New Years Eve, 2020.
What a year aye?
What can I say.
I’ve sat here for a while, hands poised over the keyboard, but not much is coming out easily.
I don’t normally do end-of-year posts, and I’m not a resolution-maker, but it felt somehow fitting to write something this year. I’m keen to not write it off completely as a shit year, however there’s no denying it’s been, shall we say, challenging.
I feel unbelievably fortunate to be living in New Zealand. We’ve got an incredible Prime Minister who, along with the Government, led our country through the COVID-19 pandemic with a strong strategy and great communication. Whatever you might think of their party, I doubt there’s few people who could argue that the approach wasn’t people-focused, sensible and successful.
Yes, we have way less population than other countries, yes, we’re more spread out (well, in certain areas, cities do exist here you know) but let’s not discount the compliance and collective effort of 5 million people for three months (and the early and continued border closure), allowing us to live pretty much restriction-free since June this year.
Life here is relatively normal. We can go to work, we can eat out in restaurants, we can buy a pint, we can go to a gig, we can travel around the country and go on holiday. We can see people.
But, for us ex-pats, we can’t see some of the people we want to the most.
Closing the borders is the thing that keeps us safe and in this position, but it also means very few people can leave (or you can leave, but a lot of people can’t get back in). Even if you can get back in (e.g. you meet the criteria of being a permanent resident or citizen), there’s no guarantee that flights will get you here, because it depends where you’re coming from and the countries you might transit through. You also need to have a booking for the 14-day mandatory quarantine facility which are already booked out months ahead.
It’s hard not to feel a little trapped. I can’t leave the country, for any reason. Knowing some of the people I love most in the world are at risk from a virus that is indiscriminate about who might get seriously ill, is difficult to sit with. Knowing that should anything happen, I can’t be there, is hard. I don’t dwell on it, and remain optimistic, but it’s something that’s there, hovering away in the background like a dark cloud on the horizon while I’m frolicking on a sunny beach.
It’s a weird feelings juxtaposition of gratitude, guilt and helplessness. Of course, guilt doesn’t help anyone, and I know people want me to enjoy what freedom I have, but that doesn’t mean you just stop feeling. And it’s not just me; I know a lot of ex-pats here in New Zealand, and we all feel the same. We just try not to let it be the only thing we feel.
It’s made it hard to relate to people overseas, when New Zealand has more freedom than ever as other countries tighten their restrictions. “What have you been up to?” is a usual question, but one now laden with careful answers. It’s like there’s a club we’re not a part of. I’ve not spoken to many people in the past couple of months. Not just because of this, but mainly because of a general end-of-year fatigue and social-avoidance, probably caused by months and months of low-level stress. I’m sorry if I’m slow to respond to messages, or have video calls or get in touch. This year has been a bit of a battle, and it’s worn me down. I’ve been doing everything I can the last 6 months to avoid burnout.
I’ve been involved in some projects at work involving a lot of change, my part in which has felt like it’s been constantly fought against or questioned. Day in, day out, with everything else, it’s taken it’s toll.
I’ve not lost the motivation for activity, but I have lost the energy. Running more than 5km feels like a marathon, and every run requires some mental strength just to get to the end. Climbing a hill feels like Everest. I continue to do them [gently] though, because not doing it would make me feel worse. I begrudgingly accept it’s just where I am at the moment and not to push it, but hell, it doesn’t half disappoint me that it’s all I can do right now.
I don’t want to be half as social as I normally am. I feel like a wounded animal who’s crawled into a metaphorical cave to look after and heal itself. I’ve found I want to spend so much more time alone, and get angsty when I’ve been around too many people, or for too long. I don’t have a lot to give others, because I need to give so much to myself right now.
Then there’s also the flip side to that. At one point, I think it was around November, I felt so very alone. It surprised me, because I’d been feeling generally OK, and have a lot of friends here now compared to when I first moved here, and I’m in a relationship, but I guess I’d withdrawn. I was stressed with work, and few things had happened and I realised I just wanted to be around people who had known me for a long time. I just wanted to sit in a room with my family and just soak up all that unconditional support, without having to say anything.
I’ve found I can deal with a lot – up to a point. Then one small thing can happen, something insignificant that I’d normally be fine dealing with, and it’s like my brain goes NOPE, TOO MUCH. OVERLOAD.
I’ve missed going to the UK this year. It’d been over two years since my last trip and I was SO looking forward to seeing everyone and everything. I miss not just people, but buildings, food, green fields and just general British stuff. Not knowing how long it will be before that happens again is also hard to deal with. How much do people change in that time? What if my friendships wither out? Being able to go back on a (semi)regular basis, or have people visit me here, keeps my life in the UK still alive. I don’t want it to die. I might live in NZ, but I also have a foot in the UK, and always want to have.
It’s not to say there haven’t been great parts of 2020 for me though. There are always good and bad times in life, every year. My relationship with The Poet is going great; he brings a lot of fun and laughter to my life, as well as being a huge support that I didn’t realise I needed.
I’ve hugely enjoyed writing, playing around with stuff. Although saying that, I haven’t done any for a month or so. The drive or energy just hasn’t been there. I’ve been getting a good sense of what I enjoy this year though, and giving me a steer on where I might want to go with it. I’ve had a couple of articles published; I didn’t realise how much of a thrill I’d get from seeing my name in a byline in a proper magazine until it happened.
A year in moments didn’t go the way I’d hoped as I hardly wrote much, mainly because Tales from lockdown was so time and energy intensive. I’m OK with that though, because the lockdown series is one of the things I’m most proud of this year.
I’ve managed to spend lots of time outside [gently] exploring beautiful places, or just sitting on the beach or in the park. Not doing a lot, just being. I’ve read a million* books. (*perhaps a slight exaggeration)
I’ve learnt lots about myself. Again. Life is a constant learning curve, we know that, but fuck me isn’t it tiring sometimes.
As much as I’m disappointed with how little I feel like I’m doing physically, I’ve focused on enjoying taking things a little slower and trying some gentler things. I quite like having a more focused effort on looking after myself.
I was hanging out for Christmas, knowing I had a three week break from work and life. I’ve spent the time since I left Christchurch over a week ago just unwinding. Lots of walking, reading, time near the ocean and SO MUCH sleep. I feel like I’ve finally let out the breath I’ve been holding in for months. I still feel a little fragile, but I think that will last a while. We still have some way to go in dealing with the way the world is changing.
I have no idea what 2021 has in store, but I’ll be taking it one day at a time. If 2020 has reminded me of anything, it’s to not think too far ahead and be grateful for the small things.