06 January 2021

Looking back on a strange year

 The year 2020 is over! And what a year it was. It didn't start very well for me, due to 2019 ending with the bullying episode with the Thursday nighters. So my first mission was to deal with that! And that wasn't easy, as much as I would have liked to let it just slide off me like water from a duck. It just kept bugging me. But in the end, I managed to let go. I noticed it was dominating my runs, when my brain isn't occupied with anything else, and it can return to things that bother me. But I don't want my lovely runs to be blighted by unpleasant thoughts! So the only thing I could do was somehow shrug it off. In the end I managed. I have noticed that with other things; when I run, things that bother me have free rein. Paradoxically, I can't run from them when I'm running! So then I have to face them, and make a concerted effort to just lift them out of my head and leave it behind. I am still practising! But it's a very useful skill. I suppose I need to get even better at that in 2021.

Then, of course, the big event of 2020 hit. In short succession, it went from something happening on the other side of the world, to something that stopped people from travelling internationally, to something that made us have to practice social distancing, to something that sent us home from the office. And I thought it was going to be for a few weeks! I just couldn't imagine this would go on for months on end. Little did I know.

Working at home was something I needed to get used to; normally I see colleagues every single day. Now I saw nobody. I didn't like it in the beginning! And there are aspects of it I never liked. I like the casual contact you can have when you are on campus. Just popping in to see if someone else also has Internet problems. Or just discussing grades with teaching administration in person. Any of that sort of things! But after the initial period of adjustment, I quite took to it. I like my house! And I like being able to have lunch in my own garden. And the initial tight restrictions, where you were not allowed to use your car for leisure purposes, made me explore my surroundings like I never had before.

Working at home, of course, had a problem; we were not allowed to bring our computers home, so I did several months on my laptop. And that wasn't ideal! And I developed RSI. And the work stress was considerable; we suddenly had to make all our teaching for the new academic year covid-compatible. That is a heck of a lot of work!

In summer I managed to scoot to the Netherlands in the short window in which there were no travel restrictions. I am so glad I went!

Then summer was over, and the strangest academic year ever started. I was nervous! We had never done anything like this before. But then we had the first sessions, and it looked like we were pulling it off. I was chuffed! And I felt like we were all banding together to deliver the best we could to the students. Even though my arms hurt, I felt positive.

Then the bombshell hit. Me and my closest colleagues were singled out for job losses! We were basically told we were not needed. There went my feeling of all together pulling off an amazing feat. It was pretty harsh. And this was as well around the same time that I was phoning my GP, pretty much in tears, because I felt I needed help with my arms. These two things together were not good.

Then the strange period followed in which I was sick at home, coming to terms with not being able to do any job I would qualify for, facing losing the job I had, and all of that while brexit was looming. That was trying! But then I heard I wasn't losing my job, and that I would get voice recognition software plus concomitant training, and things looked up.

And then it pretty much was Christmas holiday. A strange Christmas! But, in spite of 2020, an enjoyable one.

So how will I look back on this year? I am sure it will forever be one that stands out. And it was trying! But I learned so much. I learnt to better deal with things that really bother me. I thought I already knew how to enjoy my own company, but I have taken that to the next level. I have learnt so much about my direct surroundings. I have learned how to provide online learning. I have learnt to come to terms with my permanent job not being permanent at all. And I have made plans regarding what to do if I leave academia. I think I am mentally prepared! And I have learned that I now have such power over my mental health that life can throw quite a lot of things at me and I will still come out on top. I know life was only threatening my health, my financial situation, and my status as a foreigner in a country that prides itself on its hostility, and that life can throw much worse at people. But still. I mean, only my arms were hurt; the rest of my body was working fine. Except for one cousin with long Covid, the pandemic has left those near me pretty much alone. But I still take strength from having weathered this.

So what now for 2021? I intend to become so good at voice control I pretty much don't have to use a mouse at all for the entire year. And I hope I will get vaccinated. And I hope everybody else does too! And I hope I will be back working full-time in no time. But that I will have the wisdom to not work myself an injury for an employer who might just as well turn around and decide they don't need me. And I hope I will get to see, and hug, the people again I wish I could have seen and hugged last year! Stay tuned…

PS I also learned Dragon can't decide whether it's "learned" or "learnt"!

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