Things I Learned in 2020

Photo of me wearing a face mask standing in front of "Let's Survive Forever" artist statement by Yayoi Kusama. Taken at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, Canada.
"Let's Survive Forever"

Happy New Year! It's Jabruarch the 67th today, and I think a new year already began? I'm not sure, really. 2020 kind of bled into a congealed blob of non-time...maybe 2021 is going to be more of the same?

I jest. I came out of the year relatively unscathed, but that certainly was not everyone's experience.

A quick recap of my 2020

First week of January: Rang in the New Year at the Twelve Apostles in Australia on the Great Ocean Road

Remainder of January + February: became more and more aware (aka frightened) of the "New Corona Virus" taking over China, Korea and then my home in Japan

March-October: lockdown in Toronto. What was meant to be a short stay to help mom with a surgery, attend a bomb-ass wedding in Mexico, and a zip-zip over to Iceland for a three week road trip before returning to Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics (which I had tickets for), turned into 203 days of staying in mom's guest room in her new condo, unable to get back to my home, my guy, and basically my whole entire life in Japan. The time was mostly filled with video calls, reading old journal entries, redecorating the guest room into my bedroom, watching sunsets, Zoom yoga classes, walks in the epic park across the street, cooking, ordering takeout, talking to my plant, legal cannabis, a lot of booze, about 130 hours of RuPaul's Drag Drag Race, and of course, a lot of writing.

October: return to Japan. Return to a (comparatively) normal life with commuting to work and dining out and only mild panic attacks as I adjusted to being on crowded trains and working outside of my home again (social distancing is/was not, I repeat NOT A THING here).

November-December: weekdays = that work-life, weekends = road trips through Japan with my guy, taking advantage of the government's domestic "Go-To Travel" campaign

And then January hit, and so did rising cases, and so did the second state of emergency (which in Japan means restaurants are asked to close at 8pm). And so I am voluntarily staying home (as there is no stay at home order), and have decided to stop teaching face to face, and stop commuting, and this is kind of like my time in Canada, except no one argues about masks, but the grocery stores are pretty damn busy, so I only shop when everyone is at work (since everyone else is still going to work), and food delivery options are mediocre (at best) compared to Toronto, and there's no legal cannabis (sad), but there are two new seasons of Drag Race to get me through this, and it's Japan so there are booze options a-plenty, and at least I get to sleep in my own bed and not on a pullout couch every night, and the Japanese government is still planning to have the Olympics in July, so the vaccine is expected to be approved by overall, I's going...okay? Hurray for things not being the worst!

Anyway, without further ado, here's a list of things I learned in 2020:

1. There's a fine line between "staying informed" and obsessing over the doom and gloom of the news cycle

2. ^take breaks

3. Few things in this world are as precious as hugging your loved ones and I will not take it for granted when I can do it again

4. Burping inside your mask is the new (self-inflicted) Dutch Oven

5. Never let Air Canada (or any other GD airline) win. Keep calling, emailing, and pestering until you get at least a partial credit/refund

6. Drop your shoulders. Unclench your jaw. Relax your forehead. Flatten your hands. Breathe in. Breathe out.

7. How I choose to spend my "free time" is my business. "I'm free," does not necessarily mean "I'm free for you."

8. Stop reopening the door for toxic people and calling it closure

9. People who refuse to wear a mask are the same f*ckers who'd probably hide a bite in the zombie apocalypse. Change my mind.

On the left, empty shelves where toilet paper used to be. On the right, storage lockers loaded with toilet paper and other scarce necessities.
Who knew toilet paper was so valuable 🤷🏻‍♀️

10. Apparently the most valuable resource in the world is not water or food or even oil but toilet paper.

11. ^if you live in a building with storage units, I'll bet at least half of your neighbours are still hoarding toilet paper/facial tissue/paper towel as well as cleaning products (in what world would wiping your bum with paper towel count as a win??)

12. We're not all in the same boat. We're in the same storm, sure, but some of us are barely holding on to driftwood while others have yachts and even fully catered submarines. We are not experiencing this pandemic in the same way.

13. "In order to emapathize with someone's experience, you must be willing to believe them as they see it and not how you imagine their experience to be." -Brene Brown

14. At the end of the day, I'd rather be excluded for who I include than included for who I exclude

15. Shoutout to my Wine Wednesday crew! Our one year anniversary is coming up ❤️

16. "If it's difficult for you to understand why people resort to violence, it probably means your privilege has protected you from being put in a situation where you feel you have no other choice." - Yolanda Renteria

17. ^If reading that made you uncomfortable, it's okay. It's okay to be uncomfortable. That's you checking your privilege. That's where the work begins. Keep going.

18. Stop over-apologizing, especially at work. Alternatives:

"Thanks for flagging!"

"Good catch - I will make the updates/changes."

"Thank you for bringing this to my/our attention. I/we will..."

19. Missing out on a year of hugs and trips and parties and dinners and coffee dates sucked. It really did. But I am immeasurably grateful for all the things I have and the people I love who are all still safe.

20. Long distance relationships are fucking hard.

21. ^ x10 when it's during a global pandemic

22. Contact-free delivery is probably my favourite thing to come out of 2020

23. Legalised cannabis delivered to your doorstep is the actual best

24. ^so is Drag Race

25. Protect your peace. Emotional boundaries are just as important as physical boundaries.

26. Empathy without boundaries is self-destruction.

27. In 7 months I saw my group of friends only twice at socially distant park hangs, but they were the absolute best times imaginable. Even though we couldn't hug, I swear I felt the love and connection between us more than ever ❤️

28. Going to the Royal Ontario Museum on edibles is amaaaazing

29. ^my best friend and I are still (will always be?) bad influences on one another.

30. Wearing a face mask on edibles helps you feel more hidden (see #4, #31, and #32 about the pitfalls of masks)

31. You can have had clear skin for the last 10-20 years of your life, but daily masks will cause breakouts.

32. Masks cause breakouts --> masks cover breakouts --> masks covering breakouts cause more breakouts


33. Avoiding difficult conversations is really just trading short-term discomfort for long-term dysfunction.

34. You will lose people in your life when you speak out on injustice. You don't need them anyway.

35. Accept more apologies with a "thank you," or "I appreciate your apology," instead of saying,"it's okay." You can accept an apology and thank someone for taking accountability without excusing their behaviour.

36. Hydration. Hydration. Hydration.

37. Herbal tea is delightful.

38. "If you can't love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love somebody else?" -RuPaul Charles

Three photos of a computer screen taken during various Zoom calls with my friends.
Wine Wednesday Crew ❤️

39. Anyone who is good for your heart will never get in the way of your growth

40. It's perfectly fine to ask what someone's pronouns are and not be weird about it. Here's an example: "What pronouns do you prefer? I go by she/her." See how easy that was?

41. "No matter how open-minded, socially conscious, anti-racist I think I am, I still have old, hidden biases that I need to examine." - Maite Zabala-Alday

42. Anti-racism work is not a self-improvement space. Human lives on the line.

43. Being anti-racist does not mean that you are free of prejudice, bias and racism, it means you are committed to fighting racism wherever you may find it, including within yourself.

44. Activist fatigue is real and if you want to keep fighting the good fight, you need to take care of yourself. Self care is important, including taking breaks from the news, from social media, from having difficult conversations, etc, but don't give up. The right side of history needs you.

45. "If you are silent about your beliefs because you are worried someone will be offended, then your beliefs are not that important to you but rather what people think about you is. What people see about you will speak more loudly than how people feel about you, because in the end, when we stand up for what is right and true, we will have many who hate us or love us but all will know what we are fighting for." -T.B. Laberge

46. "We are the generation that has been chosen to face and deal with all the things our ancestors had not the opportunity or volition to do. We have been given the tasks of healing generational trauma and helping restore balance on earth. It is both an inner and outer battle that can best be won through support and unity. This being so, our highest priority must be love. Loving actions. Loving words. Loving reminders. Loving vibrations and solutions that are deeply grounded in love." - Londrelle

47. I have a responsibility to heal myself, to heal the wounds from my own experiences and the generational trauma I carry with me.

48. ^it's not a one-time deal. It's a lifetime of work.

49. "If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better" -Anne Lamott

50. You can feel empathy without guilt

51. "The concept of virginity was created by men who thought their penises were so important it changes who a woman is." -Rachel Maguire

52. You can give a man a fish and then teach him to fish. It's a lot easier to learn how to fish when you're not starving.

53. Tone policing is the act of silencing a person's ideas and thoughts based on their emotional tone and ignoring the content of the message. Using tone as an excuse not to listen puts the burden of making change on the victims.

54. I discovered, while cleaning out old mail that belongs to my mom, Jonno, and I, how messed up it is that my title is based on my relationship to a man. I am either a Miss, Mrs., or Ms., each of which explain something about me before the person reading it has even met me. Men just get to be, "Mr." (lol, non-binary people are probably reading this like, "and that's a bad day for you?")

55. You will never get what you want if you don't ask, if you don't advocate for yourself.

56. ^that doesn't necessarily mean you will always get what you want because you asked for it or advocated for yourself. Be resilient.

57. A person who is not willing to respect your boundaries is not worthy of your energy. Protect your peace.

58. I will not live my life by the rules you create for me

59. My productivity levels do not deem my worth. I'm not a better person when I clean the house, cook a complex meal and write 2000 words. I'm also not a "worse" person when I let the laundry pile up, order takeout, and stream shows all day.

60. Be mindful of what is in your control and what is not. Act accordingly.

61. Meet yourself wherever you are today. Each day is new.

62. Surviving a Global Pandemic IS actually productive in and of itself, so don't forget to cut yourself some slack.

63. Sometimes the state of things can feel hopeless and endless. It's important to remember it is neither.

64. Profound empathy is shaped by profound suffering, and damn, have we all ever suffered. I hope we use it as fuel to create something better than life was BC, Before COVID.

65. Remember who the fuck you are. Be that person every day.

A collage of my nine favourite moments of the year. Description of photos from top left, Jonno and I wearing masks under the many red Torri gates at Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine in Kyoto, Japan. Me standing in front of Kinkaku-ji Golden temple in Kyoto, Japan. Jonno and I standing under large Torri gate of Hakone Shrine in Hakone, Japan. Me wearing a mask standing in the hall of Art Gallery of Ontario, in Toronto, Canada. My group of friends posing for a photo at a park hangout in Sunnybrook Park, Toronto, Canada. Me standing next to a car parked on the beach at sunset in Chirihama Beach, Ishikawa, Japan. Jonno and I standing on the beach in front of an offshore collection of limestone stacks at Twelve Apostles on Great Ocean Road, Australia. My best friend and I wearing masks in front of an Ancient Egypt display at the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada. I am standing on a cliff looking out at the ocean at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia.
2020 Best 9

My 2020 "Best Nine" (aka, my nine favourite moments of the year). From top left, Fushimi Inari Taisha, Kyoto, Japan. Kinkaku-ji, Kyoto, Japan. Hakone Shrine, Hakone, Japan. Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada. Sunnybrook Park, Toronto, Canada. Chirihama Beach, Ishikawa, Japan. Twelve Apostles Great Ocean Road, Australia. Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada. Bondi, Sydney, Australia.

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