Dare I Say It?

It’s that time of year again where I see an influx of fad comments like ‘roll on 2021’ and ‘can’t wait for next year’ – not out of excitement, just pure exasperation. People make these comments around this time every year, but this year people have been wishing the days away for the past 9 months and now we’re reaching an exponential rise of post-festive doom and gloom as more and more people jump on the annual groaning bandwagon, ’tis the season! I’m generally known for being miserable but even for me, it’s exhausting being around so much negativity.

Yes, 2020 had its challenges but, dare I say it, I’ve had a great year! I understand this has been a difficult year for a lot of people and it would be callous of me to ignore that. People have lost loved ones, jobs, purpose, self-worth and more – I do see it. Realistically though, the majority of people on my Instagram still have their jobs and family and have it pretty good, but they’re still going to complain about it because it’s an end-of-year pastime – like when people say “I hate Mondays”. Really it doesn’t matter what day of the week it is, if you’re anxious to go back to work and dreading your inbox, I doubt ‘Monday’ is the problem, but it’s something we mindlessly say to each other in the lift and I don’t know why.

I’d say I’m quite well-versed in depression and I know that even when you seemingly have it all, you still feel the effects. I don’t want to dismiss or invalidate feelings but for the most part, these bleak comments seem to just be a thing we say at the end of the year as we start looking forward and forgetting all the goodness and growth we experienced earlier on in the year.

Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t find it to be all sunshine and lollipops, although being an introvert I did feel cruelly smug. There were a lot of things that I really struggled with during the pandemic. Some were just irritating pet-peeves like the ignoramuses who enter a shop via the designated exit, or wear their masks on their chin – but this type of irritation can be cured by a quick meme share on the ‘gram. Other things that I struggled with were tougher to accept and overcome, like not being there for someone, missing birthdays or feeling trapped and undervalued (and the natural guilt and discomfort for feeling glum in the first place). Of course the recurrent lockdowns and restrictions were arguably the root cause for those feelings, but on the other hand, I also found the lockdown offered a welcome solution.

When my friends were going through a tough time, I felt awful that I couldn’t be there to hug them and/or pour them a wine, but instead I actually had time to call people, which was really nice – even friends I’ve never really thought about calling would call me to check in and tell me about their day and I loved that! We’d find time to chat in the early hours because we didn’t have to get ready to go to the office. We could take long walks in the morning, babbling away to each other, leaving nonsense voice notes, and then collapse back into bed with the work laptop and a cuppa and still have a productive day – sans bra! That’s how I’ll remember the start of the pandemic – snorting with laughter as I walked round the park, talking to a friend a thousand miles away.

The lockdown forced us to think outside the box and reevaluate our consumerism and commercialism to find alternative solutions. There was a call to arms to support small businesses and local stores and I’m delighted that all bar one of my Christmas and birthday gifts to others were sourced either through Etsy or small businesses’ websites, sorry Jeff. I’d been planning mum’s birthday since late 2019 but it all went to pot. It hurt that I couldn’t be there and treat her but I made up for my absence with thoughtful gifts – I organised a local florist to deliver an eco-wreath, and put money behind the till so she could treat herself to beautiful, fresh fish from the local fishmongers (a bit of a weird gift I’ll admit, but she was thrilled). I realise I’m basically saying I replaced myself with fish, so let’s move on…

I almost lost my job due to an unfortunate, ill-timed combination of Brexit and Pandemic. I think had it not been for the lockdown, I probably would’ve just accepted the end of my contract and wombled around lost in the job market, but knowing jobs were scarce made me realise that simply not renewing my contract was not an option. So, after a few breakdowns and many sleepless nights I was proactive and managed to secure a position in a different area of the company… just like that! That was a difficult time for my little mindbrain but really when I look back I see how my strength, resilience and good old Scottish grit got me through and I’m proud that I fought for myself. I can’t take all the credit – I’m very grateful that I had strong managers to support me – but I did have to do quite a lot of shouting and legwork to get myself there.

As it turned out, the new job wasn’t right for me but after a few breakdowns and many sleepless nights I had a really honest and open discussion with my manager to address my unhappiness and as a result, (perhaps for the first time in my entire life) I realised what I wanted and that felt really good! I’ve left previous jobs because it wasn’t what I wanted, but it never occurred to me to sit down and work out what I wanted and needed from my job. Having the time and space to think about that was really gratifying. Although I was still working, being away from the office was the much-needed sabbatical that provided a fresh outlook and new perspective.

I’ve spoken to friends and family and we all feel quite guilty about having a good year. We gingerly bring up the taboo subject and mutter a hushed ‘well, actually…’. Perhaps this isn’t something to go out onto the balcony and clap about, but maybe this is the little morale-boost we need now, amidst the doom and gloom, to hear that people have found good in this year.

I know the pandemic hasn’t been good for many, but I do think it’s the sabbatical we all needed. Our environment, economy and society needed a harsh reset and hopefully we’ve all taken something good from this year that we can take forward into next. Dare I say it, with enthusiasm? ‘Roll on 2021’!

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