2020 is reaching the end of its reign of terror. With a couple of weeks left to go of this extraordinary year, it’s not unrealistic to dream of a finale with a few flashy lights and the odd confetti cannon. It looks like there’s several well qualified candidates for Miss Covid-19-Vaccine 2021 donning their sparkliest jewels and satin sashes, ready to take next year by storm. And the orchestra is warming up to belt out Trump’s exit music as he departs from the stage, most likely in the direction of stage right. There’s still the awkward problem of trying to have a lovely family Christmas without killing off the grandparents with that pesky virus, as well as the small matter of getting Brexit done. But I’d like to think there’s room for hope that things will get less shit if not significantly better. What can I say? I’m clearly one of life’s optimists.
Whatever your situation has been this year, it’s definitely not been optimal for living your best life. Key workers have worked incredibly hard to keep the wheels of the world from totally wobbling off while also trying to establish where their PPE is coming from or fighting off hordes of lunatics brawling over bog roll. People have been left wondering if they’ll still have a job in the morning or if another lockdown will leave them unemployed overnight. Others have been adjusting to working from home with children, partners, and pets getting thoroughly in the way. It’s not been an easy ride for anyone.
Ordinarily, at this time we might look back over the year and consider what has been achieved or how we’ve progressed. Maybe take stock of what we’ve done and how we can build on it in the following year. For 2020, I’m saying a great big ‘fuck that for a lark’ to this idea. Call this one a write-off. I, JoJo Lewis, am giving you a get-out-of-jail-free card for this year. If you made it to the end of this journey around the sun with your sanity remotely intact and your lungs at a similar capacity, you get an A+. Gold stars all around.
I wrote the piece you are about to read a while ago when I was feeling overwhelmed by the world and felt like I never made the right choice about what to do with my time. It can sometimes feel like everyone is doing better than you. Some people just seem to manage to excel at work, have perfect relationships and well-rounded lives full of hobbies they are amazing at and goals that they always seem to achieve. As we go into a new year, I encourage you to embrace a little bit of the free-pass spirit I have expressed above and be kind to yourself. Maybe you’ll embrace getting back into the world again, when it’s safe to do so, or maybe getting back to something vaguely resembling normal will be another difficult adjustment period. Take your time. Be kind to yourself and others. And remember, you don’t have to make, do, and climb everything at once. Happy New year everyone. Let’s hope 2021 isn’t quite such a shitshow.
A seemingly perfect friend says to you:
“Oh, I know exactly what you mean, it seems like there’s so much choice and so many opportunities in the world today, it’s impossible to know where to start. There is an unimaginable amount of content you could listen to, watch, or read because it’s all so amazing, hilarious, poignant, and impactful. There’s so many worthy causes and important issues out there that all demand that we give them our attention, fucks, and cash. Every Tom-Denise-and-Harper out there has an incredible story of trial over adversity and against all odds courageousness and success to tell, that proves that when you really put your mind to it, no dream is impossible.
You’ve got to go to the theatre and the opera, or those art forms will die out if nobody goes to see them. But grass-roots productions need your support to push the boundaries and move genres forward.
You can’t forget the classic novels, but you’ve also got to keep up with all the exciting new releases. To Kill A Mockingbird is essential reading as is that new novel by Sam Tschida about the Instagram influencer who gets amnesia.
What do you mean you haven’t seen Pulp Fiction? It’s an absolute classic. You must go and watch it immediately. Your kidney transplant can wait. Also, you absolutely must see Parasite. It won the best picture Oscar last year. How have you not seen it yet?
You like to keep fit as well don’t you? There’s a great new fitness channel on YouTube I must tell you about, I’ll send you a link later. Oh, and have you seen the strongman contest Juji and Tom went to in their latest video? There’s a hilarious Scottish bloke lifting atlas balls like they were marbles. You really have to watch it.
While you’re looking for recommendations have you listened to the Remainiacs podcast? I’m sure you can catch up on it. It’s not a complicated subject, just Brexit, everyone knows what’s going on with Brexit. And there’s only 135 episodes so you can get up to speed in no time. It’s so important to be up to date with politics these days, don’t you think?
Oh, and have you gone zero-waste yet? It’s really easy once you buy a fancy organic cotton bread bag, reusable produce bags made in a solar powered factory with well paid employees, locate a bulk store about 30 miles from your house, and buy all your toiletries at Lush. Bea Johnson’s Ted talk is so amazing. Never mind about the fossil fuel industries. If we all swap to solid shampoo and natural deodorant, then we can save the planet. Don't you think it’s all on us as individual consumers to stop the world from burning?
And make sure you start a compost pile for all that eco-friendly, vegan cooking you’re doing at the moment. You are doing that right? You mean you don’t have time to neatly craft your weekly meal plan in your bullet journal made of recycled paper every Sunday morning? I’ve just made a fabulous pumpkin baked ziti with caramelised onion and sage crumb topping from the Veganomicon cookbook. Why don’t you borrow it and give it a try? I’d love to know what you think about home-made sweet potato fries. I love them but my partner thinks they are a bit overrated and don’t compare to traditional triple fried chips.
Education is so important as well, don’t you think? It’s so important to keep your brain busy by learning new things in your old age, you know, when you’ve just entered your thirties and you’re feeling a bit past it. I’ve been learning Russian with Russian Script Hacking for Beginners by Judith Meyer and it’s been so inspiring. Learning other languages and about other cultures is just so important in this interconnected world. It’s really our responsibility as citizens of the world to truly and completely understand the lives and histories of our fellow man and the nations of the world.
But, you know, you’ve been working so hard lately. Do you have any holidays planned at the moment? My partner and I had a fabulous trip to Slovenia recently. Obviously, we didn’t want to fly because of the carbon footprint so we drove our cowpoop powered eco-van all the way from our narrow boat in south London to the beautiful city of Ljubljana. And it only took four days each way with a few stops at some fair trade organic eco-friendly dairy farms along the way to top up the fuel tank with the freshest manure from the happiest cows you have ever seen in your life. Luckily, we’d spent plenty of time researching the local area, so we made sure we didn’t miss anything by not sleeping for a week and injecting espresso shots directly into our veins. It would be such a shame to drive all that way and miss out on all the experiences Slovenia has to offer. Sadly, we didn’t bump into Janja Garnbret but I guess you can’t have everything.
How’s things going with the wedding planning by the way? Weddings are so stressful, aren’t they? And they require so much work if you really want to make them special and personal to you as a unique and perfect couple. For our wedding favours, my husband and I took a basic metal work course so we could make each guest a different piece of jewellery with their name, date of birth, and favourite song lyric carved into it. It was a lot of work but it felt so worth it to make the day more representative of us as a partnership. Of course, you don’t need to do anything that fancy. Just make sure all the decisions are carefully considered and discussed in detail between the two of you so neither of you feels like you’re being shut out of the decision-making process. It’s the happiest day of your life so surely you want to do all the research you can to get the best cake, wear the best dress, and choreograph the best first dance so the day truly shows the world how perfectly suited you are for each other. No pressure, of course though. You want to have fun with it after all, and you don’t want to be too tired on the wedding night!
Speaking of which, are you planning on getting pregnant pretty soon after you get married? All the scientific studies I’ve read have stressed how much harder it is to be a geriatric mother. It’s so much safer to have children when you’re younger, you know, less than 35 years old. I did extensive research before we had our first child, Apricot, and you know, as soon as you hit 30 your fertility rate is going down and there’s more risk of complications during the pregnancy. Never mind about the fact that you probably won’t feel like a vaguely functional adult until you’re 38, you’ve got to squirt those sprogs out early. You don’t want to be too old to play with your kids before they get to their teenage years and don’t want to speak to you anymore, am I right? Obviously, you’ll want to be involved in their sporting activities like coaching the netball team or being a strong leader during your mother-daughter doubles badminton tournament so it’s best to have children young when your stomach and pelvic muscles have the best chance of recovery and you’ve got a good shot at winning that title. You don’t want the child to be lonely either so the sooner you have the first one the sooner you can get cracking on the younger brother or sister.
And of course, family life is important, but you can’t totally give up on your career. What kind of feminist would you be if you’re not starting your own business or working your way up the career ladder by smashing into the boardrooms of multinational corporations everywhere in your smart, yet practical, purple kitten heels? You’ve worked so hard through your GCSEs, A Levels, degree, masters, PhD, several unpaid internships, 2 years of making coffee and photocopying forms as an admin assistant. Then that twat from marketing got the sack because he got done for drunk driving and you finally got the chance to swoop in, take his job, and do it far better than he ever did, with a smile and wink to boot. It would be such a shame to waste the smart and professional capsule wardrobe you’ve put together by not giving your career everything you’ve got. As long as that job is keeping you totally satisfied and is something you’re truly passionate about. Maybe you could start up a business on your own, be your own boss. Everyone seems to be doing that these days and it seems so fulfilling. You’ve always been a dab-hand at knitting. Maybe you could set up a shop on Etsy and sell custom knitwear for dogs and cats. You could use your dog as a model. You know Noodles would look fabulous in a custom made, rainbow coloured knitted Viking hat. It sounds amazing. I reckon you could make a fortune.
Anyway, I agree with you. The world is totally overwhelming and the endless possibilities can absolutely leave you feeling powerless about making the right decisions about your own life. When there’s so many things you could do it’s so difficult to choose what you should do. The pressure is on. Live life to the full. Never miss an opportunity. Grab life by the balls and squeeze with everything you’ve got. Every second counts my friend. Life is for living and we shouldn’t waste a second of it.
So, what do fancy doing tonight? There’s a new bar in town we could check out? Or my friend recommended a new band that plays a combination of punk and classical music we could go and see at the new hipster pub around the corner? Wait, hang on, there’s a documentary on Netflix at the moment called Trial 4, about the trials of Sean K. Ellis. Have you watched it yet? I’ve already seen it and definitely think he’s innocent, but I don’t mind watching it again. Maybe we could play a boardgame, or a videogame, go for a walk or do some crafting. How about you? Any suggestions?”
Me: “Erm. Well. I don’t know. How about . . . Maybe we could . . . Why don’t we . . . drink gin and tonic, eat crisps and watch the episode of Friends when Ross gets stuck in his leather trousers so I feel less shitty about my own life choices?”