Me on November 4, 2020, the day after Election Day. I spent countless hours over the course of a month or two monitoring for and reporting voting and election disinformation on social media. It took a bit of a toll.

Content Warning: 2020

Here we are. It’s December 23rd, two days until Christmas and closing in on the end of the century that was 2020. As you can see in my selfie, I haven’t smiled much these days. If you’re an American — or really anyone living on planet Earth right now — you know exactly why.

And yet, I continue to persist, as I have been doing for years. None have compared to the utter dumpster fire that has been 2020, but there have been some that have come close for various reasons. Like I said in my April post (I didn’t even remember writing that post until I sat down to write this one), I’m still scared. Now that a few promising vaccines are starting to make their rounds among health care workers, the anxiety is slowly ebbing.

Mostly, I’m just still really fucking angry.

Oh, I might swear a bit. I don’t normally swear, but this has been one hell of a year.

So, what has happened April? Well, not much in my household. As a physician, my spouse has worked during the entirety of the pandemic. We even have a little heart shaped sign at the bottom of our driveway thanking him for being a hero during this terrible time. We appreciate the sentiment, of course, but that money could have been spent on PPE.

Meanwhile, my sons have left the house a total of three times since March. We enrolled them in distance learning through their respective schools, and for the most part, they’ve been doing fine. I’ve been dealing with the guilt of them not getting the socialization they might need, but their online learning has been one of the few ways we can keep our community safe from us. We can never truly quarantine due to my husband’s work, and since I stay at home, the boys can stay at home too. That gives the schools more space for families who need their kids physically in school and keeps us from possibly shutting down classrooms and forcing people to isolate. I know how privileged we are to be able to do this. And our boys get plenty of opportunities to play online with their friends.

Speaking of isolating from others: I’m fairly certain I had COVID-19 back in April. We don’t really know if it was the coronavirus, because at the time, only healthcare workers and people needing hospitalization were getting tested. It was a horrible two weeks for me, though. My fever was low grade, never topping over 100.9, but it felt like my head was on fire all the time. And my chest was so tight and my cough was so dry. Yet, I was fortunate enough to completely recover, unlike the 320,000 or so dead Americans as of this writing and the millions of others who are dealing with long term effects from the virus.

Since then, I’ve spent my days at home writing, reading, attending the occasional virtual convention, hanging with my friends over Zoom and Slack, and basically trying to do my part to keep people outside my tiny bubble safe. I’ve had to mask up and run errands for food and supplies or to pick up school materials for the kids, but those have been the extent of my trips away from the house. Our younger son’s school had a fun scavenger hunt in the fall that involved families solving puzzles leading to various outdoor locations around town, taking pictures when we got there, and uploading them to Facebook. It was a great way to spend time with our boys outside in masks and social distancing. But besides that, our home and the surrounding woods have been our sanctuary.

There have been several bright spots to the year. One of my best friends and I have kept regular writing dates over Zoom, the virtual Nebulas Conference was fun, and I learned how to hand embroider during Gen Con Online. For the most part, though, I’ve been absolutely frustrated about how this pandemic has been handled by our government and how so many people, even those who think they’re being safe, continue to indulge in risky behavior in order to bring back some sort of normal to their lives. Millions of people are sick and dying because others have to have their vacations or have to gather in large groups to celebrate because TRADITION or simply refuse to wear a fucking piece of cloth over their faces because THEIR FREEDOMS.

I am grateful for those who share the same values as my spouse and I and who share the same low risk tolerance. Without them, I would be feeling much more guilt about the decisions we’ve made to refrain from gathering even in tiny groups with people outside our household. We’ve put up strict boundaries to keep our bubble intact, and I know there are some who are frustrated by that. But I also know many who are doing the exact same thing based on their own life circumstances, which makes me hopeful that eventually we’ll find ourselves on the other side of this thing.

If there’s one silver lining to 2020, it’s been discovering who people truly are. Through their words and actions, they’ve shown me how much they care for my and my family’s well-being. And hopefully through my own words and actions, I’ve shown them the same.

By the way, I’m still writing and submitting short stories and poetry to speculative fiction markets. I managed to surpass 100 submissions and 100 rejections at some point this year. (I haven’t written 100 stories, I’m just submitting the same stories numerous times to different magazines.) I keep hoping for an acceptance, and maybe in the new year, it will happen. That would be one way to make 2021 fantastic.

Thank you for reading. I hope you and yours stay safe and healthy during this troubling time. And have a safe, masked, socially distant New Year!

A. Cook

Amanda Cook is a writer and stay at home mom who lives in Indiana hill country with her spouse, kids, and clingy dog. In the Before Times (and sometimes even now), she could/can be found helping out with her kids' school, catching up on her toppling TBR pile, playing games with her friends, hanging out at virtual conventions, crying over period dramas, or sewing yet another cosplay. Her second novel, "When We Were Forgotten," is the winner of the 2018 Bronze Medal for Best Sci-fi/Fantasy/Horror E-Book from the Independent Publisher Book (IPPY) Awards. She writes short speculative fiction and poetry that she also occasionally posts to her blog.

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