At the end (and sometimes beginning) of every year, I like to look back and take stock of what I’ve accomplished over the past 12 months. I usually jokingly remark on social media that I haven’t accomplished much, but this post has become something of a tradition for me as I try to both look back on what I’ve managed to achieve and think about goals for the coming year.
One thing that stood out for me in 2021 was how my content production took a big dip this year. Hardly any YouTube videos, far fewer Instagram posts, minimal work uploaded to my website and a largely neglected mailing list. Part of me felt like pouring hours into all these channels felt fruitless, as if my time would be better invested elsewhere. Another part of me didn’t want to pretend like everything was okay and, rather than putting out work that wasn’t sincere, felt like it was better to put out nothing at all.
I’m also quite disappointed in myself for not growing as a writer and photographer this year; two disciplines which I’ve always aimed to improve in since moving to South Korea. I’m not quite sure why but I found myself lacking motivation to get out and take pictures. I got rid of some gear (which in hindsight was not a wise decision), and will be looking to make some new investments in 2022. Looking at work from other photographers made me realise that I had very little reason not to go out and shoot, despite whatever self-imposed limitations I placed on myself.
At the same time, I look at my achievements of 2021 with pride – the two most notable being my 500km cycling journey, and my PGCE qualification – both of which felt unattainable at times. I’ve become invested in the concept of the moonshot.
In my 2020 review, I wrote about planning less and re-discovering passions. Despite faltering at most of my regular creative pursuits, cycling and film photography became something of a refuge. On the cycling front, I explored 2260 kilometres of Korean cycling trail, and with my film photography, experimented with no less than five new different film stocks, all with their own unique characteristics.
I’m also immensely proud of how my Korean ability has come on in leaps and bounds, which has definitely given life here a different complexion compared to when I was completely clueless. Because of this, I’ve grown closer to my colleagues and students, and finally find myself with a deeper understanding of how Korean society works. Integration will never be fully possible, but being able to converse with relative ease and comfort makes life far easier.
These achievements, however, are no panacea for the general sense of dread that has stuck with us (or at least me) throughout most of 2021. I never meant for this to be a depressing post, but going on the developments we’ve seen this year, it’s become difficult to predict – with any degree of certainty – what to expect going forward. We’ve all become collectively ‘on edge’ and angsty in light of continued policies which lack rhyme or reason. I’m not sure I speak for others but I, after two years, am certainly at the end of my tether. After two years of (mostly) diligently following government guidelines and complying with requests there seems to be no end in sight. It’s been two years of limbo for some of us, two years of fraught anticipation and deferred plans.
Going into 2021 felt hopeful, but going into 2022 I feel nothing short of exhausted. Desperate for some respite, not just from COVID, but from hum-drum life in South Korea. For all its convenience and comfort, there has been very little in the way of visceral, memorable experience over the past two years. Every day is a challenge to come up with new distractions to take my mind off the bitterly cold winter days. Speaking of which, pre-COVID winter vacations were always a time to look forward to, filled with promise of escaping the depressing Korean cold and immersing myself in other cultures. I managed to get through the previous (2021) winter vacation by burying myself in coursework, but now that I am free, I have very little idea how I’ll pass the time. As is my habit, I have a laundry list of self-improvement tasks to get through, but even these might not be enough to cure the longing I have to explore.
This past year will go down as a ‘Wasted Year;’ a year where we were forced to remain rooted while so much happened around us. In many ways a continuation of 2020 – and in some ways worse. 2022 should, in theory, be better – but again will be immensely difficult to predict.
What do I hope for 2022?
Expectations are low, to be honest.
I truly do hope that 2022 will be better for us all; that we will find freedom once again, and that some semblance of normalcy will return.