This post is highly personal and it is meant to acknowledge that, in the midst of that awful 2020, with all the loss and fear surrounding us, some of us can be incredibly grateful, for life has still been quite delicious:
I don’t want to fall into the commonplaces of what this year has been like, how it felt, how it hurt. We all know that already, and while each and everyone has lived it differently, I think we can all agree on two adjectives somehow: sad and weird. That’s why I wasn’t sure whether to post this or not, since I know it has been a terrible year for most people, and I don’t want to add to the fake social media feeling of competition over lifestyle and its frivolity. But, on the other hand, I am a naturally positive person, mainly I guess due to my privilege, and I like reading good news when everything else seems to be grim. So I decided to publish this anyway, but with this trigger warning: without intending to minimize the pain of dozens of thousands of people, I’m focusing here on the positive notes this year had for me.
It started full of possibilities for me: I had an eight-month plan where I would visit Vietnam, Lao, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and then spend a few days with my family in Croatia. Talk about visiting Egypt afterward had been had. Then the fall was a big blank but right before the holidays, I would visit some of the French and Belgian Christmas markets. I would collect dozens of recipes and restaurant recommendations to post them here, I would take cooking classes and food tours and rate them for all of you. And, while I still got to spend a month and a half in Hanoi, Ninh Binh, and Phu Quoc, all of those plans crumbled into pieces when practically the whole world shut down.
I got repatriated and, soon after that, I lost my main client. So I found myself practically jobless (although still teaching at uni online and with some subtitling gigs here and there) and back to my parents’ home, at age 33. The first month or so was alright, I was actually shocked at how well I had taken the whole not traveling and not being independent anymore. But, little by little, with the realization that we did not know how long it would take to get back to normal, I found myself less and less inclined to get out of bed in the mornings. I couldn’t find the strength to even write in here, which I love. I started to question all my life choices… maybe I would own a house, have a steady job, a husband, and a couple of kids to quarantine with if I wasn’t a nomad!
However, it then became clear why I was a nomad: I got to take a couple of trips for three weeks in the summer, locally of course, and all of a sudden it hit me: I need it. It’s not truly a choice for me, I am at my best when I’m on the road, trying new dishes, smelling new scents, tasting new flavors, discovering new textures. So, from September on, instead of giving in to this self-pity when I am actually one of the lucky people, not having lost any loved one and still having a loving roof under my head, I decided to take advantage of the slow-life situation and bettering myself before the next adventure. And it went like this:
- As an appetizer, I decided to start a Ph.D. in tourism accessibility, part-time. For those of you who know me, I had already started a Ph.D. a few years back, but decided to quit because of two reasons: I didn’t believe at all in the topic I was assigned, and I was bullied hard by my supervisor, which took its toll to my mental health. But now I carefully chose my subject and my supervisor, and I am feeling good and strong.
- Another amuse-bouche was to enroll in the Communications degree, majoring in Journalism and Audiovisual Communication. I am doing this not even part-time, so I might finish when I’m already retired, but I don’t mind, because I do it just for the fun of learning. I want to be a better communicator for this platform, and I think it is a good complement to my audiovisual translation and accessibility business.
- The salad was that I lost 3.5 pounds since November. I don’t put my worth in my weight or appearance (well, not anymore anyway) but I’ve been wanting to get fitter since I went to Peru in 2019 and it was super hard for me to hike the Sallqantay trail. Granted it was mostly because of altitude sickness, but my being overweight didn’t help either. So my mother and I started this habit of exercising together 5 times a week and eating super clean. Being such a foodie and an emotional eater, I honestly don’t know if I will be able to avoid a rebound effect, but it has been working so far.
- The main course was redoing my resumé and designing a portfolio that I sent to almost 300 potential clients. My success rate, 1%, might not seem much, but actually, in this economy, I have made with these 3 new clients as much money as if I hadn’t been virtually jobless for the previous 4 months. I have audio described more movies than ever before, translated a novel for the first time in my life, and subtitled very interesting and diverse content.
- The side-dish was throwing myself into not-for-profit professional projects, creating the accessibility division of ATRAE and joining their board once again (I had left two years ago because of my full-time traveling), and I kept working as ATRAE’s spokesperson with the AVTE in order to improve our work conditions and advocate for quality rather than cheap and fast content.
- Undoubtedly the nice after-meal coffee was that I got to spend more quality time than ever with my parents and my grandma. I am usually abroad most of the year, and I moved out when I was 19, so I have cherished these moments, getting to know them better, laughing and talking, and learning how to let go of our differences. And I have enjoyed so many hugs from my sweet, sweet dog Miau!
- Also finally, my dessert was making a decision that will surely change my life: in October I started the process of adopting a baby. The way it works in Spain, I will have to wait between 5 and 10 years, so I figured it was now or probably never. Also, if I was feeling uncomfortable with not having a family of my own due to my nomadic lifestyle making it hard to find a partner, why wait for said partner? It was 2020, for Pete’s sake! Women don’t need a man to raise a child! This way, I took the pressure of my nomadness once and for all.
So, yes, I hated 2020, I couldn’t wait for it to be over. I cried watching the news, I missed my friends, I felt alone and bored and helpless and hopeless many, many times. But somehow I was lucky enough to turn it around and make the best of it, maybe remembering that, in spite of it all, 2020 still brought me all the delicious dishes you can see in the video above. And needless to say, I finished 2020 cooking my specialty, octopus! That wasn’t bad either.
So, yes. This year has sucked as if we all were a bunch of escargots. But it would be hypochritical of me not to acknowledge the things that have also made this year swell, once I realized my privilege in this situation. I don’t get to complain because I lost some flight fares: my family and friends are safe, and I got the gift of time and the capacity of taking advantage of it. Not everyone can say the same, sadly.
So my wish for this 2021 that has just premiered, is for all of us to be safe and healthy to keep sharing meals, even while social distancing, and I hope vaccines work so we can all travel again soon. If you lost your job or, even worse, someone, I just want to send you a virtual hug and all my strength. And if you haven’t lost anything, but are still at that point I was in May-June where you cannot get out of bed, I feel you, and I am here if you need to talk. I promise not to tell you to just get up and count your blessings, I know that doesn’t work. I will just tell you someday, somehow, this too shall pass, and you can hold my virtual hand in the meantime.