Letter to 2020

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…

Dear 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,
Jennifer

Join the Slice of Life Challenge at Two Writing Teachers! I highly recommend it!

30 thoughts on “Letter to 2020

  1. Kathleen Neagle Sokolowski

    I LOVE your letter! (Had to laugh about it not being a good sign if you can’t remember the word that was supposed to guide your year). This is such a cool format and one I would like to try this month. In all difficult things, lessons learn if we choose to see them. I’m so glad you got through a tough year stronger than ever and in a happier place.

    Reply
    1. aggiekesler Post author

      Thanks Kathleen! It was really cathartic to write. I think I might try a letter to 2021 this year too…as a way to write about what I’m looking forward to. 🙂

      Reply
  2. sallydonnelly11

    Writing to the Year 2020 allowed me the reader to truly understand what a year it was for you. I can relate that I also forgot my OLW! I love your last line: I am grateful for the lessons learned, the perseverance I showed, and the gifts you gave me. Your letter seems to scream of perseverance! Perhaps that is your word! Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    1. aggiekesler Post author

      Sally- thanks for stopping by! I’m glad I’m not the only one who forgot my OLW…haha. Perseverance would have been a great word, but I chose zest for 2021. What’s your OLW for this year?

      Reply
  3. livinglife816287820

    I’m so glad you made it to Korea and your new job okay, quarantine is a bit of a horror journey and I only had to endure 29 days of it (all in Australia), but without fresh air and decent food, I think I might not have made it! Hopefully your new school is making it all so worthwhile and I look forward to hearing more of your adventures in Korea!

    Reply
    1. aggiekesler Post author

      29 days of quarantine…yuck! I’m sure that wasn’t fun. Are you still in Australia? Yes, I would do all those days again to be here. I’m so lucky to be in Jeju and work at my wonderful school!

      Reply
  4. Terje

    As I read your letter and thought that it is interesting that at a first glance 2020 was a horrible year because of pandemic, yet with a closer look it’s possible to find the good too, like moving to Korea is for you. I am so glad you are joining SOLSC again this year. 🙂

    Reply
  5. Ms Victor Reads

    I did not know you had moved to Jeju- glad to hear you are settling in well. My son is in Seoul (and has been for nearly 4 years) and was recently in Jeju. What a year of change and challenge you have had. Hopefully, your quarantining days are over, but I am sure you are missing travel like I am. I wrote a farewell letter to 2020 at the end of the year and like you, it felt good!

    Reply
    1. aggiekesler Post author

      Yep! I’m really enjoying Jeju…but I also love sneaking away to Seoul for a taste of the big city life. 🙂 Which school does your son work at? I hope quarantine is over too, but if I go home this summer, I’ll be in quarantine again. Still haven’t decided what to do. I’m so missing travel!! I’ll have to check out your letter…:)

      Reply
  6. Orval Jewett

    Thank you for writing about these difficult times. There is so much I need to say about what transpired this past year. I thank you for your inspiration. I am also thinking about your travels and about your work. There are many times throughout my days when I feel very inspired by my work, and other times when I’m just worn out from it. Thank you for sharing your joys and difficulties. I appreciate this the most because I feel like I have to project this face of strength at all times with my students. You’re writing reminds me that I’m human. I can be tired and I can be worn out, and I can be honest about it too. I think that by doing that, we can begin to heal from this hell time. I’m breathing again.

    Reply
    1. aggiekesler Post author

      Thank you so much for visiting and for your thoughtful comment. I agree with so much of what you said. I think that there are highs and lows in the work that we do. We aren’t always full of energy and light, and that’s okay. But I do think that when we show our vulnerable sides, people can relate to us more. I’m hoping that this challenge brings you healing and light. It’s always done that for me. Here’s to another 30 days of slicing!

      Reply
  7. Elisabeth Ellington

    This morning when I sat down to slice, I couldn’t figure out how to begin to acknowledge all we have lived through and experienced and grieved and learned in the past year. I think this letter format allows you convey all of that. And I love the idea of a letter to 2021 looking ahead. Definitely bookmarking this idea to try at some point this month!

    Reply
    1. aggiekesler Post author

      Hi Elisabeth! There’s so much more I could have said…and maybe will later, but for now, this was a great way to convey the year that was 2020. I think a letter to 2021 would be hopeful and positive. 🙂 Hope you try it too.

      Reply
  8. cbeaulac

    I love this letter format! Such a great way to document the challenges you faced last year and to acknowledge your resilience. And…we are very happy you found your way to Jeju! Thanks for introducing me to Slice of Life and being patient with my newbie blogging questions 😺

    Reply
  9. Alva Kesler

    Oh Jennifer! How beautifully said. I can feel you heart, from the awful to the gratefulness! So happy knowing, you are happy being in Jeju. You are in such a beautiful place!
    Seems like this world is frozen from travel for all of us. Still hoping we will be able to see you this year. Uncle David and I miss you so much!
    Keep counting your blessings Jennifer!
    I love you Jennifer!
    Aunt Alva

    Reply
    1. aggiekesler Post author

      Thank you for visiting my blog and reading my slice of life, Aunt Alva! I sure wish I could host you and Uncle David. You would both love it here! I hope I can see y’all soon, too. Love you and miss you lots!

      Reply
  10. Stacey Shubitz

    I adore your letter to 2020. Writing it feels like the perfect way to start off this year’s challenge, Jennifer.

    I was just telling my husband about you this morning and how I was delighted you were back this year. (I told him all about the way you previewed what was to come for us in the States last March.)

    Thrilled you’re back again this year! May 2021 be a better year for all of us!

    Reply
    1. aggiekesler Post author

      Thank you so much Stacey! I am so glad to be back…this community and this practice of writing feels like home.

      Here’s hoping 2021 is much better for everyone!

      Reply
  11. Fran McCrackin

    Aggie, I’ve enjoyed reading your posts over several years, from many locations- starting with Bangkok, and your motorcycle accident. I remember reading your posts last year for guidance and some kind of comfort, as you were experiencing the pandemic’s effects on education several months ahead of us. So even while I read here of your unhappiness during that time, know that you were helping many by blogging while managing that experience. I am glad you have found a good place to be and glad to continue reading your writing!
    And there was never a better use of that closing- “Peace out, 2020.”

    Reply
  12. shaggerspicchu

    I LOVE THIS POST! There is so much truth in this letter that so many of us can connect with and empathise with. Dear 2020 is such a great idea for a slice! I am so relieved that you are in Jeju in a school where you are appreciated, valued and making a difference.
    Can’t wait to read all of your slices this month!

    Reply
  13. Karen

    Jennifer (or “Aggie,” as I’ve been calling you up until now 😉 ), this was such a great post. 2020 was the epitome of that veiled curse “May you live in interesting times.” I am sure that those who come after us for generations to come will wonder how we coped. Posts like yours are important historical evidence! Thank you for this.

    Reply
    1. aggiekesler Post author

      haha…yeah a lot of people call me Aggie 😉

      I agree…I want to document my feelings during this time, so that I can remember when I’m old and can share these thoughts with others.

      Reply
  14. elsie

    I am so glad you’ve joined in again (even though I am not), so I can live vicariously through your adventures. What a year! I’ve often thought about you and wondered how things were working out on the other side of the world. Can’t wait to read more!

    Reply

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