There’s nothing I can say about 2020 that hasn’t been said already. It was a fever dream, a shitshow, a mess and a disaster rolled into a ballistic taco and set on fire.
Personally, I careened into 2020 still coasting on the wreckage of 2019, which was a difficult and painful year for me. After a protracted illness that destroyed his health and challenged our family immensely over a series of years, my dad passed expectedly/unexpectedly in October 2019. Expectedly because we knew it would happen and unexpectedly because we thought we had a bit more time. It was as much a blessing as it was a curse. He was suffering a great deal, he was deeply unhappy and in so much pain, and as much as I miss him, I know COVID-19 would have been utterly terrifying and isolated him even more, and I’m glad he didn’t live to see it.
Against all odds, 2021 dawned with a returning sense of normalcy for me. I’m finally out of the worst throes of the depression that gripped me after my dad’s death. My anxiety, which was muted somewhat by the depression but turned up by the pandemic, has started to subside as my spouse and I continue to be very careful, very privileged and very lucky in our day-to-day doings. Here’s a wrap on 2020 and a look at where 2021 might take me.
Best Parts of 2020
Getting published – I fulfilled a life-long dream of being published. I did not expect it to happen this year, nor for it to be on the side of a beer can (I don’t even drink stout 😆), but I can tell you that it was a highlight for me.
Listen 2 Me Podcast – Gio and I had joked before about starting a podcast, but who would want to listen to us? 3000 streams, 13 incredible guests, 5 patrons and 36 episodes later, I guess we have our answer! It’s so humbling that something we love doing so much has resonated with so many people.
My reading list – I set out to read 100 books in 2020 and didn’t quite make it, but I am proud of what I read this year. With a massive civil rights crisis in the US and Canada’s own torched Truth & Reconciliation agreement with our First Nations people, the least I could do was spend some time examining my own racism, privilege, and challenge other problematic beliefs. Here are some books* I can personally recommend to that end:
- Beloved by Toni Morrison
- How to be Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi
- All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
- So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
- The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin
- Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline
- Care Work by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
- Fearing the Black Body by Sabrina Strings
- Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
- Beyond the Gender Binary by Alok Vaid-Menon
- Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, And Feminist Mandate for Our Movement by Charlene A. Carruthers
- Bla_k by M. NourbeSe Philip
- Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi
- Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead
- One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul
*Not all of these are non-fiction and not all of them are specifically about racism, but I believe that issues of class, ableism, race and sexuality intersect, and that fiction is a lens that allows us to explore these issues with a particular insight.
Rediscovering fanfiction – Heavy reading, while necessary, isn’t easy to sustain, especially in the political and pandemic climate of now. I reconnected with fan fiction in a way I haven’t since I was a kid, and it was all kinds of delightful. Please, comment and kudos your fave fics. It means so much to the authors, and they do it all as a labour of love!
Strengthening my writing community – Even though I made my author social media profile with the intention of connecting to other writers, it hasn’t been all roses. I’ve been fortunate to make some wonderful connections with other authors online, but my IRL book club and writing group has been a huge boon to both my mental health and continued perseverance in the craft.
Coming Up in 2021
Writing more – One thing I really struggled with in 2020 was sticking to a writing habit. Thankfully, I have the Listen 2 Me Podcast Blog posts we promised to our patrons to keep me writing something. It doesn’t exactly solve the problem of writing fiction, but I will try.
Scaling back on socials – Unsurprisingly, social media was a huge mental and emotional drain for me this year (Tumblr being the time-honored exception) and I’ll be doing more work to use social media to my ends as opposed to feeling pressured to use it.
More publications/finished MSS – This one comes with a question mark attached to it, but we will see. There is something very rewarding about sharing my work with people and seeing their response to it.
Choosing compassion – This is a little floofy, but I was inspired by Alok Vaid-Menon (if you’re on Instagram or Twitter I highly recommend giving them a follow) and I want to center choosing compassion this year—for myself and for others, even when it’s hard. There’s a lot of shit in the world we can’t control, and it feels hopeless a lot of the time. But choosing compassion and hope must be the way to counter all that darkness.
What was your 2020 highlight? Is there anything you’d like to ask 2021 for, other than “be gentle”? Let me know in the comments!