Two children wearing masks at the airport

Putting 2020 Away

If I had to rank them, I’d say holding a grudge is one of my top five talents. If you wrong me, you can expect to be ghosted for an undisclosed amount of time or to receive nothing but passive-aggressive sass from me. We all have our gifts, right?

Like many of you, I feel victimized by 2020. I wonder why it couldn’t just act right after we gave it such a warm welcome at 12:01 a.m. on January 1.

I am angry that 2020:

  • Cancelled my long-awaited travel plans.
  • Made PCSing from Japan to Virginia more exhausting than trying to row myself across the Pacific Ocean.
  • Made me a first- and third-grade teacher.
  • Prolonged getting settled when we finally did arrive in Virginia.
  • Made disinfectant spray more coveted than gold doubloons.
  • Brought murder hornets over from Japan the same summer it brought us back from Japan.
  • Introduced a new thing for me to forget every time I leave the house (mask).
  • Took the joy out of social media. Can we just go back to universally funny memes and pictures of everyone’s adorable kids and pets?

This year is the worst, right? The country is polarized. It’s still impossible to find disinfectant, and I’ve had to smoosh my socks over to one side of the drawer to make room for laundered masks since it seems like they’re still going to be on-trend in 2021. In all honesty though, things feel grim for a lot of reasons, and they’ve felt like that for so long that it’s kind of hard to remember what our baseline was. We used to be more optimistic, right? We used to only buy one pack of toilet paper at once — I’m sure of it. We used to wave at strangers we walked by on the sidewalk, not slide our masks up over our nose and duck away.

But to truthfully recap this year, we have to be honest. We have to look at the big picture. When I did this (truthfully only for the purpose of writing this blog, so thank goodness for this assigned gut check reminding me “It’s a Wonderful Life”), I realized I was being possibly, maybe, slightly pessimistic and overdramatic — a little…kind of…but 2020 started it.

History 101

In October of this year, we took our first vacation since February. As a self-diagnosed history nerd, I planned a trip to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. We navigated the battlefields of the bloodiest battle ever fought on American soil with the audio tour streaming through my car’s speakers. I thought I knew the gist of the Civil War, but I only knew the condensed history class version.

The part of history that really grips me is the part where we zoom in closely on the lives of people at the time: What did they wear? What did they eat? What was their day-to-day like? What were their fears, expectations and goals?

In the context of Gettysburg, they wore wool in the summer. They ate whatever they had­ — which was sometimes nothing. Their day-to-day was marching, shooting and, for the women and kids in Gettysburg, hiding in the cellar for days. Fears: Dying. Expectations: A. Win. B. Die trying. Goals: Make it to tomorrow. Answering these questions for any era, not just the Civil War, and comparing the answers with today’s “first world problems” makes me feel: A. Utterly ridiculous, and B. Incredibly lucky.

In Defense of 2020

I think I’ve been too hard on 2020 — yes, me. The grudge-holder. It has felt like a nauseating carnival ride I desperately want to get off of, but what has made it so bad?

We had to cancel our travel plans to Australia and New Zealand. Boohoo, lady. We also lived in Japan for three years and, aside from traveling all over that country, we also visited South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, China, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, which I never expected to visit in my lifetime. Next.

My PCS was hard. We still got to point B. We were able to buy a house, move into it the week we arrived in the states and accepted our household goods the following day. This hardly sounds like a tragedy.

I had to oversee virtual school in the spring. My kids are in school now. And even at its most stressful, the real heroes were my kids who were way out of their comfort zones, their teachers struggling to adapt and all the parents who continued virtual school into the 2020-21 school year. Hat tip. Standing ovation. Way to MacGyver it y’all.

(Pausing to let the youngsters look up “MacGyver.”)

I still don’t quite feel settled in our new house. I still use the GPS for pretty much everything, and I still haven’t quite settled on which grocery store is “my store.” Let’s flip this: We have a house to settle. I have a new car equipped with a GPS. And I don’t have a grocery store yet because I’ve been spoiled by grocery delivery for an embarrassing length of time.

In-stock disinfectant of a certain brand is a myth, and murder hornets in the U.S. are real. Truthfully, I’ve had yet to see either in the months I’ve been back, so we’ll just say these have cancelled out for me.

Ugh, this mask is the worst. I’ve spent zero dollars on makeup this year and have avoided countless conversations this introvert didn’t want to have. So, I’ll wear one if I need to.

Is 2020 really that bad, or are we our own worst enemies? I was due for a little reality check — a reminder that I can’t control everything in my life. The nudge to reprioritize didn’t hurt either. And there were a couple big wins for everyone: The meme game is forever changed, and the sterilization of public spaces is a thing we do now! So, it hasn’t been great, but it’s not nearly as bad as I’ve milked it to be. I hope I’m not alone in admitting that. I will put 2020 away. Close it. Accept it. Let it go. Move on and refuse to use it as an excuse for the way I face 2021.

Kristi Stolzenberg
Written By Kristi Stolzenberg
Marine Spouse

Kristi started writing for Blog Brigade as a new Milspouse in 2008, and all of a sudden, she’s a seasoned (but not overly salty) Marine spouse.

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