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My Annus Horribilis

Torn-up calendar page for December 31

Over the 2019 holidays we spent a month in Italy, working remotely for a while, seeing family and friends, then crowning everything with a few days in Sicily, where I hadn’t been in over thirty years. Just a few days before the new year, as I was leaving one of my favorite restaurants in Imola, they gave me a 2020 daily calendar, with the day’s saint listed on each page. My thought then was that between work and all the trips we had planned for the year we’d end up falling behind and having to tear off entire weeks at a time.

Of course that’s not at all what happened, and that calendar became one of the most constant elements of the year, parked as it was on the living room desk, where I ended up sitting most of the day when remote work became the norm. If I couldn’t go back to Italy, at least I could have my daily laugh at a saint’s name, as I tore off yet another page.

I haven’t been much for year-in-review posts, since they’re either annoyingly self-congratulatory or just plain pointless, but if any year deserves some amount of review, 2020 is definitely it. I’m very aware of the fact that I’m writing from a position of extreme privilege, since the worst pandemic-related thing that’s happened to me personally is that I wasn’t able to fly back to Italy a bunch of times during the year. I was also never forced to fly back, no matter how stupid and crazy and worrying things were at home.

I’m all for the silver linings: the first couple of months of remote work (and our upstairs neighbor’s treadmill) gave us the kick in the butt we needed to seriously look for a home to buy. That was our hobby for the whole summer, until we found a very cool place we moved into in November. No more fighting for the bathroom, working out of the bedroom, or cursing at the kitchen for being too small. Now I even have a room where I can be squeaky on my violin without annoying the neighbors.

In the middle of that whole process, US immigration woke up again and I became a citizen. I also voted in the presidential election, against all odds.

So yes, I’m very privileged because I can look back at 2020 and not hate it completely. I’m sure I’ll carry the anxiety it gave me through the new year, if not years to come, but if that’s the only toll I’ll have to pay, I’ll take it.

Also, I read some books

At least until real estate started sucking up all my time, I tried to read as many books as I could, and I did much better than in previous years. Finishing sixteen books won’t sound like much to some people, but I count it as a huge success. The standouts are Ben Fergusson’s three novels, which make me want to either write more (the bar is very low, so that’s easy) or just stop trying: