2020 Review. Or: How I stayed sane in a literal dystopia

Sea-sons Greetings, Bookwyrms!

Photo of me wearing a red Santa hat, a dark blue long-sleeved t-shirt with an image of a white hot chocolate mug, a pair of blue capri leggings with a mermaid-scale pattern over purple stripes and several lines of white dots, and a pair of red-and-white-striped socks with green toes.

I'm holding a large mug that looks like a red-haired mermaid, with her curved tail forming the handle.  You can just see a wave of whipped cream peaking up from inside.

This post is best viewed via your favorite web browser if you want the full color-coded experience. 😀


2020 is Finally. Almost. Over. There are signs of hope in the near-ish distance, but we’re still very much in the tunnel. Not Gonna Lie, I’m still having the occasional meltdown. So this is not going to be a post about faking Christmas cheer or ignoring what’s still wrong with the world. What follows is an overview of my year-long attempts to follow Madeline L’Engle’s advice (by way of her merry time-wrinkling witches) about “laughing in the dark.”

Not dismissing the bad, but paying equal attention to the good — because how will we get to the end of the tunnel if we can’t see the emergency floor lights (mixed metaphors FTW!)?

What follows are my coping mechanisms from the past year (mostly biblio-specific, of course), plus the usual look back at my most and least favorite books. Think of it as a guide to healthy forms of escapism when you’re living through a real-life viral outbreak story (anyone else cry-laugh while watching that one episode of DS9, or the 2013 Christmas episode of NCIS?).

As in 2018, I’m breaking this up into a Nice List (pg 2: My Top Five Favorites) and a Naughty List (pg 3: The DNFs).


Clipart of a large poinsetta with sprigs of holly, ivy, and fir tree needles stretching out on either side.

January 2020 found me unemployed due to a severe flare-up of depression and anxiety, and then the universe decided that this was the perfect time to write us all into an actual global apocalypse with dystopian overtones. I had multiple meltdowns between March and July. Like a bookish mermaid version of Amelie, though, I somehow managed to put together a mental playlist of goofy strategems (a good portion of them involving cosplay) to keep myself sane and spread hope to my fellow Bookwyrms.

These strategems included:

  • Starting the year with a nostalgic review of my favorite 90s PBS show about the magic of literacy (which was also my 200th post!), plus a four-part shell-ebration of my favorite finfolk-loric subgenre: SELKIES!!!
  • Leaning into all of my creative sides, focusing not only on blogging and fiction-writing, but also challenging myself with literary baking projects, plenty of mermaid cosplay (see my Instagram for more photos), learning to make TikTok videos (@nerisiren358) and, most recently, attempting some analog visual art (I may share my results later). Because, as Austin Kleon says in Steal Like an Artist, sometimes the best way to recharge your inspiration station is to back away from the computer and make something with your bare hands.
  • Turning my life into a literal musical. In addition to buying about ten CDs worth of meditation/sleep music, I added a playlist segment to my book reviews, having realized that the reading experience (whether during or after the actual reading) can be majorly enhanced with theme songs and ambient sounds. See my Spotify account for more bookish-musical mayhem!
  • Searching for books that portray a future (or even pockets of the past and present) in which we’ve truly affirmed that Black Lives Matter.
  • Attending an online mermaid convention where I learned about diversity, body positivity, water safety, and responsible myth-making in the fin-dustry.
  • And, finally, (I promise this isn’t an obnoxious “alternative medicine” plug) doing solo yoga and zumba via DVDs (I HIGHLY recommend Yoga Shakti because it lets you create your own class from a menu of segments, all the way from solar meditation to savasana) and Wii games (Zumba Fitness FTW!).

Dancing and movement meditation have been two of my most personally helpful mood-lifters in combination with talk therapy and medication. And it worked best when I wasn’t focusing on the workout aspect at all. Yoga isn’t about burning calories or pushing past your limits. As one of my favorite instructors used to say: if you can’t smile while you’re doing a pose, you’re doing it wrong.*

* By which she doesn’t mean you have to be in a perfect zen state the whole time; you just have to pay attention to when something hurts or is so straining that you literally can’t smile. In those cases, pull back into an easier version of the pose or do a different pose that you’re more familiar with.

* * * * *

Ultimately, I do think that sign I saw a few months ago was right in predicting that 2020 would wrap up at least somewhat like a mullet — the party was in the back. And by party, I mean the Return-of-the-Jedi-style celebrations after the election (see Mark Hammil’s gleeful Twitter post). We’re still not in full Happy Ending mode, but I’m looking for those floor lights wherever I can find them. And I’m confident 2021 is at least going to be better than the third Star Wars sequel. 😉

* * * * *

NEXT: The Nice List


Poinsetta clipart from Clipart Library.


  1. I hope 2021 treats you better than this year did! So sorry to hear you had such a rough time.

    I definitely engaged in some literary escapism as well. Also: great list of stratagems! You did a lot of cool stuff this year despite the 2020ness of it all.

    • Thank you! Same to you! The silver lining, I suppose, is that I’ve had much better resources to help me deal with the depression crash this year. And I have a better idea now of what I can and can’t push myself through, work-wise.

  2. I know it was a crap year, but this was an awesome take on it! Loved the recap. I forgot several of those books and had to do a quick look to see what they were about again 😛

    • Thank you! This is one of my favorite posts to do each year. Your blog has been awesome this year, too! Thank you for doing the Hallotober tag! 🎃

  3. I love reading your posts. You’ve managed to share your low points while still focusing on the good things and how you’re coping! I also love the way you always bring up nostalgic books from my past (Sweet Valley High was a staple for me). This is such a great wrap up post for the dumpster fire that was 2020, and I hope that 2021 is better to all of us. 💕

    • Thank you so much!!! I have loved reading your posts, too! They always give me something to look forward to and something fun to think about. You’ve inspired a bunch of awesome book tags, including the caffeinated holiday special that I definitely wrote with you and Kristy in mind. 🤗 I hope you’re having a peaceful, restful day and amen to a better New Year!

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