2020 in review

It’s really easy to look back at 2020 and see the things I didn’t do.

In December 2019, the Italian boyfriend and I decided to “give” each other a March trip to Jordan for Christmas, rather than material presents. We planned to see Petra, the Dead Sea, and the capital city.

We had also decided that 2020 would be the year he would come home to America with me, to meet my family… and meet my whole American life, really. Needless to say, Covid rolled into Italy in the last week of February and that March trip was quickly cancelled. We hung onto the idea of the US trip for a long time – I mean, he was going to come and meet my family! – but, obviously, we eventually laid that one to rest, too.

However! In March, deep into our first weeks of lockdown, I became convinced that logging my accomplishments each month, large or small, would help me feel less like time was a weird, depressing blur of shuffling from bed to my desk to the couch to the kitchen and back, interspersed with ambulance sirens and PPE. And you know what? I was kind of right.

Did I get to everything on my lofty list of lockdown goals? Haha. No. But the things I did get to have meaning for me, and here are some of them.

  1. Pre-lockdown, but still: in January, I bought a car! It took me months of agonizing (fact: I am awful at making decisions), but I finally did it. It is a lovely little dark gray Peugeot. I have named her and I love her. (This is the very first time I bought a car and so I am inordinately proud.)

Fun fact: I actually brought her home in late January and by the first week in March we were in full lockdown. Ah well. At least I enjoyed that feeling of accomplishment every time I passed her to go walk laps in the parking lot.

  1. On the job front… I mean, I finished out 2020 no worse off than I was when it started, and that’s honestly something to be truly thankful for, I think. More specifically:
  • I figured out how to teach online on a number of different platforms. I’m not the best ever at it… but neither am I the worst. My students sometimes smiled bright and sincere smiles at me (when they bothered to turn their cameras on, anyway) and what more can I really ask for?
  • I did a respectable volume of translating. It was neither my worst year nor my best since I started, and I’m thankful for that, too.
  • I may possibly have gotten two new translating clients at the end of the year! It’s always a bit precarious at the start (even once all the paperwork is in, will they actually connect me to their project managers and send work my way? Only time will tell!) but even if just one turned into a real client, I’d be delighted.
  • Back to the teaching side of things: I applied, trained, and qualified to become an oral examiner for an international English testing company! Not going to get too deep into the weeds on this, but basically it means that this company sends me around to different places in Italy to test school kids so they can obtain their various level certificates. It’s pretty fun (a nice change of pace for sure), it’s another source of income (freelance diversifying for the win!), and it’s the first time I’ve ever travelled for business, so I’m embarassingly excited about it.
  1. On the personal development front, I managed to squeeze in 54 of the 60 first-year credits of the master’s degree I enrolled in at the end of 2019, despite having missed the entire first semester. (You may be wondering why I enrolled an entire semester into a program. This begs the question: why is the admissions process structured in such a way that it isn’t finished by the time the academic year starts? I do not know the answer, except… welcome to Italian bureaucracy!)

Anyway, even though this master’s degree is something that may not directly benefit my career in any way, it’s something that I’m really happy to have included in my life. I’m also going to go ahead and be proud that I figured out how to prepare for oral exams (practically nonexistant in my US education) and successfully wrote two papers in Italian. Hooray!

(Now, onwards to year 2. Where I have, for reasons barely even known to me, been inspired to add more credits than necessary. I did this throughout undergrad, too, but I also didn’t work full time, then, so… we shall see.)

  1. On a personal/relationships front:
  • I basically moved in with the Italian boyfriend during the first lockdown. We did not kill each other, even though I haven’t lived with anyone since my college roommates! In fact, (and I hesitate to even say this, since I know what an incredible position of privilege it is compared to everyone who had to deal with unfortunate living situations or even just childcare woes!) we honestly kind of a little bit enjoyed being in lockdown together? I mean, don’t get me wrong – lockdown was quite stressful. But… we took comfort in each other’s presence as opposed to wanting to stab each other after a week or two? (Which… coming from a long period of being happily single, was something I was nervous about.)
  • We had been talking on and off about buying a house/apartment/some kind of dwelling together. We took some of our lockdown time to get serious about it, and after much agonizing (again: I am awful at making decisions), we signed on a lovely little ground floor apartment (with it’s own yard! overlooking a field!) in July.
  • Around the same time, we stopped tip-toeing around and joking-but-not-joking about the idea of having children and got serious about discussing that, too. I stopped taking the pill. (I am not yet actively worried that it hasn’t happened yet, but getting there.)
  • I was not great but also not utterly disastrous at keeping in touch with people. Some good video calls and message exchanges were had.
  • I got a respectable amount of exercise, I think. Again, not great, but not disastrous. I logged who even knows how many miles of brisk walking around the parking lot in the weeks of total lockdown, and a good quantity of video workouts, too. (I also had more than a few weeks of just barely slogging through work with exactly zero mental energy left for exercising – or anything else – but… I mean, didn’t we all?)
  • Through a combination of testing and isolation and quarantine (that I feel very fortunate to have been able to put together thanks to a very flexible job situation and access to testing), I was able to get home to stay with my parents for a few weeks. I am so thankful for that time together that I can’t even describe it.
  • I logged 450 hours volunteering with the ambulance service and was proud to do my little, bottom-of-the-totem-pole part in all of this.

Between working and studying and house searching and ambulance work (and recovering from ambulance work) and (yes) pandemic baking (and parking lot walks to walk off some of the baking), I filled up this mostly lockdown year enough that it kind of zipped by to the end of December almost too fast, like so many years do. But… for all the stress and worry (and, honestly, abject terror, at times) and missing family and missing travel and missing so many things… I still don’t feel like I could wish this year away. So… 2020, thank you for letting me get through the hard parts, and thank you for giving me the good parts too.

** Photo: my beloved 2020 planner. (Plum Paper, 5 x 8, horizontal weeks.) The phrase I chose for the cover strikes me as slightly ironic in light of how 2020 ended up going… but also kind of not, because I’m going to go ahead and say that I *did* manage to find quite a bit of positivity in my personal experience of 2020, even though the world around me was basically going up in flames. Or freezing into terrified lockdown. Whichever poorly constructed temperature-related metaphor you prefer. Anyway. I really enjoyed this planner. I’m very sad to have it end.

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