RECOMS reflections, holiday edition

As the holiday season gets nearer, the world once again holds its breath. But perhaps this time New Year would actually bring new beginnings. Read RECOMS fellow, Zhanna’s final 2020 reflections—hot chocolate or wine advised. 

By Zhanna Baimukhamedova

This year has been a feast of the bizarre. It turned out, there’s little control one has over their life and, regardless of how rich one’s imagination is, life always has something up her sleeve. Things that were supposed to happen never did, and the ones that no one had even imagined in their wildest dreams became a part of everyday life. In Russian we say: “Human plans but god decides.” And “god” here is simply a placeholder for anything bigger and greater than a human. Which is plenty. 

As a PhD student who’s bound to spend a lot of time in my head, I often found myself thinking that in the grand scheme of things my life is quite good. After all, I live in a rather safe and prosperous city, at no point at all were we completely prohibited from going to the nearest park for a walk, run, or to simply sit in the sun, roofless. A little over a month ago after two sets of canceled flights, I managed to spend a couple of weeks in my native soil and came back with my hair cut for a fraction of what I would’ve paid in Munich. I saw some friends in person when the restrictions weren’t too tight and still have regular calls with some others now that we, again, are in a strict lockdown. It amazes me how quickly one adapts to an improving or worsening situation. And, unlike the spring lockdown, now I have a tactic or two (and none wine-related!) to keep myself busy. Busy now seems to be one of the recipes for sanity. 

At the same time, I am realizing how tiring it is to always try to put on a good face. It took me quite a bit of mental meanderings to come to terms with the fact that just because I am not objectively in the worst situation imaginable, I can still feel bad. Even though there’s always someone who is struggling a lot more, it does not mean that my struggles are insignificant: life is not a competition for “who’s got it worse” even though sometimes it might seem like it. There are no universal degrees of comparison with a superlative being “the saddest person on the planet.” What a title to aspire to. 

This year I’ve been trying to learn how to go with the flow and count my blessings while also allowing myself to feel down. Surprisingly, in sadness I found compassion—not just for others but also for myself. I walked a lot, had plenty of profound, soulful conversations. When it was still possible, I jumped at every opportunity to go someplace else—not because it’s bad in Munich, but because the world is so much bigger, and there are beautiful, exciting, tempting things, and I want to try them all. Now that the roaming area is once again shrunk to the size of one city, my sadness is alleviated by those great memories I’ve managed to amass. 

It is still crazy to think that in a couple of months it will have been a year of this madness. I like to think that with the spring the new beginning will come and now it’s time to conserve energy and maybe watch some old movies. Not like there’s much else to do anyway. 

I am tempted to finish this with some sort of silver lining, but maybe not this time. And it’s fine. Happy holidays to those celebrating and see you all next year. 

By Zhanna Baimukhamedova