Let everything happen to you
Joy and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final.
Okay, hi there. I’m you. I mean, I’m your 2020 self, and I’m writing you a letter. I’ve never done any of that in my life, so forgive me if it sounds awkward or sloppy in places. I will do my best to make sense of my words, but it’s not the easiest of tasks.
I’m not sure how old you are as you read these lines, but know that this is not one of those super insightful letters people write when they turn 18, hoping they will come across it years later, half forgotten in a drawer, as they pack up to move in with their partner or just as part of some thorough house cleanup.
I just really want to tell you about this year because it has been unlike all others so far, both in general (for humankind as we know it) and in particular (for you). Also, you know that one of my/your worst fears in life is forgetting, and while it’s true that I don’t want to forget anything or anyone ever at all, I certainly don’t want to forget this year.
So I’m publishing this letter here on the blog, and in many years’ time, I hope you will accidentally stumble upon it, recall all that happened ‘a long time ago’, and see the point of these few (read: many – I digress easily, I don’t expect ageing will help with it) lines. Or if, in the worst-case scenario, you really do not remember any of it, I trust that someone will guide you through the blog or, even better, read it out to you, and maybe you will see the point of these lines anyway.
So, 2020 has sucked. A lot. I feel the need to emphasise this point very literally, and reiterate the concept. You have no idea. I mean, I hope you don’t because that would mean 2020 has really been especially horrible, and it’s not like it’s going to set the average of the years to come.
Also, just so we’re clear, 2020 has sucked till the very end. It felt like it was getting a little better at some point, and that fooled everyone. Then things got even worse than they were when they first turned bad, and that was it, we all knew that was the rest of 2020 for all of us. With that we were right.
2020 will go down in history as the year of Covid, or Coronavirus, or ‘Chinese virus’ as twats still call it – don’t believe them, it just happened that China was the very first breeding ground of the virus, but then it quickly turned into a worldwide thing. It has affected all of us all over the place.
I’m not going to get all ‘science-sounding’: I’m not here to explain to you what Covid is, and what its symptoms are. I trust that you remember all of that (if you do), so that’s really not the point I want to make. I want to tell you how it felt.
2020 is the year when words and phrases like ‘global pandemic’, ‘lockdown’, ‘quarantine’ and ‘face masks’ entered our daily vocabulary, and life as we’d always known it changed, possibly for good.
It’s the year when many stopped thinking that things like this would only happen elsewhere, that they’d be confined to a part of the world that has nothing to do with the place where they live. I, too, have stopped believing it. Well, this year I’ve stopped believing so many things I’d always believed- but I’m already digressing with this statement, I’ll get to that part later.
2020 is also the year when students of all ages went to school ‘without going to school’, and WFH (working from home) became so common that you’re now seen as the weird one for still wanting to work from the office on a daily basis. I’m wondering if this working style will really still be the norm in a few years’ time. I expect it will. I don’t expect to be liking it even then.
Lots of people have lost their loved ones to Covid. The pain and sorrow have been made even worse by the fact that they couldn’t even say goodbye to them, because they died alone in hospital beds, heavied down by tubes and machines. Only nurses and doctors saw them go, and how many of them they must have seen, I can’t even imagine what 2020 must have been for nurses and doctors and hospital workers all over the world.
This year we’ve also had restaurants, pubs, bars, cafes, cinemas, theatres, and shops shut for months. Events and festivals have been cancelled. 2020 has been the year of no-travel. Things only started slightly improving in the summer months, but slightly means slightly, no more than that. I never thought I’d ever experience something like this in my life.
In the wake of the pandemic everything has been affected by a deep crisis. Chances are that, depending on when you’re reading, the world might still be recovering from this year and the immense, gigantic collateral damage it has caused on a global scale.
And the psychological toll has been high too. There has been a lot of loneliness, anxiety, frustration and hopelessness. There still are. It might not show that often, but I believe many people have experienced one or more of those, even all at one time.
Okay, I’ve just re-read what I’ve written so far, and I get that you’re probably thinking this letter is so not fun. It’s the opposite of fun. I’m sorry, but honestly, I said I’d tell you about 2020, and that’s exactly what I’m doing. But maybe you also want to know more about how this year has been for me, i.e. for you. Okay then.
So, 2020 has sucked. A lot. With some things I’m sure you still remember why, so I won’t dwell on those – I don’t like dwelling on those anyway. So I will tell you something about all the new things and activities I picked up in 2020, many of which are, unsurprisingly, somehow connected with the pandemic.
With people being stuck in their houses, baking became the new trend. Back in spring it was The One Thing To Do. Yeast in all its forms vanished from supermarket shelves, so lots of people turned to sourdough, thus ensuring they could be fully independent bakers for however long they wanted.
And, yes, I started baking too. I’d always wanted to get used to baking my own bread, I just never had time to really give it a try. So last spring I did give it a try. Then another one, and then one more. Eight months later I’m happy to see that sourdough wasn’t just a phase, after all. My starter never sat forgotten in the fridge till one day I’d realise it was all smelly and mouldy, and I’d have to bin it instantly and for good. I’m still baking regularly, and I hope you, too, still are.
Gardening was the other activity I’d always wanted to take on, and never got round to accomplishing. And yes, of course I’m now going to tell you I picked that up, too, this year. Well, you’re welcome, since I expect you’re still keeping busy with pots and seeds. I mean, I really hope you’re still growing herbs and veggies. Maybe you also have your own tiny patch of land for that. I dream of having one of those one day.
For me, too, this year has meant a good amount of anxiety and frustration and hopelessness. I was always happy when I saw the newly-imposed lockdown restrictions wouldn’t affect my freedom to go and run outside, bike around, and escape to nature. It meant a lot to know that I could still do those things the same way, that they could still be ‘normal’ (whatever ‘normal’ means, I don’t know anymore), that they were unchanged.
If I was able to (partly) resist the overwhelming black-hole feeling, I (also) owe it to the freedom to roam, be outdoors, run, and look up at the sky. And I owe it to the very, very few crucial people who never got tired of checking on me.
I’m obviously left with endless lists of things I wanted to happen in 2020. In fact, there were so many of them I had them divided by category: things I had planned but didn’t get round to accomplishing, things I wanted to do but couldn’t even go as far as planning, and things I could only dream of, hoping that ‘maybe next year’ (there are lots of these). I’m sure everyone has similar lists, whether they’ve written them down or not.
In 2020 I went… well, hardly anywhere. 2020 is hands down the year when I have done the least travelling in my life. It started out nicely with a long weekend in Reykjavik. Soon after that, grim Covid figures started violently to make the headlines, alongside lists of cancellations of events, festivals, concerts and, needless to say, flights. Nothing else went as planned, and the ‘online’ became the new ‘real’.
I did, however, have my fair share of domestic travelling. This year I have travelled around Vysočina like crazy. I’ve seen so many tiny villages, picturesque towns, lush green hills, yellow seas of wheat and rapeseed, purple lakes of garlic flowers, ponds- I’ve seen so many ponds that, if I were to make up a drinking game out of it, everyone would end up drunk well before it’s over.
It’s been really special. I’m not done with it yet.
In 2020 I have learnt… many things, I think. I don’t mean random things like fighting an infestation of aphids on chilli plants, familiarising myself with the countless shades of Czech flour, or speaking to the mechanic on the phone and telling myself I understood which exact piece of ‘thing’ he had to replace to fix that bloody dashboard warning light.
No, I don’t mean that.
I’ve learnt that I can’t control or keep up with everything all the time. I’ve learnt that people change, and so do I. How disorienting to find yourself wanting some of the things you never thought you’d ever want in life, how outrageous for a person who thought she’d figured it all out once and for all. But also, how relieving to acknowledge those ‘new’ things you want, to not reject them or pretend they’re not real. Because people do change, and there’s nothing wrong with that – unless you act like you’re blind to it, but that doesn’t make you coherent or faithful, it only makes you truly blind, and what a waste.
And I have learnt (though this I already knew) that people are food for the soul, and I want and need people in my life. I’ve never missed people so much as in 2020. One day I was talking about this with a friend at work. She is from Venezuela, and she told me: ‘We just have Latin blood and it just shows’. She must be right.
At a very strictly personal level I’ve learnt that I am capable of loving unconditionally, truly, hopelessly. It feels beautiful and scary to be capable of loving this way, but I’m happy to know I have it in me. And I like to think that it’s not something that disappears over time, so I hope you’re still capable of loving that way.
I hope I will never be too scared to let my love be known, even when it hurts like hell. This year has seen so much silence and loneliness everywhere that letting your love show cannot be the worst that can happen. So I hope I will never choose to escape my feelings or hide from them, and if I do run away from them, I hope they will hunt me down and find me, and force me to confront them.
I hope you remember 2020. I hope you remember all of it. But just in case, this letter is for you.