Well, thank fuck that’s over: 2020 was less a year than a sustained exercise in having your head held in the toilet bowl while members of the Intercontinental Diarrhoea League took turns shitting down the back of your neck.
It was, by some distance, the worst year I can remember – and I remember when Crazy Frog became a thing. The simplest option, of course, would be to write it off. Erase it from history. Pretend it didn’t happen, like a bad, old relationship, or that pair of bright purple Burton jeans I bought in 1994. And you’d have every right to do so because between COVID-19, Brexit, mass unemployment, police brutality, continued environmental collapse and a potential invasion of Asian murder hornets, the whole thing has been unspeakable.
But that would be a missed opportunity. For better or for worse, 2020 upended everything to such a degree that it might just affect the rest of our lives. Perhaps most notably, it was the year when everybody started to reassess their work-life balance.
A few months of remote working – without the wallet-bleeding time-suck of a daily commute into an overcrowded city – have convinced millions that they’re just as productive when they work from home, and happier. The staycation boom, too, has taught people how much beauty there is on their doorstep.
In my case, lockdown was a time when I spent exactly as much time looking after my children as I did working. Time with them wasn’t crammed into breakfasts and dinners any more. And, though it meant working twice as hard in half the time, it still felt like a far better balance. We were able to have morning-long adventures on the beach or in the woods whenever we wanted. It was fantastic. When things fully return to normal, this is the main lesson that I’ll bring: work harder, and take more time off. (Continued below)
Last year also taught me to reassess my bad habits. By March, I was in bad shape: no time to get to the gym, but plenty of time to grab a McDonald’s breakfast on the way back from the school run. I was exhausted and my BMI was spiralling. But when lockdown hit, I cancelled our family holiday and used the money to buy a Peloton. I know. A poncey, overpriced spin bike for ponytailed trust-fund brats. I’m sorry.
This caused two things to happen. Having exercise equipment at home meant that I no longer had an excuse not to work out, and my reduced opportunities to gorge on fast food meant that I felt healthy again.
What’s more, though I’m usually quite resistant to the ultra-American platitudes offered up by Peloton class instructors, I must admit that one of them has stuck.
“Nobody ever stays the same,” an instructor yelled. “You can either get better, or you can get worse, but you won’t stay the same.” She was referring to hill climbs, but I’ve taken it to heart.
Because she’s right. If 2020 taught us anything, it was that we barely have any control over what happens in the world. But we can take what we can control and make a choice: get better or get worse. I’m going to scoop up the remains of this stupid year and take whatever I can from it. Even if next year is bad, I can still get better.
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