It’s undoubtably been a rough year – and even that might be an understatement. Here at Pubs & Publications, we’ve spent a lot of the past few months talking about the challenges that the pandemic has posed for us all in our teaching and research. Now, with the end of term and the end of 2020 in sight, we wanted to take some time to reflect on the positives, the silver linings, and the not-so-bad parts of the past year.
Professionally, one positive thing this year has been the (ongoing) digitalization of the Swiss Federal Archives. The project, which coincidentally began this year, aims as giving access to digitalized documents to every user: any interested person can request the digitalization of any document, and receive a copy for free. Of course, the Federal Archives did not expect the pandemic and they’re a bit short on personnel: I usually wait 4-6 weeks before I receive the digitalized copy. But, hey, these are professionally digitalized documents – and not shaky pictures taken with my phone. Priceless.
On a more personal note, 2020 has been the year of the culinary experimentation. As I moved from Berlin to Basel this summer, I left behind me the culinary offer of this city – where you can have the best Italian Espresso with your breakfast, have lunch at a Korean restaurant, eat Ethiopian food for dinner and find yourself in a traditional Russian bar in the evening, all in one day. Learning to expand my cooking skills has proved crucial in the past month – and I even started to bake my own bread.
If I’m searching for a silver lining amongst all the ups and downs of 2020, then I have to confess how relieved I am that I not only finally feel more comfortable with using education-based technology, but that I’ve also discovered some wonderful new resources! Teaching remotely during a pandemic was truly a sink-or-swim scenario, where learning how to navigate virtual teaching tools and platforms could no longer be a ‘back burner’ task. So, I suppose this was a bit of a blessing in disguise, as they say.
2020 has been challenging: isolated and demotivated, I bet we all feel like this year crashed into us. Nevertheless, I believe that it has not been all downsides. In my experience, I had to learn how to cope with myself when I am not at my best. I am the kind of person who takes energy from the world outside: whenever I feel confused and not so good with myself, a chat with a friend, a short trip to a new place, a change of scenery usually helps. In 2020, it has not always been possible to do it. As a consequence, I had to develop more sophisticated ways to take energy from the world, I had to start thinking ‘laterally’. You can always do something for yourself and for others – even when it seems like you are allowed to do nothing. Taking a deep breath in the open air. Slowing down and thinking “What really makes me happy?”, “Was I on the right path to be the happiest I could ever be and to make people around me happy as well?”, “What can I do now to change/empower this?”. In a few words, 2020 forced us to think about ourselves and gave us time to do it – which is something we cannot complain about.
The thing I am most proud of from the year 2020 is passing my progression (also known as an upgrade) in September on my first try. I worked very hard for months and months on the report and prepared as much as I could in advance. This was a highlight for me as I had convinced myself that I would not be able to pass the first time and I had been really struggling with imposter syndrome for a while. I thought I would go into the meeting and be asked a question and go completely blank. Something that I learned from this is that you really know more than you think you know!
I think we can all agree that 2020 has been a trash fire of a year. However, I think one of the positives for me has been the support in online communities for academics. I follow several pages on Twitter and Facebook representing my research interests and group memberships (such as the PhD Women’s group: Scotland). Even though we haven’t had in-person contact, these groups really foster that spirit of community. And I have gotten to know some fabulous people that I probably wouldn’t have reached out to pre-COVID. Creating and participating in these group spaces online has been a pleasant reminder that we are not alone, that we often share the same frustrations, and that we can provide support virtually. So, if you haven’t already, I strongly recommend joining online communities and following researchers/hashtags related to your work!
For me, juggling a full-time job, a part-time EdD, parenting a toddler and just general life, things are constantly on the go, running from meeting to meeting and packing my schedule as full as possible. It has only been during lockdown that I realise just how active my days are. Being stuck at home has really allowed me to slow down and find time to unwind and recharge. No commute to the office and working from home has allowed me to enjoy my home, my garden and to seek out alternative activities and fun such as painting with my son, enjoying cooking while on a work call, or switching off and spending a couple of hours in the bath unwinding. Calls with my supervisor have also been different. There has been more focus on how we are coping and surviving lockdown followed by research. Self-care has taken priority over deadlines and targets. Now we are coming up to Christmas I am really looking forward to a break from everything and some more relaxed time in my bubble and when the new year comes around, I think I will try to book in time to play and unwind more often.