You know what the year was like for me? A quickie. Barely any time to start, sputtering to a finish, then just lying there, gasping for breath. Yep, that sounds like 2020 to me.
I watched as we bragged about working from home, then complained about working from home, then broke out because working from home became too much. I watched as we made dalgona coffee and sourdough bread, watched as we succumbed to the acute mental illness that is Tik-Tok, watched as we started hawking homemade things, and watched as we blamed everyone from the highest echelons of government down to the barangay tanod for everything,
Toronto went from orange, to red, to orange, to red, to grey – and I couldn’t enjoy any of those zones at all, or even say they made a difference. After the virus struck and the city shut down, I lived the whole year as if I was in a round the clock grey zone. Dine-in restaurants? What are those? The number of times I actually ventured out to shop (groceries don’t count) can be counted on my fingertips. I didn’t enjoy having to wear a mask all the time, or having to shy away from people. I didn’t enjoy slathering on hand sanitizer every time I’d enter an establishment and every time I’d leave it (neither did my hands). I stopped seeing faces and bodies, and started seeing possibly virulent petri dishes with arms and legs. I don’t enjoy the paranoia that strikes at the sight of bare, flared nostrils over a face mask.
I was lucky to still have a job when everything else had either downsized or shut down, so I threw myself into work. What else was there? But all work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy; I worked too much, so much so that I felt myself beginning to fray at the edges. In this case, all work and no play gave Jack burn-out. It also gave Jack the possible beginnings of carpal tunnel. At the risk of beating this metaphor into the dirt, I am Jack.
Taylor Swift released not one, but two albums this year. I did diddly squat. I was (am?) the embodiment of Bruno Mars’ The Lazy Song. I’m gonna kick my feet up, then stare at the fan, turn the TV on, throw my hand in my pants… I barely wrote anything, not because I didn’t have time, but because there was nothing to inspire.
This time this year, I was supposed to have been back home in the Philippines, with my family. They may drive a body crazy, but at the end of the day, I like spending the holidays with them. I miss the traditions we have, the midnight dinners and the cornucopia of round fruits, that incessant Jose Mari Chan Christmas album. The smell of apples brings tears to my eyes, and so do oranges; the sight of a bag of Chippy can form a fist around my heart, squeezing hard enough to take the breath out of me. Don’t worry too much, though. Quite a lot of things can make me break down lately; this year I found myself crying during two separate Dr. Who finales and My Neighbor Totoro. I’m a mess. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it’s been a heavy year.
I am not someone who is able to be optimistic at all times. I am a realist, and I realize things are probably going to get worse before they get better. I also realize that I took my hometown for granted, so much so that I up and left it, like an idiot who didn’t know better. I miss home. I miss it more than I ever have since I’ve moved. Worse than the enforced lockdowns and the job burn-out, the sensation of having my wings clipped is the one I found hardest to bear. But such is 2020. This isn’t the new normal anymore. It’s just new. Or is it normal? Only 2021 will tell.
Happy New Year, everyone. More than ever, here’s to your good health – physical, mental, emotional and everything in between. And remember…