So it's over a year since the lockdown started, and with vaccines starting to roll out, and the possibility of a more normal existence on the horizon, I've been thinking. Reflecting on the whole awful thing, the ways I got through it, the things I learned, and the things that brought me joy in difficult times.
I figure I'll like, write some of them down. Here goes.
My cousin and I went to a concert the night before the lockdown. Jetty Bones, Capstan, and Tiny Moving Parts. The show was great, but filled with this really weird, scared, desperate energy. None of the bands knew if any more shows were going to be possible for a long time, and in fact, they weren't. The lead singer of Capstan told the audience, paraphrased, "We have no idea what's going to happen, so we're going to play this show like it's our last one" and it was.
I have missed live music a lot. I've gone to more concerts in the last 5 years than in the entirety of my life up before that, and having that suddenly gone was pretty sad. I can only imagine how the bands felt. Their livelihoods just poof gone. A lot of them have done twitch or instagram shows, which is awesome in its own way, but the loss of communal music hurt. I can't wait to go to a concert when they can happen again.
Good music still is a thing tho. awakebutstillinbed, glass beach, pinkshift, illuminati hotties, oso oso, and a bunch more.
Like a lot of people, I made bread. I didn't go super hard on sourdough or anything. I just made it with flour, water, salt, and yeast. Nothing smells or tastes like fresh warm bread.
I bought a new guitar. It's sparkly. I've played some, but not enough. I feel like with all the time I've had, I should be better than I am.
My dog had a banner year. Lots of attention, walks, all that. Good for her.
All my tabletop games moved online. I was running a Low Fantasy Gaming thing using Into the Wyrd and Wyld, and boy, running games online is such a different vibe from in person. Not bad at all, and a good stopgap, but being in the same room as others, reading their social cues, easily handling multiple speakers, well, losing that is hard.
I finished my run of that game, but I can't help but feel...a little inadequete. Like I didn't do my best work and let my friends down. But that's something for later.
A D&D game I was running online for a while had to change, because it got way too topical. Like, I'd created this city which had this big issue with a wealthy ruling class using police power to oppress a poverty-stricken underclass, and uh, then June happened, and our fun pirate-themed game just...wasn't really fun anymore. So we switched to Changeling, which I have, uh, feelings about.
I had one game I was running disintegrate due to some weird interpersonal stuff I wasn't involved in. I'm not mourning the loss too bad. I got a lot of ideas and material I can re-use in other games, and also after the fact, a political discussion with another of the players I think ended our friendship. And honestly considering the content of that discussion, I'm fine with it.
In the online circles in which I run, the leadership, which included me, found ourselves in the position of deciding how to handle bigotry in our community. Normally, this hadn't been much of a problem, because visible bigotry is not something we tolerate. But when it's coming from a long-term member? Someone I considered a friend for a lot of years? That was a new one.
For the record, we gave him the boot, and clearly defined our stance going forward.
But one of the uncomfortable things I had to confront this past year was how hateful rhetoric can reach anyone. How "politics" is personal, and someone's political positions can change how you see them. How people you know and care about can come to hold some truly abhorent beliefs, and how you are too often powerless to change their minds. And how you may lose friends to hate.
That shit fuckin sucks.
I played a lot of video games, perhaps unsurprisingly.
I've been playing a lot of Warhammer: Vermintide 2. I have over 700 hours in it since launch. The game is just straight fun to play. It's in a great spot balance-wise, and it just feels good. The animations, sounds, impacts, writing, environments, all great. It's wonderful to have a game I just play for fun. It reminds me of playing Dystopia back in the old days, just because it was a fun game to play.
Hades was real good. But everyone agrees with that.
I played Control. Control is now my favorite game of all time. I've never before played something that felt like it was made to delight ME SPECIFICALLY. I played the entire thing either with my jaw on the floor, or with a huge stupid grin on my face. I absolutely loved it.
I played Horizon: Zero Dawn, which also surprised me. I had thought it to be a fairly standard open-world action game, but what I found was a game with an extremely dynamic combat system, a fascinating world with a wonderfully told story, and some of the most gorgeous environments I've been in. There were also snow-covered mountains, which I missed going to this year, so it scratched an itch I wasn't able to scratch in person.
I would die for Aloy.
I played Cyberpunk 2077, a contraversial title that I nonetheless enjoyed despite its flaws. It is in no way the game that was promised. It was an unfinished, buggy, sadly sparse game that still offered me something I was missing while stuck inside. Working out what it was that left me so engrossed was a bit tricky, but outside the well-written stories that the game holds, I found myself deliberately ignoring fast travel, and instead, chosing to just walk down the streets of this big crazy cyberpunk city.
I found out what I was missing was something I've come to call "the connective tissue of life". The small interactions with strangers, seeing life happen around you, taking part in the small little rituals like sitting down at a bar, overhearing a conversation, walking to a train. It's the little things that make you feel like you're part of a community, connected to a world. And being stuck inside, I found out how much I really missed that.
I was then like "Maybe GTAV will give me that," but I hated absolutely every character I was introduced to, so uh, not exactly incentivised to continue.
My sister, cousin, and I had to take a shorter backpacking trip than we usually do. It was great to get out into nature tho. Nature is good.
I made a bunch of keyboards. Look.
I don't have a problem. I can stop anytime I want.
My interactions with other humans were few and far between, but absolutely dear to me. My friend had a kid right at the start of the pandemic. She's super cute. We've seen each other a handful of times since the whole thing started, played some music together, and holy shit those days were fuel for the soul.
I've had a handful of people over here and there when it's safe to. I got this house partly because I wanted to do cookouts with my friends. Guess what didn't happen this year.
Fortunately, my parents are pretty nearby. They're good people. Visiting them helps.
Dating is a dumpster fire. Online dating is worse. During a pandemic even moreso.
Discord has been huge. Like, it was already huge, but being able to just hang out, or group-watch a movie, or play games with my friends, it's hard to overstate the value of it.
We've really gotten into bad movies. Ninja Terminator, Police Assassins, Jiu Jitsu, The Seventh Curse, Dracula vs Frankenstein, I have some THINGS to say about them, but I definitely appreciate the company I experienced them with.
My mental health has been a journey.
I got my first panic attack in November, on the first election night. I remember being completely unable to find a shred of optimism or hope about the future. I discovered that the only way I could even begin to cope with the situation was to assume the worst. I'm normally a pretty positive person, but I found out that the prospect of another 4 years of the fascism speedrun had entirely destroyed that part of me.
It turns out that long periods of isolation and a constant barrage of bad news can have an effect on a guy. But honestly, I'd been pretending I was "fine" for WAY longer than I'd been fine.
I decided to start therapy. Fortunately, I have good health insurance.
Therapy has been fascinating. Gaining insight into how my brain works, how I tend to respond to things, how I relate to myself, how I process trauma, has been incredibly interesting. Also exhausting. I finish a lot of therapy sessions just emotionally drained.
I'm glad I'm doing this.
I just...I cannot wait to get the vaccine. I cannot wait to go to places with strangers. I want to stare at people while they say things, and then say things while they stare at me. I want to just have anyone and everyone over to hang out. I want to go to a bar. I want to go to resturants. I want to go to the gym. I want to buy clothes that make me feel good. I want to build a picture of my community via my own experiences, and not the barrage of bad news I've been bathing in for way too long.
This year has sucked for me. I feel like I just lost a year of my life pointlessly, and I have so many things I wish were different. But as the late great Fluffy, Destroyer of Worlds used to say, "if things were different, they'd be different."
Just let me out there to interact with others. Soon. Give shot. Now.