Personal

this fucking year | 2020

It’s the end of the year, cue airhorns! At the end of 2019, I wrote down a bunch of my hopes, dreams, and goals for 2020. I actually learned from 2019, when I had my lil page in the back of my planner never to be seen again, and I pinned this one to the corkboard above my desk. Did I look at it while things were going to shit? Well.

Obviously this year was dominated by a global pandemic, so I’m being good to myself with these goals and looking at how I did. Some of these things I didn’t do because they weren’t possible to do, and some of these things I didn’t do because I was a wreck and so it still wasn’t possible. Whatever happened, I’m OK with it. I really, really am. I’m alive and healthy and everyone I love is also alive and healthy. We’re not all peak health – I’m certainly not – but we’re trudging through and surviving. And that’s enough. I deserve to be fine with myself for no reason other than that.

A phrase I’ve come back to again and again over these past few months is “I’m doing the best I can with the shit I have”. It’s really helped me give myself a little grace instead of beating myself up. For as long as I can remember (so, since about teenagehood – I genuinely cannot remember anything past that), I’ve had trouble with the “I did my best” thing. Isn’t there always more I can give? Isn’t there always more effort I can tap into, or a smarter thought I could’ve had? Of course there is. There’s always theoretically more to be done. All this to say, the extra addition has helped a lot with not beating myself up, and I’m reviewing this list with that in mind. 2020 was shitty as fuck, but it’s brought a lot of clarity for me. I’d like to approach being kind to myself with the kind of pigheadedness I bring to conversations about whether pineapple belongs on pizza (it doesn’t) and if Pokémon generations have gotten progressively furrier (it definitely has).


WHAT I DID

  • With myself: Be assertive – learn how to set boundaries and respect others’; Change my self-talk to be positive and supportive; Work on my social anxiety and be more open

I’m pretty chuffed with all my progress on these three things. I’ve gotten a lot better at being assertive and firm this year. With others, I’ve set boundaries for myself and stepped away if they weren’t respected. This year we all had to figure out life amidst a pandemic, and that was a hard conversation and disagreement to have with people. I’m pretty impressed with how I was able to be firm and do the right thing, even if I felt a bit sad, and then been at peace in the knowledge that good times were had with people but now we won’t anymore. I’ve also noticed that I’ve gotten better at being authoritative and voicing disagreements. I think I could get better at doing that all a bit more tactfully, but it’s a big improvement from making myself smaller. I’ve also gotten better at respecting others’ boundaries, which I’m realizing is a hard and necessary thing to learn when you grow up with family which has never taught or modelled that. Knocking? Locks? Privacy? We don’t know them in this household. There’s room to grow here as well, but I’m glad I’m noticing this and learning to respect and honor others.

That also applies to myself, in that I’ve been better at being assertive when my self-talk isn’t supportive. I think I’ve done a really good job at thinking more positively about myself, because I don’t think the majority of thoughts about myself are negative anymore. I’m also able to do this post and not be all 😦 because I didn’t do enough. The Passion Planner has a space for ‘good things that happened’, so it’s nice to write those things down and be grateful for big and small things. For the first three months of the year, in the before times, I continued my little notebook where I wrote a daily sentence about something I’m proud of myself for. That helped too. As I end this year, I’m gauging my progress here by knowing that I like myself. I think I’m pretty funny and smart and I try to be kind and I’m always learning how to be better. I can say things to my boyfriend like “yeah, I’m a total smokeshow” and obviously it’s a joke, but I don’t think I would’ve been able to make that joke a year ago. I still have the occasional super depressed spiral of worthlessness and self-loathing, but they’re much fewer in number and farther apart. I like myself. That’s a weird sentence in my mouth. I like how it fits; it’ll stay.

In re: to social anxiety, man, @Max from a year ago – you’re gonna end up being a fucking tour guide and you’re gonna love it. How bizarre! I started this year training to be a tour guide, so I met 70 new coworkers and started my job where I walk around for two hours and talk to groups of strangers. That literally sounded like my nightmare, but I also think the fear was masking some hope that I could be one of those fun peppy friendly confident people. And I am! People think I am! They fucking shake my hand and thank me for a great tour! What the hell! Joke’s on you, I’ve got enough baggage to be the SFO lost and found! OK, in all seriousness, the tour guide thing helped a lot, and it was like I got paid to do exposure therapy on myself. I also did actual exposure therapy with my therapist – so we would be like “Hey, Maxine, what are your biggest fears? Oh, looking stupid and being rejected? OK, go stand outside of Franz Hall and ask people where Franz Hall is”. Again: a fucking nightmare. So uncomfortable, so good, and I hope my therapist of a few months is doing well in her PhD program now because I really liked her. I also tried to do the ‘networking’ (barf) thing and reached out to a few strangers online for ‘informational interviews’ (gouges out eyeballs), so again: terrifying! A good experience. All in all, I’m pretty solid in the knowledge that I’m gonna feel scared for a long while probably, because social anxiety doesn’t go away overnight – but that’s OK, and I’ll usually enjoy it a hell of a lot more than marinating in my own anxiety sweat alone.

  • With education: Finish 2020 strong and on track to graduate in 2021; Balance everything well with time management

I outdid myself here – if I wanted to, I could graduate early in March. As it is, I don’t, so I’m just letting myself take it easy with only 3 courses a quarter and some fun time classes that don’t count towards any graduation requirements for me. Fun free nerd time, hooray! So, definitely on track to graduate. In terms of time management, I’m gonna give myself this one. COVID-19 threw everything to shit, but I did good. I’m alive, I’m healthy, I’ve got people I love. I had really productive days, I had total breakdown bathroom floor crying days, but I got everything I needed to get done done. I didn’t break down as much as I could have.

  • With things I care about: Get involved politically somehow (volunteering, canvassing, etc)

This year I decided during that time that I’d donate (at least) $10 a month to somewhere – charity, a bail fund, whatever. I’m glad I’ve set that recurring mark for myself to hit. I always thought that charitable donations were a thing for people who had their lives, like, really together, but $10 is literally less than lunch in LA. I can spare it each month for a good cause now, instead of waiting for some nebulous hypothetical future where I’m a philanthropist with my life on track. I also volunteered this year! I text banked for the Yes on Prop 16 campaign in California to overturn the state ban on affirmative action and secure equity in public employment and education for everyone. Unfortunately that didn’t pass, and I was – and still am – pissed the fuck off about it. But I’m glad I tried and got to learn how accessible volunteering is, so I can continue in the future. I was also involved in some student activism at UCLA and I started volunteering for Meals on Wheels so, you know, I think the experts are onto something when they say that giving back is generally a good idea.

WHAT I SORT OF DID

  • With health: Go gym at least twice a week; Develop a better connection between my mind and body; Figure out my hand thing

So, obviously gyms closed because of COVID. I was doing pretty good before COVID hit in going to the gym, honestly! And during lockdown I started doing yoga and walking, and I’ve kept that up alright. At one point my boyfriend was surprised by my back definition. I’ve definitely had a drastic decrease in activity – in the before times, I was walking at least 10,000 steps just getting from class to class and home again. There were several months where I averaged, like, 200 steps a day. So I think the improvements pre-lockdown + the literal completely sedentary nature of being depressed in lockdown + trying to be healthy during COVID all evens out, more or less.

As mentioned, I started doing yoga. That’s helped with the mind and body thing. This is one of those things where I succeeded with the goal because there’s nowhere to go but up – I regularly trip over nothing or bash my hands into walls and have no clue how it happened – so hopefully it continues! I’m in the middle of reading The Body Keeps the Score, and it looks like there’s a chapter of healing trauma with yoga later on so I’m looking forward to learning more about that and maybe experiencing it too.

The hand thing is still a bit of a mystery, but I at least got academic accommodations for it. My doctor seems to think it’s an anxiety thing, and I think I’m inclined to agree? Nothing appears off in X-rays or other tests, and I can’t make too much sense of a pattern of when my hands feel worse. I’m working on taking it easy and not putting my hands through too much, so trying to not death grip my pens and hold my phone at funky angles. It’s the best I can do for now, and we’ll just keep an eye on it going forward.

  • With $ and space: Less shopping (12 things this year, 5 new things); Learn how to clean and be tidy, with improvements for the kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom; Save $3000 and invest $1000

Hm, I think I did less shopping. I’m not sure. I tried to keep track of my clothing purchases in my notebook, but I didn’t keep up with it, so this is just from memory. I’m fairly sure I stuck with the 12 number, because I bought two clothing items before COVID hit (one thrifted), then I got two shoes online in lockdown (to exercise in, and then a pair of boots I’d had my eye on were on big sale), a blazer while getting my brother birthday presents (me + velvet = game over), and some jewelry (7 pieces total, a couple handmade from a friend). That’s all I can think of now. The 5 new things didn’t work out so great, but I’m impressed with how little impulse shopping I did.

Cleaning and tidying is, again, something that was thrown into a bit of a wreck because of COVID. Living with my parents again, I’m not the sole owner of the space. It’s hard to keep it up when not everyone’s committed to that and when I’m in a much worse headspace. I’ve definitely learned more about how to clean stuff in the bathroom and kitchen, which is another one of those “nowhere to go but up” goals. In my bedroom, I’ve realized I don’t feel good when my space is messy, so it’s another way of being kind to myself to take care of that environment and make it pleasant. This is another thing I’m really stumbling through and trying to teach myself, so not bad, could improve, pats on back for trying.

For $, I saved $2000 and invested $1350. Not bad for COVID times, when I had my work hours reduced, my apartment and housing situation in a horrendous place, and I was also not in any sort of place to find employment.

  • With things I care about: Try something new each week

For many weeks this year, I lived through a new phase of a global pandemic. That’s enough. My goal for this one was to try new things and have new experiences, and I’m still into that, but I might try to make it happen in a different way. Even before COVID hit, I think I definitely did new things each week, but I realized I wanted to try new activities – going to a new restaurant, a museum I hadn’t seen before, practicing how to do my stupid hair – and I wasn’t super getting that.

WHAT I DIDN’T DO

  • With education: Figure out next steps (internship, study abroad, job)

God, what is life going to be like when I graduate in the summer? Who fucking knows. Finding gainful employment after college feels like this really big scary thing, and I’ve had a fair few rejections of programs I wanted to be a part of and things like that so I’m not the most confident in my interviewing skills. I also have very little idea of where I want to go, in terms of jobs/industries, and sometimes I have an idea and then I’m like wait I don’t want to be one of those people who just tries to make other people buy things they don’t need and then I have a crisis about capitalism and then I’m still unemployed. OK, deep breaths. Clearly I’m fucked up over this. We’ll work through it.

  • With things I care about: Eat less meat (flexitarian, at least 5 meatless meals a week); Do a sketchbook thing 2x a month

Eating mostly vegetarian was going great in the before times. After lockdown, not so much. My boyfriend does most of the cooking and I don’t want to demand meatless meals. That said, I think we do an OK job with not having meat be the centerpiece of the dish. I’m also trying to be easy and kind with myself here. I haven’t really been up to cooking or planning grocery shopping. It’s OK, I’ll pin this for later.

The sketchbook thing didn’t work out at all for me. I keep trying to think of ways to get myself to draw or paint again, but it’s not worked out too well. The secret’s probably that I just need to do the damn thing, huh? I think it may be time to drop this goal for good.


Well, that’s 2020. I’m happy with how this year went. It kind of sucked. I grieved a bit (OK, a lot) for my senior year of college, and I made my peace with disliking a lot of people I knew for not physical distancing during COVID. I’m a sentimental person (clearly – I have a blog), so I have this alternate universe running in my head where COVID didn’t happen and my life goes on. I try not to dwell on it too much, but sometimes I can’t help but dip into it. I think in that world, I’m going to the beach in LA, I’ve got jacked quads from walking to class, and I’m continuing to work on my social anxiety by saying yes to a lot of things. I also think in that world, I’m often a bit lonely in a long-distance relationship, I don’t come to some big realizations I needed to have about relationships and obligations and prioritizing myself, and I might burn myself out. So, you know. This is the universe we’re in. Here, I’ve lost all the highlight reel of my college senior year, travelling to the UK and China in the summer, attending my brother’s graduation in person. But here, I’m going for a lot of walks, I get to spend everyday with the three beings I love most in the world, and I’m learning how to really take care of myself by doing some hard things and saying no when I need to. You do what you can with the shit you have. And if I’m OK and breathing and fairly healthy and going to keep trying – that’s that.

Thanks for listening. I’m hoping to take the big lessons from this year into next year, a sort of theory into application sort of idea. We’ll see how it goes. Until then, this was a fucking year.

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