As I’ve already said hundreds of times privately and a few times on this blog, this has been the worst year of my life, and I won’t be sad to leave 2020 behind and hope for a better 2021.
But built into that whole idea of the years changing is the idea that stuff just keeps happening, whether you want it to or not. Throughout this shitty year, occasional joyful moments popped up. In the past, I would’ve thought it’s petty, simple-minded, or tone-deaf to try and acknowledge mundane happy things in a time that was otherwise profoundly sad. But now, I think it’s even more important to acknowledge the things that bring you joy.
These are some of the things that made my 2020 suck slightly less. I’ve mentioned several of them already, but I think they deserve another round.
I was trying to get to sleep one night, and YouTube recommended the silly, weird, happy video for “Break-Thru,” from a band I’d never heard of. For me, this was a bigger deal than just discovering a band I liked. It helped knock me out of a funk and get re-inspired about the whole artistic process, in a way that reminded me of seeing St Vincent on Austin City Limits for the first time, or seeing Talking Heads in Stop Making Sense for the first time, or seeing the B-52’s video for “Legal Tender.”
I think it helps that I don’t understand music at all, so I don’t have to turn off the part of my brain that tries to over-analyze and pick apart everything. I know that there’s something deeper and more interesting going on with this music, even if I couldn’t hope to explain what it was.
It also set me off on a quest to seek out more music I hadn’t heard before. That hasn’t really resulted in any other New Favorite Band Evers, but it has pushed me to hear some interesting stuff I probably wouldn’t have otherwise.
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke is such a wonderful book, and any description of it is going to be criminally reductionistic. For me, it was especially valuable this year because of its sad but hopeful tone — it was a celebration of wonder, faith, and naïveté that was neither cynical, nor blind to the genuine sadness and cruelty of the world.
The Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse
I’ve already been a fan of the Mickey Mouse shorts for the past few years — it’s odd to realize that they’re no longer “new” — and so I would’ve thought The Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse on Disney+ was a confusing and unnecessary re-branding. But there does seem to be a subtle shift in this new series. They seem more “dense” than the earlier shorts, packed with more gags and references than most viewers will catch in one viewing. One short will use Robin Hood and The Black Cauldron character designs when referencing The Brave Little Tailor; another one will be an extended cross between Xanadu and Mousercise crossed with The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
They’re also hilarious. There have been some fantastic moments in the shorts up until now, but the new series seems to have a dozen laugh-out-loud bits in every short.
Rise of the Resistance
It seems like a lifetime ago, but we did actually get to go to Disneyland in February and rise the Rise of the Resistance twice. It’s a really impressive attraction, and I think the only reason I wasn’t more blown away is because I’d gone in expecting a 15 and it “only” delivered an 11 on a scale of 1-10.
We also got to tour Galaxy’s Edge with our friends Polly and Dan, back when seeing friends in person was a thing. I hope that makes a comeback this year. I usually get too much anxiety over having to schedule and make sure everyone in the group is getting to do what they want to do, that in the past I’ve just opted to skip meeting up with anyone during trips. If nothing else, I’ve learned to stop taking that for granted and make more of an effort to see friends.
The Mandalorian Season 2
I’ve already commented more than enough on my love for The Mandalorian, but it’s done such an amazing job of doing two completely separate and opposite things. On the one hand, it’s taken me back more effectively than anything else to the feeling of being a Star Wars-obsessed kid in the 80s, and being rewarded with these huge shared cultural moments with the release of the new movies. At the same time, though, it’s gotten me interested in Star Wars as an ongoing thing, instead of simply regurgitating, recombining, and re-celebrating the things I used to love.
Ditching Facebook, Mostly
I’m not bringing it up just to be petty; deactivating my Facebook account has genuinely felt like a weight’s been lifted. I’d be happier if I could delete my account entirely, but Oculus and Messenger are still too useful. I’m still on Instagram more than I should be, but “the magic is gone,” and I don’t feel as compelled to broadcast every single thing that happens to me. (Which, granted, is easier in a year when nothing is happening to me, but I hope I can keep it up going forward).
It also means I’m not at all compelled to dye my beard as a dumb New Year’s Eve stunt, so it’s already paying dividends.
Seeing Georgians Vote Democrat
I think the whole “red state/blue state” idea is not only simple-minded, but horrible for our entire democratic process. That said, until we can get rid of the electoral college altogether, it’s been encouraging to see a majority of people in my home state reject the wave of hateful, bigoted, obstructionist, selfish bullshit that has taken over the past couple of decades.
The entire country voted overwhelmingly for Biden — whether it was a vote for the Biden/Harris campaign, or a vote against the past four years, it has the same end result — and it’s important to remember that the Fair Fight and similar campaigns didn’t just create new Democrats, but instead energized the people who’ve always been there. We need to stop letting people convince us that the country is more homogenous and less diverse than it actually is.
I never thought I’d see my home state vote for a Democratic president again in my lifetime, so even though it’s entirely symbolic, and even though I know the Democratic party isn’t going to magically fix everything, just seeing the state “turn blue” has given me hope for the future.