Despite various minor disasters befalling us – like the house being invaded by thousands of bees in the summer – technically speaking, this wasn’t the worst year on record for my family.

That distinguished title belongs to the 12-month span between July 2017 and July 2018. In that circle round the sun, my dad, my uncle, my grandmother and my dog all died. And while that experience put my psyche through a thresher, my emotional scar tissue made me tough and resilient. Spending months in isolation isn’t my favorite thing in the world, but compared to that, it’s a (socially distanced) walk in the park.

One good thing about being a recovering alcoholic is that sobriety is, in and of itself, an accomplishment. If you go to bed at night free and sober, you’ve accomplished something, even if you stayed in your pajamas all day. I didn’t learn to make sourdough in quarantine; I didn’t learn a new language. But I stayed sober. And that’s something. 2020 has been full of failures, on scales small and large, but that has been one small success for me. June was my second sober anniversary and I got myself another tattoo to celebrate. The green pine tree and blue North Star have settled on the inside of my wrist like they were born there.

And I taught Janey a new command. Now, in addition to “sit,” “down” and “wait”, she knows “over” – when we’re walking along the road and a car approaches, I say the word, she walks over to the side of the road and sits at my feet. That was the first time I ever taught her a command, and I have to say I was pretty pleased with myself.

Plus, I haven’t missed a column deadline yet. Though I know I make it look easy, there have been many times this year where my writer’s block was more like writer’s mountain. But you move a mountain one stone at a time.

For most of this most hellacious year I thought I was doing pretty good coping with the global pandemic, unemployment, isolation and being single. And then in September I got shingles. Turns out they can be caused in part by stress. Now, getting through two weeks of nerve pain without any painkillers, that was tough. The shingles incident was probably the closest I’ve come to relapse since my grandmother’s passing one month into sobriety. But I got through it. I burned through a lot of scented candles, but I got through it. And now I’ve got a bunch of pox-like scars wrapping around my ribcage as a permanent reminder of 2020. (They say millennials are sensitive snowflakes; my epidermis definitely is.)

We did have wins in the family this year. My sister moved into her first apartment. (Let’s hope that she learns from my many mistakes and the independence sticks.) My mom published her first book in seven years – in the middle of a pandemic – to (I must brag) critical acclaim and, more importantly, the cheers of her readers. I got elected to my town’s Planning Board, which is very cool if you are a government nerd like me. Janey the dog went from being 85 percent house trained at the beginning of the year to an astounding 98 percent! Maine celebrated our bicentennial of statehood. 2020 may have robbed us of our planned celebrations, but nothing can take our age away from us! Happy birthday, Maine.

Is my life going the way I was hoping it would when 2020 started? Of course not. My life won’t be going the way I want until I’m married to Timothee Chalamet and/or Anna Kendrick and living on a private island surrounded by two or three dozen rescue dogs. But this year has caused my sense of gratitude to grow wild and flourish. In the gray haze after Dad died, I thought I would never feel big happiness again, so I had to focus on the small happinesses, the bright and fleeting ones, wherever I saw them. A fat bird on a branch outside the window. The Big Dipper in the backyard. A particularly well-made cup of coffee.

Unlike so many Americans, my family has not been in danger of hunger or homelessness this year. We are lucky. We are blessed. We may not have much but we have enough, and that’s fine with me. As E.B. White put it, “I would really rather feel bad in Maine than good anywhere else.” I am most grateful for Maine and its beauty and its resilience. I don’t understand why people live anywhere else, but I’m glad they do, because if everyone lived in Maine the traffic would be unbearable.

All the same, I am ready to leave 2020 in the rear view mirror; a stripe of roadkill in the road of our life.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: mainemillennial

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