If You Don’t Have Your Own Story, You Become A Part Of Someone Else’s.
A love letter to the past 15 months.
Facebook tells me it has been 15 months since I was having my last official “holiday”. We were on the slopes of Whistler Blackcombe with a group of friends we had met in Hong Kong many years before.
Of the eight bunking down in our friends' lodge, it was the veritable United Nations and I felt blessed and humbled to be amongst such decent people.
Surely one of life’s pleasures is to be able to sit back and reflect; to no longer compete with the world, or with each other; to be content at that place and moment in time. Little did we know what was around the corner for each and every one of us.
A week of reconnecting, telling stories, sitting by fires, eating Mickey and Ivan’s superb dinners, refueled us before flying back to Toronto to what would prove to be seven months of lockdown. Again, I was more fortunate than I had a right to be. I was with my husband, my dog, and a house small enough to be cozy, and big enough for us to have solitude when needed.
After much soul-searching, Zoom, FaceTime, Whatsapp, and Viber calls with family, friends and mentors, we finally decided in May 2020 to move back “home”. It took a lot of planning and calls to various consulates and government departments to find a country that would accept us together.
Mentally and emotionally we had to accept that, for the foreseeable future, our original plan of moving to my home county (Australia) simply wasn't an option. In the past, we had both had careers that required monthly, if not weekly flights, so to have COVID entry restrictions in place was sobering. Our plans changed as many times as travel restrictions on non-residents and citizens changed.
My home government has appalling human rights issues and our hopes were not that high. Our hypothesis was proven correct — the door to Australia was firmly closed to my husband. Taiwan, on the other hand, took the problem in its stride. While we needed documents to be signed and notarized in three different countries, they facilitated my entry and are processing my residency as efficiently as if there was no global pandemic at all.
Every interaction we had was filled with empathy. Maybe it’s a reflection of the unique social, economic and political reality of a country that has been increasingly isolated from the world. Officials we dealt with in New York, Toronto and here in Taipei, all showed the same warmth and understanding.
“When I was young I used to admire intelligent people; as I grow older, I admire kind people.” — Abraham Joshua Heschle.
Our window to travel finally opened in November. We quickly packed up our worldly possessions, placed them on a ship, and flew out without being able to say a proper goodbye to the friends we had made in the city, nor with scant time to update our friends in other countries of our movements.
Navigating customs, and eventually home in quarantine with time to breathe, I penned a note of gratitude to let our friends know “We were OK”. Not just OK. Thriving!
It goes without saying, 2020 will go down as a pretty shit year. Not a lot of joy for so many people around the world.
What the year did offer me was a lot more time.
Time to break some bad habits, to find new ways to cope in the face of ageism, homophobia and xenophobia, while also acknowledging the very real and undeserved privilege of being randomly born a white male.
2020 gave me time for reflection. To read. To learn. To listen. To play with my dog. To fall in love all over again with my husband. To understand the triggers that lift my gaze, square my shoulders and be thankful for what I have in life.
2020 gave me the time to renew decades-old friendships and plot a path home.
I am a better person for 2020 and I have many people to thank for that. The odd Letterman interview (not all), an online course here and there, podcasts, articles, books, but most importantly countless WhatsApp and Zoom calls with ex-colleagues, friends, and family.
My heart goes out to all those whom 2020 took so much more than it gave. My thanks go to all those people who probably don’t even know how impactful they have been in my life.
We are now entering our sixth month in a country we had never intended to live in. What began as a hurdle turned into a blessing in the same way that 2020 did. Derek started a business with his friends which has really started to kick-off. While I survive on international contract work, my time is nearing where I “may” be able to visit Australia. Regardless we get to spend a lot of time with my husband’s family who are happy to have us around.
On the last day of that ski trip there remained an Australian, a Taiwanese, a Hong Konger and an Italian. It wasn’t the start of a bad joke, but the beginning of what has proven to be the most empowering 18 months of my life.
NOTE: This article was previously titled “A love letter to the past 12 months”, but I thought it deserved an update.