I think it is fair to say that 2020 has been hard on everyone. Some more so than others. For a long time, I tried to convince myself that that was not the case for me. After all, I was lucky enough to have a job that allowed me to work from home, I did not undergo a pay-cut, and lockdown brought chances and opportunities with it that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. So overall, I had no reason to complain. At least no covid-related one. I was not able to attend a loved one’s funeral, but WFH meant I could fly home and spend some extended time with my parents after having lived and worked abroad for close to a decade. I was not able to go out and enjoy having earned my first money as a professional living in London, but I got to save and build an emergency fund. I was not able to be there when my cat was put to sleep, but I sat and passed the bar. So for every negative that 2020 brought with it, there always seemed to be a positive as well. When looking below the line, and accounting for the fact that some things are just part of life, my 2020 covid-adjusted balance sheet always seemed to be in the green.
Yet last week I got the news that I will not be able to go home for the holidays. Quarantine in Germany along with certain changes in my contract mean that I will have to stay in the UK to perform my obligations during the holiday season, as an uptick in business in the last weeks of the year means it’s all hands on deck. This of course means that for the first time in my life I will be spending Christmas away from home. But not in the way I imagined.
You see, I always thought that the first time I spent Christmas away from home it would be this elaborate big deal, of having to stay in the City due to a client, or a project, or something my wannabe workaholic and ambitious mind would deem a worthy reason of self-sacrifice during that glamorous stage of my life. Or it would be the first time I decided to spend Christmas with a boyfriend’s family or where me and an array of my equally ambitious and career-focused friends decided that we cannot afford to waste time on travel and the holidays when there is important work to be done and would have a small and fun get-together instead. You know, like in the movies.
Instead, I will be spending the holiday’s alone, holed up in my studio on the verge of Zone 2, away from all the pretty lights of the very centre, working a dead-end job I don’t enjoy and which makes me feel simultaneously like an overpaid secretary and a ripped off lawyer – on a good day.
Needless to say I did not take it well.
Despite everything, or maybe exactly because of everything that has been happening in 2020, I had decided that 2020 would be the year that I work on me. I would make sure I got the work experience I needed, whilst also broadening my skillset to be able to switch industries. I would work on my personality and try to get some of the spontaneity and mischievousness back that I had as a kid. I would try to be more relaxed with some things where I knew that I could be quite controlling. And, most of all, I would try to lose weight – something I always thought was holding me back, especially given how much of it I put on during my studies.
And, at least the weight part, was going well. Sure, there were fluctuations, but I had managed to get to well under -15kg from my starting weight at the start of the year. I was getting my steps in daily, and even went as far as to voluntarily try to murder myself once by downloading the Couch to 5k app and giving running a go (I didn’t last long – don’t worry. Despite my best efforts, I’m still here, though my right calf muscles haven’t recuperated yet). [And to those cracking their knuckles preparing to leave a strongly worded comment condemning me for this insensitive joke – relax. It’s a wordplay on the German saying “Sport ist Mord”, aka “exercise is murder”.]
But if all was going so great, you wouldn’t be reading this now, would you?
Well, fear not, much like most of my career ambition, all of my newly acquired good habits crumbled like a house of cards touched by the slightest of breezes from a window in a room far far away.
See, self destructive behaviour and me are well acquainted. In fact, we’re best friends. We might lose touch from time to time, but we do make sure to check in on each other regularly and we’re always just a phone call away.
So, when despair came knocking, so did my old self-destructive habits. And the new ones? Well, they were too new and we hadn’t bonded enough yet, so they weren’t willing to stick around when times got tough and went out the door no questions asked.
So now I find myself a week into this never-ending vicious cycle of trying to stuff the hole in my chest with food, from which I have managed to achieve sporadic but never permanent reprieve over the years. Contrary to popular belief, whilst my stomach does have a pit (though I have been testing the limits of this theory once again this week), that elusive emotional hole does not. Or it seems to expand just like the amount of food I seem to be able to consume with each passing session.
So, here I am again. In my studio, staring at a screen, well aware of all the bad decisions I made over the past week and absolutely painfully conscious of the fact that I did so knowingly and fully aware of what I was doing and the harm I was causing myself.
And once again, I am making a promise to myself to start over, to try harder, and reexamine the toxic relationship I have with my old habits. This time, when they come knocking – this time, when they stretch their comforting hand out towards me – this time, when they entice me… this time I want to be able to say no and to turn to my new habits instead. And this time, I hope, it will have been the last time I gave in to the quick fix and easy solution, and the last time I indulged so detrimentally that I undid so much of my hard effort.
Here’s to the last month of 2020 being what the whole year should have been.