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So Long 2020: Positive Takeaways from a Garbage Year

January 1st, 2021, gives us all a chance to start over.

It’s a time to set new goals, rise to new challenges, and level up as a human being. These goals may be as ambitious as hitting the gym four days a week or as simple as catching up on Game of Thrones. I’m not here to judge.

Some see January 1st as a major turning point. It’s a chance to let go of all the frustrations and regrets in our not-too-distant past. And given what we endured in 2020, we can all use a reset.

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Turning on the morning news or checking Twitter feels like playing Russian roulette with my mood. Soul-crushing stories dominate the news cycle every day, and they always find ways to erode my faith in humanity – masks save lives, people.

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Like the rest of the world, I’ve spent most of 2020 stuck indoors, isolated from my family and friends. Making matters worse, I lost loved ones along the way. In many ways, my future had never looked so bleak.

To kick off the new year, I take time to reflect on all that I experienced over the past 365 days. But most importantly, I use the time to appreciate my victories along the way.

As someone who struggles with depression and anxiety, I know how fast cycles of negative thoughts can balloon inside my head. Life becomes insufferable when I don’t balance out those invasive negative thoughts. So it’s critical to acknowledge and celebrate the moments when things do go well. I’m going to take a few moments here to share what I’m grateful for because a good portion of it is related to my time at That Shelf.

First off, I’ve welcomed two beautiful little baby nieces into my life. And since they’re both February babies, I was fortunate enough to meet them before COVID locked down the world. And speaking of that lockdown, I’ve spent the last 10 months quarantining with the love of my life. Isolating has been a struggle, but at least I’m trapped at home with the loveliest, kindest, and most caring person I’ve ever met. There are worse ways to spend a quarantine.

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In 2020 I fulfilled one of my long-time dreams and attended Sundance as an accredited media member. The memories of those two weeks in Park City keep me feeling positive and motivated whenever I feel my mood begin to spiral.

I was honoured with a film criticism award last January, and I had the privilege of presenting a filmmaking award at one of Canada’s most prestigious film festivals in October. Those are two pinch-me moments that will stay with me for the rest of my life. But these awesome highpoints aren’t what helped me maintain my sanity throughout a challenging year. The thing that mostly kept this anxiety-prone writer from going off the rails is writing for That Shelf.

Sitting behind a keyboard and writing is one of my most effective anti-depressants (and believe me, I’ve tried plenty). Once I throw myself into an article, I lose track of time, and the world starts melting away.

The act of writing stimulates my mind and nourishes my spirit, but it’s still a lonely process. Writing demands spending my time alone at a desk while making sense of the chaos in my head. This isn’t the most appealing part of the creative process, even for introverts like me.

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Writing for That Shelf taught me that being a writer doesn’t demand setting up shop on lonely island (population one) and shutting out the world. Writing for this site often pushes me outside of my comfort zone. My position here forces me to travel, network, and mingle – even if it happens over Zoom these days. As a result, I’ve met loads of new people and forged tighter bonds with casual acquaintances. Whether through a Zoom call, Slack message, or a late-night email, supportive colleagues are never more than a few keystrokes away.

Making friends and socializing was the last thing on my mind when I began writing about pop culture, but in many ways, it’s been the most fulfilling part of being a writer. Who knew?

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I’m proud to be part of such a talented, knowledgeable, and passionate team of folks. My respect for you all knows no bounds.

I couldn’t ask for a more supportive Editor-In-Chief than Will, the man whose blood, sweat, and (many) tears went into getting this site off the ground so many years ago. I’m fortunate to be the Grogu to our Managing Editor Jason’s Din Djarin. He’s one of the most knowledgeable and dedicated cinephiles I’ve ever met, and picking his big beautiful brain helped me grow as a writer. I’m eternally thankful to Jason and Will for bringing me on board and trusting me with so much creative freedom.

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I could be here all day gushing about our team. You could travel to the four corners of the world and still not find a better writer than Pat. His encyclopedic knowledge of film, astute insights, and wonderful way with words make all his reviews must-reads.

It’s always a treat to log into the site and discover a new horror movie review from Deirdre or Rachel. There is so much content to stay on top of that I don’t want to waste time on crappy films. And as much as I love horror movies, I must admit that the genre sets a low bar. You have to sort through plenty of crap to find a gem. When considering what to watch, I rely on our two horror mavens’ opinions and reviews. They haven’t steered me wrong yet. But please don’t think I’m pigeonholing them has horror nerds. They both bring the heat regardless of what genre they dive into, You can find the proof here and here.

One of my great pleasures of the past year is watching Akash grow as a writer. His thoughtful, witty recaps are often more enjoyable than the shows he covers (that’s a Westworld jab). And if you consider yourself a cinephile, you don’t want to miss out on our Criterion Shelf series, where week after week, Bil takes readers deep down into a classic cinema rabbit hole.

For all the gamers out there, Bobby is holding it down over at Console Creatures. Writing about games may sound like a dream job, but grinding through buggy 30-hour pre-release games to make tight deadlines is stressful AF. So remember, dear reader, he does it so you don’t drop your hard-earned $80 on a total stinker. Thank you Bobby!

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There aren’t enough hours in the day to give all our excellent podcasts the time they deserve. If you’re not doing so already, please check out Courtney (Changing Reels), Jeremy @LaLondeJeremy (Black Hole Films), and Daniel’s (Movies vs. Matrimony) impressive shows. Week after week, they deliver smart and engaging movie culture insights that you’re not going to find anywhere else on the internet.

And I have to send a special shout out to our Podcast Manager Daniel. I don’t know how this man finds the time to keep things running smoothly while also producing multiple programs.

While they haven’t been writing for That Shelf very long, I’m looking forward to reading more articles by Mel and Manuel in 2021. Their nuanced understanding of cinema and unique perspectives make them welcome new additions to the team.

I can’t forget our Social Media Guru, Emma. Thank you for all that you do to keep this ship sailing straight (I don’t know how the team would have made it through TIFF without you). You’re our guardian angel.

And of course, thank you, readers. Your time is valuable, and it means the world that you’re willing to spend some of it with us celebrating pop culture. Thank you for all the features you’ve read, podcasts you downloaded, and articles you’ve shared.

Thank you all, again and again, for your support, your contributions, and your friendship. You’ve helped me regain some of the stability that 2020 obliterated. My life hasn’t been easy for the last year, but it’s easier thanks to all of you. And for that, I’m grateful.

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