2020: What happened?Published Thursday, 31st December, 2020
These monthly updates are essentially diary entries that I share with you. Behaving as a sort-of time-capsule, these little bulletins have proved to be even more valuable this year, candidly capturing what made 2020 so unique.
Here's what I got up to:
JANUARY: I started the year by sharing four resolutions; to cut my carbon emissions, visit more museums and galleries, consume food in restaurants instead of taking it away, and to not let technology seep into my home as much. Ha. I achieved the first thanks to a global pandemic that ground me to a halt and spectacularly failed the rest. I'm not even mad about it.
FEBRUARY: I launched my podcast and helped launch The Space Programme. I designed some stuff for BBC Radio Gloucestershire's 50 by 50 campaign; presenter Dominic Cotter had turned 49 and was on a quest to do fifty new things – one per week – in the countdown to his 50th.
MARCH: 50 by 50 stopped but so did everything else. I stopped commuting, I tried to stop reading the news. I started a daily podcast, Stuck at Home. I rememebr feeling afraid in March – I think all of us did – but reading my update from that month, it shows a maturity I didn't expect.
APRIL: Walks and work. I was versioning Stuck at Home sessions into three; a podcast, a one-hour radio piece, and a bespoke programme for BBC Sounds every day. As a body of work, it might be the thing I'm most proud of so far in my career.
MAY: I turned 25. Picked up nominations at British Podcast Awards for The Santa Daily and The Week Junior Show. The best hotel I've ever stayed in – Three Abbey Green (the Lord Nelson Suite was the favourite) – closed its doors.
JUNE: Picked up a pair of Maison Margiela shoes. Returned them after realising they were £400. With friends on Discord, I began a Bad Movie Club. I've watched more things this year than any other. We watched Cats. Maybe TIME magazine is correct; perhaps 2020 was the 'Worst Year Ever'?
JULY: 106 episodes of Stuck at Home later, it becomes Activity Quest. I play on high-ropes courses, go rock-climbing, head on long forest walks, visit zoos, and chat to some incredible and inspiring people. Childhood dream of becoming a Blue Peter presenter basically achieved.
AUGUST: Began eating better thanks to Abel and Cole. Ate strawberries on the floor in my underwear in sweltering 32º heat. Played in the rain like a Hollywood movie when the heat finally broke. We sold our family home of 20-something years and I loaded everything I owned into boxes.
SEPTEMBER: We moved, I took two weeks off work. We had no internet connection which, as someone who works-from-home in the middle of a work-from-home revolution, was a problem. We were in the middle-of-nowhere, surrounded by nothing but countryside. Bathed a lot. Walked even more.
OCTOBER: I stood underneath the Earth for 30 minutes. I walked Gloucestershire's May Hill, I walked White Horse Hill, I walked a tiny portion of Ridgeway. I spent the month in nature. I left Twitter. I recorded more for Activity Quest this month than any other. I watched loads of TV from Criminal to 60 Days In.
NOVEMBER: Like the rest of the nation, I slowed down as we entered a second lockdown. I got a new phone, I got an Apple Watch, I got a lot of Uber Eats. That resolution's truly out the window now. Oh well. I checked the price of Bitcoin and kicked myself for getting rid of my investment earlier than I should have done. Oh well!
This past month, I went into London for the first time since March. Saw work-friends in the flesh for a mere 16 minutes. Had a Zoom Christmas party. Listened to lots of Taylor Swift, Sir Paul McCartney. Watched the season change around me as I reflected on the year and myself.
The global effects of COVID-19 are undoubtedly devastating and this year has been tough for many. Never has a humble trip around the sun been so derided. 2020 felt like a never-ending churn of catastrophes for much of the year but it wasn't until I slowed down that I took stock of what I mad managed to achieve.
2020 was the year that:
- My four-hour round-trip commute no longer consumed a healthy percentage of my time or paycheque.
- I managed to get out and adventure more than ever before despite two national lockdowns that shuttered nearly everything.
- The world shrank as I both spoke to more people but also had a healthier relationship with the social internet.
- I started to really enjoy and take pride in the work I was making.
- I spent not an insignificant amount of time around people I love for the first time in almost half-a-decade.
I realise how very fortunate I am to consider the only downside of 2020 lockdown hair that would rival the frontman of an 80s pop group. I am grateful for that.
And so here we are... a day away from 2021 and another trip around the sun.
The New Year is always dangerous. It provides an imaginary finish line. Most leaders have reached this imaginary finish line short of ideas on what to do next.
With the UK's transition period for exiting the European Union ending at the stroke of midnight, with the vast majority of the UK population still to vaccinate, with more contagious forms of coronavirus undoubtedly making their way through families post-Christmas, and with uncertainty on what modern commerce looks like in a world of Zoom calls and same-day home-delivery, the reality is that we're not even out of the starting gates yet.
Together, we've clocked that a subtle economic, ecological and social rebalancing needs to take place; it falls on civilians to rethink the way we operated and to turn the ashes of our old world into something new.
Mulling over the changes to come, I am reminded of a poster sat on the wall of my secondary school classroom. It featured a quote from John W. Gardner who served under US President Lyndon Johnson.
History never looks like history when you are living through it. It always looks confusing and messy, and it always feels uncomfortable.
If we’re ever going to see the change we want, 2021 is the time to push for it.
Ready for the real challenge?
See you next year.