20 Good Things About 2020

            It’s incredibly easy to talk about what a difficult year this has been. We began with the threat of World War III (remember that?) and then were surprised with a few unforeseen deaths before the COVID-19 pandemic began making itself known. There were product shortages (such as toilet paper), murder hornets, protests, a crazy election year here in the States, and so much more. I’ve been quarantining since March; life, as I know it, is kind of a blur at this point. So, in an attempt at positivity and sending good vibes forward, I wanted to make a list of the good things that have happened this year, big or small. Some are repeats from my earlier summer list, but the second half of the year held a few surprises. With hope for a better tomorrow in my heart, I look back at 2020.

I blogged more. Look, I didn’t really have an excuse not to when there’s nothing but time on my hands. Other than the first two years of the blog—back when it was Misc Musing—this is the most productive I’ve been. It’s obviously paid off since my traffic has been better and I’ve hit a few milestones that I wouldn’t have expected. I’m hoping to carry this energy forward and do even better next year with some cool new features and the return of some old ones.

I celebrated Valentine’s Day with my friends and had a wonderful time. I’m really grateful that, so far, I haven’t had a solo V-Day since my break-up. This year, a few girls from my MFA cohort and I went around to a few bars, ate at Washoe Public House, and played pinball at an arcade bar. It was a great night, full of positive feminine energy, and I’m glad we were able to spend time together.

I went to Texas for a week. So, right before everything shutdown, I went to San Antonio for the AWP Conference, which ended up being lightly attended due to COVID fears. My friends and I had already rented an Airbnb with an awesome pool, and I was already in the Vegas airport when questions of attendance started flying about. We went through with it. It turned into a week of friendship, food, and touring more so than workshops, readings, and networking (although that still kind of happened). The food and drinks were so amazing: micheladas, tacos, gator bites, veal, poutine, Fritos pie, lamb sandwiches, and so much more (I tried a lot of new food). It honestly feels like a dream.

I wrote a poetry chapbook. I wouldn’t have imagined I’d write a chapbook (a short collection of poems) during my MFA if I wasn’t assigned to, but I willingly choose to do this as an independent project during my last semester. I loved working with the professor who helped me. I enjoyed unraveling through poetry narratives about Nevada history (the good, the bad, and the ugly) and other bits and pieces of this land that I’ve grown up in. It was actually really cathartic in those early days of lockdown, and I haven’t written that much poetry since high school.

I submitted more work than ever before (even if it was rejected). Trying matters more than success. Sometimes I get too much in my head and won’t even try, but this year I put myself out there more than before (like three times as much). Even if I didn’t get an acceptance for my poetry or fiction, I know that trying means something and it gives me experience in knowing the markets and where my work fits in them. And I can always try again!

I passed my comps, defended my thesis, and graduated with my MFA. A lot happens in your last semester of grad school; mine just happened to coincide with everything shutting down. Still, my cohort and I all succeeded and cheered each other on. My comps was a nightmare (I cried a bit), but I passed the arduous exam. My thesis defense likewise felt like a battle (I kept falling back on movies; maybe I got the wrong degree). In the end, I passed and was awarded the highest degree I can earn in creative writing (for now; there are PhDs). Although we didn’t get a real graduation ceremony and so much of the pomp and circumstance was removed, I know the accomplishment is real because my friends and I all worked incredibly hard for three years for that damn piece of paper.

I cooked a lot of yummy new things—without an oven! So, sometime around the beginning of quarantine, my oven needed cleaning but when I tried (twice; it’s not self-cleaning), it still smoked. Then I kind of gave-up and have spent the rest of the year without an oven. I have still managed to cook a variety of delicious things, documented on my Instagram @karleycooks, in 2020 (with or without oven). My favorites have been: my Grandma’s oven stew, Thai red curry soup, cheesy Louisiana hot pasta, decadent dark chocolate cookies, farm-style scramble with fried eggs, crockpot pumpkin chili, “holy f**k” shrimp and grits, homemade ramen, a birthday cake, and 3-cheese 4-topping mac and cheese.

I had purple hair in the spring and green hair in the fall. Dying my hair makes me happy and, while others saw it as a quarantine trend or something fun/crazy to do while they were cooped up inside, this is my normal. I decided that my life transition from grad school to ‘adult’ also needed a color transition, and I’d never intentionally had green before. The bits of color bring brightness to my day and mood anytime I catch a glimpse and accent any outfit. I’m looking forward to whatever the next update will be.

My family got a new dog. Unfortunately, we lost Rue in March due to an ongoing battle with cancer. However, my family found a new puppy in June. Truthfully, she’s been a bit of a handful because she’s deaf and loves to chew on everything, but she’s also a great cuddler. I love her floppy ears and she greets me so enthusiastically every time she notices I’ve come over (because she doesn’t automatically hear you come in). I’m hopeful the chewing will stop at some point.

I got a new car and I’ve named her “Alexa Trebek.” It was around time for Kiki the Jeep to be retired. She’d hit her 200k milestone and was officially a classic car. Luckily, my family had a spare vehicle (thanks to my teen sister and the family business) so I traded in my Jeep for a 2003 Lexus, and I’m so glad to have a car that was made this century. It has a 6-CD changer! The windows all work and so do the locks! Although she doesn’t drive the same as my beloved Jeep, I have hopes that, in the future, Alexa Trebek and I will have some adventures on the road.

My friends and I shared a lot of TikToks and we all have immaculate senses of humor. I joined TikTok at the end of July so M and I could send them to each other easier. Then, after a lot of convincing, we got S to join in. Since then, it has been non-stop trends, jokes, and songs. When S said he was interested in the Ratatouille musical, I sent him every single TikTok that came up on my For You Page. We have our own niches and interests, just like our friendships, but I like that it makes the distances between us feel so much smaller when we share these videos.

I found new makeup techniques, including mask-friendly ones. Also thanks to TikTok, I continually see new ways of doing makeup that look amazing and make me want to experiment. Like, I see how one girl does her contour and then try it on myself. Or I’m suddenly unafraid of wearing bold eyeshadow. And there are so many tips and tricks for eyeliner, and product recommendations. It really helps me look and feel my best whenever I leave the house—even if it’s just going to the grocery store.

I started collecting Squishmallows. We’ll get more into this later, but, for now, it all began in September with Dylan the Dragon and spiraled from there. I now have eight (which is reasonable; some people have hundreds) and they’re great comfort items for mental health issues, cuddling, cold nights, or just cause. Plus they’re cute. Maybe they’re just trendy and one day I’ll want to sell them, but for now no regrets.

I had the privilege of working remote and was able to stay safe during the pandemic (even if it was lonely). Since March when I was a TA and then again as an adjunct in September, I have been teaching remotely. There are a lot of pros and cons to this, especially in the fall semester, but I know I’m lucky compared to other jobs where being remote isn’t even an option. So while the situation definitely isn’t ideal, I am thankful that it has helped keep me in my bubble and lessened my chances of contracting COVID-19.

I met someone. Look, of all the crazy things I never expected to happen, I didn’t think I’d start virtually dating someone. In another country. During a pandemic. We’ve been going on dates since the beginning of October, have a ton of things in common, Zoom at least once a week, and chat frequently. I can’t say for sure where this is going, but I’m glad I’ve shared the past few months with someone who has made my days brighter.

One cousin had her baby, and another is expecting. You all know I love my family, extended included. I grew up thinking “family” was an all-inclusive word that wrapped around aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents since I saw them beyond just the holidays. This year has kept me away from my hometown since January, and I’ve only seen my relatives twice and through social media updates and sporadic texts. Still, we welcomed my newest first cousin once removed, a cute baby girl. Another one of my cousins is expecting and so that will be something to celebrate in the New Year.

I have a job and did well on my evaluations. Not only am I grateful to be working remotely, but I’m also grateful to have a job. Being an adjunct, work can be unpredictable: how many classes you’re assigned, whether those classes are dropped due to low enrollment, budget cuts, etc. There’s a lot of imposter syndrome involved too, and feeling like you’re not doing enough to help students during the pandemic. However, my evaluations this past semester were some of the best I’ve ever received so I must be doing something right, and, even with some of my doubts about whether this is a good decision or not, I know I’m doing my best.

Taylor Swift released two albums. You can’t expect me not to mention folklore and evermore, two of my favorite albums of the year, both of which were dropped unexpectedly like gifts from heaven? Like, I know I sound like the most basic of white girls, but they really made my year. I don’t even know how many hours I’ve spent listening to them. Her albums are 5/6 of the CDs in my car stereo right now. There are so many good songs and vibes and moods. Whether or not she stays in this genre, I’ll have these albums to hold me over until the next one.

I was still able to celebrate my birthday and Christmas with my parents and sister, ate good food, received nice gifts, and made unique memories. Again, a lot of my “good things” are in contrast to what could have been. While my birthday and Christmas are usually bigger affairs, I’m thankful for what I did get because the alternative was being alone (which I’ve done before) or a Zoom call. So I’m happy with what I had because I like my family and they’re part of my bubble. I liked cooking with my mom for both occasions, and making my own cake was interesting. I got some cool gifts, and I’m sure, in its own way, I’ll remember this year even if it was different than others.

My proposal for the Ann Radcliffe Academic Conference was accepted. Last, but not least, is a project I’ve been working on most of the year coming to fruition. It’s kind of funny that my fiction and poetry don’t go anywhere but my critical work receives some kind of attention (again, maybe I got the wrong degree?). While it may be optimistic to hope that life is somewhat back to normal in May so I can go to StokerCon in Denver, I’m excited to have this opportunity to share my research and see people from the horror community again. Plus, I’m pretty proud of this weird project.

I have my fingers crossed that 2021 will have more good things than bad, but—at this point—I think we say that every year. Maybe instead of wishing I’ll do my best to create some good memories so it won’t be as hard to come up with a list of great things that have happened. I can’t promise or say for sure that the year ahead will be better than this one was, but I think this growth is doing interesting things for my character. Maybe that’s all that matters. And I survived. That too.

Goodbye 2020. You sucked.