2020 — Keep Breathing, Just Not on Me

I guess it’s a tradition now. Every year I sit down on a random December night, either before or after my birthday and reflect on my… fuck-ups. Depending on the scale of collateral damage each leaves behind, I then categorise them into successes and failures, the latter of which I learned over the years to regard as mere stepping stones to an eventual success. As my mom always used to say, every kick in the ass is a step forward, and if I go by that rule, eventually I’ll get there, wherever that is, so yay me.

In 2020 I realised, among other things of course, that I have a voice, and it’s a pretty unique one. I use humour the way I know how to, often unapologetically, overly dramatised and not rarely enough in convoluted sentences that trigger every breathing editor’s itch to put a full-stop literally anywhere in the sentence, just so I don’t lose 50% of my readers half-way. But hey, I learned to write, you learn to read, that’s how it works, right? Don’t shit on my style. I only blog because doing stand-up would give me a heart-attack, and I don’t know about you, but if I learned one thing this year, the year that half the world wants to forget, erase, annul and never ever remember, is that I want to live, and I like to live because good things do happen to those who wait, even if that involves waiting four excruciatingly painful years to see orange buffoons like Trump, lose.

There’s no good segue from that so I’ll just say that 2020 leaves me with mixed and conflicting feelings. On the one hand I am happy like a puppy that finally caught its tail, while on the other I feel a little bit comatose, as I find it hard to recall much of it. I am happy because good things did happen all the while the entire planet was, and still is, struggling with something that none of us alive ever struggled with. That’s pretty big. Not great, but definitely “uuuge”. But good things did happen, and in some ways, these were more memorable than any of the fancy trips I took in the past, the luxury hotel toilets I pooed in around the world or the overflowing pubs I’d crawl on any given night. This year I have people memories. Introspective memories. Building IKEA furniture for my bathroom memories.

This year was without a doubt about people, and that includes me. I can probably count the number of friends I met in person this year on two of my hands. Some might see that as pathetic, I would rather see that as fortunate. Having ten or so people risk their health and possibly their lives to some extent to see me in person… well, that in my book, means something. I never sat so much in the park across my apartment as I did this year, but not once did I have to do it alone. I had Raluca on the other side of the bench to keep me and my disorganised toughts company. The sunrise hikes we’ve taken were moments of cosmic hope I shall never forget. It wasn’t really about the parks I walked through with my ex, the beers we had on the side of the canal or the occasional lunches in the park with my team-mates at 6 feet apart. It was about breathing in, and breathing out. I remember people, smiles, heck… even tears and just moments after moments all involving people, those few people who as soon as restrictions eased for even a split second wanted to see me or hug me. And some of those who couldn’t, like my best friend Andrew, who still made sure I knew that he was always there, or Natalia who even though from afar, just like Raluca stood by me in my darkest moments.

In some ways, 2020 restored some of my faith in people, and that’s huge, because this year, without a doubt I have been the moodiest and most easily irritable son of a bitch, I have ever been, and if this is what medical experts were warning about in terms of mental health struggles being the collateral damage of isolation and lockdowns, well, then, I guess I wasn’t entirely immune to it either — and now I know.

And then I wrote a novel, or what someone called — the most romantic gesture of all times — but in hindsight, I think I am the one who got the most out of it. The introspection, the writing, the sense of achievement that I was actually more than capable of sitting down and coming up with 100.000 words that all connected together made at least some sense. It made sense enough anyway to warrant a Nepalese dinner and a bottle of wine with my first ever reader and fan. I learned that auto-fiction will lead you down paths you never want to go, yet you will because you know that’s where the story is. It feels a bit like giving up reality for an alternate one, because by the time you’re finished, you won’t really know which one was or wasn’t really real. And I suppose this is what writing was and continues to be about for me. Allowing myself to get lost in and between the lines and care little to none what the resulting story looks like, as long as it’s a good one.

And all of this of course came with a soundtrack, because no good story comes without one. 2020 got me back into music like no other year. All it took was one vinyl record from Andrew. Followed by another 172 of them, none of which I regret spending money on, because you know what? My friends give great hugs, but none of them sing, and I desperately needed music in my life. Not in a Spotify scrolling way, but the way music was intended to be listened to — album by album, with no skip button in sight. The roaring 20’s definitely didn’t come back, or at least not yet, but my soul’s feet were dancing like no one was watching at the sound of some of the songs and albums I discovered this year.

But it all comes — like any good story — with a twist. While my slight melancholia may very well be seeping through my paragraphs, it’s only half the story. Ten years ago I realised that my brain was all I had, and driven by that realisation I turned thin air into a career, but it took heartbreaks, a novel, a pandemic, a handful of good friends and a whole lot of records to finally realise that we’re all gods of our own universes. We can fight back, we can demand, and we can achieve the things we want. We can reject, accept, have the world we want around us, rather than the world, the relationships or the things we think we deserve, because if 2020 taught us anything it’s that we’re all resilient motherfuckers, and our only individual, societal, political and technological enemy is complacency and apathy. I have the people I have, because these are the ones I actually want, the life I have because this is what I am actually working for, and everything and everyone else someone else’s story, and that’s perfectly fine, because I have my dreams and as long as I keep breathing those dreams, one by one will become reality, and I know it, because even a pandemic couldn’t stop me. This is me, take it, or leave it. Just maybe stay 6 feet away from it. For now… 😉

If you survived 2020 like me, I’d say you’re pretty damn awesome!



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Attila Vágó

Attila Vágó

Pragmatic software engineer, editor, writer and occasional music critic. LEGO and Mac fan. Accessibility advocate. Life enthusiast. 10x+ Top Writer, 1M+ views