We’re not quite at the finish line yet, but we’re getting closer. And while I know that things won’t miraculously change the moment the Gregorian calendar flips from 2020 to 2021, it always makes me feel a little different and a little bit hopeful for the year to come when a new year rolls in.
I’m not one for New Year’s Eve parties and I’m also not one for New Year’s resolutions, I’ve always been too old for the former and too stuck in my ways for the latter. Telling myself that I’m finally going to get fit, lose weight, work harder, learn a new language, or any other difficult task in the dead of the winter months when I’m at my most depressed is just a recipe for disaster.
However, that doesn’t mean I don’t look back and reflect on the previous year. I always take time in the space between Christmas and New Year to think about what happened that year and what lessons to take away from it. While I may not be making a resolution as such, I do always resolve to learn from past mistakes and build on good foundations.
On the note of mistakes, I should apologise to you all. I fear that I was responsible for the pandemic. You see, at the start of the year I bought an ornamental jar and decorated it in the hope it would be a sort of memory jar. I bought some little plain cards and envelopes, and the plan was that any time anything fun or interesting happened I’d jot down what had happened, seal the envelope, put the date on it, and pop it into the jar. Come December 31st, my wife and I would sit down and read about all the wonderful things that had happened in 2020 and decorate a new memory jar for 2021.
The jar has been a little emptier than I would have liked. It started strong with a trip to America in January and February and then a couple of fun things in February and then, well, March came. And now December is here. There were a couple of things in the middle but really not worthy of a memory jar. Or were they?
You see, when I created the memory jar we had at least five overseas trips planned, family birthday parties, Midsommer in Sweden, a house move, four book events, two award ceremonies, a writing conference, celebratory dinners with friends, and more. At the start of the year, that was what I expected to be putting in the jar throughout the year.
It wasn’t until this year took such a dramatic turn that I changed my expectation of what is important to me. Come May, an ordinarily routine trip to the hairdresser was an event worthy of the memory jar. Being able to put our house on the market for sale was a cause for celebration long before we finally sold it. Going into a clothing shop despite having to wear masks and not being allowed to touch anything felt like a watershed moment.
It’s been hard, that’s undoubtedly true. It will continue to be hard even when 2020 becomes 2021. But I think it’s important to remember the good times, even if in a more conventional year they wouldn’t be worthy of note at all.
Despite all the good things that 2020 personally brought to me, a new home, a new publishing house, pre-pandemic travels, and writing accolades higher than I could possibly dream of, I will always look back on 2020 with a bit of a grimace. It had such potential when I was making my pandemic-causing memory jar, and then it all went so dramatically wrong.
I suspect when I open the envelopes on December 31st, I’ll recall some of 2020 with surprising fondness. I’ll recall the post-lockdown trip to the beach where I walked in the shallows with my shoes and socks in my hand, enjoying the warm water. I’ll remember the relief at seeing my parents, socially distanced of course, after a terribly stressful time. I’ll think of the house we bought and are preparing to move into to start the next stage of our lives.
I know we’ve all had a pretty terrible year, but I urge you to try to look for the small rays of sunshine in between. They are likely to be easy to overlook, things you normally wouldn’t have thought twice about. But in a year like 2020, they are worthy of the memory jar.