2020: oh, what a year.

I started 2020 with a new job in a fancy office and a plan to finish my university studies by 2021.

I was anxious going into January. Though I had been excited for my new job, I was quickly realising that it was not the position I thought I’d accepted. Instead of creating learning resources, I was marking assignments. Instead of helping students, I was answering questions and checking for plagiarism. It was the worst teaching experience I have ever had.

But with some advice from a colleague-come-mentor, I decided I would do my best, focus on the students and keep my head down. The next day, I was fired.

I was brought into a meeting with my supervisor, who had only just been notified, and my boss. I was given time in lieu (paid off for the week’s notice they’re required to give) then given 5 minutes to pack my things and get out. I managed to keep it together during the meeting, trying to stay as professional as possible. The only reason they gave was that it wasn’t working out. But this wasn’t a rare occurence for them. I’d been working there for 3 months, and 2 others had been let go before me. Many were lost after me, including my mentor who is one of the most intelligent and inspiring people I’ve ever met.

I asked my boss for a reason why I was being let go, or feedback, or anything. He said it was company policy not to give a reason.

A week later, COVID-19 started spreading globally.

Given that I had been working with international students, I told myself that the decline in enrollments was why I had been let go. But I still combed through every action and every word in my head, wondering where I had gone wrong and how I could fix myself. I wanted to make sure it wouldn’t happen again.

Roughly a month later, I had a promising interview to be an eLearning Coordinator for a well-known school in the eastern suburbs.

Within the same week, COVID-19 arrived in Australia. Every day I waited for a response from the recruiter, the number of infected increased. Within 2 weeks, we were in lockdown along with the rest of Australia.

The role I had applied for was put on hold. My partner was forced to stay at home. Before JobKeeper came into affect, neither of us were earning. Thankfully, I was able to ask for a loan, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to pay rent.

After applying for hundreds of jobs between the end of February and the middle of May, I finally discovered a job on LinkedIn that seemed perfect for me: Assistant Curriculum Developer. I got a call back a few days later, interviewed and was offered the job within a week. As soon as I finished the video call, I cried. I spent 8 of 12 months in 2019 searching for jobs. This time, I had lucked out and it had only taken 2. Not only that, but I would be able to work from home, managing my own workload and collaborating with my peers to produce Vocational Education and Training (VET) resources.

When I met my new coworkers, I realised they were all lovely, generous nerds like me. Within a week of working with them, I felt more comfortable at work than I had in my entire career.

Lockdown was easing. WA was clear of cases and their borders were closed. At least I could be confident that my family would be safe.

Then my NZ grandma had a fall. And another. Dad and I desperately wanted to go to New Zealand to see her, we still do. But cases in Victoria were rising. Flying was still restricted.

I had planned to take 2 university classes in Semester 2 of this year. It was all online, so I thought I would be able to juggle it with my full-time job, my Academic Board position and my writing. It took about 3 weeks for my stress to reach a crescendo. While I knew I was successful in my classes, and I genuinely enjoyed working with my teachers and classmates, I was starting to realise that a publishing career was becoming more and more unlikely.

And I loved my new job. Learning design/curriculum development combined my love of education and writing. I even got to edit documents and experiment with new technology.

I took a step back from university, applying for a leave of absence. I had overloaded myself and lost my passion for writing. Even now, I rarely work on projects that are publishable. I have numerous projects on the go (at least 20), of which I currently only plan to publish 3 of them. So these past few months I’ve been working on fluffy pieces for my own enjoyment without focusing on marketability and readership. They’re one of the few things keeping me sane on weekends trapped at home.

When Dan Andrews announced that Melbourne’s second lockdown would be extended – rightly, in my opinion – many of us felt a loss of hope. I had thought I would be able to go to my brother’s wedding in WA in December. That is becoming less and less likely. It’s difficult to describe to others what it’s like in Melbourne right now. I feel rage, heartbreak, sorrow, hope and a deep loneliness.

In WA, I have friends and family. It’s been difficult on many levels. People have been posting all over social media about their parties, going out clubbing and having fun. Part of me hates them for sharing it all over social media when our entire state is in lockdown and there are families trapped in towers. The other part of me is so glad that they can be happy and have fun without worry.

But now all I want is to see my family. I miss my Mum. I miss my Dad. I miss my brothers and sister. I miss my Nan and Pop. I miss my grandma. I miss my aunties and uncles and cousins. I miss my family home and my friends and watching TV with Mum and Dad after dinner and seeing Dad play with his dog and watching Mum play sudoku. I miss seeing my cousins grow. I miss Easter and birthdays and Christmas. I miss Perth.

I won’t be coming back, not now anyway. But trying times like all of 2020 make you realise what is most important. So, to finish this off, here’s a list of what I’ve learnt in 2020:

  • Never work for a corporation again.
  • Don’t burn bridges with people who are kind.
  • Speak up for what you believe in.
  • Your family deserves more contact than one message, one phonecall, or one letter once a year.
  • Go outside once a day.
  • You won’t be fired for making a mistake.
  • You don’t have to write for anyone but yourself.
  • It may cost money, but it’s worth it to travel back to Perth at least once a year.
  • You are successful.
  • You are loved.

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