The most cliché statement of this decade is definitely “2020. Am I right?”
2020 was a BAD year. The pandemic. The widespread disregard for community safety and the unnecessary politicising of preventative measures. The unnecessary fall outs of the BLM protests in America and Nigeria and other countries. The natural disasters. The political stalemate in Guyana. The accelerated socioeconomic inequality and inequity…
And I can go on.
2020 was exhausting, a decade – fanged and coiled – lurking in the skin of a year.
This year was ugly for me, too. A close family friend who I had longed to visit this year passed away before I had the chance. My plans to record my surviving grandparents’ stories got upended. I disconnected from a toxic community that had been the source of a lot of my entertainment and friendships, and that disconnection was painful.
Like so many students who made the abrupt transition from face-to-face to online learning, I struggled to keep on top of everything while also battling my increasing depression and anxiety. I didn’t write as much as I wanted to this year. I didn’t live as much as I wanted to this year. For months I beat myself up about it because I felt unproductive and scatter-brained foggy.
But, I can celebrate the fact that I survived. I did my best. I put in the work. Despite everything, I am here, and I am better equipped to deal with everything in the upcoming year.
Despite the awfulness of this year, there were some incredible things that happened, too.
I found new communities of readers and writers both before and during the pandemic. I made more friends at this year’s Commonwealth Workshop in Georgetown and connected with another in Berbice. Two of the highlights of my year was doing writing sprints with Daryll Goodchild and Kevin Garbaran as we powered through to finish our short stories for the Commonwealth Short Story prize at the end of October. Another was swapping notes with Cosmata Lindie while we were on our mentorship with Karen Lord.
This year, I also found my reading community through Quarantined Pages. Following Saajid of Books are My Social Life was a life changer and saver for me. I started going to the Quarantined Pages meetings because I heard about it through both his Twitter and Youtube channels. Not only was I able to make a little bit of time to read or dedicate at least one hour a day to my academic projects when I wasn’t reading, but I was able to join a community of readers who challenged my perspective on everything from my identity and my place in the world, to my own perceptions of race, gender and other intersectionalities.
My reading pool expanded because of amazing vloggers like Njeri of Onyx Pages, Angela from Literature Science Alliance, Noria from Chronicles of Noria and Adri of Perpetual Pages. Being a part of a community of readers who absolutely LOVE books and reading was one of my greatest joys this year.
I also learned more about writing and publishing this year. As conventions, fairs, workshops and other events moved online, more and more opportunities opened up for me. FiyahCon was hands down the best online event I have ever been to and I’m still processing being in a creative space with so many black, indigenous and writers of colour.
I got to attend my first Bocas Literature Festival when it went online this year as well. I’m still geeking out about the wealth of Caribbean Science Fiction and Fantasy represented at that event. My new literary heroes both look like me, sound like me and even think like me. It is a bit surreal.
I was also fortunate to participate in two mentorship programmes: one with Karen Lord through the Commonwealth Writers and another with Suyi Davies Okungbowa through the SFWA. A part of me wishes that I had more time with both of these incredible mentors, or – at the very least – that my brain wasn’t so scattered from both pandemic anxiety and the rigors of my final year projects.
But because of them, I am a changed writer. Suyi taught me methods of organisation and tracking my progress as a writer who has trouble with focus, and Karen opened up the world of Caribbean speculative fiction for me, helping me to find the vocabulary for what I wanted to both read and write.
Now, I feel like I am prepared – truly prepared – to write, edit and try my hand at publishing and competitions in 2021 and I also feel secure in knowing that I can reach out to either of them if I am confused or if I find myself in a jam.
I was also got my first writing job this year! Over the last five months, I have been writing book reviews for The Stabroek News here in Guyana. I love the job and I love the way it forces me to be a bit more mindful of my reading. I hope to expand on what I can do with these reviews, especially with the online edition. I’m not entirely sure what 2021 will have in store for me with this, but I’m excited!
Lastly, I found love this year. I found it for myself, for the friends I reconnected with and the new ones I made along the way, and for someone who made me immensely happy amid the chaos of the year. This love made me brave enough to explore me, to open up and try things that I always wanted to do but was too timid or shy to. A part of this newfound pluck stemmed from loneliness, but another part of it was the realisation that I have so much to lose. I began to make an effort to love me a bit more this year. While I’m not there yet, and while the pandemic is still hampering some of the progress, I want to make with myself, I feel like I am surer about myself than I have been in the last few years.
Even though it seems like many of the spectres of 2020 will be following us into the new year, I still have hope. I have hope that the pandemic will clear up ‘soon’ as the vaccines roll out. I have hope that I will continue to grow and learn and love with my friends and family in the upcoming year. I have hope that I will get closer to achieving my writing career goals in this new year.
I understand that there is an amount of privilege wrapped up in this hope. I am lucky to have had the resources, time, and savvy to navigate the challenges I faced this year. I am also lucky to have been in the right place at the right time and to have good enough health to take advantage of the opportunities that came my way.
But, despite all the challenges, I made it through this year. I survived. I’m starting to thrive. I hope to continue along this path throughout 2021, in spite of whatever lies ahead.