Goodbye 2020: Enough Said, But I’ll Say Some Things Anyway

couple kisses at ice lake basin at sunset 2020 reflections

This year has brought tragedy, pain, sadness, and loneliness for many, but I think its superpower was forcing ugly truths about our society and humanity to bubble up to the surface–where they need to be, to sustainably create positive change.

It’s hard to pinpoint the moment where 2020 turned into an apocalyptic movie, but somewhere between the bushfires in Australia, the global pandemic stealing lives, jobs, and social gatherings, the countless natural disasters, murder hornets, racial justice protests clashing with police brutality, and the U.S. government pretty much failing to take any kind of meaningful action on climate change, racial justice, and COVID relief–we entered into a new world era reminiscent of a sci-fi dystopia.

On a personal level, I fluctuated back and forth from feeling profoundly grateful for having a job, a roof over my head, and a boyfriend who picked up my slack most of the year, to a state of unbearable anxiety, rage, sadness, and hopelessness for humanity.

In June, I hit my boiling point. I was so overwhelmed with my role on my mom’s Arizona State Sentate campaign which consisted of 60-80 hours of work a week, while my remaining waking hours were spent actively listening to and learning from Black and indigenous activists, writers, and creators, unlearning white-washed history and trying my best to atone for my part in the white-savior industrial complex.

At my worst moments of looking inward and out, I desperately wanted to run away. In the past, when things in my life have hit this level of intensity, I hopped on a plane and flew somewhere new, or set off in my van to explore the unknown.

I have long been curing my afflictions, with the presence of unfamiliar and constantly changing surroundings. But this year challenged my previously mastered escape mechanism. It was the first year in a decade that I didn’t add a new stamp in my passport.

I was forced to walk through the unrelenting flames of my deepest thoughts and most avoided feelings. I revisited old trauma. I cried and screamed curses into the air, directed at no-one and everyone.

I seriously questioned if I could handle a puppy who kept chewing holes in all my favorite clothes and shoes. And I wrestled with doubts about what my life choices have added up to. I went through two therapists, tried a meditation app, and forced myself to go on short walks just to unfold my legs from their cemented crossed position in my desk chair.

With nowhere to run to or place all of these jumbled emotions, my relationship with my mom and Ryan suffered as I took it all out on them.

Eventually, I took a few weeks off the campaign, the news, and social media to unravel everything.

Ryan and I went on a backpacking trip in the Colorado wilderness and in search of land to buy. Then we re-ordered our plans, and instead of immediately hitting the road again, we bought and have been renovating an off-grid home.

We opted for some stability, and I don’t think I realized how much I needed it until I got here.

After all the wandering and globetrotting I’ve filled my life with over the last decade, I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to “settle down.” And this felt like a curse as someone who craves stability but has always thrived on change and spontaneity.

I always thought that buying a house would mark the end of my adventurous life. I believed that I would lose my sense of self since I had wrapped myself so tightly in my identity as a nomad. But it turns out that I found a way to have both adventure and stability, which, deep down, is all I’ve ever wanted.

Somehow, through all my inner turmoil, and global chaos, I managed to plant some roots in a small house on 5 acres, actualizing one of my biggest dreams, and laying the foundation for pursuing the rest of my dreams.

But I feel like I need to add a giant disclaimer here. I don’t want to ever make it appear as if I got to this place of financial security and freedom to live my dream lifestyle with just hard work. I have certainly put everything I have into making this all come to fruition, but the secret ingredient that really made all this possible– is white privilege.

There are substantial obstacles to Black homeownership, van life, and travel in general, which I didn’t have to deal with as a white woman from a middle-class family with a U.S. passport.

Plus, the fact that I have always had my mom as a safety net if I fail, and I don’t have student debt– have been massive contributors to my ability to take the risky leap of working for myself in the first place and have allowed me to grow an online business as a digital storyteller that permits me to work 100% remotely.

This year also came with monumental disappointments though.

My mom didn’t win her campaign to flip a conservative seat in the Arizona State Senate. But the optimistic side of me can see that all our efforts were not for nothing.

We raised over $700,000, which is unheard of for races at that level, we got endorsed by over 40-like-minded organizations and people across the country, including Obama and Biden-Harris, and we helped turn out people to vote for progressive issues and people up and down the ballot, which helped elect Mark Kelly, Biden, and pass Propositions 207 and 208, creating sustainable funding for education and legalizing marijuana.

Losing wasn’t ideal, and it hurt because the GOP made it personal with $2 million dollars worth of vicious attack ads about my mom (also unheard of for a race at that level). But I learned so much from working on my mom’s two legislative campaigns in 2018 and 2020, and those skills and lessons will be with me forever.

Now that my short stint in local politics is over, I’m getting back to working on more personal goals.

Overall, 2020 really marks a shift in my relationship with commitment. Because up until this point, I had flirted with risk, but everything I did, had a quick and easy way out.

Now finally, at 30-years-old, I have my very own permanent address and I officially became a Colorado resident with a Colorado Driver’s License and everything. Until now, I’ve had an Arizona Driver’s License with my mom’s address on it, even when I was living abroad and in New York.

I think one of my favorite parts about 2020 though, has been growing with Ryan. It wasn’t always picture perfect Instagram moments, but I think our hard moments really strengthened and solidified our relationship.

Together, we raised an out-of-control puppy into an adventurous and relatively well-behaved dog, bought an off-grid house, got engaged, and supported each other through the ups and downs with 24/7 exposure to one another.

guy proposing to girl at williams lake

And while I’ve never wanted falling in love with a guy to be my happily ever after, I’m so grateful that I’ve found a partner that I want to tackle the rest of life with.

Because, while I don’t think romantic love should be your main source of happiness, what I’ve learned, is that a relationship with the right person, really does make life better.

In the end, I’m going into 2021, with so much more peace and happiness with where my life is at, and I’m hopeful about the progress we will make towards social justice as a country.

I hope 2020 will be the year we point back to as a nation, to say that’s when sh*t really hit the fan, but because of it, we began to tackle racial inequities and reconstructed racist systems, took climate action, addressed income inequality by forgiving student debt, and making affordable housing and healthcare a human right, began to depolarize our nation’s two-party political system, and realize that nationalism doesn’t work and we are all connected on this planet, whether we like it or not.

And to conclude this strange chapter of my year and life in general, I’ve decided to type my vague 2021 resolutions out here to hold myself more accountable next year:

2021 Resolutions

My 2021 Financial goal

Make at least a combined $21,000 (between Ryan and me) to cover all our annual expenses and be financially comfortable

General Goals

  • Spend more time on positivity 
  • Get more organized
  • Talk to my friends and family more
  • Get outside more
  • Improve my video editing skills
  • Learn how to make bread (in my new bread maker that Ryan got me for Christmas)
  • Floss more
  • Get back into rock climbing
  • Do more yoga
  • Edit the documentary series I filmed in Central America in 2018

House/Land Goals

  • Build a greenhouse and start growing our own food
  • Build a garage/workshop
  • Build platforms for yurts
  • Extend our deck
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Anna French

Anna is an optimist with pessimistic tendencies who enjoys making a short story long, her coffee black, and watching Friends re-runs. These days you can catch her in her natural habitats wandering through forest roads in her van, hiking to a waterfall or glacial lake, and learning about off-grid living the hard way. You can also find her on YouTube as Anna French.

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