Bye, 2020

I don’t think anyone is sorry to be showing 2020 the door this week. This year, the opening of a new decade (depending on your perspective), was seen by so many of us as the time when we would take control of our lives, take on new challenges, bring renewed energy to existing goals, cast off toxic habits and relationships, make dream careers a reality…and then it all came to a screeching halt with the rapid and deadly spread of CoVid-19. A virus that was supposed to take only a month or two to get under control has now taken millions of lives and, despite the new vaccines, shows little sign of slowing its rampage through humanity.

I was supposed to travel the country extensively this year, both for conferences and to celebrate a friend’s completion of her PhD; I was supposed to go to a James Taylor and Jackson Browne concert; none of it happened. We moved across the country in July because we had to, which was terrifying, and we haven’t been able to explore our new city the way we would have liked to. One endless work-from-home day has blurred into the next until I find myself here, on March 292nd, wondering how the entire year managed to slip away in a blur of brutality and screen fatigue.

But because everything went to shit this year, we were forced into a time of reckoning. When we were suddenly not allowed to hop onto our daily hamster wheel, the things that really matter — both good and bad — all came into sharper focus. Suddenly it became clear which relationships were worth prioritizing and which should be let go. Glued to the news or desperate for more books to read, the ways we daily uphold systemic racism and police brutality became something white people could no longer ignore. This year has been fucking brutal in myriad ways, but oddly enough 2020 did exactly what the open/close of a decade should do: it forced us to reflect, to confront, to reorient. 2020 pulled back the curtain on so much ugliness in every facet of our society and refused to cover it back up again, no matter how we begged. And now we know that we can never just “go back to normal,” because normal was literally killing us.

I don’t really do New Years resolutions, but the dumpster fire that has been 2020 has taught me a lot about who I am and what actually matters in my life. So in the spirit of the new year and new decade, in the hope of better things to come in 2021, here are some of the ugly things I’m doing my best to leave in 2020:

Body-shaming. This year I’ve made an effort to confront my internalized fatphobia, to listen to activists and friends, and to consider the times that I have body shamed people around me. My effort to change my mentality toward fatness has mostly been focused on how I react to other people; what’s holding me back is the body shaming that I direct at myself. I realized a few months ago that, despite the fact that I am living through a global health crisis as an adult woman with an adult woman’s body, I was still comparing my current body to my 19-year-old body. Why was I expecting my 28-year-old self to conform to 19-year-old Sara’s weight and measurements? Why was I disappointed in my adult body for being exactly that — the body of an adult and not a teenager? Going forward I plan to make a conscious effort to accept and love my body exactly as it is, through whatever changes it undergoes.

Bras. I used to never leave the house without one on, even if I was wearing bulky enough clothing to get away with it. That all went out the window with self-quarantining and working from home. Why wear a bra when people only see you from the clavicle up on Zoom? Sure, I have to go out in public to walk the dog, but you know what? Everybody has nipples. And everybody knows it. Bras are uncomfortable and only actually necessary for a fraction of my outfits. I’ll wear them when I want to, and no more.

Using ignorance as an excuse. It’s true that we can’t do better unless/until we know better, but it’s almost 2021. If by now we don’t know better — about our own internalized white supremacy, about misogyny, about ableism, about anti-fat bias — it’s because we have chosen not to pay attention. Ignorance isn’t a neutral position or excuse anymore. I’m done using it as one. Time to learn as much as possible, to get involved, to get comfortable being called out.

Equating productivity with work. You know what else besides work is productive? Reading for pleasure. Baking bread. Sleeping in. Playing with my dog. Sitting on my butt watching Star Trek. Why? Because these things produce a happy life for me. I am not a dissertation machine, so in 2021 I’m going to (try to) stop being disappointed in myself for not working like a machine.

Alarm clocks. Not 100% doable, but this is part of my productivity = work mentality that needs to go. Every morning my alarm goes off at 6:15, and every morning I either hit “snooze” multiple times or turn it off completely. Usually I just wait for my dog to get in my face and demand breakfast. Yet for some reason I have left this alarm on all year. At the beginning of quarantine I felt guilty for getting up an hour later than I used to. Time to kiss that guilt goodbye. Sleep is good!!

Guilt knitting. This may only make sense to the crafters reading this, but I’m guessing it will resonate. Gift knitting is a wonderful thing and I truly enjoy doing it. But there is such a thing as too much gift knitting, when it stops being a fun labor of love and starts seeming like an obligation weighing me down — which it often does. Then there’s the guilt when I look at yarn that I’ve had stashed for years and never done anything with. I decided halfway through this year that I was all done crafting out of obligation; I was only going to make things that made me happy because I didn’t need any more unhappy in 2020. That worked until Christmas….but knitting is too labor-intensive to do if you’re not enjoying the project. In 2021 I want to be more intentional about the things I make, and how and why I make them. No more guilt over knitting for myself!

Wearing pants when not absolutely necessary. Nuff said.

Whatever you’re hoping for 2021 to bring, I hope you can leave what’s weighing you down in 2020 where it belongs. Happy New Year, friends, and good fucking riddance, 2020!