2020 is hard to digest

It’s the time of year for reviews and Christmas number ones. Except it isn’t because nothing is following a pattern anymore.

2020 felt a bit like the time I set off in my car following the sat nav, on what looked like a simple journey. I drove deeper into the countryside, starting to doubt if the route was correct. Country lanes got smaller until there was no room to turn a car around. I got a sinking feeling yet had to keep going. But where the hell was I?

I started the year teaching design and thinking my career was in a stable place. Relatively. I was doing well on improving my health and fitness. Also relatively. I recently conquered a lifelong gym phobia and finally understood quinoa. I hoped for more progress.

I remember the moment life changed. A friend and I were enjoying a 4 cocktails for £16 offer on Saturday night (hey I earned it with the gym stuff). It was a lovely bar, amazing drinks and yet, we felt uneasy about this virus thing. What was going on with the odd person wearing a mask and should we avoid the busiest part of the city? Oh sweet innocent times.

If you are wondering, I made it to the destination and bought a new sat nav.

We will make it out of this too.

Every change is an opportunity, I tried to believe. As we locked down, isolated and shutdown, I dreamed about living and working abroad by the sea. Perhaps this was the universe rearranging to create a new life. Or perhaps the regrettable Brexit vote would deliver on its long drawn-out tragedy and end our freedom of moment.

Even though I didn’t live abroad, it felt like I lived in a different country to my loved ones. I missed them, without the benefit of that sea view.

Soon most travel was restricted and the new life turned out to be leggings, Zoom, Netflix, podcasts, parcels and takeaways. Activity became walks round the car park outside my flat, looking at squirrels and taking photos of flowers. None of this was bad compared to the real hardship all around. Maybe it was #mindfulness or #self-care or something. It just lacked variety. And meaning.

People used to say ‘I’d love a quiet evening in’. Many of us got a lot of them this year. A slow down could have been relaxing. As long as you didn’t watch the news. Or think about loss.

We became more aware of difference.

As we beamed into the lives of others daily, comparison was inevitable. What if you had a cat, a dog, children, a partner or a garden? What if you didn’t? Was it better or worse? Whatever you had, sometimes you had too much of it.

There is that funny thing about missing family desperately, but then after spending 48 hours straight with them you long to escape. If only we could life swap. I’d love to try out a few different realities for size, seeing if they fit me better.

And yet, despite our differences we all became the same. We were households, bubbles, fragile in our human bodies. You could speak to anyone anywhere in the world and see they were facing the same shit. I’d find myself moaning about the latest lockdown to someone under more severe restrictions. The fear reflected back, either calmed or amplified.

Anxiety became our baseline. Everybody worried about the basics – health, food, jobs, money, sleep, connection. When can we plan? Somebody must have a plan.

Expectations change. The new life is more walks, chats over coffee (outdoors with one other), gifts by post, messaging more and trying to appreciate more.

The new life is answering how are you with well I’m still alive! So that’s good!

As we head to the final stretch (?), I’ve spent a few days with stomach pains and a touch of nausea. Will it resolve? Am I just struggling to digest 2020?

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Jessica Richards

Jessica Richards

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Product & UX Consultant. Founder of Creative Product Consulting. Feminist. World traveller. Empathy & cats.