The Year of Saturn (and 8 Other Things)

2020 in review

At the end of 2019, I watched Brad Pitt launch himself alone into deep space in Ad Astra. In the theater, I flew with him past Jupiter and Saturn as he drew nearer to Neptune on the 79-day journey. He goes a little nutty—talking to himself, twitching his head, replaying archived messages and memories for company and, finally, torment. A decent primer for the year ahead, one many of us would spend in a more or less anxious and isolated state, speaking to our loved ones through the futuristic glass sleeve of an iPhone.

I have a tattoo of all these planets (plus the eternal punchline, Uranus) on my leg. I didn’t exactly want this tattoo, but I didn’t object to it either. At the time, sitting for it seemed much easier than refusing the individual who insisted upon the permanent symbol of friendship: our solar system spread across the three of us. Well, at least I would have almost certainly considered a tattoo of Saturn somewhere down the line, I reasoned with myself. (The astrological irony of this justification is no longer lost on me.)

  1. At the end of 2020, Saturn returned to Aquarius, its position in the heavens at the time of my birth. This means, I am told, that the ringed planet of boundaries and purpose will bring a reckoning within said wheelhouse, and again in 29 years or so, and so on until I am but stardust again. Thankfully I am not special, as this is generally the case right now for anyone born roughly between 1991 and 1993. And perhaps given the general popularity of astrology at present, the social influence people in their 20s and 30s tend to exert, and the lack of prosperity and stability we’re experiencing compared to the generations that preceded us and resulting delay (or eschewing altogether) of more traditional milestones, Saturn returns seem to have taken on fresh significance in certain kinds of lives as a late coming of age. As someone who lost a job, came out of the closet, and continued to live in a shoebox of an apartment as they entered this their twenty-eighth year, I COULDN’T HELP BUT WONDER [Carrie Bradshaw voice]: Is 28 the new 22?

  2. Prior to this year, I saw a lot of movies. I’d plan after-work showings on $5 weeknights into my calendar or amble into a theater to see what was playing while out for a walk on the weekend. And though there’s maybe no public experience I miss as much as going to the movies, my proudest achievement of 2020 was at least managing to see Portrait of a Lady on Fire not only twice but as my last theater experience before lockdowns began—on a whim after a work event, alone, and with a glass of red wine.

  3. At the start of the pandemic, I was scrambling to manage my ever-mounting workload via Zoom within the thin walls of my tiny, weird apartment as road rage, construction, and noisy neighbors screeched on. Now I process your COVID-19 tests at night and sleep during the day—either way, the white noise machine I bought and wrote about last year is still by far the best $20 I’ve ever spent (and apparently lives on in a new model).

  4. Another thing about our ever-mounting workload—the personal management of that workload, often left to our own devices, is a Herculean challenge we don’t seem to talk about very much. I must admit that I have felt like an idiot for not knowing more about the systems and technologies I could be utilizing to stay organized since I graduated and entered the full-time workforce. The same has been true for my ideas and aspirations outside of my day (or night) job—be they the infrequent pitches I mean to send, the illustrations I mean to make, or the goals I mean to track. But taken upon the recommendation of a friend, I have had a total epiphany since using the endlessly pleasing, useful, and flexible Notion app to manage at least my personal life and aspirations (and, I have faith, someday another job which requires such a system). And the epiphany is this: PERHAPS I AM NOT A SCATTERED IDIOT BUT A MERE HUMAN LIVING IN A DEMANDING DIGITAL WORLD! (I suspect you are, too.) And though paper methods seem less feasible to maintain with each passing year, I have found the most use and mercy from the dateless Moleskine Pro Project Planner in conjunction.

  5. Speaking of creative aspirations, I launched an online shop called Fresh Oddities so I could make egg earrings and other oddball accessories out of clay.

  6. In a city known for its historic avenues and cobblestone paths, I learned to rollerskate outdoors. It is absolutely the only intentional exercise I’ve had since March and now, even though I’ve previously run half marathons, I cannot imagine wanting to run on purpose again. WHY RUN WHEN YOU COULD ROLLERSKATE?!

  7. Two absolutely incredible friends, Haley ED Houseman and Lakshmi Ramgopal, took it upon themselves this year to send me the heavenly pistachio spread from Gustiamo’s in the Bronx. I’m sure you could make something really fancy and exquisite with it, but I have consumed both jars by dipping in with Rold Gold’s Tiny Twists and plan to do in many more that way.

  8. I worried this candle was limited edition so I quietly kept a healthy backstock and burned it all year. But as it seems it’s here to stay (and since I have a 28-ounce version presently en route to me), I’ll tell you that I have never liked a candle as much as I have liked Boy Smells’ Cowboy Kush. It fills a room but doesn’t overpower it, burns cleanly and evenly, and meshes with every season—I also like to light it alongside a buttery white floral like jasmine or tuberose in the spring and summer and a warm amber or tobacco in the fall and winter.

  9. In 2020, after years of hemming and hawing, I bought the IKEA shark. Not the smaller, reasonably sized IKEA shark. The one that’s as big as a small child. I call her Big Bertha! I have regrets in this life, but she isn’t one of them.

Happy new year, and thanks for reading. Here’s hoping the next one is better.