As I begin my eleventh year of slicing in the SOL Challenge, I am, once again, faced with the first-day jitters. What should I write about? What can I say that will matter? I started by reading a few other slices for inspiration, and then went on a deep dive into my past slices, rereading my day one slices, but that one great idea never surfaced. As I sit here, reflecting on where I was last year when the challenge began, I was reminded about the year that was 2020; the year we all just barely survived. On that note, let’s begin this year’s challenge with a letter to 2020…
While you started with promise, as I claimed (yet again) that ‘this would be my year,’ you didn’t turn out as I (or anyone else in this world) had hoped. Earlier this year, as I thought about what my One Little Word for 2021 would be, I paused, trying to remember what my OLW was for 2020. It’s definitely not a good sign when you can’t remember the word that’s meant to guide your year. Looking back through my journal reminded me that it was health. Yeah, that didn’t really happen…in fact, the opposite would be more accurate.
As we all know, you brought a ton of awful stuff, so much so that it’ll forever be etched in our minds and history books. No need to rehash it all here. The wounds are still fresh. Despite all the terribleness that you brought, there were a few good things that happened.
I can remember sitting with Michelle in Thailand, recapping 2019, setting our goals and intentions for 2020, as we do each year, and weeping. I wasn’t happy with much of my current situation and felt stuck. I didn’t love living in Jakarta, as the city didn’t offer me much, and work was no longer bringing me joy. Our school year started out okay, but quickly took a turn for the worse, leaving me with a feeling of dread. I tried to mask the unhappiness I felt, but I wasn’t fooling anyone, least of all myself. Add to that a general lack of energy and motivation to do much of anything, and I was looking for a change.
Coming into 2020, I was offered a job in Jeju (where I live now) and the prospect of a change of scenery and a new work environment brought excitement and anticipation. But I still had half a year left in Jakarta. I’d taken on two additional positions at work, so in addition to being the Head of Primary, I was also the PYP Coordinator and full-time Year 6 teacher. As if that wasn’t enough, school closed on 2 March, and we all went into lockdown, while simultaneously navigating online learning (when we didn’t have a clue what we were doing). Those last few months of school were hectic, and I often worked 16-hour days, work bleeding into personal time, without the separation of work and home.
As it was for many people around the world, you became the year of quarantine. I endured 110 days of quarantine; 80 days in Jakarta, 15 in Texas after my flight home, and another 15 in Seoul when I moved to Korea to start my new job. The 15 days in Seoul were definitely the hardest, as I was stuck in a hotel room, with no access to fresh air or good food. But I survived. I have found that my habits have changed as a result of so much time spent in isolation, as I now spend more time alone than usual. I’m not sure how I feel about it.
As I mentioned, regardless of the struggles you made me endure, there were definitely some highlights. The move to Jeju was the right one for me, and has brought me much joy and fulfillment, both at work and personally. That excitement and spark I thought was gone has returned, and I know I’m where I belong. I’m making a difference, and it feels good. Being in Jeju has meant that life has returned to as close to normal as possible. Korea has handled the pandemic well, and we are free to move about with minimal disruptions (with appropriate precautions, of course). School has been in person the majority of the time, bringing a sense of normalcy. I’ve made new friends and kept in contact with old ones. My new house is starting to become a home, and I am feeling more settled in my new place.
As you ended, I was hopeful, as most people were, that 2021 would suddenly wipe the slate clean and we’d wake up to realize it had all been just a bad dream. While that didn’t happen, 2021 is shaping up to be a bit better, and I’m hopeful for the future. As much as I wish you didn’t happen, and as much as I wish I had been able to fast-forward straight through the bad parts, I am grateful for the lessons learned, the perseverance I showed, and the gifts you gave me.
Peace out 2020,
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