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  • Writer's pictureEric Rushton

2020: A Really Shitty Year

We’re reaching the end of a shitty year.

Normally, I would just call it a shit year. I say that at the end of most years. “This year’s been shit, hasn’t it?” I’ll say. But I think this year has been shitty, rather than shit. Shit implies just kind of disappointing; shitty is much worse. Shitty implies there’s been intent on this year’s part to make our lives worse. Think of the difference between a shit boyfriend and a shitty boyfriend. A shit boyfriend forgets your birthday; a shitty boyfriend makes you feel like you don’t deserve a birthday. It’s much more sinister.

Btw, I dunno why I used boyfriend rather than girlfriend there. I think it’s just cos I kinda think ALL MEN ARE TRASH. Am I right sisters?

Covid wrecked everything this year. I looked over my diary from this time last year and found my New Year’s resolution for 2020. You wanna know what it said? It said: “This year, I’m gonna do my very best to ensure that at no point excess deaths rise above the five-year average.”

Guess what? I failed.

Pathetic. That’s the problem with New Year’s resolutions: you start off motivated, and then by March, it all starts to slip.

Ah well.

I was gonna write a post about how the year started well and then rapidly turned shitty when Covid arrived, but then I read this diary entry from New Year’s Day.

That’s the whole entry. I dunno why it ends on a comma. Makes no sense. Maybe that’s why the year turned out to be so shitty. It was all a direct consequence of that comma. You know the butterfly effect, where it’s said a butterfly flapping its wings can cause an earthquake on the other side of the world? Maybe if I put a full-stop there rather than a comma then Covid wouldn’t have happened.

Also, another entry in the “evidence that Covid wasn’t the only thing that ruined 2020” column was that my dad died in January. Bit annoying. Really poor timing on his part as well. What kind of person dies in January of 2020? He died in a care home and it wasn’t even a Covid death.

“Hey guys, my dad died in a care home this year?” I’ll say, bringing up the topic as organically as I can.

“Oh that’s terrible news, this virus is so awful.” “Oh no, it was in January,” I’ll reply, before they spit on my face and walk away. Dying in a care home in January of 2020 is like dying of a heart attack in the World Trade Centre on September 10th 2001.

Needless to say, my Papa’s death affected me and I’m clearly dealing in the healthiest way possible by trivialising it for comic effect.

My diary entry from the day after his funeral:

Really glad I recorded the fact that I needed earphones, such a crucial detail that I’m sure will bring tears to my eyes when I reflect on this entry in future decades.

Anyway, all that’s a bit sad, init? It would only be natural to assume the year would get better after that. Surely? Unfortunately, not. Much like the film Tenet, this year started terribly and got worse as it went along. There’s been no coherent plotline. Time shifted around – rules were dropped then reinforced again. Shops closed. Then opened. Then closed. Then opened. One moment we were going forward, the next backwards. We lost our sense of a future we could map ourselves onto, and no answers were available to us in the past. It’s been a complete mindfuck.

So much has happened that my Dad dying in January has probably been one of the minor events of my year. At least it made sense. Everyone has a dad, and, because of the classic fact of humans being mortal, at some point they all die. Standard. Bish bash bosh. I genuinely forget about it sometimes there’s that much other stuff going on. They say it’s sometimes good to distract yourself from grief; but they normally mean by watching a sitcom or something, not by being in the middle of a deadly pandemic, the likes of which we haven’t seen for a hundred years.

I’m not gonna detail how I spent the pandemic. I’ve already done that eloquently, insightfully and sexily in various other blog posts. But like most people’s lockdowns, it was pretty samey. I went in cycles, sometimes being motivated, sometimes being depressed. It all feels like we’re stuck in a reality series that’s gone on for too long. We’re all waiting for Davina McCall to put us out of our misery. And now instead of cancelling it, they’ve sold it to Channel 5 so it can go on for even longer.

Now the year’s over, I feel reflective. Tbh, I always feel a bit sad around the Christmas and New Year’s period. I dunno why. I can’t just blame it on Covid. Covid is like Piers Morgan – it’s nice to blame every bad thing in the world on it, but really, it’s only fractionally responsible for most things.

I’m not even a Scrooge, though. That’s why I don’t get the sadness. I always well look forward to Christmas. Mulled wine, Turkey, decorations, arguments – it’s sick, mate. By November, I’m gagging for it; then come the last week of December, I’m miserable.

It’s a bit like sex. I spend so much of my life looking forward to it, but when it actually happens, I can’t stop crying. And like with sex, it’s probably to do with the expectation. I think about it bringing me a feeling of love and connection, when, really, it’s just about pretending you’re having a good time so you don’t ruin it for others.

Also, because this was the first Christmas after my dad had died, I wanted to do the cliched social media post where I say “Hug your loved ones a little bit tighter this Christmas, you never know when they’ll be gone,” but that would directly contradict social distancing rules. I’ve been robbed of those Facebook likes.

This year’s end of year sadness does definitely have an extra flavour to it compared to my bog-standard sadness from other years. We haven’t got that renewed hope that comes with a New Year this time. It seems trite to make New Year’s resolutions when things are getting way worse again.

(My other resolution for 2020 was to use the word “trite” in a blog post and I’ve just smashed it – get in!)

But maybe we’ll still be able to grow through all of this. As the philosopher Kelly Clarkson once said, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Now unfortunately, 1.79 million people have died worldwide. Also, many people are still recovering from the virus, the long-term effects of which aren’t clear yet. But, for the rest of us, maybe we have gained a lot of strength from 2020.

The main thing I’ve learned is that everything is precarious. I felt like I knew that before, but really, I just knew it in a kind of theoretical way from books and soaps and stuff, like when Hayley Cropper died in Corrie. We all thought her and Roy would grow old together but it wasn’t to be. This year brought that message home in a more personal way. It did for all of us. Not only did I lose my dad and my earphone case, but we all lost our normal way of living. It’s been really shitty.

But as another philosopher, Chris Martin, once told: "Nobody said it was easy". I suppose then you've just got to brace yourself and hold on to the little things that make all the shittiness a bit more bearable.

Tonight, I’m spending New Year’s Eve with my best friends Arnold and Joe. (I live with Joe and Arnold’s in our bubble, before you start kicking off, you absolute cretin). Throughout the pandemic, they’ve been there. Every Friday, Arnold comes round and we watch Gogglebox and have a brew. It’s pretty mundane really. We don’t do anything exciting like take drugs; we just sit there and enjoy the latest witticisms from the Siddiqui family. But it’s fucking great. Even if this year has been shitty and full of loss, it’s made me realise how important the connections we have in life are.

I don’t carry that realisation with me all the time. I think it would be mental if I did. I very often act ungrateful and moan about shit and act like an absolute fuckface. But I think if 2020 has done anything, it’s a least been a reminder to try and be a bit more grateful for the things that I have in life, especially since it can all be taken away very quickly.

So I guess the message here is, when it’s allowed, hug the people in your life a little bit tighter, because you never know when they might be gone.

Anyway, thanks for reading.

Happy New Year!


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