matthewpennell.com
A blog of acquiescent temper, miscellaneous opinions, and uncertain vote

Friday, 1 January 2021

As well as the round-up of the music, literature and films I consumed last year, this annual tradition—a January 1st post looking back at the previous year and asserting that I might actually achieve a handful of New Year’s resolutions—is now so ingrained into my yearly schedule that to skip it would be unthinkable, no matter how painful I may find the writing of it. But it’s been such a weird year that I also feel like I should make more of an effort to write down how I felt about it, just so that future me can remember what it was like to live through 2020.

2020 in review

I started the year off thinking that I had the shape of my days pretty much nailed down. Two days in Cambridge. Two days in Amsterdam. One day at home. A predictable routine—I knew the routes I would take every day, where I would eat, who I would see. But then, since mid-March, I’ve spent every day in the same room, at the same desk, during work hours and weekends. And, quite honestly, it’s been pretty great.

I’ve always been just as comfortable maintaining social bonds online as I am in-person, so switching to an entirely virtual relationship with my colleagues, friends and family sat perfectly fine with me. If anything it improved my work setup; rather than being the only one in the meeting that had to dial-in, we were all in the same boat for once. Plus the coffee machine is much closer to my desk now.

After thirteen years as a loyal Apple fanboy, 2020 was also the year I finally returned to the Windows fold, building my own gaming PC this summer. Although the releases of Microsoft Flight Simulator and Crusader Kings 3 were the primary impetus behind the switch, if I’m honest I’ve spent most of my time playing Rocket League recently … but it is nice knowing that I can play the latest games if I want to.

Aside from cancelling a long-planned family trip to New York in December, I think the worst thing about the year just gone has been a problem of my own making. Doomscrolling has mostly cropped up in news stories about funny new words being added to the dictionary, but in practice it’s no fun; I’ve wasted so much time this year checking and rechecking Twitter, Reddit and other news or social media sites, when really my own awareness of every little blip on the news radar means less than nothing in any context apart from to contribute to my own anxiety. Which leads me neatly to…

2021 resolutions

I’ve said it before—in fact I said it at this precise moment last year—but for 2021, I again plan to:

  1. Get off Twitter, and greatly cut down on my consumption of politics and news from other sources. In fact, this resolution might be better expressed as, “Be more intentional about what I consume online.” There are many things that make me happy to do, to watch, or to read about—I plan to deliberately spend more time with those hobbies, interests, and things I want to learn, and a lot less time on the stuff that just makes me anxious and stressed. News that matters will filter through. After the initial withdrawal, I don’t think I’ll miss Twitter.

Then, in addition to trying to curate an improvement to my mental health, I also want to address the physical and:

  1. Get back to regular exercising. I used to run 2-3 times a week, but this year I’ve been nursing a persistent heel pain that just doesn’t seem to want to go away. I tried cycling during the summer, with variable success (and some knee issues), but have done nothing since early November. It’s about time I figured out what I can do without incurring further injury.