Happy Winter Solstice! The 2020 Year in Review, Part I

It’s that time of year when we look back on the year that has gone by, hopefully, find peace and gratitude for what we can, and look forward to what the future holds. For all those reading this, I wish you all well, especially during this time of pandemic, unemployment, and uncertainty. I’ve titled this entry “Part I” since I plan to post another reflective post on Christmas and a third on New Years. In this blog post, I would like to look at a few challenges and successes (interspersed with pictures of the holiday decorations in my cozy house!).

These are some items I bought for myself in recent weeks. As they were delivered to my house I wrapped them up and placed them under my tree. I will properly open them up on Christmas.

2020 Challenge #1: The Pandemic.
This shouldn’t be surprising. I began working from home in March. In July I lost my job. In November I was hired back as a temp through December. It has now been extended through the end of January. It is currently a month-by-month process. Obviously not the most reassuring place to be, but these are extraordinary circumstances, and at least I am working. I am grateful for that.

2020 Success #1: Coming up on two full years in my new house.
I bought my house at the beginning of January, 2019, so I am just a couple of weeks away from two years in my house. It feels wonderful to have a place of my own – especially when the pandemic caused so many of us to work from home (something I embraced). My living room and dining room are my game rooms where I run my Castles & Crusades RPG campaigns (C&C is a more flexible and dynamic variation of Dungeons & Dragons). These games were run in person before the pandemic and currently are run on Discord.

My dining room/RPG gaming room.

The upper level of my house is where I have my academic library where I steadily read, research, and absorb medieval history, folklore, mythology, and philosophy (I am currently taking a MOOC from the University of Iceland on the Icelandic Sagas), both for my own understanding and also for imaginative translation into my C&C campaigns.

A portion of my academic library with my Christmas Tree

Under normal circumstances my house would be a great sanctuary for study and relaxation, but in these pandemic times it has proven even more important as I now have created a special office space for work as well.

2020 Success #2: Changes to Social Media Presence.
I am just a few days away from celebrating the one year anniversary since I deleted my Facebook account. On 31 December 2019 I deleted my Facebook account and Twitter was soon to follow. These were some of the best decisions I have made. I did not like what I had allowed those platforms to do to me – the constant need for seeking approval (through “likes”), and the constant confrontation and trolling that progressively got worse and kept me in a near constant state of anxiety and outrage. Those feelings are not healthy, nor normal. The ethical violations and manipulations of those platforms were also too much. I couldn’t make anymore excuses. Leaving them meant I did lose touch with some friends. But let us be honest, up until Facebook and Twitter, life was all about meeting people on our journey through life, and sometimes we stayed in touch with them, and sometimes we grew apart and pursued new paths on our journey. These platforms, I think, restrict our growth as persons as we keep people in our lives that perhaps no longer fit with where we are and where we are going. “The Self” (as I once tried to argue in my Ph.D. thesis) is constantly changing and evolving, so leaving these things behind refreshed my mental equilibrium, it reduced my anxiety and anger, it reduced the “look at me, look at me” narcissism that thrives on those platforms, and this in turn has allowed me to focus on taking care of myself and focusing on the smaller number of friends who are in my life and who want to be in my life. Not staring at a computer screen or phone all the time is liberating. For the first time in 10 years I am rediscovering what it is like to have “alone time,” as well as peace and quiet from the “noise” and constant “doom scrolling” that social media has instilled in us. It hasn’t been easy, but each day away from those platforms is a reminder of something special that I had lost and have now regained. This also coincided with the purchase of my new house, and that has given me a launching point for whatever new direction I choose to go on next in my journey. Obviously Challenge #1 has put a large obstacle in my path, but this can’t last forever, things can and will get better.

Well, that is enough for now. I will have some more year-end reflections in a few days. Be well, everyone.