-bedroom flat, built around a makeshift office desk, and a number of different screens – just as it was for millions of others.

But while many are planning to pretend 2020 never happened – which is understandable – I’m going to join the camp of learning from it and moving on. This is probably going to be quite a clichéd blog post, but bear with me. I am writing this mostly for myself, after all (blogs tend to be self indulgent like that!)

Purely making it through this year is an achievement. I’m constantly telling myself this. You’ll hopefully be seeing reminders of this around, too, to counteract the other posts documenting how some exceeded expectations and achieved unbelievable things even under immense pandemic pressure.

I did not write a novel. I did not master yoga. I did not become a YouTube poetry sensation, start my own business, publish a chapbook, run a marathon or paint a masterpiece. I did not save any lives.

I started the year with a few adventures, visiting Nottingham and Bristol, reviewing my usual onslaught of theatre productions, and attending workshops to improve my poetry. Busy, busy, busy.

And then, of course, came lockdown.

I moved in with my partner of six months, temporarily at first, and then for good. I navigated working from home. I worked on keeping my mental health afloat. I did what I had to do, and stayed in. I kept in touch with loved ones as much as I could. I quizzed, and Zoomed, and cooked, and walked. I traversed crippling lows and simple highs.

All the free time I’d ever yearned for had been gifted to me – but since when was a global crisis the ideal environment to cultivate infinite productivity and creativity?

I’ve written fewer poems and blog posts than ever, and barely any theatre reviews since stages shut down. Honestly, my identity as a writer has been shaken (but that’s a topic for a whole other blog post).

My partner and I, we’ve lost family. We’ve missed milestones. We’ve watched the worst kind of numbers rise. We’ve waited for the next slide, please. We’ve doom-scrolled, and dreaded, and kept our distance. We’ve missed hugs. We’ve lost jobs, our patience, and hope.

But we’re here – and there are still reasons to be grateful for the last year. You have to keep hold of those.

Here are just a handful.

Why I’m grateful for 2020

Having a stable job, for both the income and the routine – even if working from home is slowly eating away at my mental and physical health, and presenting its own challenges.

Having a safe home to stay in when we’re locked down.

The NHS and our wonderful keyworkers; for everyone doing their best and more to keep things safe and keep things running. Teaching, healing, saving, serving, helping, working, feeding, cleaning, planning, protecting, and more.

My partner, for many, many reasons. I’m so glad we met when we did.

My friends and family, as always, and perhaps more now than ever, even from afar.

Video calls keeping me connected with the ones I miss.

Online deliveries: from ordering weekly shops when slots became available for the less vulnerable, to having toiletries sent straight to my doorstep. Never have I been more grateful for online shopping.

Discovering the joy of Whatsapp voice notes; quicker that typing and much more personal.

Takeaways – supporting local restaurants in lockdown, and enjoying good food that we didn’t have to cook.

Having countless great films and shows at our finger tips thanks to all the streaming services. All hail Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Antibac gel, masks, and generally keeping as safe as possible.

Lockdown birthdays, and turning 30 in a pandemic.

Youtube yoga – when I get round to it (which is rarely – but it’s nice to know it’s there).

The precious moments we have been lucky enough to share with others – from a distance, and when safe – and the memories made.

City-centre parks and green spaces – helping me to escape and pretend I’m in the countryside for a few minutes each week. It’s been fun rediscovering the city we live in.

Takeaway coffee. Something I used to take for granted has become the ultimate treat.

Social media. While they have their downsides, Twitter and Instagram have kept me connected, offered support when I’ve poured my heart out, and given me a creative outlet.

Getting crafty and rediscovering my artistic side. I bought some proper paints and paper and got back into creating in a different way – with a hand from Amy Harwood’s Monday-night Art Club, of course!

The joy of sending and receiving notes and cards in the post ‘just because’.

Online theatre. It’s not the same, and it’s not a fix-all solution, but the adaptability and creativity of theatres and performers putting their art online has been wonderful.

Having a little more time for reading, and a chance for time away from the screen.

The Guardian – for publishing an article that sparked my most-read blog post of all time.

The joy of cohabitation – and not just because I can split the bills now. 

The time for cooking new recipes and trying new meals. I’ve rediscovered the joy of making a proper meal from scratch, improvising, and even having the time to make risotto properly. Cooking has been like therapy for me.

Reminders that the small stuff matters.

The chance to slow down, get perspective and re-programme, even if it’s a little forced. I’ve shed tears over feeling lost and confused, but I am certain it’s a gift, in the long term. I hope.

Gin and Limoncello homemade cocktails.

 

I’m also grateful to anyone who still read my writing and shared my content in 2020. It always means the world, but it’s been even more significant for me in the last 12 months. Happy New Year to you all. May 2021 bring peace and as much joy as possible.

Why are you grateful for 2020?

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