Portrait of 2020: The Year of ME (US)

By Christina Kim - December 31, 2020


2020, a year that was truly unusual and just out of expectation (or even beyond anyone's wildest imagination).

When we bade our farewell to 2019 and ushered in the year 2020, we welcomed it in the usual grand manner, (or for most of the world anyway, those who are into mass celebrations and extravagance). As with every year, we often look forward to the year to come with anticipation, excitement and of course, full of hope.

The year gave us in turn a huge surprise and a real CHANGE from the years before and had many wished that it never happened or just wanted to skip the year and move forward. It would come to be remembered as perhaps, one of the most detested (and forgettable) year in almost everyone's history. 

However, was it truly so bad that we ought to detest it? Is it a year to be forgotten or rather one that is unforgettable? I would say the latter, as try as we may, this year is definitely going down our memory and life history as one of the most unforgettable years and it is a shared memory across the world.

I take a different perspective from those who hated the year, who wished that it would just go away, tucked into that dark corner to be discarded along with the unpleasant memories. Sure, 2020 was nothing I had ever envisioned myself either when I changed the calendar at the stroke of midnight and it was beyond my wildest imagination that the apocalypse we had only read in fictional and science fiction novels and movies would actually take place in reality, let alone in our time and space. It still felt surreal that there are times I felt like a fictional character who had time traveled back to the Dark Ages or the time of the infamous Spanish flu occurrence. It just did not seem to register that in our era of modern knowledge, science/technology and advancement in almost everything (including humanity) that there is still a plague that is still incurable. Yet this is the current reality we are facing and while we are proving that we can indeed battle it out with our wits, it still remains a race against time in determining the ultimate winner in this war with the unseen enemy.

The issue at hand, the virus which is not to be named, the Dark Lord of our age which had all of us helpless at its mercy. We experienced being confined to our homes by enforcement and for our own safety which further led to frustrations in almost everyone since it is a socially interactive and connected world we live in today. More problems ensued, mental breakdowns, social, financial, personal, economic, or in short, nothing seems to be right anymore with the recurring waves of the virus. 2020 started indeed with a bang and starting from March, there seems nothing notable we can remember anymore aside from the four walls of our homes, the same routines every single day (within the same walls and space), the same people (unless you live alone then all you have is your own reflection or maybe your living/lifeless furry companion) and the fresh air we crave each day as we open our windows and look longingly at the skies outside.

It was a year in confinement, that was all we remember. Some would describe it as unpleasant , likening it to prison and to some, it felt like a torture chamber or a mental institution. You have my sympathies. 

When I say I take a different perspective, it was more of a personal take I have and I do share the empathy on others' plights, especially for those who lost their jobs or are unable to feed their loved ones and themselves as their confinement inhibited them from their regular work which for many are on a daily pay basis. It is not easy to understand the anguish they go through as they struggle mentally and physically each day, wondering about their fates. I will not say nor pretend that I know what they are going through, it would be unrealistic and insincere.

I, like the rest of the world, am blessed to be able to provide for my daily livelihood, to have four walls to call a home and to have food on my table without any major worry. However, while many lament the desperation of being confined to their homes, I find it a rather unique experience. I remembered in one of my earlier posts this year (before I went into complete silence and long hiatus of disappearance) was how I viewed my unpleasant (and frustrating) experience of having my air-conditioning unit break down on me in the midst of the lockdown period, which turned out to be a lesson and enlightenment for me. It is the same way I view this year, to be honest.

Perhaps many would attribute it to me being an introvert, a homebody and while I often thought of myself as such too, I am actually not a full blown introvert, as much as I would like as I am also into outdoors and social interactions, though less than the extreme extroverts. I am, rather a mix of both natures and in what they term as an ambivert these days. Yes, this term does exist, google it.

However, I would not deny that I am indeed, still more of a homebody who welcomed anytime (or most of my time) in privacy and quiet spaces with a book, notebook or my electronic device (yes, I live in the modern age, thank you) hence the reason why many would say that this year is not any different for me or also many who share my nature. While I welcome the peace and time spent, I have to say that there are times when it is not easy for me either as I miss the presence of loved ones and interacting with people around me. It is a time all for ME, to myself and for myself. I do welcome it, I do love it, truly I do, but as a member of the human race and of the living world, I am also of a social nature as I live and breathe. In fact, we all are, even the most extreme introverts. We can never escape the social part in us for that was how we are engineered, like it or not. I will not dwell on this aspect as this is certainly another topic to explore.

Now, 2020 kept us in check, in our toes and in social isolation for the most of the year (three quarters of the year), where the keyword is social isolation for the year. We begin to practise new routines and adopt new lifestyles where the norm is to don a mask the minute we step out of our homes and exercise extreme hygienic habits, to wash our hands, sanitise, shower and wash our clothes after going out and immediately when stepping into our homes. It is no time like before and almost everyone became a health expert or developed an obsession with cleanliness though it is not as if we had a choice anyway. Most of the time, if we do not need to, we are to stay indoors, or at least, most of us do and I am one of them until now.

I do not go out unless absolutely necessary and honestly, I do think that is the wisest thing to do based on the existing circumstances where the numbers are not looking at a decline anytime soon in my country and I am not going to comment nor judge those who are already out and about (some, all the time) or back to how it was before. I am still practising the way it was during the lockdown all the way and it has been for the three quarters of the year, which is almost, the entire year.

In retrospect, the time in confinement and these unusual practices are what most people detest about this year and it is this that I share a different perspective. Of course, it is not something even I am accustomed to and to say that I welcome it would be a lie, but looking back, it has been a year that we spent in isolation for most of the time which would mean a lot of "Me" time, all for myself, unless you are confined with many others you share the same space with, or on the verge of separation/divorce after spending too much time with your partners, you have my sympathies (just kidding). Even if that is the case, it still a lot of time we have for ourselves if you think about it, even when we are always in virtual meetings or running about in the kitchen and around the house all the time. We are still kept busy despite the circumstances, and running on our feet, our own feet.

When the day dies down at the end, with nowhere to go and only the television or computers on and the occasional chatter from your partner, it is still a quiet time for ourselves and perhaps, our loved ones if we stay with them. Many of us often wished for that time back then before all this happened, we often wanted more time for ourselves, with our loved ones yet when being given that opportunity, we do not see it that way. I know, it is not easy, it is always easier said than done and perhaps I can be a little overenthusiastic in my eccentric perspectives, but it is still something to ponder upon if we take a different approach to that whole experience, pleasant or unpleasant.

For me, I find it a rather exploratory time to learn more about myself, to reflect and to ponder upon my own search for answers and meaning of my own life and existence (I know I have always been saying and doing that, if you have been following my blog over the years, it is something that I do and revisit over and over again). I mean, we always hear everyone complaining about how life, their daily work and lifestyles are taking the livelihood out of their lives and how they do not even have time for themselves. They yearn desperately for that "Me" time, lashing out, complaining when they do not have that dedicated "Me" time yet when given the opportunity to have that full time to themselves still complain about being confined and having only themselves in the same space. 

The mystery of the human mind, the never-ending discontentment.

It is daunting, I won't deny, but it is fully a time dedicated to our own and whole being, to spend time with ourselves and if you are living with others, especially loved ones, you are also dedicating the time to learn more about each other and know each other better than before (before driving each other crazy, that is).

I often talk about finding myself, that "Me" in well, my being, seeking to discover myself and the things I want to know more about myself. It may sound crazy but in truth, even in our own being, there is just so much to ourselves if we were to explore in depth and we will come to realise that even we can never truly learn all about ourselves whether you admit it or not. Expecting others to know us is just laughable when you come to think of it and is just a demand on our own parts. We get frustrated when our other half do not understand, but really, do we even understand ourselves sometimes? Do we really know what we truly want? When you come down to think about it, it can be not just deep experience but a scary territory that most, if not all of us are afraid to explore for even we do not want to know the real answers.

I took this time to search for all that answers, to think more about my own life journey and the journey I have taken so far, searching for the goals, the dreams and the lost aspirations that have dissipated with all the things that have come to take place over the years. I used to want answers and also to set goals (that was what and the way I worked with growing up), and getting to know more about things and my own self where those define the future path and plans I can work with but deep down inside, I do know that is just wishful thinking.

I have come to learn, or rather, accept that there is no answers to everything and I am fine with that. Life is better a mystery anyway, it makes it a more adventurous journey. 

I have also realised that there is never one set goal, never one road to be taken and that we will never fully always follow the same path or the path we want and I am myself a living testament to that. 

I know that it is a never ending to knowledge too, long ago and that includes our knowledge of ourselves and I am fine with that, now. It is even better that way for now, we will find that time for ourselves more, to cherish ourselves and to be thankful for just being. 

It is not about self obsession but rather, to fully be in the being with ourselves. 

When you look at your entire life, you will realise that most of the time, you are just too concerned with others but yourselves. What others would think of you, what would others do in your situation, what are the people who will shape you, what are things you should do and what are expectations you have to meet and the list just goes on and on. We neglect what we want and expect ourselves, because it is not important when others make it that way and that 'others' include our parents, teachers, peers, friends, co-workers, bosses, religious leaders, political leaders, the society and so on. We have 'lost' ourselves in the midst of all that voices, too busy catching up and living up to all that so-called set standards and expectations that we have stopped listening to ourselves. We forgot what WE wanted, what our heart wants and what our mind keeps telling us. We go against our own nature, for the sake of making the rest of the world happy and that goes for every single one of us, even without ourselves realising it.

Self discovery is a word I often use and it is not light nor simple term or journey to be taken, which is the reason I often seek to discover myself. I want to find myself, I need to find myself, but now, I have also come to accept that I can never truly find every single bit of myself. I can never fully understand even myself nor force myself to because things change every single day, every single minute, every single second or even with every single breath we take. There is no constant moment which stays the same which is why it is famously said that the only constant is Change.

We evolve and even we ourselves, our wants and needs change with the times. We do not find ourselves wanting the same things as when we were kids nor a decade ago. We do not feel the same about certain things, or people the same way it was before. Everything changes, and there is no pause button for that. Realising that and coming to terms with that is most important but above all, coming to spending time and learning about ourselves constantly in that moving times is even more urgent.

So, is 2020 that bad when we are 'forced' to spend time with ourselves? 

It is a time for self reflection, for gratitude, for affirmation and reformation, understanding what went wrong and what is right and the meaning of our being in this very hemisphere.

Most of all, it is about spending time to cherish that "ME" we have all become, the journey we have taken thus far and who we have become today. It is time to look at ourselves, and not get swept away with all that influences and voices around us. It is time to pay attention to our selves, our being and to be thankful for being here, to be able to think and have that conversation with ourselves, because it means, we are still alive in the midst of that pandemic and that is first and foremost.

My heart goes out to those who are battling the pandemic, patients of the deadly virus, medical personnel who risk their lives every single day, the people who are out on their feet and wheels to ensure the continuity of our livelihood (I am referring to delivery folks, postmen, couriers, food delivery, etc), the suppliers and also to those who have lost their loved ones to the pandemic. I cannot fully express with words the feelings they go through and the fear/risks in each and every of them for our sakes. Also to those who are working on the vaccines and the volunteers for the testing of the vaccines, I am beyond grateful for them for they are also taking one of the biggest risks of their lives to find a cure for each and every one of us.

They certainly do not have that "ME" time and it is not the time for them to focus on that "Me" now. For the rest of us who are not able to do anything, instead of complaining that we are confined too much and do not get to travel, shop, etc, let us just focus on these people and cherish that time we have lost for ourselves that we now fully have. We continue to engage and ensure our own survival in this silent battle against our "invisible" enemy and adapt to the new practices/lifestyle while also finding that time to focus on our own being, giving a little more attention to that "Me" time we get more of these days and be grateful for it while we still can. Focus on the present, the time being, the "US", be it your own self or with our loved ones, just savour the moment.

2020 cannot be erased but it is a good milestone in our life learning (I still have so much to talk about the year, but I will leave it for another post as we go through the last few hours of the year remaining).

I do not have all the answers to the questions I seek, no matter how long or how many times I embark on this self exploration and learning and I know I never can nor will have these answers yet I do not mind and I am totally fine with that. I do not need an answer to everything. After all, life itself is a mystery and I would prefer to just unravel and saviour it as it comes, its every moment. As Forrest Gump says it best, "Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you will get".

I do not know what is to come and again it does not matter for it is far more important to focus on the NOW, the moment at present and the US at this time. Live in the present, be there for ourselves and also for others, give yourself that opportunity to learn more about yourself with each and every moment. It is the present that counts and the only one that we can see and what matters the most at this point of time. We can no longer change the past nor can we predict the future, so why dwell on things we can see nor change when there is the time being which we can focus on but letting it slip by lifelessly? It is about BEING...being HERE, being YOU, being in the being.

Be thankful for each moment we still have and are in, cherish each waking moment. Stop yearning for things we do not and cannot have that we let what we have go out of sight. Be thankful, be content, and just BE in the present, with everything we have.

I cannot see what the future holds but as with every year, I certainly pray for a better year to come and hope that 2021 will bring us positive change where the end of the pandemic is definitely the goal.

Goodbye 2020, I will not say it was the year 'twas this year, but rather, it is a quiet portrait that I know I will often look back and remember for 2020, you are definitely a year that I will and can never forget.

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