So, that’s it for 2020. What a year.
For most of 2016, I was living in New Zealand. Then I moved back to the US and started dating the woman who is now my wife. At the end of the year a lot of people said things like “well I’m glad that’s over with. What a terrible year 2016 turned out to be.” Which always felt a little strange to me, because personally it had been quite a good year! I realize there’s a lot of privilege rolled up in that statement — as a white male who’s a legal US citizen, I didn’t have the same anxiety about the United States electing a racist, misogynistic, xenophobic president that someone not in my shoes might have felt. But while the macro was difficult and challenging, the micro was pretty fantastic.
There are probably people who feel the same about 2020. People got married this year. People graduated. Some folks started new jobs, or moved to new cities, or began new relationships. Some people retired (congrats, Mom!), or added a new child to their family (congrats to my brother and sister-in-law!). Some people got cats (congrats, us!).
Also, some people died of COVID. Some people were killed by police officers. Some people had, and are still having, a real hard time in lockdown. Some single people are feeling their lives slip away as they spend some of their prime dating years at home alone. Some people lost their jobs or were put on furlough indefinitely. Some people realized that the person they were married to wasn’t someone they wanted to be isolated with for months on end and got separated or divorced. Some people tried to raise their voices to protest racial injustice only to get tear gassed, shouted down, or (maybe worst of all) ignored.
I started this blog. WordPress tells me that I made 173 posts this year, which is actually pretty close to one post every other day (when you consider that I started in March, that’s well over one post every other day!). I find that pretty amazing. Nearly every time I post, I also add something to the list of things I need to write about in the future. My list of stuff to write about is 90 items long!
That’s not all. I also started my new website, tolkienessays.com. I’ve posted four essays there now, with a combined total of over 18,000 words. That’s nearly a Master’s thesis! My latest post on Tom Bombadil got incredible traction, and I received quite a few positive comments (it’s also by far the longest of my essays, weighing in at 6,700 words!). I feel incredibly proud of what I’ve created, something I don’t think I’d have done if it hadn’t been for the pandemic.
I also had some health problems that put me (once again) in the hospital. Because of the pandemic, the experience was even more stressful and terrifying than a normal visit to the emergency room is. And I was only allowed one visitor (not one visitor at a time, but one visitor, period), which was of course my wife, putting even more burden on her. While we know plenty of people willing to help, do we really want strangers in our home or giving us things right now? It was a very trying time.
It’s crazy to think about now, but in February my wife and I traveled to New Zealand to attend a friend’s wedding. That seems like a completely different lifetime now. Travel is so important to both of us, and although it was a whirlwind trip with several stressful situations (including getting locked out of our AirBnB the day before the wedding!), it was also a lovely trip and I’m so glad we got a chance to travel before the world shut down! I also flew to San Antonio to a conference and spent a weekend in Southern Pines as a sort of personal retreat. It’s bizarre to think about these things happening in 2020, but they’re a part of last year as well!
I have to say, I am now looking forward to retirement more than ever (retirement is decades away, but I can still look forward to it!). I’ve had some really great opportunities to work on my own projects and passions, and I feel like I’ve taken those opportunities and succeeded! I haven’t been Mr. Productive the entire time — I’ve watched my share of YouTube videos, for sure — but that’s the whole point. I’ve been able to work sustainably on projects that interest and matter to me over a long period of time and seen measurable success.
Of course, New Year’s Day is just an arbitrary boundary that humans invented. Pandemics, natural disasters, racism, social injustice, and illness all don’t stop because we call it a new year now. But the good things don’t stop either, and there is, however distant, a light at the end of the tunnel. I look forward to carrying the good things from last year forward into 2021 and beyond, hopefully spreading at least some good to everyone I meet along the way.
I hope this site can be a part of that. Thanks for reading in 2020, and I hope I can bring some good into this year as well.