2020 in review
This is my 7th year taking a selfie every day as a way to catalog the year. As I compile a video at the end of the year, I always find pausing to reflect. I have continued daily selfies as a sort of photo journal for each year, and to show more transparency of good, bad, and boring days on social media. You can find the previous years compiled in video on my youtube channel.
This was a year full of intense highs and intense lows. 2020 was very much the start of a new season of my life. I had so much I was looking forward to this year. Then everything came crashing to a halt literally days before my plane was supposed to leave for a week in Montreal to attend the World Figure Skating Championships Part of me felt stuck in mid-March waiting to fly to Canada for a week for several months. I was finally finding my groove as an NP, and it came to a crashing halt as we had to figure out virtual visits, and I was called upon to help get the office started with pre-procedure COVID testing, with no previous workflow in plae for mass-lab collection at our specialty clinic. The middle of the year was marked by headache and frustration as my day to day work was far from what I spent the last several years training and studying for. Then, as we got a system in place that could be managed without me taking primary responsibility, I found my way back to patient visits, doing what I love: spending time with patients, listening to their concerns, educating them about their symptoms, work up options, diagnoses, and medications- the whole reason I decided to be an NP. Meanwhile, I’ve watched from the sidelines as my coworkers of the last 5 years in the ICU have cared for the some of the sickest patients in the pandemic.
As the entire world was knocked down from the pandemic, we also went through so much as a country. At the start of the year, I was filled with energy and passion and hope for the country as I volunteered with Elizabeth Warren’s campaign. She stepped out of the democratic primaries the same week of the shutdown, and I found my energy and momentum depleted. As we moved into the rest of the year, the realities of systemic racism, particularly within our justice and police system, became clearer to more people as we were all finding our normal non-stop routines that can clutter our minds from deep reflection coming to a pause. These realities have been present since the foundation of our country, and there has been groans and cries for justice for generations, which I only started finally having clearer eyes to see and ears to hear back when I first started my daily selfies in 2014. As all eyes turned to new and well-publicized cases of police brutality and the protests in response, our nation became even more divided, as we entered the most divisive and hateful election cycle I’ve lived through as people from all sides found it easier to dehumanize those who don’t agree with them. I found myself gripped with anxiety as we got closer to the election and I imagined possible outcomes. Even as I post this a large part of our country continues to deny the election results with no substantial proof, just as many also deny the realities of the rapidly worsening pandemic. I have struggled with how to reach people who are surrounded by voices of hate and anger that prey on fear and entitlement, and instead show them love while also opening their eyes to the realities of preventable suffering of their fellow humans.
And in the midst of everything going on in the world and the country, I also continued on and welcomed everyone else into a journey I started in 2019, when I realized I was gay. I made amazing connections with other women in a coming out support group early on in the shutdown, and worked through a long list of people to come out to individually, before coming out on my social media this fall. As I was making those plans, I also met and fell in love with a woman who has made me happier than I have ever felt before in a relationship, and who I hope to build a home and a life with in the coming years.
I cried many days this year; maybe more complete breakdowns than I’ve had in any other year before, though I’ve never counted. I cried because of the pandemic, because of loneliness and lack of touch and connection, because of rejection or silence from people I love after I came out to them, for the pain and suffering caused by systemic racism that too many continue to be complacent about. My heart has felt raw and exposed. There has not been any lack of things or people to grieve this year, including my dear friend Abby who died of an opiate overdose.
But I’ve also smiled and laughed until my face hurt, and felt so full of joy and peace and love. I have had perfect moments of bliss.
And of course, as usual, I have had countless days that blur one into the other, maybe even more this year than usual with all the time I’ve spent in my one bedroom apartment.
Looking back over the last 7 years of daily selfies, that has always been the journey, though. Great joy and great pain, intermingled. Life can be wonderful and terrible at the same time. Life is experienced in the tension, and the holding space for it all. My hope for us all as we move into 2021 is that we will be filled with greater capacity for love, grace, and justice. And widespread vaccine distribution!
I pray as well that we continue to remember that we have all had to navigate the stress, burdens, anxieties, fear, discord, and instability this year, personally and globally, while largely cut off from our main coping mechanisms and support systems. We were all asked to carry more this year while also all experiencing decreased capacity for even mild and routine stressors. It is truly an achievement to continue to survive. I hope we all strive to see the full, complex, beautiful humanity of all those we encounter this year, in person and online, and lead with grace and love as we still call one another to greater accountability and action towards justice and peace.