Wow, this has been a hard year. No one’s life has been untouched by 2020 between the pandemic and unrelenting proof that the social safety net has been dismantled by late-stage capitalism, the state-sanctioned murders of black and brown people and ensuing protests, the horrendous wildfires that felt like horsemen of the coming climate apocalypse, and a stressful election. It’s horrifying. Like all of us, my heart hurts for people who are suffering and those we’ve lost, while at the same time, I feel incomparable rage towards the government and institutions that could have made all of this so much less horrific. As Adrienne Maree Brown’s friend says in her most recent blog post, “everyone needs more than anyone can give right now,” which makes us all feel so powerless because no matter how much any of us gives, it feels like a drop in the ocean.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been a whole 9 1/2 months since “lockdown” started and yet it also feels like it’s been years. The isolation that cut like a knife last Spring is starting to feel normal, which is deeply concerning. And it’s hard to look forward and imagine what “normal” is even going to look like in the future. I honestly can’t picture any of it. I just know that after revealing so many of the gaping holes in the foundation of our capitalist, racist, sexist, ableist society, going back to the old “normal” would be just about the worst thing we could do.
I’m very aware of the enormous privilege I have and am grateful that my husband and I both still have jobs and are able to work from home while my son does online school. It hasn’t been easy this year, but we’re doing fine. And in the midst of all the stress and the truly truly awful, we have managed to find moments of joy.
People Who Inspire Me Regularly and Give me Faith in Humanity
When things are bad, I find it therapeutic to look to people whose work or example inspires me. These people remind me that there is still so much good in the world. I have learned so much from the examples of others and these people have helped me to be a better version of myself. I am so grateful that these people exist and that they generously share so much of themselves and/or their work (either with the world or on a more local level with me): Allie Flanary, Zoe Fisher, Emily Drabinski, Kaetrena Davis Kendrick, Adam Farkas, Melissa Wong, Nicole Cook, Veronica Arellano Douglas, Kendra Levine, Johanna Jacobsen Kiciman, Alison Macrina, Sara Robertson, Callan Bignoli, Adrienne Maree Brown, Nicole Pagowsky, Tara Brach, Adam Grant, the amazing people who founded and run We Here, Jocelyn K. Glei, Violet Fox, McKensie Mack, Amanda Leftwich, Kelly McElroy, Reed Garber-Pearson, Anne Helen Peterson, Andromeda Yelton, and Merinda Hensley. Thank you all for being amazing, generous, and inspiring in your own ways.
Books that Sparked Joy This Year
- Radical Self-Compassion by Tara Brach – this book has had such a huge impact on my life. I would recommend it to anyone who feels like they are often hard on or critical of themselves. I am so grateful to have discovered Tara Brach and her work.
- Do Nothing by Celeste Headley
- In Praise of Slowness by Carl Honoree
- Slow Food Nation : Why Our Food Should Be Good, Clean, and Fair by Carlo Petrini
- Democracy at Work by Richard Wolff (hard to believe that a book by an economist would spark joy, but wow, did I need this)
- Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory
- Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory
- Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby
- Poetry by Mary Oliver, especially Felicity
- Mindful Tech by David Levy
- The Heir Affair by Heather Cocks
- Get a Life Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
- The Bride Test by Helen Hoang
- Beach Read by Emily Henry
- Dear Girls by Ali Wong (the audiobook is read by Ali Wong and is hilarious)
- Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport
Best Books I Read This Year
- Trust Exercises by Susan Choi (I had to check to make sure she hadn’t attended my arts high school because it felt so incredibly familiar, especially her descriptions of the casual sexism, favoritism, and “Brotherhood of the Arts”)
- The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang
- Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker
- Weather by Jenny Ofill
- The Glass House by Emily St. John Mandel
TV and Movies that Sparked Joy
- Great British Baking Show
- Ted Lasso
- Miracle Workers
- Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
- Schitt’s Creek
- Kim’s Convenience
- Derry Girls
- Never Have I Ever
- Jojo Rabbit
- The Good Place
- The Office (just finished rewatching this with my son — first time for him — and it’s even better than I remembered!)
- Palm Springs
- The Mandalorian
- Star Trek: Discovery
- Dash and Lily
- The Queen’s Gambit
Best TV I Watched
- I May Destroy You
- Bojack Horseman
- La Casa de Papel
Podcasts That Made My Life Better
- 10% Happier
- Hurry Slowly
- The Anxious Overachiever
- Everything Happens
- You’re Wrong About (especially the series about Princess Diana, which was a great counterpoint to The Crown)
- Call Your Girlfriend
- Armchair Expert
Moments of Joy This Year
- Improving my Spanish – this is the thing I’m most proud of this year. When I was younger, while I studied Spanish, I resisted it because of my relationship with my mom (who is from Spain) and wanting to reject things associated with her. But my pathetic, limited Spanish made it nearly impossible to connect with my dear aunts, uncles, and cousins (none of whom speak English) and my beloved abuela who forgot English in her final year of life. I’ve been so filled with regret and shame over my poor Spanish-speaking, but I finally decided to change that. I’ve been taking Spanish classes, listening to Spanish podcasts, watching Spanish movies & TV, speaking Spanish with my dad, and practicing all I can this year and I’ve made incredible strides. I can now read emails from my cousin in Galicia without needing to look things up. I feel more connected to a heritage I love and am proud of and I’m so glad I stopped wallowing in shame and did something about it.
- Zoom meetups with family and friends and socially-distant outdoor catch-ups with neighbors
- Getting an Airbnb with a pool one weekend
- Long bike rides in Sunriver (Central Oregon) in Fall
- Long walks around our neighborhood
- My 10-mile walk along a lonely stretch of beach to the end of the jetty where I was all alone with sea lions and bald eagles
- Getting out to farms to pick berries/pick apples/feed llamas gave us moments that almost felt “normal”
- Making a fancy dinner and all of us getting dressed up for the occasion
- Getting takeout from our favorite restaurants
- The talk I gave at the New York Library Association Conference on Resisting Achievement Culture with Slow Librarianship, which I’ll be reprising for a keynote at the North American Virtual Reference Online Conference in February. It’s the first talk I’ve ever given where instead of talking about concrete library services, I shared my vision for “slow librarianship” that I’ve been mulling over in my head for a while. It felt good to get it out of my brain and I was blessed to have such a generous audience for my crackpot ideas!
- Baking – this was the year of cakes, cookies, and babka for me while my husband learned to bake incredible bread. I’ve never been much of a baker and it was gratifying to successfully (some of the time) make things I never thought I could.
- Finding ways to create moments of joy for my son, including the challenging and fun treasure hunts I made for him for Halloween and Hanukkah
- Watching my son fall in love with playing the clarinet
- Supporting my son’s schooling. Yeah, it’s hard and a lot of work (especially with a full-time job too), but I treasure the time I get to spend with this bright, empathetic, funny human being.
- Snuggling with the family and appreciating that my days of snuggling with my son are fleeting
- The gift of more time with my family
What brought you joy this year? I wish each of you a 2021 that is more humane, more full of safe human contact, and more full of joy. And always remember that you are enough just as you are.
Based on some of the books you listed that sparked joy, I have a couple recommendations: The Idea of You (Lee), and Red, White, and Royal Blue (McQuiston).
Thanks! I read Red, White, and Royal Blue last year and loved it.