My last post for 2020 – wow what a year. In fact I almost feel I should leave it at that because what can I say? I don’t have enough perspective to review it dispassionately yet but I thought I’d share my immediate reflections here, even if only because one day I hope this will be an interesting sociological record to look back on. So I’m going to do it in my usual way, starting with the downs, moving on to the ups and with that it will be Midlifechic 2020 – over and out.
Midlifechic 2020 – over and out – the downs
My professional world
We’ve been lucky not to lose anyone to Covid, that would, of course, have been the biggest low. So for me the hardest hit is probably a professional one – work has been tough. When I track my personal billing against the same nine month period last year, I’m running at half of my usual earnings – and yet my timesheets show many more hours spent at my desk. I’ve had to reduce my rates and add extra bells and whistles to stay in the game. “It is what it is,” as the millennials say, I’m not complaining because I’m grateful that I still have work… but I am reeling somewhat.
My world of retail has been strafed and I feel less embedded within its layers than usual. It’s become really clear to me that although people may work efficiently from home, there’s a huge loss in terms of the thought-sharing and idea-sparking that comes from sitting around a table in a meeting where the chemistry flies. These personal interactions are where the magic really happens and so I hope that next year will see more of a balance between being home and office based.
My blogging life
Because I haven’t had the same level of interaction with retailers in my professional life, I don’t feel that I’ve been able to apply my usual influence with my Midlifechic hat on – the two so often go hand in hand. Without the same level of retail try-ons, events and travel to bring the blog to life, it’s been hard at times to know how to keep it interesting but even so, as I reach the end of a year of writing by instinct, I find it still fulfils me.
There’s a lot I don’t miss about the often shallow London ‘influencer’ events. And I haven’t missed doing photoshoots with brands even though of course it’s flattering to be asked. I know that for some people they’re the epitome of recognition, helping them to feel as if they’ve ‘made it’ but I’m lucky in that I don’t have a needy ego. Whenever I stand in a studio, plastered in layers of make-up and an outfit that I probably wouldn’t choose for myself, all I can hear is the voice of my old headmistress asking sternly, “is this really the best use of your intelligence?”
I wonder where Midlifechic will go next year. Hundreds of new midlife Instagrammers have set themselves up over lockdown so there’s a lot of midlife noise out there now and maybe I’ll find I’ve lost my voice. I’m never comfortable with Instagram and the multiple court cases that currently surround it as a platform underline to me how insidious it is. I would be overjoyed if it was closed down – although I’m sure something new would soon replace it.
Oh and one last thing on the blogging front. Thank you to everyone who has been in touch over the year to tell me that my pictures are being misused. I want you to know that I never sell my photos to endorse products. At the moment a dodgy Bitcoin business is using me for ads in places like The Evening Standard – we’re trying to get it stopped but it’s wrapped up in a shell company so it’s tricky. However if you see this, it has nothing to do with me so don’t touch it. Thank you to Libby who first brought it to my attention.
Neither am I listed on any dating sites! Again my pictures are being used on a few different fake profiles, usually in phishing scams to extract money from people. The most unrelenting one is a lesbian site called Pink Cupid. A few people have contacted me about it, and one of them told me that she’d almost had 10,000 US dollars extracted from her by somebody who was using my pictures and calling herself Kim.
The only authentic thing that you may see in different places is a campaign for Aussie haircare. It was a funny one because you know the lengths I go to with my hair, travelling to London to get it cut and yet in the middle of lockdown when I was hacking away at it myself, they asked me to be a face for their new purple haircare range. They were a lovely team who were happy with a completely natural, unretouched approach and so here I was on one of the hottest days of the summer, trying not to feel like a plonker on a busy Morecambe beach. Did I say Morecambe? Clearly it was Bondi!
Well you know what I’m going to say here because I covered it a couple of weeks ago. The family ‘down’ has been watching the impact of Covid on my boys. When they were little I often used air as a metaphor. I would explain to them that one of my jobs was to make sure that every time they left the house they were full of warm air – but that sometimes, other people whose air was low might say cruel things to try to steal a bit of theirs… and that they mustn’t let it go. It worked really well when they were tiny and when they were teenagers as well because rather than having to express anything too emotionally they could come home after a hard day and just say that someone had “sucked all the air out of them by…”
This year has been a real air-sucker for them, in fact at times they’ve described it as a vacuum. There’s hope ahead though with the eldest’s job and the uni offers that are starting to come through for the youngest. I’m a bit more worried about the middle one’s course but yesterday they were told that face to face teaching is scheduled to return at the end of January. It will be the first time that he’s met his tutors and course mates in person. Let’s hope that can happen.
Lastly travel has been a series of disappointments. Of course we were incredibly lucky to have our Kalkan window but we did have to cancel trips to Mallorca, the Isles of Scilly, Paris (twice), Cyprus, Venice and a second return to Turkey. And of course then there were UK trips to two weddings and two big 50th birthday parties as well as my school reunion that didn’t happen. I tell myself that the consolation is that the reduced travel expenditure balanced out some of the drop in earnings!
Midlifechic 2020 – over and out – the ups
I still have a wry smile when I think back to the January 2020 post where I talked about the 2008 recession and how hard it hit us. At that point I was writing it from the perspective that something like that wouldn’t happen twice in a lifetime. As I said then, the crisis that we found ourselves in financially in 2008 led me to live with some kind of economic PTSD. I was always terrified that we’d find ourselves close to the edge again and so I worked hard to build reserves and thank goodness I did. Covid has been much longer and harder than the 2008 crash was – and that’s why I feel so much for the families without buffers right now.
Back then, Mr MC and I were relying on one business and the sharp lesson was that if you’re going to be self-employed, you need to have more than one route of income. It’s also critical to keep your professional learning up to date as you go through midlife, otherwise you’ll be the first person to be archived when times are tough.
So professionally the one thing that 2020 has done is made me thankful for the hell we lived through in 2008/9 – and I never imagined myself saying that! If you’re living through a similar hell at the moment, know that this will be you in the future because something good and lasting will eventually come out of what you’re experiencing now.
My blogging world
Well there’s just one thing to say here – YOU.
I can’t imagine what months of isolation with my much loved but very male household would have been like without your female friendship. Thank you for keeping on reading and commenting, the words that have come in from around the world after each post have certainly made me feel less alone and I’m sure I speak for thousands of others who don’t add to the comments but find comfort in the shared experience. As you know, I write this blog for the future as much as the present and so I was especially pleased when I received an email from a reader friend last week saying:
What makes it special (because I’m sure there are lots of people writing pandemic accounts) is that you had a large readership before you started and so you have lots of comments, many of them quite lengthy with incredible insights into so many lives. In years to come I’m sure it will be a source document for many a phd.
I’m so often touched by the time you take to send a few words of encouragement or just an exchange of news. I always try to reply but it can take me some time and I’m sorry if I miss a few. With email / comments / Instagram / Twitter / Facebook / WhatsApp… to keep an eye on I do sometimes drop the odd plate.
I must also thank you for clicking the links and buying me the odd coffee. Not only do I appreciate it as a gesture of support, it also means that at a time when I’m having to cut back on quite a few personal costs, the blog isn’t one of them because the funds go directly back into the various bills that accrue surprisingly quickly with a readership of 48,000.
What does 2021 hold for Midlifechic? I’m not sure what direction it will take yet but top of my list is getting out and meeting more of you as soon as I can. I have a whole list of reader suggestions that have come in this year and one that I particularly like is trips to different UK cities with itineraries recommended by the readers who live there – and hopefully a Midlifechic get together while I’m there too. Let’s see what spring brings us and then hopefully we can start to make plans.
Going back to the 2008 financial crisis, an analogy helped me to get through that too. I used to imagine that Mr MC and I were in a small boat going through rapids. All we had to do was hold tight to the boys and each other and keep on bailing until we reached calmer waters. In later years I realised that our boat needed three dinghies behind it so that when they were ready, each boy could step into their own and learn how to navigate it until the time came for us to untie the rope that held them to us.
Covid has unexpectedly seen them all back in the boat with us and I have to say it’s been a gift of time that we otherwise wouldn’t have had. At the beginning of this year the eldest was just about ready to be uncoupled but then like thousands of other young adults his independence was thwarted.
From a personal point of view though it’s been wonderful to have him stepping into his new career from our home. It’s given us a much closer insight into what he’s doing than we’d have had ordinarily. As a whole family, because we’ve had more time together there have been more conversations and more laughs, even the odd disagreement has brought to light things that are now better for having been resolved.
Seeing far less of my siblings and Mr MC’s side of the family hasn’t been a good thing but I think it’s made us value each other more. Time together in the future will always have a Covid shadow but in a good way – we’ll never again forget how precious personal contact is.
Midlifechic 2020 – over and out – how I’m approaching 2021
Well I’ll start by saying, “with caution.” I’m not letting my hopes get ahead of me, I think we all need to gird ourselves for January and February because it might take longer than we think to see any kind of return to normality.
I’m going to use the first week of Christmas to switch off. I may even follow my psychotherapist brother who, in March, decided to stop consuming news in any form and has continued to do so. He insists that it makes him much happier but it’s easier for him because he’s comfortably retired with a life that revolves around his hobbies as he waits patiently for my sister-in-law to step away from her career. However a news embargo over Christmas feels like a good idea.
When Christmas is over I’m going to devote some time to thinking quite carefully about what lessons this exponential year has held for me. It will be different for everybody but I do think it’s important to use it as the basis for a new start. It’s almost been like the control version of an experiment – so much has been taken away from us and life has been pared right down. We need to ask ourselves what it was that we truly missed – and what we didn’t. As you know, Mr MC and I usually do what we call a ‘Twixmas walk’ where we review everything on our way to and from a pub in the next village. We may need to take a hip flask this year because it looks as though the pub will be closed but to make sure that whatever’s in it doesn’t lead us off track, we’ll set a few discussion points in advance and this is what I think they’ll be this year (just in case you want to do something similar).
Looking back to spring and summer…
- What did you find to be the three biggest drawbacks of lockdown?
- What did you think were the three bonuses of lockdown?
- What was the most important learning about yourself that you’ll take from each of those?
- What are the three changes that you’ll take through to the new future when life reopens?
- And then lastly, what plans can we make to get through a January and February that may well see us in an extended winter lockdown?
So now I’m going to log off for 2020 and open one of the bottles of sherry that we brought back from Jeréz last year…
… I’ll be raising my glass to you in thanks for the friendship that you’ve shown me this year by reading the blog, adding your ups and downs to the comments and the other more personal interactions that some of you have shared with me. I’m so glad some of us met up in November and January, I hope that lots more of us will have a glass of wine together next year. When the opportunities open up again let’s make sure we say “yes” to the ones that offer meaning, friendship or adventure.
So that’s it – Midlifechic 2020 – over and out. I wish you a contented Christmas, even if it is a different one this year. There’s no point in feeling sad about what it isn’t so let’s just be happy for what it is and use the quieter time to make positive plans for new beginnings.
A bientôt mes amies! X
Winter sales worth visiting
Baukjen – up to 50% off here – ethically made high quality clothing
And Other Stories – EARLY ACCESS here, goes live to the public on Saturday
Boden – up to 50% off with code 6T2C here
Hope Fashion – 40% off many current season items and 70% off the archives
Jigsaw –up to 50% off here (click categories not the clearance page because not everything is listed there) – great deals on 100% wool coats (I’ve bought this one). Also an extra 15% off dresses and footwear for a limited time with code FLASH15.
Whistles – winter sale here (there’s a lot so shop by size)
French Connection – up to 60% off here
Great Plains – up to 60% off here
H&M – up to 50% off here
Hush – up to 50% off, will start on Boxing Day here
Disclosure: ‘Midlifechic 2020 – over and out – my thoughts and wishes’ is not a sponsored post
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